Page 46

“What’s wrong?”

It’s too dark to fully see her expression, and I hate that. Hate the way she stiffens further. The way she pauses for a moment too long. When she speaks, it comes out stilted, off. “Nothing…Drew...” Her br**sts press against me as she takes a breath. “I’m just tired.”

A lump fills my throat. “You should have said so. You should have stopped me.”

Her eyes glimmer in the gray dark. The sadness in them has my chest clenching. “It isn’t as bad as all that,” she says, reaching up to touch my cheek. But I’ve seen enough. I try to ease off her, but it’s awkward, my chest crushing into hers, my bad leg tweaking and sending pain up to my hip and down to my toes. I bite back a curse, even as Anna tries to pull me back. It’s clumsy, but I evade.

“I don’t want a pity f**k,” I whisper, as I roll away and sit on the side of the bed.

Anna’s hand barely touches my back, as if she’d been reaching out to me, but then it’s gone, and her voice snaps like a whip through the dark. “And I don’t want to be accused of giving them.”

I’m not going to apologize. I’m done apologizing tonight. I run a hand through my hand and lift off of the bed. “Forget it.”

“Where are you going?”

“I can’t sleep.” I grab a discarded pair of shorts. I’ll put them on in the living room. Hell if I’ll bobble around in here, trying to dress. “Go back to sleep.”


“Please, Anna.” My voice is broken, desperate. “I can’t do this anymore tonight.” I don’t wait for her response, but flee to the safety of the other room where it’s quiet and free from any expectations. For the first time since I met Anna, I wonder if it would be better if I handled this alone.


SOMETHING HAS TO give. Drew is hurting inside, and I can’t help him. Nor can I just sit back and ignore it any longer. The tension it creates is an ever-inflating balloon, growing tight and swollen. I’m so afraid of the inevitable burst that I don’t dare to touch it. But the only thing avoidance has ever brought me is grief.

Lying in bed, I watch the morning light sneak in through a crack in the curtain to stretch its pale fingers across the ceiling. My heart is a stone weight in my chest. I need to tell him how I feel. It isn’t going to be pretty. Drew’s pride is a powerful thing. And much more sensitive than I ever gave it credit.

A crash from out in the living room has me sitting up quickly. I toss on a robe and run out.

Drew is crouched over a broken glass. Bending at an awkward angle, he attempts to sweep up the pieces.

“Here,” I say, coming forward, “let me.”

“I can do it.” His tone is short as he shoos me away.

I stand back, watching as he clears up the mess. Storm clouds brew over his expression. And when I pick up a stray sliver of glass with a napkin, the storm breaks.

“Jesus,” he snaps, “I said I could do it. Would you quit hovering over me like a bee?”

Stung, I fight to keep my expression neutral as I throw out the glass. “You missed one, and I saw it. That isn’t hovering.”

“Oh no?” His dark brows rise with incredulity. “So you haven’t been walking around on eggshells with me this whole time?”

Pausing, I take a breath. Calm. I need calm. “If I’ve had to walk around on eggshells it’s because you’ve been spoiling for a fight.”

A mulish set lifts his chin, and he doesn’t meet my eyes. “Maybe you’ve been waiting for me to snap.”

“Maybe I have.”

He flinches at that, his gaze darting to mine.

I don’t look away. “Maybe I’m looking for the Drew I fell in love with. Because, if you ask me, he’s gone into hiding.”

The color drains from his face, but I can see the wheels turning in that keen mind of his. I know he’s going to avoid this, pretend like everything is okay, and it’s all in my head.

Like clockwork, his expression eases. “Anna…”

“Don’t,” I take a step forward, pointing a finger in his direction, “fucking, ‘Anna’ me. You do not get to placate me any longer.”

His brows furrow. “What do you want from me? I’m trying not to fight.”

“I don’t care if we fight, if it means you acknowledge the fact that you’ve got a problem going on inside your head at the moment.” My heart is racing now. I hate confrontation. I loathe it with Drew.

The muscles along his neck tense as his color darkens. “Jesus, what is with everyone?” He rakes a hand through his disorderly hair before slapping his good thigh. “Would you give it a rest? I’m not some problem for everyone to solve.”

“Oh, bullshit.”

His brows wing up. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me. That is utter bullshit. You know damn well that if it were me, Gray, or any one of your friends, you’d do the same thing. So don’t start that whole ‘why won’t you leave me alone’ line again.”

Drew backs up, his ass hitting the counter. “I don’t even know why you care.”

“Of course I care! Why wouldn’t I care?”

“Isn’t it better if I never play again, Anna? Huh?” He takes a hard step in my direction. “I mean it’s not like you wanted me to be a quarterback. You didn’t want anything to do with me in the beginning. You took one look and decided I was just some meathead jock that wasn’t worth your time.”

“That’s not fair. You know that I didn’t want to want you—”

“Well, now there’s the difference. I wanted all of you the moment I laid eyes on you. But you were so damned closed off, I didn’t know how to approach you.”

“Why are you dragging this up?” I hate that I hurt him so deeply with my fear that he can’t let it go.

“Why?” He laughs without humor. “Does it bother you to remember that you only wanted me for one f**k?”

I’ve always said he was too quick. My jaw hurts from keeping my mouth shut. Arguing about this now won’t help. Not that Drew has any intention of stopping. A vein bulges along his throat as he continues to yell. “That first night. It was the best damn feeling I’d had in my life. And I’ve won the f**king Heisman!”

“Just stop,” I say. “Stop changing the subject. This isn’t about me.”

But he ignores me, his face going ruddier. “Every time is like that with you. Like my heart’s going to explode. Like I might pass out, but I’ve got to hold on because I need to feel this for as long as I can.”

“It’s the same for me,” I snap. “You know that.”

