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“What the fuck!”

“We aren’t going anywhere,” Bear said, looking down into my eyes. Where there was irritation before was now only confusion. Pain. That’s when I realized it.

He’d told me that I couldn’t love him, not because he didn’t want my love.

But because he didn’t think he was worthy.

FUCK THIS. I grabbed his face in my hands and forced him closer to me. “You came into my life when I had nothing left.” I told him, putting everything I had out there for him to take in. I thought I’d feel weak telling him the truth but I didn’t. If anything I felt stronger with each new confession, finding strength in the truth. “You’ve been everything to me.” I leaned forward and planted a small soft kiss on the corner of his mouth, his lips parted and his gaze dropped to my lips as I pulled back. “You just have to remember how to be something to yourself.”

“I can’t,” Bear said, so quietly I wasn’t sure if he really spoke. “I can’t,” he repeated. His shoulders fell and his gaze dropped to the floor of the boat.

“Why? Tell me why?” I demanded, standing up off my seat. Bear was now eye level with my chest.

“I’m…lost,” he admitted, and my heart sank.

“Then I will help you find your way,” I said with new found determination, rubbing my thumbs over his temples. Bear leaned into my touch and closed his eyes, but it didn’t last long. Suddenly he pulled away.

“It’s not that easy. I’m a biker without a club. I feel like I’m nothing because I don’t know who I am anymore.” His brutal honesty should have had me skipping around in elation, finally cracking the hard shell that was Bear, but the happiness never came, because my heart was hurting for him.

Hurt quickly turned to anger.

“What do you want?” I asked. It came out a little harsher than I intended. He shook his head and remained silent. “Answer me, damn it!”

His eyes locked onto mine and I saw the second he fixed that shell back in place. “I want what every man wants, Ti. A bottle of Jack and my fucking dick sucked. You up for it, baby girl? Ready to wrap those beautiful lips of yours around my cock? Or should I bring that other chick back to get the job done? Or, maybe you want to join us? It’s the least you can do to make up for the earlier interruption.” Bear’s eyes glinted with a hint of evil, but I saw right past his lies to the pain lurking beneath the surface, beneath the facade he was so good at clinging to when he didn’t want to show his true feelings.

I slapped him across the face.

Hard.

His hands dug harshly into my hips and he jerked me toward him, the boat rocked violently. “Careful,” he warned.

“You can try and distract me by making me angry, but you can’t, it’s not going to work. Not this time. So tell me Bear,” I repeated my question. “What. Do. You. Want?” I was angry that the beautiful man in front of me couldn’t see what I saw in him.

“What I want isn’t important,” Bear said. He moved his hands around to my lower back and tugged me in closer. “I can’t have what I want.”

“Why not?”

“Because what I want is not fucking possible!” he said. “Tell me, Ti. You gonna bring my dead friend back? ’Cause Preppy died right in front of my eyes and I couldn’t save him! You gonna give me my club? I want things to be the way they were supposed to be before it all went to shit. You gonna take the nightmares away? The ones where I relive Eli and his men torturing me, shoving some broken bat up my ass and shoving their cocks in my mouth? Because I want all that and more than anything I want…” He looked away, but I wasn’t about to let him stop there. I brought his gaze back to mine and held it there.

“What? What else do you want?” I asked, softly this time. When he didn’t answer right away I was afraid I’d already lost him.

After an eternity he finally spoke and when he did his words knocked the wind from my chest. “You.” He finally admitted, his voice stronger, more assertive than just seconds before. “I’ve been a ruined man for a long time. I can’t ruin you too.”

“You didn’t ruin me,” I said. “You saved me.”

I didn’t even realize the boat had started to tip over until it was too late. I lost my hold on Bear and crashed into the dark water.

Bear’s strong arms lifted me out. “Grab onto the side,” he said, tapping on the side of the boat. I couldn’t reach the ground but Bear could because he held onto the boat and walked us toward the nearby shore. I was so wrapped up in Bear that I hadn’t noticed how close we’d floated. King and Ray’s house looked so small from across the bay. Lights flickered in the windows. It seemed a million miles away, not just a few hundred feet.

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