“No,” he says. “You don’t know, because, right now, you think I mean us. I mean them, Emma. The next time someone who isn’t you or me or us together throws knives at us, we will not fuck our way out of goodbye. No goodbyes.”
Relief, too much relief to believe I’m not already in the deep, dark waters over my head with this man, washes over me. I swallow the cotton in my throat. “Jax—”
“Do you want to say goodbye to me? Answer now, no thinking. Say what comes to your mind.”
I’m confused. I’m so very confused. I need to protect my family. I need to protect him from my family. I need to protect myself from the moment he realizes I really am poison with a special kind of Knight flavoring. But I don’t want to say goodbye. I don’t know what to do. “You’re inside me right now, Jax. I can’t exactly be objective.”
His jaw flexes, and his eyes flash with something I can’t identify and then he’s gone, no longer inside me, leaving me cold and stunned. I push to my hands, and he’s sitting up on the edge of the bed, his shoulders tense. “Jax?”
“I’ll get you a towel.” He stands up and starts walking.
I scoot to the side of the bed and watch him walk away, tension radiating along the lean lines of his impressively muscular body. With every step he takes, the fireplace that still flickers with orange and blue on the nearby wall warms me less and less. I’m cold because he’s walking away. That’s what really hits me. He’s walking away. He wasn’t, and now, he is. He’s not hunting down a towel. He’s withdrawing. He’s putting space between us. My gaze flicks to the box of tissues on the stone nightstand. It’s a gorgeous nightstand. This castle is gorgeous. I want to explore it with the gorgeous man who owns it. Decision made to chase him the way he just chased me, I grab a few tissues and quickly clean up before I race after him. The door shuts right when I reach the bathroom, and it does so with him on the other side. I’m right. He’s shutting me out. I was about to leave, I was shutting him out, and apparently, regardless of what just happened between us, I did. It worked.
I press my hands to the heavy wooden surface that now divides me from him, only it’s not the door that divides us. It’s so much more. I was leaving when we ended up naked. I felt like I had to leave. My forehead settles on the wood, and I replay everything that just happened, I walk myself through why I was in that place, why I pushed him until he shut me out. This is what I wanted, and yet, I’m not running to get dressed. I’m naked, waiting for him to come out of the bathroom. I’m willingly naked, but he doesn’t know that.
He keeps saying “us.” He keeps fighting for us, and I’ve established over and over that I believe in Jax. I believe that he has no agenda that isn’t honest and real with me. Bottom line: I’m not being honest and real with him. Instead, I’m running, and if I’m honest with myself and him, I’m the one with the agenda. One I need to be honest about. One he deserves to hear. He knows it, too, and if I want us to have a chance, he needs to hear me confess everything.
I inhale and dare to open the door and shove past the barrier it’s created between me and Jax. A barrier, that I created, albeit with the help of our families, but I did plenty myself, which means it’s on me to tear it down. I have to make this my confessional. I need Jax to know that I’m willing to be naked in all ways with him.
I catch a glimpse of Jax naked and perfectly male as he steps into the shower, almost the same moment that I enter the bathroom.
My chest pinches with the confirmation that he had no intention of returning to the bedroom. I replay the moments we’d had in the bedroom, in his bedroom, in his bed where he’d invited me, where he says he invites no one. I think of the emotions we shared, of how much I love and feared every moment we’d shared. I’m afraid of falling in love and getting hurt, and instead, I hurt him. I think I really did hurt him. I have to fix this.
I shut the door with me inside with Jax.
I have no idea why I shut the door behind me, but I do. It’s symbolic, I decide. I’m here to stay. I’m in here with him. Certain I have one shot to make this up to him, I lean on the wooden surface and listen as the water comes on, steeling myself for deserved rejection, contemplating where Jax and I are emotionally right now, no, where I want us to be. And that leads me to one place: all in. That means being vulnerable, at all costs. I push off the door and move toward the shower. Real and honest, rawly honest, is my plan. This very idea doesn’t slow my steps but speeds them up. I close the space between me and the shower, between me and Jax. Suddenly, I have so much to say to him and the idea that he won’t listen undoes me in a way only he can undo me. I’ve known men who pretended to want just me, but they didn’t. I knew they didn’t. I’m all but running naked through a castle by the time I’m at the door to the shower.