When the door is pulled open, my heart drops into my shoes. Sean is standing there bleary-eyed. His shirt is open, revealing some nasty bruises on his skin. “Avery,” he breathes my name, surprised to see me. “What are you doing here?”

My lips part to say something, but I can’t speak. Marty walks up behind me and produces Sean’s jacket. “She wanted to bring you back your stuff. The hospital gave it to her.” I smile at Marty, grateful. I don’t know where my courage went, but it’s gone. I don’t like the look in Sean’s eye. I take Sean’s jacket and remove the envelope before handing him the beat up leather.

Sean stares at Marty with venom in his eyes, before his gaze shifts back to me. Sean takes the jacket and says, “Come in.” I nod and walk past him, into the hotel room. Marty remains in the hall way, but Sean doesn’t leave it alone. “You too, get in here.”

Marty tenses. He gives me a look that lets me know that he really can’t stand Sean. The door closes behind us and Marty crosses the room to look out a window. I know he’s trying to give me space, but Sean’s watching Marty like he’s a threat.

I step toward Sean, saying, “How are you all right? After you fell, you didn’t move. I couldn’t feel you breathing.” My eyes are as big as saucers and they start to burn. The expression Sean gives me is unreadable, cold.

“I wasn’t. The wind got knocked out of me when I fell. I couldn’t say anything. The helmet and jacket saved my skin. It’s armored. I have a gash on my leg where my jeans got shredded, but the rest of me is fine.” Sean’s lips barely move when he says fine. It’s like he’s saying that he’s anything but fine.

I nod. My pulse is pounding in my ears and my skin is prickling with sweat. I lift the letter between my fingers. Dread fills me, making it difficult to breathe. “I found this in your things.”

He stares at me. “And you read it?”

I nod. “I didn’t know what happened to you. When I saw my name on the envelope, I…” my voice trails off. What am I doing here? Sean obviously doesn’t want to see me.

“Did you give the money to Black?”

“Yeah, I did.” Sean nods slowly. His eyes keep flicking up toward the spot where Marty is standing, looking out the window. I hold up the letter again. Sean looks at the paper and then at me. “What about this?”

“What about it?” Sean holds my gaze. He almost seems defiant and I don’t understand why. After a moment, he turns away. His face pinches slightly and he has a slight limp when he steps away from me.

Anger flashes through my veins. A million thoughts collide inside my mind and explode out my mouth. “What about it? Oh, I don’t know. Was it true? Did you just write it so we’re even and you could give me back the money I threw in your face? Or was it something else?” I want to scream at him, but I don’t. Instead, I take a slow breath in and when I look up from under my brow, I catch his eyes. “Tell me the truth. How do you feel about me? Man up and say it, instead of cowering behind silence.”

Marty has turned. I can feel his eyes on my back, but he remains by the window.

Sean seems so detached, like he doesn’t care about me one way or the other. “Actions speak louder than words, don’t they? Add it up, Avery.”

I know what he’s saying. Sean is denying he has any feelings for me at all. “Bullshit. You’re a coward. Your actions ring so goddamn loud that they’re constantly gonging in my head. You threw yourself under a truck for me. Then, you ditched me. You stormed out the hospital without even checking on me!”

I shove his chest because Sean is no longer meeting my gaze. His face is turned to the side, like I’ve slapped his cheek. My heart feels hollowed out. Why won’t he tell me? Desperation fills me like a storm. It violently tears away all rational thought until I’m close to tears.

Sean runs his hand through his dark hair and looks over his shoulder at Marty. “Take her home. Play house. Do whatever it is that you two do.” Sean walks toward the door and holds it open.

My jaw drops. I glance back at Marty who is giving Sean the nastiest look I’ve ever seen. When I glance at Sean, I see it. He thinks Marty and I are an item. I step in front of Sean and tug his shirtfront hard, pulling his face closer to mine. “Marty’s a friend, you idiot, and right now he’s a better friend than you are.” I shove past Sean to walk out the door, but he catches my hand. I look back at him, ready to bite his head off, but the expression on his face stops me.

“Wait…” Sean’s voice trails off as he looks away.

Marty is behind me. I know he wants to leave, but my feet freeze. The plea in Sean’s voice holds me in place. His fingers are wrapped around my wrist, which makes my stomach do summersaults. My spine stiffens.

