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“I kissed my best friend.”

“What are you talking—” It hits me. “Griffin? He came here? Yesterday?”

Nate screws the lid on to his container, shooting me a sidelong glance with a crooked smile tugging at his swollen lip. “No. I give him credit for making his point in my office, instead of my house with my parents and Morgan.”

“Nate, I’m so sorry—”

“Sorry?” He chuckles, shaking his head. “That’s Swayze talking. I took a lot of hits for Daisy. And she never felt bad. I’m pretty sure that fell under what a real boyfriend was supposed to do. And I sure as hell wanted to be her real boyfriend. But it makes me feel bad for you, Swayze, that a guy stood up for you, for what the two of you have together, and you’re sorry.”

He leans back against the counter, one hand holding his coffee and his other hand slipped into the front pocket of his dark jeans. “When Jenna and I were on our honeymoon, this guy sitting on the other side of her at an outdoor bar decided to hit on her. Right there in front of me. The shiny wedding ring clearly in plain sight. She politely told him her husband happened to be sitting on the other side of her. The dick had the balls to rest his hand on her leg. I broke his nose. Blood everywhere.

“Jenna grabbed my hand and dragged me into the hotel and straight up to our room. It was the most passionate sex we ever had. All because it turned her on seeing two guys get into it over her.”

“Not the same thing. I kissed you back.”

“Daisy kissed me back.”

“That’s just it. I don’t feel her like you do. You remember all of her. I don’t. So what if it wasn’t Daisy who kissed you back?”

His lips twist, forehead drawn inward. “It doesn’t matter. I kissed Daisy. I would never have kissed you had you not been her in my head at that moment.”

I shake my head. “How can you say that for sure?”

“Because you’re engaged to another man.” His voice escalates to the edge of control. “That’s not me. I don’t touch what’s not mine. I have morals. I’m a professor. A father. I’m not a thief.”

I rub the empty spot where my engagement ring used to reside. Nate’s gaze follows my movement.

“Swayze …” He grimaces.

Fisting my left hand, I cover it with my right hand. “It wasn’t you. It was me. I gave it back. He didn’t ask for it. But I can’t pretend that I wasn’t her. I can’t pretend that Doug Mann isn’t a murderer. And I can’t ask him to love me—to marry me—if I can’t tell him who I am.”

“Go apologize. Salvage it. Beg. Grovel. Whatever it takes.” Nate snatches his coat from the back of the sofa and puts it on.

“What? Did you not hear me?”

Zipping his coat, he glances up at me. “Perfectly.”

“He beat you up!” My sanity wanes.

Nate chuckles. “I stood in front of him and willingly took three solid punches. Not gonna lie, my face hurts more than it used to. Could be my age. But I can promise you … I didn’t get beaten up.”

Slipping his bag over his shoulder, he stops in front of me. “Had I found out you told him about the kiss and he didn’t pay me a visit, I would have been sorely disappointed in him.”

“He’s leaving. I’m staying.”

“Don’t be stupid. Let her go.”

I laugh. “That’s rich coming from the guy who named his daughter after her. The guy who visits her grave.”

He stares at me, unblinking, for a few seconds. “Make sure the front door is locked. Have a good day.”

*

I have a good day. Then I have another good day. And this good day streak continues into the following week. Nate masters treating me like a nanny. Griffin masters fucking me like it’s a sport. Even Scott and Sherri stop by a few times to chat like nothing is going on.

My mom is the only one besides me who sees the devastation just around the corner. She stops trying to talk “sense” into me. Instead, she vows to be the one to catch me if I jump off that cliff.

And today I’m getting ready to nudge closer to that cliff.

Dr. Albright smiles. “I’m going to start slow, just to see if and how you respond. If this works, we’ll start with easy stuff. Happy memories. Let’s not risk ruining your holidays with bringing forth a possible murder memory.”

I nod, releasing a long breath. “You’re the only one who doesn’t think my need to know is crazy. Thank you.”

