He took a deep breath, telling himself she was right to demand a straightforward explanation, and wasn’t that what he had come here to do?
“I came here to apologize,” he heard himself say tonelessly. “I never imagined I could hurt you the way I had, and if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t.” She had been shaking her head the moment he started talking, and he said in a fierce undertone, “I mean it, Vivi. I never want to hurt you again.”
She smiled sadly. “Because you can’t handle the guilt?”
He didn’t return her smile, but all sorts of emotions swirled in his gaze as he said, “No.” Holding her eyes captive, he said flatly, “I never want to hurt you again because I love you.”
“I knew it the moment you left—-”
Vivian started to shake her head. “Stop.”
But he still continued in a hoarse voice, “And I know I will always love—-”
She placed her hands over her ears. “Stop!” Tears started to run down her cheeks, and she knew it was no longer possible to stop herself from crying, not with her heart aching so hard like it was about to crack open, the way her own voice cracked as she pleaded, “Just stop…okay?”
“I can’t. Because what I said is true. I will always love you.” Unable to stop himself, he took the seat next to her bed and inching it forward, he took hold of her hand. “Vivi, I love you…” Forcing himself to ignore the way she struggled, he brought her hand to his chest. “And I’m sorry for everything, Vivi. I’m sorry. If there’s one thing I can only make you believe, then it’s that I’m sorry and I would never want to hurt you again.”
She didn’t answer, only stared at him while her pain manifested itself in the tears that flowed endlessly down her cheeks.
“Let me make it up to you,” he said in a fierce undertone. “Give me a chance to make up for the hurt, let me love you—-” She tried pulling her hand away again, but he held on to it more tightly, pressing it hard against his chest so she could feel the way his own heart was racing for her.
“You were right, you know,” he said hoarsely. “I was a coward. A liar. I did ask you out that day to celebrate three months of being married to you, but then Angelo told me that he believed I was in love with you, and for that one moment I let my fear of the past repeating itself get the better of me. So I hurt you to protect myself—-” He swallowed. “And it was the biggest mistake I’ve ever done.”
Bringing her fingers to his lips, he kissed them, whispering, “Please come back.” Seeing her shaking her head drowned his entire world in despair, but he couldn’t let himself give up, saying doggedly, “Please.”
“Luca, let go,” she whispered.
But he didn’t seem to hear her. “Vivi, Please.”
Her lips trembled. “Don’t beg, Luca. Don’t do this.”
He moved out of the chair and dropped to his knees in front of her.
“I no longer know how to exist without you loving me, Vivi. I am nothing without you. So please—-” His own voice broke. “Come back. Take me back. Please—-”
She covered her face, unable to bear the sight of Luca kneeling and humbling himself for her. “I’m sorry, but I can’t,” she choked out. “Because now y-you’re not the only coward in this room. It hurt too much when you told me you found someone m-more appropriate—-”
A sob escaped her, and he turned ashen at the sound. “I’m sorry,” he said hollowly, but even he knew it could never be enough.
Her hands fell slowly from her face. “I’m sorry, too,” she whispered tremulously. “But I can’t ever survive that kind of pain again, Luca. Even now, it hurts, and I’ve tried everything—-” A lump formed in her throat as the memories burned painfully in her mind. “Everything, Luca, I tried everything to forget you, but I can’t. Every night, I lie awake in terror, not wanting to sleep because I know I’ll probably d-dream of you again, and it’s t-the s-same scene over and over.”
The devastation in her eyes as she spoke crippled him, and self-loathing filled Luca’s heart as he finally realized just how much he had hurt her.
“If I leave you now, if you really never see me again,” he heard himself ask, “will it honestly make you happy?”
She didn’t answer him, only stared at Luca with eyes that were almost empty of everything but defeat.
“Will it, Vivi?”
She whispered, “No. But I can live without being happy. It’s all I knew before. What I can’t ever face is the chance that I’ll be hurt again.” She forced a smile. “So it’s okay. It’s enough.”