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“What is it?”

“Nothing, really. Can we just…” Her words trailed off as she tried her best to blink her tears away, but Grace wasn’t one to hide her emotions easily. She felt everything in the complete opposite way of me. Her emotions lived on the surface while mine swirled in the depths beneath.

She shut her eyes and took a deep breath. Her thoughts must’ve been flying through her mind quickly because as she parted her lips, no words came out.

I placed my hands on her lower back and pulled her into a hug. “We don’t have to talk,” I told her. “But we don’t have to have sex tonight. I can just hold you.”

She shook her head back and forth as her body trembled against mine. “That goes against our arrangement.”

“I think we’re miles past our arrangement, princess.”

With a sharp inhale, she spoke. “Everything’s a mess. My father thinks I’m making a huge mistake being close to you. He didn’t say those exact words, but I know he’s disappointed in the way I’m dealing with everything, and my mother…” she muttered, her voice cracking. “She’s so hard on me.”

“Don’t take it personally. She’s hard on everyone because the world made her that way.”

“Same as you?” she asked.

“Same as me,” I replied. Even though I couldn’t stand Loretta Harris, I saw how we shared some of the same traits.

She sniffled and laid her head against my chest. “Every day, it’s hard to breathe. I do fine when I’m with you, but when I leave your side, it’s hard again. I feel like I’m using you as a temporary Band-Aid for my pain.”

“You can use me all you want,” I told her. “In any way you wish.”

I felt my heart skip a beat.

Lately, my heart had been skipping a lot of beats around her, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I simply allowed it to happen, not wanting to read too much into it all.

“I’m broken,” she warned me.

“Yeah, I know.” I took her hand and kissed her palm. “I am too.”

She placed her hands against my chest and felt my heart beat against her fingertips. “Fix me for a while?”

“I’ll fix you all night long, and then I’ll continue tomorrow.”



He didn’t fix me with his body but with his words. We stayed up talking about anything and everything in our lives, which made it a bit easier for me to breathe. Knowing more facts about Jackson made life seem less lonesome.

“When did you know you wanted to work on cars?” I asked him.

He grimaced a bit and shrugged. “I didn’t. I wanted to go to art school. I took more so after my mom than my dad, but after everything that happened, I figured I should help out at the shop.”

“You never wanted to be a mechanic?”


That made me sad for him. He couldn’t even find the time to chase his dreams after spending most of his life caring for his father. “You can always go back to school,” I told him.

He shrugged. “I’m fine here.”

“But are you happy here?”

“Happiness never really seemed like an option for someone like me.”

“You deserve it more than most.”

“But less than you.” He somewhat grinned. “You deserve it the most.”

We lived in a strange world, he and I. A world where we weren’t exactly free to express how we really felt for one another, but in my mind, I told him over and over again.

I adore you. I adore you. I adore you…

His finger traced my wrist and then he pulled my arm closer to his and kissed it. “You’re bruised from the last time I pinned you down.”

“There are worse ways to get bruises.” I smirked. He frowned a little, looking at my wrist. “It’s okay, Jackson. I’m fine.”

“I just don’t want to hurt you.”

“Lately, you’re about the only thing not hurting me.” I moved in and kissed his lips softly.

He closed his eyes for a second, and when he reopened them, his hazel stare sent chills down my spine. “When do you go back to Atlanta to teach?”

We hadn’t really spoken about me leaving. Over the past few months, we’d simply fallen into one another’s arms and hadn’t exchanged many words outside of moans. When we did speak, it was always about our pasts, never about the future.

“In about three weeks,” I told him.

He looked down, a hint of disappointment in his stare. “Oh, okay.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s just…I’m going to miss you, that’s all.”

My heart skipped another beat.

“Jackson Paul Emery misses people?” I joked, trying to control the feelings raging in my chest.

“No, not people…just you.”

I adore you. I adore you. I adore you…

My fingers fell to the side of his neck, and I began to massage his skin as he wrapped his arms around me. My stare stayed on his lips. That same mouth had been all over my body, but what touched me the most were the words that fell from between those lips of his.