Page 17

My jaw unhinges and I try to close it, but it keeps falling open, waiting for words to come out. But they don’t. Even my thoughts slow to a stop.

I have absolutely nothing.

“You said you looked up the owner of the house and that’s how you knew Doug Mann’s name.” Nate shakes his head. “And now you’re saying your friend was murdered by him. Nothing you say makes sense, which means you’re lying. Why the fuck are you lying about this?”

“I …” I swallow hard. “I lived in the same building. Doug Mann lives in an apartment one floor up from the one that was mine. Right across the hall from Erica.”

“Then why did you say you looked him up!”

I jump as my stomach roils from the hard punch of his anger. “Because I didn’t want to hurt you with the truth.”

“The truth? What are you calling the truth?”

Who is this angry person? I don’t know him. Or maybe part of me does. Nate had a temper, I saw it with other people, but rarely with me—or her. Hell … I don’t know anymore.

“Nate … I know what’s in my head. And it’s not a lie.”

“You don’t know a goddamn thing!” He clenches his fists as heat plumes up the sides of his neck. He steps toward me. What is happening?

“You don’t get to say this kind of shit to me.” He takes another step.

I retreat a few paces.

“I’ve lived with this fucking guilt for over twenty-two years. An accident that I wasn’t there to prevent has eaten me up whole.” His voice shakes. His entire body shakes.

I don’t think he’ll actually hurt me, but I also don’t recognize this person.

No Morgan.

No David.

No distraction.

No one to save me.

“And now you want to dig up the past—my past—and make accusations that you can’t prove. You want to rip back open my fucking heart by telling me someone murdered her?”

He shakes his head, stalking toward me like he’s ready to rip my heart straight out of my chest. “No. You can get the hell out of here. I don’t want to see you again.”

I flinch as tears sting my eyes and anger rockets through my veins. My hand flies through the air, connecting with his face. “Fuck you for not understanding!”

Pure rage burns in his eyes as his nostrils flare.

I fight the urge to run. I fight the emotions knocking at my chest while stifling the raw scream burning in my throat. A light breeze could shatter me from the inside out. I’m nauseous and every muscle in my body feels weak and unsteady.

Humiliation. Pain. Resentment. Anger.

A lot of anger.

He grabs my arm. I rip it away so fast my feet stumble backwards until the wall catches me.

“Don’t you touch me.” I hug my arms to my chest.

He sucks in a sharp breath and lets it out slowly. I catch a glimpse of something besides rage.

Pain. He’s in so much pain.

“Then make me understand.”

He doesn’t get to say that. Not now. Not after calling me a liar. Not after telling me to get the hell out of his house. I just … snap.

“Understand? UNDERSTAND?” I shove him.

He grabs my wrists with a loose grip and holds them next to his chest. I try to wriggle free. His hands tighten around my wrists.

“Let go of me! I don’t fucking understand it myself. But I’m not going to protect you any longer.”

His eyes narrow, jaw clamped shut.

My skin burns from my heart pounding out of control. “If she were here, she’d ask you why you didn’t save her. Why you let your stupid ego drive her away. Because she didn’t drown by accident.” I yank my hands free and pound my fists against his chest. “I was murdered!”

Pound. Pound. Pound.

He doesn’t stop me. While I breakdown, he stands here like a punching bag, taking everything I give him.

I was murdered.

Not she. I.

This is not a normal human experience. People don’t recall past lives for a reason. Death is supposed to be final. The memories should die. What kind of god would allow someone to relive their death, because that’s where I’m at. I’m on the precipice of reliving my death one horrific flashback at a time.

My fight loses momentum. Each jab to his chest softens more than the one before it.

Still, he doesn’t move.

I stare at my hands, now idle on his chest—my labored breaths the only sound between us. Something drips onto the sleeve of my shirt, and I blink, staring at the wet spot for several long seconds before trailing my gaze up his body.