A sad smile curls her mouth. “You’re welcome. But I’m sorry that you’re losing Griffin over this. I see both sides. They can’t really see your side. As someone old enough to be your grandmother, I empathize with the feeling that you’re young and this has the potential to change you—and maybe not in a good way. I believed our unconscious minds never bring forth more than we can handle. But after I had nightmares about a death, I realized the worst case scenario, albeit a slight chance, can happen. I was lucky to be able to have those same memories repressed.”

“But not knowing and feeling so much anguish is its own kind of torture.”

She nods several times.

I relax on her sofa. Since I’m an unofficial patient, she suggested we do this at her house. I worry about not remembering. I worry about remembering. I worry about everything until my mind starts to relax and all I hear is Dr. Albright’s voice.

*

Two hours later, I walk through the back door after my mom drops me off. She agreed to be my chauffeur per Dr. Albright’s suggestion.

It takes me a few seconds to find Griffin perched on the sofa, watching ESPN. There are boxes everywhere, some empty, some taped and labeled, and some half-packed.

“Hi.” He shuts off the TV.

“Hi.” I close the door behind me and shrug off my coat. “You’ve been busy.”

“Yeah.” He sits up, resting his elbows on his knees. “It’s about done. The rest of the stuff I’m leaving for you.”

Yeah. This is happening.

I nod. “Thanks. But don’t leave anything that you want or need. Really, I can replace whatever.”

Except him. I can’t replace him.

“Do I want to know if it worked?” He clasps his hands together.

“It worked. We didn’t go too far. Happy memories. They weren’t all clear, but I felt them. Like my mom and dad—Daisy’s mom and dad. It was more than a disconnected vision or memory. It was deeper.” I want to tell him every tiny detail. That’s what we do. We share everything. But when I see the anguish on his face that he can’t quite hide, I realize that’s not us anymore. We’re on the verge of not being us. And I know deep down, Griffin was hoping hypnosis wouldn’t work on me.

I can’t blame him for wanting something so badly. For wanting me so badly.

“We’re waiting until after Christmas to go any further.”

He stands. “The moving truck is coming the Monday after Christmas.”

“Oh … I thought you weren’t leaving until after New Years.”

“I want a chance to acclimate for a few days before I start my job. Get settled.”

We’ve discussed a lot. We’ve avoided a lot. We’ve skirted many topics in favor of just being in the moment with each other. I’ve never asked him this one question, and he’s never offered it to me either.

“Where are you moving to?”

He grabs the tape from the coffee table and seals a box. “I think it’s best for you to not know that.”

“You what?” I try to keep my jaw from actually touching the ground.

“It has to be a clean break. I don’t want you thinking about me and where I’m at. I don’t want you second-guessing your decision and showing up on my doorstep because you need me to put you back together, only for us both to realize you still don’t know who you are—but you had a weak moment and we’re back at square one again.”

Ouch.

He tosses the tape on the sofa and gives me an apologetic look. “I’m sorry.”

My head inches side to side. “No. I deserve—”

Griffin wraps his arms around me. “Everything. And I wasn’t trying to be mean. I just need everything or nothing. And I want every last minute of everything we have left. But I can’t live my life wondering if we’re really over. If you’re going to change your mind. It will drive me fucking crazy.”

“Griff …”

“Maybe it just wasn’t our time.” He kisses the top of my head.

I pull back, looking at him. Really looking at him. Yes, I’ve always thought he has an old soul. And most of the time he has this militant control over his emotions where I have none. He’s showed me silent anger, pent-up anger, a clenched jaw, and the kind of anger that just walks away.

Silence seeps in. I see the conflict in his eyes. His jaw clenches. And he crashes his lips against mine, almost knocking me off my feet. It’s hard. It’s painful to depths beyond any physical sensation.

My hands push on his chest. He resists me. I push harder. He lets me go, both of us breathless.

“Say it.”

That sharply-angled jaw of his clenches again. “Say what?”

***

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