I try to push the sensations away. I’m tired of playing games. I don’t know what I expected of Sean, but this isn’t it. “No, I’m done with this. You can’t even tell me why you left. Your frickin’ leg is bleeding through your jeans. You left the hospital without even letting them patch you up. You left me behind. I can’t do this anymore. I’m done.” I’m so weary. I just want to leave. My mistakes are crushing me. Coming here was a mistake. I shake my head and try to pull away, but Sean doesn’t let go.

Something changes. I sense it and look up at him. “I’ll tell you. Stay and I’ll tell you.” Sean’s eyes meet mine and I feel my resolve flake off and blow away.

I glance at Marty. He rolls his eyes and heads out the door. Before leaving he turns back to me. “Some things are beyond your control, Avery, but other things—” Marty shakes his head, “other heartache is completely preventable.” Marty narrows his eyes at Sean, in a hateful glare, waits half a beat, and leaves.

Dread runs down my spine. Why does it feel like I just made a huge mistake?


When the door closes, Sean seems stiff. I wonder if he aches as much as I do. I wonder if it feels like his heart has been ripped out of his chest one too many times. I don’t understand him. I don’t know why he keeps running hot and cold. I have emotional whiplash and I’m too tired to deal with it.

When Sean doesn’t say anything, I move to the door and reach out for the handle. “Listen, my ride is leaving and I’m too tired for this. If you don’t—”

Sean makes an exasperated sound and drags his palms over his face. “What, you think I can just come out and say it?”

Looking over my shoulder, I answer, “Yeah. Say something or I’m gone.”

For a moment I’m nervous that Sean won’t tell me, that he’ll let me leave. I don’t want things to end like this, but he has to at least try to talk to me. I can’t take living this way anymore. I’m in love with him and it kills me that I can’t even tell if he likes me. I let out an annoyed sound and yank open the door.

Just as I’m about to walk through, Sean speaks. “I don’t like hospitals. They upset me. A lot. I ran out before they could work on me, but I did see you. I came into your room.”

Turning slowly, I look at him. Sean’s shoulders are slumped, his jaw is covered in day-old scruff, and he isn’t looking at me. My hand rests on the handle. “I don’t remember seeing you. I thought you were dead.” The last sentence is barely a whisper.

Anxiety that I didn’t have time to deal with before rears its head and I feel unstable. I want to yell, scream, and cry. I want to bang my fists into his chest and have him pull me into his arms and tell me that everything will be all right, but I can’t break down like that. I don’t have the luxury.

Sean’s lips part. He breathes for a moment, like it pains him. When his blue gaze meets mine, I know he’s lost in his past. I recognize the look in his eye. I’ve seen it in the mirror too many times to count. He runs his hand through his hair and down his neck. “You were sedated when I found you. I would have taken you with me, but your friend chased me off.” Sean’s eyes dart to the open door.


He nods. “It’s none of my business what you do with your life, but that guy wants you.” Sean slips his hands into his pockets.

My jaw drops. I make some strangled sounds before sputtering out, “He’s gay! Marty’s gay! You are so far off base that you don’t even know what you’re talking about.” I want to laugh because it seems insane, but I don’t. Sean’s serious.

He shrugs. “It doesn’t matter. That look is still there. The way he ran me off spoke volumes.”

“You’re wrong. Marty’s as into me sexually as Mel is. There’s nothing between me and either one of them, so stop making excuses. Why’d you run?”

Sean sighs and looks up at the ceiling. After a second, he says, “Close the door. I’ll have a car take you home when you want to leave.” I don’t like the way he’s talking to me, but I let the door shut and step into the room. I fold my arms over my chest and wait.

Sean doesn’t look at me when he speaks. “Hospitals give me a great deal of anxiety.”

“That’s not an answer.”

Sean glances up at me. His eyes are cold and hard. They could cut through metal. I flinch. “Let me finish. I won’t say it twice.” I swallow hard and sit down on a chair next to the table by the door. Sean paces as he talks. There’s a slight limp when he steps. His hands remain in his pockets.

He stares straight ahead, not looking at me. “It’s not hospitals in general, it’s that hospital. That’s where I lost them. Being in the same place, standing in the same rooms, was too much. I’d rather leave and die on the sidewalk than stay in that place.” Each word is loaded with emotion, pulled from the depths of his soul.

I don’t know what to say. I want to make him feel better, but nothing I say will remove the memory from his mind.

And now I know what happened to the baby. He said them. He must have lost his wife and baby at the same time. I press my lips together tightly. No wonder why he’s emotionally repressed. Losing one person is hard enough, but losing two is an unfathomable amount of pain. My parents’ deaths were hard enough. I can’t image losing a spouse and a child.