Whenever he walked past me, my cheeks flushed and I’d turn away as if I hadn’t seen him. Even though I had. I always saw him, and I wasn’t exactly sure why.
Everyone told me he was callous, and I believed them. I’d seen the harsh realities that lived in Tristan. But I’d also seen another side of him that many didn’t notice. I’d seen him fall apart when he learned that Zeus would be okay. I’d seen him slowly open up about the loss of his wife and son. I’d seen a gentle, broken side of Tristan that many seemed to miss.
Currently, in the middle of the farmers market, I was so intrigued by another side of Tristan. Each week, he would walk around as if he didn’t see anyone. He was focused on his mission, which was always to buy bags of groceries and fresh flowers. Then he would disappear up the hills, stopping by the bridge where he always handed all the groceries and flowers to a homeless man.
As he handed the bags off to the guy, I was only a few feet away from him because I was heading back to the house. As I approached him, I couldn’t stop the smile that was overtaking me. He started walking in the direction of his house.
He looked my way with a blank stare.
He continued walking.
It was as though we were back to day one. I hurried my footsteps to keep up with his long strides. “I just wanted to say I thought that was really nice. It’s really sweet what you do for that man. I think it’s really—”
He shot around and stepped toward me. His jaw clenched and he narrowed his eyes. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“What?” I stammered, confused by his tone.
He stepped closer. “You think I don’t see the way you look at me?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I want to make something clear to you,” he whispered harshly. Tristan blinked once before his stormy eyes reappeared. “I don’t want to be involved with you in any way, shape, or form. Okay? I cut your fucking grass because you annoyed the living shit out of me. That’s all. I want nothing to do with you again. So stop with the damn looks.”
“You th—you think I’m hitting on you?!” I cried out as we reached the top of the hill. He cocked an eyebrow and gave me a hell-yes-I-think-you’re-hitting-on-me look. “I thought it was nice, okay?! You give the guy food, you prick! And I wasn’t trying to ask you out or hit on you, I was trying to have a conversation with you.”
“Why would you want to have a conversation with me?”
“I don’t know!” I said, my words somersaulting off my tongue. I was truly unsure why I would have wanted to be in a conversation with someone who was so hot and cold on a daily basis. One day he was opening up about his demons, and the next he was shouting at me for saying hello. I can’t win. “Stupid me for thinking we could’ve been friends.”
His eyebrows furrowed. “Why would I want to be your friend?”
A shiver ran across my body. I wasn’t sure if it was due to the light breeze or due to Tristan intruding on my personal space.
“I don’t know. Because you seem lonely and I’m lonely. And I thought—”
“You didn’t think.”
“Why are you so mean?”
“Why are you always watching me?”
My lips parted to speak, but no reply came to mind. We stared at each other, so close that our bodies were almost linked, so close that our lips were almost touching.
“Everyone in this town is afraid of me. Do I scare you, Elizabeth?” he whispered, his breaths brushing against my lips.
“Because I see you.”
The coldness in his stare softened for a split second, almost as if he was confused by those four words. But I did see him. I saw past the hate in his stare and noticed the hurt in his frown. I saw the broken parts that somehow matched my own.
Without thought, Tristan pulled me to his body, his lips pressing hard against mine. The confusion swimming around in my head began to fade as his tongue slipped between my lips and I kissed him back. I kissed him back, and maybe even kissed him more than he kissed me. God, I missed that. I missed kissing. The feeling of falling into someone who was holding you up from hitting rock bottom. The feeling of warmth washing against your skin as another person supplied you with your next few breaths.
I missed being held, I missed being touched, I missed being wanted…
I missed Steven.
Tristan’s kisses were angry and sad, apologetic and agonizing, raw and authentic.
Just like mine.
My tongue slid across his bottom lip, and I pressed my hands against his chest, feeling his rapid heartbeats flying through my fingertips—flying into my own body.
For a few seconds, I felt like I had felt before.
A part of something divine.
Tristan hastily yanked his mouth away from mine and turned away, leading me back to my current, dark reality.
Lonely all the time.
“You don’t know me, so stop acting like you do,” he said. He started walking again, leaving me standing, perplexed.
What was that?!
“You felt it too, didn’t you?” I asked, watching him walk away. “It felt like…it felt like they were still here. It felt like Steven was here. Did it feel like your wife—”
He turned with a fire burning in his stare. “Don’t ever speak about my wife as if you know anything about her or me.” He began to hurry away once again.
He felt it.