Nate’s vacant, red-rimmed eyes stare off into an unknown distance behind me as new tears escape them with each blink.

He didn’t break me. I broke him.

“Nate,” I whisper, reaching for his face.

He grabs my hand and holds it to his cheek as his face distorts into this torturous regret, and his body shakes beneath my hands.

His legs give out.

His shoulders slump.

His body drops to its knees.

I try to stop him, but I can’t, so I wrap my arms around his torso and fall with him. Nate hugs me to his body tighter than I’ve ever been held.

“I’m so … sorry,” his voice cracks.

My heart rips open, letting in all of his pain. He cups the back of my head and kisses the top of it over and over between sobs. My tears come slower. One at a time. A blanket of pain envelopes us.

I have memories of Daisy’s life, but I don’t have feelings from it. My emotions are those of an outsider watching a movie or reading a story. It’s empathy. Heartbreaking empathy.

Silence settles around us again, and his body stills with his cheek resting on my head. “I’m sorry,” he says in a defeated tone.

I peel myself from his hold, sitting back on my heels while wiping my cheeks. “Those were my words, not Daisy’s. It’s like I’m seeing what she saw, and when we touch…” I take one of his hands and sandwich it between mine “…I think I’m physically feeling what she felt. But I don’t feel her emotions. It’s not your fault that she died. And I didn’t want to tell you any of this because it doesn’t change the past, but I know these scattered flashes in my mind are from the moments leading up to her death. I see Doug. And this long cut on his face. I see murder in his eyes. He killed Daisy, and he killed my friend Erica. And he’s going to kill again if I don’t stop him.”

Nate shakes his head. “No. They ruled out foul play.”

“They were wrong. Just like they’re wrong about Erica. He knows what he’s doing. He knows how to murder people and make it look like an accident. We don’t know how many people he’s killed.”

He pulls his hand from mine and runs his fingers through his hair, shaking his head. “I-I don’t know.” Nate’s gaze roams along my body before settling on my face—my cheeks, my mouth, my eyes. “Daisy …”

“I can be your altar. You can confess. You can ask for forgiveness. Share your deepest, darkest secrets, but I can’t give you back anything tangible, not even a whisper of hope, because she’s only part of my memory. I can’t give life to her in a real way.”

More tears fill his eyes as his jaw clenches. “Fuck … what did he do? Did he hurt you? Did he …” He grimaces.

He’s thinking the worst. I’m thinking the worst.

“I don’t know,” I whisper.

Is this how he looked the day his dad told him Daisy died? Is this how he looked when the doctor told him Jenna didn’t make it? It has to be the same look because the only time I’ve seen this kind of anguish on the face of another human is when my mom found out my dad died.

He swallows hard. “If you know, you have to tell me. You have to tell me.”

“I’m not sure. It’s too fragmented.”

“But do you feel her pain?” His voice escalates, and he immediately winces with regret.

“No. I don’t feel her at all.”

He eases to standing, a vacant look in his reddened eyes. “Go home.”

The defeat in his voice strangles my heart.

“Nate …” I stand, reaching for his hand.

He pulls it out of my reach. “Just … please go home.”

I nod.

Nate turns, disappearing into his office, shutting the door behind him.

I slip on my shoes and coat, pausing for a few seconds when I open the front door. How can I break him like this and just leave?

After shutting the door, I slip back off my coat. As I hang it on the hook, the most guttural roar thunders from his office followed by a tornado of clanks, thunks, and things shattering.

I freeze with my heart lodged in my throat. After a few seconds of silence, I creep toward his office, treading warily on the fear of what is on the other side of the door.

Easing the door open, I find Nate on the floor, his body buckled over, hands covering his face as he silently sobs amongst the remains of everything that was on his desk.

I hunch down behind him and hug his back. He jumps at first, and then more emotions rip from his chest.

“It’s my fault …”

“No.”

“What if he …” His words catch as his body shakes more.

“Don’t do this.”

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