“I am.”

“What?” Her head rose, and she met my stare.

“I said I’m jealous. I’m jealous of the way his hand lay against your back. I’m jealous of the way he made you laugh. I’m jealous of the way his words filled your ears. I’m jealous that for those few moments he got to stare into those eyes, and I had to stand back and watch it all unfold.”

“What are you doing?” she said, her breaths short, confused. My lips were lingering inches away from hers. Her hands were resting against my jeans. My hands were lying against her fingers. We were so close I was almost certain she was sitting in my lap and I could hear her heartbeats.

The room around us was loud as always. People were getting drunk, people were eating, and people were discussing mediocre shit in a mediocre way. But my eyes…they were trained on her lips. On the curves of her mouth. On the color of her skin. On her.

“Tris, stop,” she whispered against my skin, but she inched her body closer. It seemed she was as confused as I was, her body going against what her mind was demanding she do.

“Tell me you don’t want this,” I begged her. Turn me away.

“It’s…I…” She was stuttering, her eyes on my mouth. Her voice was shaking, and I could hear her fears loud and clear, but somewhere within those fears and doubts was a small whisper of hope. I wanted to hold onto that as long as I could. I wanted to feel the hope she kept locked away deep in her soul. “Tristan… Do you…” She chuckled nervously and ran her fingers back and forth against her forehead. “Do you ever think of me? I mean…” Her tongue stumbled and she went silent. Her nerves were eating at her thoughts, jumbling them. “Do you ever think of me in a way that is more than a friendship?” When she looked into my eyes, she had to see the answer. I felt her soul staring deep into mine. Her eyes were full of wondering interest and her beauty was softened by an air of mystery.

I blinked once. “Every second. Every minute. Every hour. Every day.”

She nodded, closing her eyes. “Me too. Every second. Every minute. Every hour. Every day.”

Pull away, Tristan.

Pull away, Tristan.

Pull away, Tris…

“Lizzie,” I said, pulling her closer. “I want to kiss you. The real you. The sad you. The broken you.”

“That would change things.”

She was right. It would be crossing that invisible line that was dangling right in front of us. I’d kissed her before, but that was different. That was before I started falling for her. Falling and falling hard. I exhaled the breath I’d been holding and felt her do the same against my skin. “And what would happen if I didn’t kiss you?”

“I would hate you a little,” she said softly as I rested my lips millimeters away from hers. “I would hate you a lot.”

My lips pressed into hers as she arched her back and grabbed my T-shirt, pulling me closer. A light moan left her as I slid my tongue into her mouth and made love to her tongue. She kissed me hard, almost sliding into my lap, almost giving me all of her. “I want you to let me in,” she muttered against me. It took everything in me to not wrap my arms around her and take her back to my house and explore every inch of her body. I wanted to feel her wrapped around me. I wanted to feel myself deep inside her. I tugged on her bottom lip and she kissed me gently before pulling away. “I want to know who you are, Tristan. I want to know where you go when you get lost in your mind. I want to know what makes you shout in your dreams. I want to see the darkness in you that you fight daily to keep hidden. Can you do something for me?” she asked.


Her hands fell to my heart, and she watched my inhales and exhales against her fingertips. “Show me the part of you that you try to keep buried. Show me where it hurts the most. I want to see your soul.”

Chapter Twenty-Three


He took me to the shed.

For the longest time, I’d wondered what it was he did inside those walls. After he unlocked it, he swung the two doors wide open. The space was dark and I couldn’t see anything until he pulled on a lamp cord, turning on a light. The room lit up as he led me inside.

“Charlie…” I muttered, staring around at a room that was set up like a mini library. The shelves were filled with novels, both children’s books and more classic tales such as To Kill a Mockingbird and a huge Stephen King collection. The bookshelves were all hand built, and I could tell Tristan was the one who’d built them.

There was one bookshelf that held only toys—dinosaurs, cars, toy soldiers.

Yet the toys and the bookshelves weren’t what shook me the most. I stared at the walls of the shed and studied the words carved into the wood. It looked as if he had filled the walls up with notes, with memories—with apologies.

“Every time I missed him…every time I thought of him, I carved it into the wood,” he explained as my fingertips ran across the painful words Tristan had only shared with himself…until now.

I’m sorry I left you.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there.

I’m sorry I didn’t let you read certain books.

I’m sorry I never took you fishing.

I’m sorry you’ll never fall in love.

I wish I could forget.

I miss you…

“Plus,” he whispered. “Jamie always wanted me to build her a library; I always put it off for tomorrow. I thought I had more time, but sometimes tomorrow never comes and you’re only left with the memories of yesterdays.”