I dislocated my shoulder—not the first time that’s happened—so they popped it back in and gave me some pain pills and strict instructions to get some PT when I get back home. I also cracked a couple of ribs and sprained my wrist, so I’m wrapped up pretty tight while the painkillers take care of all that, too. They’re keeping me for observation, just to make sure they didn’t miss anything, but other than that, I’m in pretty good shape. In good enough shape that, if I take care of myself, I should be able to still make the Olympic trials in a couple of weeks.
It’s more than I deserve, more than I have any right to expect. I f**ked up. I know I f**ked up. I let that reporter and all the shit from my past get in my head and mess me up. And now I’ve lost Ophelia before I ever really had a chance to have her. The Olympic trials seem like a really f**king poor substitute. Still, more than I deserve, though.
“Z? You okay?”
I turn to see Ash and Luc looking at me with concern, which means I’ve once again missed whatever they were saying to me. “Sorry, guys. The Vicodin makes me fuzzy.” I blame it on the pain pills instead of my own utter stupidity.
“No problem.” Ash pats me on the shoulder. “I think we’re going to take off, then. Let you get some sleep. My mom and dad will be here in the morning to pick you up.”
“They don’t need to bother. I can take a cab.”
“Yeah, ’cuz that’s so going to happen,” he tells me with a roll of his eyes. “As soon as I’m done competing, they’ll be by to get you.”
“Thanks, man. And good luck tomorrow. To all three of you. You’re going to shred it.”
He reaches a fist out, bumps it with mine. Seconds later, Luc does the same. Cam leans down and gives me a hug. Then they file out and I’m alone again.
The TV is tuned to some old comedy, and though it looks funny, I’m not overly interested in it. Then again, I’m not overly interested in anything else, either.
Except Ophelia, and she didn’t come.
She didn’t come.
I close my eyes, start to drift. And try to think of one goddamn reason to keep breathing. The fact that I can’t think of one isn’t exactly encouraging.
There’s a knock on the door, and I jolt upright at the sound, jarring my shoulder in the process. Ophelia, is all I can think. She came. She—
“Hey, man. Sorry to wake you up.” Mitch is standing in the doorway, a bag of food in his hand. “Let me drop this off and I’ll come back later.”
“Nah, it’s cool. I’m not really sleeping. It’s just the drugs.”
He nods, walks inside. “I brought you some tacos. Figured it’s better than the shit they serve you in here.”
He grabs a seat in the chair closest to the bed, then spends a few minutes laying out dinner for the two of us. He bought me a Coke, but he’s drinking Dr Pepper. The sight of that damn maroon can sends a fresh wave of pain through me. Which makes me feel like an even bigger pussy, which in turn pisses me off all over again. Ophelia’s f**king ruined me. Even worse, I let her.
I shove thoughts of her deep inside, lock that shit up tight. I’m not going to think about her right now. I can’t. Not with all the other crap running around in my head. Maybe later, when I’ve got my shit together again, but not now. Not yet.
I reach for a street taco that I’ve got no desire to eat, polish it off in three bites. Mitch pretty much does the same, eating without saying a word to me about the damn elephant in the room.
Eventually I can’t take the crushing weight of the silence, though, and I say, “So what happened?”
“They’re not running the story.”
I eye him, waiting for the other shoe to drop. When he doesn’t say anything else, I demand, “Why not?”
“Because I told them I’d f**king crush anyone who touches the story. Not to mention sue them for every penny their f**king magazines and newspapers are worth. Most didn’t even need the threat. It’s a f**king bullshit story, one only the tabloids would touch to begin with. And by the time my lawyer was done threatening them, even they wouldn’t go near it. It’s dead, Z. It’s going nowhere.”
I close my eyes, wait for the overwhelming sense of relief to flood me, but it never comes. I’m sick of hiding, sick of running, sick of burying my f**king head and pretending the past never happened. April died. She f**king died in a way no one should ever have to die. And I’ve spent the last eleven years being too big of a f**king pu**y to f**king acknowledge that. To f**king deal with it.
A tear leaks out from beneath my lashes, and Mitch clears his throat uncomfortably. “You okay?”
I dash it away with the back of my hand. Clear my throat. “Yeah, man. Thanks.”
“No problem.” I hear the rustling of foil, open my eyes to see him clearing up the food mess. “I should probably let you get some sleep. We’ll talk tomorrow, when you’re feeling a little better.”
“Yeah, okay. Sure.”
He tosses the trash, then nearly runs from the room after telling me to call him if I need anything. Nice. It takes real skill to drive your girlfriend and your agent away within hours of each other, if I do say so myself.
The thought of Ophelia shreds me all over again, and I reach for my phone. I can’t help it. I check my messages, my voicemail. Nothing. She hasn’t texted, hasn’t called.
Because you’re a prick, the little voice inside me says. You’re a piece of shit who deserves to have her walk. You’ve never deserved her. Never really had her.
