Page 34

Author: Tracy Wolff

“So he gets this race. Two in the morning, across the Huey Long Bridge and back. And he takes it. He f**king takes it. It was total suicide, especially since the guy he was driving against was really bad news, you know? He won, a lot, but he won because he drove dirty. No one could prove it, but we all knew it. Despite that, he’d never been able to beat Remi before. It pissed him off.

“I begged Remi not to take the race, because I knew he was going to go balls to the wall with it. He’d do anything to beat Kye. Anything. And that bridge is so narrow, so tight, it gives no room for mistakes even if you’re driving the speed limit. Going faster … I was terrified he was going to end up killing himself.”

“So you got in the car with him.” Z’s voice has no inflection at all, no blame, no judgment. But his jaw is locked up tight, and his hands … let’s just say my comforter is never going to be the same.

“It was stupid on my part. But I thought—” I break off, sigh loudly. “I don’t know what I thought, honestly.”

“You thought if you were there you could keep him from doing something totally stupid. You thought you could save his life.”

I nod, because he’s right. “That’s exactly what I thought. Remi had always been pretty protective of me. Not like you, but still. He took good care of me, and it never occurred to me that that wouldn’t matter. That he wanted to die more than he cared if I lived.”

I shake my head, start to close my eyes, but when I do I can see the wreck, hear the crunch of metal. Feel the drop, then the cool rush of water.

“You know, that’s the worst part,” I went on.

“That he tried to kill you too?” His voice is colder than I’ve ever heard it.

“That I’ll never know if he did or if he just lost control. We had the race. We had it. We’d already done most of the course—the bridge, the neighborhood on the other side. All we had to do was get back across the bridge. Remi had it. I knew he had it. I could feel it. Kye wasn’t even close to us. And then, suddenly, Remi just jerks the wheel to the right. We go flying and …

“He drowned. I mean, he was really badly injured, so he might not have made it anyway. But he was trapped in the car and the water was coming in too fast. I couldn’t get him out—”

“Wait a minute. You went off the bridge with him? You were trapped in that car in the f**king Mississippi River?” Z’s hands are on my shoulders now, his face in mine, his eyes livid with so many emotions I can’t even begin to sort them all out. “He went off the bridge with you in that car with him?”

“Most days I don’t think it was on purpose.”

“Jesus Christ, Ophelia. Jesus Christ.” He pulls me to his chest, holds me so tight I can barely breathe. But I don’t complain because it turns out this is what I needed all along—even though I didn’t know it.

For so long friends back home have blamed me—for getting in the car, for letting Remi drive that race, for not doing more to stop him. Oh, they never come right out and say it, but I can hear it in their voices, see it when they look at me. They don’t understand I was doing everything I could to save him. All they know is that he’s dead, and they think that by going with him, I encouraged him to wreck.

I don’t know—maybe there’s a part of me that thinks the same thing.

But not Z. He’s swearing under his breath, slowly, steadily, furiously. Not at me, but for me. I find myself sinking even more into him. It feels so good to be held like this, like I’m the most precious thing in the world. Remi never held me like that, and neither has anyone else. Ever.

Because he’s there, and because I can, I wrap my arms around him just as tightly. And hold on with everything I’ve got.

Chapter 21




Goddamned son of a motherfucking bitch. If Remi was in front of me right now, I’d kill the as**ole myself. Slowly. Painfully. Deliberately, so that he knew I meant it.

What the hell was he thinking? What the hell was he thinking?

Letting Ophelia get in that car with him? Racing with her when he knew how f**king dangerous it was? Fucking crashing that car with her in it? Totally irrational though it is, it’s killing me that he’s already dead. That I can’t tear the motherfucker limb from f**king limb.

I need to walk, need to move. Need to do something before the top of my head actually blows the f**k off. But there’s Ophelia to think of. Ophelia, who he never thought of, is curled up in my arms, her whole body wrapped around mine.

I don’t think she realizes that she’s shaking, her body trembling so violently that she’s actually moving the bed. I pull her closer, wrap my arms around her more tightly … and that’s when I realize. She’s not the one who’s shaking.

I am.

Goddamn f**king son-of-a-bitch motherfucking shithead. How could he do that to her? How could he tell her he loved her and then do that to her? I’ve seen her scars. I’ve touched and kissed and caressed them. I know how badly she was injured, and to think that some f**ker with a death wish did that to her … I just can’t understand.

I may be on the brink of self-destructing, but if it happens, there’s no way I’m taking anybody with me. No way I’ll ever take the chance of hurting someone I care about again. Remi should have known better. He should have f**king known better. If you have a girl like Ophelia, you protect her. You don’t f**king put her in the line of fire. You f**king treasure her.


The need to kick the shit out of something is riding me hard, as is the red haze of fury that’s all I can see. All I can think about. But that isn’t what she needs from me right now. No matter how much I want to rage. No matter how much I want to go back in time and kick that motherfucker’s ass, I need to rein it in. Because Ophelia trusted me with something here. She told me why she’s scared, and now it’s my job to hold her and comfort her and make her unafraid. I may not know much about relationships, but I know that.

