Page 89 of We Were Once

Warned about? He was warned about dating me? “You don’t mean that.”

Anger causes his chest to rise and fall rapidly. “It was a mistake to love you.”

“But you do. You love me. And I love you, Joshua—”

“It’s Josh, for fuck’s sake!” he yells.

The guard taps the divider with a baton. “Settle down or—”

“I got it.” Joshua—Josh snaps back, sitting again. “It was fun, but nothing more. Love isn’t real. I’ll prove it to you. Go to school. Go home. Become a doctor. Find the man worthy of you. That’s not me. I’m just the fucking delivery guy, but I won’t be at your beck and call anymore.”

His best efforts to make me hate him won’t work. That’s his defense, but I see through him. He’s caged and lashing out. I won’t let anyone take away the man I love. “I’m on your side. I’ll always be on your side. Just like you’re on mine. Remember? I love you, and you love me, so spew all the hate you want, but I won’t believe it.”

“I don’t give a fuck what you believe, Chloe. You need to leave me the fuck alone.”

I fight through his hateful words to find the man who he is underneath. “And if I don’t?”

He slams the phone on the hook and drops his head into his hands. Running his fingers through his hair, he tries to steady his breath, but I can tell he’s struggling to walk away from me. I’m the woman he chose to move in with. The one he shared his bonsai with, shared his secrets when I asked . . .

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“It’s not wise to wear your heart on your sleeve.”

“Even if I only wear it for you?”

“Yes.”

I don’t let that memory derail me. He didn’t mean it. I know he didn’t.

He finally looks up and takes the receiver again. “Listen to me. You’re a good girl, Chloe, but you’re not the one for me.” He can’t look me in the eyes when he continues, “I know you want to believe in fate, but you’re not my destiny. Go back to Yale and have a good life.”

“A good life? Without you? How is that even an option?”

“It’s the only you have. I go before the judge tomorrow, so unless you’re willing to argue in my defense, I have no other options than to plead guilty.”

“No, you can’t. Fight the charges. Fight for a trial.” The sound of the chair skidding behind me when I jump up echoes in the room, the palms of my hands hit the glass to get to him. “Fight for us. I’ll fight alongside you.”

For a split second, an ounce of hope returns to his eyes. “If you’ll fight for me, then why did you say no before?”

“To what? When?”

Looking away in thought, he shakes his head. The momentum we were building, coming back together, is lost in confusion. “My lawyer contacted you—”

“He didn’t. I’ve had my phone the whole . . .” Oh my God! “I got my phone six days ago . . .” I drop back into the chair, not wanting to see the truth for what it is. Could my father really have gone to these lengths? My hand starts to tremble when I ask, “Did he call before then?”

“Your phone was on the ground. I found it. He called,” he starts, searching his thoughts. “Ten days or so ago. If you didn’t have your phone, who did?”

We both know the answer, so I don’t voice it. A mixture of guilt and helplessness shreds the prospect of fixing this. “I had no idea you were here. You have to believe me. Not until I saw your mom a few hours ago. No one told me, or I would have been here as soon as I could.”

The bob of his Adam’s apple is heavy, like the reality we’re facing. “But that doesn’t matter now.”

“Yes, it does. We can fight this. Together, we can.” I show him my tattoo. “We’re anchored together, remember? Forever. I’m your anchor. I’m your other half. You’re my hope, and I’m your salvation. I’m yours, and you’re mine.”

“Together forever?” The words come out as if it’s bitter to the tongue. “The tattoo is meaningless if I’m fighting to stay alive. Whether your dad fucked you over by taking your phone or not, you didn’t bother to find me when you woke up. Look at you. You’re well enough to travel to be here—”

“I woke up to find out you had left five days prior. I was devastated and in pain everywhere, but the one thing they couldn’t fix hurt the most. My heart.” I look into his eyes, and it’s as if he doesn’t believe me. “I thought you hated me. I thought you wanted nothing to do with me anymore because my recovery was going to be too much to deal with.” I get choked up and try to catch my breath.


Tags: S.L. Scott Romance
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