“Maybe that’s the only place I’ll be good enough for you. Maybe all you want is Drew the Fucking Hook Up.”

Frustration is an ugly bubble beneath my breastbone. “You call me clueless? For months I’ve thought about nothing but you. You walk into a room, and I feel you.”

“What does that have to do with wanting me for me?” He jabs a thumb against his chest.

“It has everything to do with it!” I yell. “You think I can cut pieces of you up and put them into categories? Drew the man. Drew the player. Drew the super f**k? I tried and, believe me, it doesn’t work that way. When I say I want you, I want all of you. And when I say I love you, I love all of you. You’re the one who wants to put a label on everything now.”

“Just following protocol, sweetheart.” His tone is so snide that my eyes water.

“Stop being an ass,” I snap, taking a step into his space. “You say you don’t want my pity. Well, it sure as shit seems like you do.”

He snorts, and I press closer. “Do you want my pity, Drew? Is that it?”

“Why are you really here,” he shoots back. “To play nursemaid?”

Rage I can handle. But I’m not equipped to handle his pain. Not when I know I’m the cause of it. The hurt is a kick in my stomach, making my body want to sag in on itself. “You’re never going to forgive me.”

His chin lifts. “Maybe I’m not.”

For a long, hard moment, we glare at each other. Drew’s nostrils flare, his tight chest lifting and falling with agitated breaths.

And then I step back. “You know what? I can’t do this with you right now. It’s exhausting.”

He blinks, his head jerking as if I’ve slapped him. “You’re right. I think you should leave.” There’s so much disdain in his voice, it’s like dry ice. His eyes are cold, dead. And I feel the chill down in my guts.

I think you should leave. I have to say the words over again in my head before I can process them. I can’t even respond; I’ve gone so numb.

I know he doesn’t want to deal. He wants to hide away where nothing can hurt him. I know because that’s how I’ve been for so long. And I know what it will do it him if he gets his way. Drew wasn’t meant to sink into the dark.

And if I leave, he’ll think he deserves to. For once in my life, I’m not going to take the safe way. I’m not going to protect myself in a shell, even though I know this is going to hurt. Already his rejection is searing away my skin. But I’m willing to let it go to the bone for him.

As if it’s all been decided, Drew moves to go, his expression closed off and dark. And I find my voice.


He stops in his tracks and turns. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me fine. I live here.”

“No, I live here. You’ve just been hanging around.”

Like dead weight, his tone implied.

Nice, Drew. Nice. I don’t want it to hurt. I know what he’s doing and why. So it shouldn’t hurt. But, of course, it does.

“You asked me to move in with you,” I say. “Which means I live here.”

His dark brows lift nearly to his hairline. “Have you been listening to a word I’ve said? I don’t want you here.”

“Well that’s just tough shit, isn’t it?” I cross my hands over my chest as I say this. It’s that or let him see that I’m shaking now.

Drew takes a step in my direction, his color returning with a vengeance. “What the f**k is wrong with you? I. Don’t. Want. You. Here.”

It takes all I’ve got not to cry, to lift my chin up to meet his eyes. “I. Don’t. Care.”

For a moment, he just looks at me, his color blooming over his cheeks. Then he grabs the hairs on the back of his head like he’s going to rip them out. His biceps bulge, and his teeth flash in a grimace. “Why are you just standing there? Go.” He waves a hand as if I’m a fly and he needs to swat me away.

“Why won’t you f**king leave!” He’s shouting so loud now my ears ring. Veins pop out along his neck. His face is so red with rage that it’s contorted. I should be frightened of him. He’s looming over me, six foot four feet and two hundred and thirty pounds of raging man. One blow could break my face. But I’m not frightened because everything about his quivering body speaks of restraint. He’s coming apart at the seams, but he’s holding himself back from lashing out.

It doesn’t stop my own rage though. It’s a lit fire in a dry forest. “You want to get away from me so bad, you f**king leave.”

“It’s my f**king place!” he bellows. And his arm punches the air for emphasis. “You crazy ass—” Even now he can’t call me a name. A strangled shout breaks from him. “Just leave me the f**k alone.”

“No!” I get in his face. Maybe I want him to hit me. I sure as hell want to hit him, hit something. “And there isn’t a thing you can do about it.”

“Oh, yes I can.” In full maniac mode, he stomps into our bedroom. Before I can follow, he’s out again, carrying an armful of my clothes. Shock has me rooted to the floor. I want to cry. I want to laugh. I want to punch him when he wrenches open the door and tosses my things out.

“You motherfucker,” I shout.

Not to be outdone, I go to the room and get a handful of his things. His own shock, when he sees me, is nearly comical, were it not for the fact that he’s breaking my heart.

“You’re being the ass**le,” I retort, tossing his things onto the lawn. “So you get out.” Maturity has officially left the building. Along with our clothes.

Nostrils flaring, he moves to go into our room again. I know he’s after more clothes. I dodge in front of him, blocking the way. Drew skids to a stop, teetering before he snarls.

“No,” I snap. “You don’t get to manhandle any more of my stuff.”

He’s so angry now, he vibrates. “Get. Out!”

“No!” We are nose to nose now. “I’m not f**king leaving. Do you hear?” My throat hurts from the force of my words. “I’m never leaving you, Drew. No matter what you say. I’m. Never. Fucking. Leaving!”

It’s the truth. I won’t leave him. But I don’t have to look at him. Not when hateful tears are pricking behind my lids. Not when my lip is quivering. Angry crying is a curse. I turn from him, but he clearly sees. I march away. I was wrong. I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough; I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.


I ignore him. The door to our room, when I slam it, rattles the windows. I lock it for good measure, just in time, because he’s on the other side.

“Anna, damn it!” He smashes his fists into the wood with enough force that something cracks. But the door holds.