The only problem is, I don’t know how to do it. I’ve never comforted anybody in my life. Never even thought about it. But she needs it from me, so I’m going to f**king figure it out. Right here. Right now. I refuse to be just another as**ole who let her down.

Not sure what else to do, I run a gentle hand down her back, stroke my fingers through her hair. Press my mouth against her ear and whisper a bunch of nonsense words that don’t seem to make much sense except that they soothe her. She relaxes against me, and I can feel her heartbeat finally start to settle as she cuddles even closer.

I want to hold her like this forever. Want to take away all the pain and bullshit she’s had to go through in the past and just make it all okay. She deserves more than what that bastard did to her, deserves so much more than the hand she’s been dealt.

Hell, she deserves so much more than me—a selfish prick who spends too much time playing around with his own f**king death wish. But that’s just too damn bad because I’m not going to give her up. It’s obvious she has ridiculously fucked-up taste in guys—present company totally included—so it’s not like I can turn her loose on the world and hope she ends up okay. Because she obviously won’t. Which means I’m going to have to do something more. I’m going to have to be something better. Because Ophelia f**king deserves it. She f**king deserves everything.

“That’s why I sent you away today,” she tells me, like I haven’t figured that much out already. “I saw that video and I just freaked out. It was like looking at Remi right before he died. All confidence and wildness and total commitment. You ride the line like he does, in the spot so narrow that life and death start to blend together.”

I clear my throat, start to answer. But what can I say? She’s right. We both know she’s right.

“I’m sorry. I know you’re not him. I know I shouldn’t compare you, but I watched so many videos of you tonight. Saw you doing so amazingly well and then just throwing it all away. Again and again and—”

“I love you.” The words slip out before I even know I’m going to say them. But once they’re out, I don’t want to take them back, because they’re true. Somehow, some way, I’ve managed to fall in love with this beautiful, beautiful girl when I didn’t think it was possible for me to love anyone. Ever.

“What did you say?” she asks after a minute, her voice broken and pupils blown wide with shock.

“I said I love you. And I’m sorry I’m such a f**king asshole.”

“You’re not.”

I laugh. “Yeah, I am. It’s just that since my—” I break off, not sure I’m ready to go there yet. Not sure I’ll ever be ready to go there.

“I know about your sister.”

“You do?” Shit. How? Did Cam tell her when she told her about the bet? Or Ash, maybe? My f**king heart feels like it’s going to pound right out of my chest, and I swear I’m about two seconds from passing out like a total pussy.

“I’m sorry she and your mother died.”

Oh, right. She knows the sanitized version, the PR version that Mitch has made sure circulated ever since I became a pro snowboarder. She doesn’t know the real truth. If she did, she’d probably be running away from me as fast as she f**king could. One destructive son of a bitch in her life is obviously enough.

If I were a better man, I’d tell her. Just so she’d know what she’s getting herself into. But I’m not and I’ve never claimed to be, so I don’t say another f**king word. Instead I put my mouth to better use.

Her lips open under mine like they were meant for me, her tongue stroking along my own as I explore the recesses of her mouth. She tastes so good, like caramel and coffee and sweet, sweet whipped cream. I nibble at her upper lip, suck it between mine. Laugh a little as she gasps and trembles against me. If I could, I’d stay here forever. Right here, at this moment, with my girl in my arms and the nightmares still and silent within me.

Desperate for more of her, for all of her, I deepen the kiss. I run my tongue along the roof of her mouth, play with the almost imperceptible gap where one of her teeth is just a tiny bit crooked. Then, because I can—because she’s mine—I run my tongue under hers and play with her frenulum.

She gasps, trembles, her hands clutching at my shirt to pull me closer. “What are you doing?” she whispers.

“Do you like it?”

“Yes.” Her head falls back on a moan as I do it a second and then a third time.

I’ve just started sucking on her lower lip, nipping at it and then soothing the little sting with my tongue, when she pulls away.

“What’s wrong, baby? What do you need?”

She looks me straight in the eye. “I know it’s only been a few days, but I need to tell you. I love you, too, Z.”

Her words hit me with the power of a sledgehammer, even as I tell myself not to believe them. That she’s just trying to be nice. That she doesn’t want to leave me hanging. “You don’t have to say that.”

“Yes, I do.” She grabs my face between her hands and plants a fierce kiss on my mouth. “Because it’s true.”

“How can it be? I’m—” A loser. A bastard. A fuck-up who can’t be trusted with anything. I’m a drunk and a manwhore and all the other things people say about me, not to mention a bunch of things they don’t. I know it. I’ve always known it. Why doesn’t she?

I open my mouth, start to say it to her. I need to say it to her—she has a right to know—but I just can’t. Because if I say it, then she’ll leave, just like everybody else. Everybody but Luc and Cam and Ash. And I can’t let her go. Not now. Not yet.

“You’re a pain in the ass, is what you are,” she tells me in between pressing kisses down my neck. “Too arrogant. Too talented. Too used to getting your own way. Too impulsive. Too handsome. Too protective.” She shakes her head, then kisses me right behind the ear. “Too kind. Who the hell knows what I see in you.”