Ten years later, he’s back in our hometown. Only now, he’s different. A cunning businessman, a big-city resident.
…and the father of someone else’s child.
When he left town, I stayed. Now I’m a teacher by day and aspiring artist by night. Dating the one man he hates more than anyone else: his brother.
I have no business falling for him again; he traded this life for one he thought was better. One that didn’t include me. But history has a way of repeating itself, and old flames? They don’t always go out.
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I feel my pulse in my temples in the residual silence. Why? Why would he say something like that, knowing how much I yearned for him after he left? For what could’ve been?
“Not what you wanted to hear?”
My breath hisses against my teeth. “Not what I expected to hear.”
“The truth hurts sometimes.”
No kidding. It feels like tiny crowbars are wrenching open my heart, allowing him to slide in through the cracks. “And when did you find that out? Before or after you made your laps around campus?”
“I always knew it.”
Ouch. Was that supposed to hurt more or less than any other answer?
Before I get the chance to ponder that further, his hand is on my neck, his fingers curled into my hair. His mouth is on mine in less than the span of a heartbeat, the time it takes a hummingbird to beat its wings. There is no chance for reason to invade my senses, because he’s already there, his lips filling me with nostalgia, his tongue caressing the ache of loneliness that’s only expanded since the moment he left.
Time stops. Or maybe it moves backward. I can remember everything he made seventeen-year-old me feel when he singled me out in a classroom and wouldn’t accept that I didn’t want to let anyone in. That I’d embraced the isolation my classmates made me feel.
He filled me with strength. He made me forget. But most of all, he made me feel.
And then he left.
I push my chair back from the table, breaking the connection between us. The look in his eyes is half dreamy, half dazed. Not at all confused as to why I cut that reminiscent moment short.
“You can’t just kiss me like that.”
“Like you never left.”
He rubs his fingertips over his lips. “You can’t tell me you don’t feel like nothing’s changed.”
“But everything’s changed.” I stand and push my hair back with both hands, clutching my head. “You hurt me, Jeremy. I don’t think you’re even aware of how much. It wasn’t just puppy love.”
“That was a different time. We were younger. We both had a lot of growing up to do.”
“You were everything to me!” I’m borderline yelling until I remember Asher upstairs in his room. I run a hand down my face and shake my head. “You’re too important to be casual. I can’t be indifferent with you.” And I can’t act like every time he touches me, the scar tissue around my heart doesn’t quake.
He stands and matches my gaze, his expression just as hard and intense as it was before. Can’t he see he has the power to break me? Can’t he see I can’t afford to let that happen anymore?