“How about we start now?” I asked, pressing my chest to his. He shook his head and sighed, placing his hands on my shoulders and distancing himself from me.
“The second I get back Bee... the very second. I promise.” Jake leaned in and softly kissed my lips before deepening the kiss and opening his mouth to mine. His tongue danced across my lips, and then inside my mouth and over my tongue. It had been so long. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to wait much longer without bursting apart. He pulled away again as if he were reading my mind. He closed his eyes. “I love you, Bee.”
“I love you, too, Jake,” I said. “So much.” I’d never meant it more.
We spent the next hour inside, sitting on the living room floor. Jake sat silently while I told him the details of the night Owen raped me. I didn’t leave any detail out, as he’d requested. I used the pictures to explain each injury as it happened. As I spoke, his mood darkened into a much more sinister version of himself. My sapphire-eyed Jake shared his body with a monster. I could feel him moving aside as the beast within him firmly took control.
By the time I’d finished telling him, I was shaking like it had just happened yesterday. I remembered the feeling when I woke up in unending pain, wishing I was dead. And yet somehow, I had made it through, and my little miracle Georgia had survived as well.
Jake put his hands on my shoulders and pulled me to him. He kissed me with so much raw anger and passion I didn’t know if I was going to be able to survive the overwhelming feelings building inside of me.
Jake may have had a monster living inside him. But nothing about either of us had ever been just one way. Nothing was black or white, light or dark.
Coral Pines was a place that looked like heaven on the outside and felt like hell on the inside. Owen, the golden boy of our town, turned out to be the biggest monster of them all. And Jake, who had become accustomed to living within the dark shadows of his tortured soul, turned out to be one of the brightest lights in my life.
I had lived my life in both the dark and the light. Having my new family meant I had to walk a blurry line between the two. I was never going to be a normal person with regular thoughts and feelings.
I’d never known what “normal” meant, anyway.
Maybe what set Jake and I apart from other people was our acceptance of our feelings and emotions—the dark as well as the light. All I knew is there was no darkness in the world that could compare with the love we had for our daughter. Jake love for Georgia was proof that even the blackest hearts were capable of love. He was the light and the darkness, all at the same time.
Jake the angel, who comforted me at the hospital.
Jake the killer, who stood to leave, tucking his gun into the back of his jeans and checking for the additional clip in his boot.
“Tell me again you’re okay with this, that you won’t look at me differently afterwards.” His tone carried worry.
“I knew Owen’s death would be coming from the very night he raped me, and I wanted it to be you who killed him.” I didn’t hesitate to tell him. “I still do.” I held up the last of the pictures to him. It was the photo I had taken last, kneeling in front of the mirror with my legs spread open for the camera. The lens caught the bruises and dried blood caked in every nook of my body, over every inch of my already marred skin.
Jake’s nostrils flared and his eyes lost their light. The killer in him was being fed. I turned over the picture. In my handwriting was a note I’d written years ago.
Send him to hell, Jake.
Jake took the picture from me and read and reread the note on the back before folding it and tucking it into his leather jacket. He picked me up off the floor and gave me one last furious kiss before putting me down and stalking to the front door in quick, determined strides. “Thank you,” he whispered.
“Make sure you come back to us,” I reminded him. I hoped I hadn’t needed to.
“Leaving you was the worst mistake of my life, Bee. I won’t make it again.” Then, he was gone, disappearing into the blackness of the night.
The roar of his bike announced his leaving, but in minutes it was silent again, only the echoes remained.
“Make him suffer, baby,” I whispered to no one.
I once wondered if two broken souls could heal one another.
I hoped the answer was yes.
We may not have been perfect, or even acceptable by anyone else’s standards. But together, we were perfect.
Together, we were just us.
Battered and broken. Dark and difficult. Impulsive and scared.