I start to put the phone down. Hell, I start to throw the stupid piece of shit against the nearest wall again. But in the end, I can’t. Because I still want her. Fucked up as I am, worthless as I am, I still need her. I don’t even want to talk about how pathetic that makes me.
In the end, I can’t help myself. I pull up her contact information and type in a quick text. Then, before I can talk myself out of it, I hit send.
I spend the rest of the night with the phone clutched in my hand, waiting for her to text back.
She never does.
There’s a knock on the door—the fourth of the night—but I just ignore it the same way I have the others. I’m in Z’s hotel room, not sure where else to go, and I figure anyone knocking on his door doesn’t want to talk to me anyway.
The knock comes again, harder this time, like an open palm slamming against the door. Then Cam’s voice calling, “I know you’re in there, Ophelia. Open the f**king door.”
Afraid something has happened to Z—something worse than what he’s already suffered, I mean—I rush to the door. Throw it open. And get a fist to my face for my trouble.
“You bitch,” Cam spits out as I stumble backward under the strength of her punch. “I should kick your ass right now.”
I touch my eye gingerly. It hurts, and I think I can feel it swelling already. Awesome. “I’m pretty sure you already have.”
“You haven’t seen anything yet.” But she doesn’t hit me again. Instead she slams the door behind her and just looks at me, arms crossed over her chest and an ugly sneer on her normally too-cute face.
“If that’s all you wanted to do, you should probably go.”
“Don’t tempt me,” she snarls. But she doesn’t make another move toward me. Instead she walks over to the minibar, pulls out a small bottle of vodka, and pours it into a glass. “You know, I just don’t get you,” she says after taking a long sip.
“That’s okay. I don’t get you, either.” She’s in love with Z, probably has been forever. I figured it out a few days ago and then everything made sense. Why she told me about the bet, her sudden animosity toward me, everything. Which is why she should be throwing a party right about now. I’m out of the picture and the path is wide open for her to try to start something with Z. “I thought you’d be sitting by his bedside, holding his hand and pretending everything is going to be all right.”
Even as I say them, the words have my heart dropping to my stomach and my hands clenching into fists. Not that I’ve got any right to be upset. I’m the one who didn’t bother to show up at the hospital. I’m the one who dumped him a second time.
Because I had to, I remind myself viciously. Losing Remi nearly killed me. Losing Z … watching him slowly kill himself … I’d never survive. Already I feel like I’ve been ripped in half, every part of me shredded into pieces so small I’m terrified I’ll never be able to put them back together again.
“Wow, look at you. Who knew you were so good at playing the victim?”
“I’m not playing at anything.”
“Could’ve fooled me.” She takes another swallow of the vodka, grimaces a little with the taste of it. “You know, Z doesn’t let anybody in. He doesn’t let himself need anyone. But he needs you, and you just f**king walk away like he’s nothing.”
“It’s not like that.”
“It’s exactly like that. You’re a shallow bitch just like everybody else he’s ever cared about. You like him when shit’s going good, but the second it gets real, you’re out the door.”
I want to argue with her, to tell her that isn’t true, but how can I when he’s in the hospital and I’m here choking on eleven-month-old memories? “Is he doing okay?”
“Like that’s any of your business? You gave up the right to know the answer to that question the second you didn’t bother to go to the hospital.”
“No, you didn’t. I was there the whole time and I never saw you.”
“I left after making sure he was okay. I couldn’t—”
“Deal. Right? You couldn’t deal with the fact that your superhot, supertalented boyfriend is a real person. That he’s not easy. That’s he’s got issues that run deeper than anything you want to deal with.” She shakes her head, drains the drink. “I just don’t get why he fell for you.”
“Instead of you, you mean?” I strike out before I know what I’m going to say. But I’m hurt and angry and sad, so f**king sad. The last thing I need is for Cam to heap even more guilt on my head.
“I don’t think so.” I walk to the door, open it. “Why don’t you get the hell out?”
“I’m not getting out until you tell me why you f**ked with Z like that. Was it to get back at him for the bet? Does it make you feel good to hurt him like this when he’s already had the shit kicked out of him today?”
“He did it to himself.”
“God.” She lets out a sarcastic little laugh. “You’re pathetic.”
“How about you? You’ve been wearing blinders about Z forever. You don’t want to know the truth because then you’ll have to admit that you can’t fix him.”
“Oh, I’m the first one to admit I can’t fix him. That he’s broken, probably beyond repair. You’re the one who won’t accept that. Who only wants him if he’s whole.”
The words hit like blows. “You don’t understand. I saw what happened today. I know he did it on purpose.”
She shrugs. “Who knows if he did or he didn’t? Nothing is ever that cut-and-dried with Z. Besides, that’s not the point.”
“It’s exactly the point. You know he’s too good to go down like that—”
“What I know is that he was doing fine, holding his shit together. He was excited as hell about boarding that competition. And then a f**king reporter got in his head right before his run.”