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“Let’s talk about this,” he says. “Don’t go anywhere. Please. Just talk to me.”

I’m rooted in place.

“Please,” he says again, this time more softly, and my resolve runs out the door without me.

I follow him back to the beds. He sits on one side of the room. I sit on the other.

He stares at me. His eyes are too tired, too strained. He looks like he hasn’t been eating enough, like he hasn’t slept in weeks. He hesitates, licks his lips before pressing them tight, before he speaks. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you. I never meant to upset you.”

And I want to laugh and laugh and laugh until the tears dissolve me.

“I understand why you didn’t tell me,” I whisper. “It makes perfect sense. You wanted to avoid all of this.” I wave a limp hand around the room.

“You’re not mad?” His eyes are so terribly hopeful. He looks like he wants to walk over to me and I have to hold out a hand to stop him.

The smile on my face is literally killing me.

“How could I be mad at you? You were torturing yourself down there just to figure out what was happening to you. You’re torturing yourself right now just trying to find a way to fix this.”

He looks relieved.

Relieved and confused and afraid to be happy all at the same time. “But something’s wrong,” he says. “You’re crying. Why are you crying if you’re not upset?”

I actually laugh this time. Out loud. Laugh and hiccup and want to die, so desperately. “Because I was an idiot for thinking things could be different,” I tell him. “For thinking you were a fluke. For thinking my life could ever be better than it was, that I could ever be better than I was.” I try to speak again but instead clamp a hand over my mouth like I can’t believe what I’m about to say. I force myself to swallow the stone in my throat. I drop my hand. “Adam.” My voice is raw, aching. “This isn’t going to work.”

“What?” He’s frozen in place, his eyes too wide, his chest rising and falling too fast. “What are you talking about?”

“You can’t touch me,” I tell him. “You can’t touch me and I’ve already hurt you—”

“No—Juliette—” Adam is up, he’s cleared the room, he’s on his knees next to me and he reaches for my hands but I have to snatch them back because my gloves were ruined, ruined in the research lab and now my fingers are bare.


Adam stares at the hands I’ve hidden behind my back like I’ve slapped him across the face. “What are you doing?” he asks, but he’s not looking at me. He’s still staring at my hands. Barely breathing.

“I can’t do this to you.” I shake my head too hard. “I don’t want to be the reason why you’re hurting yourself or weakening yourself and I don’t want you to always have to worry that I might accidentally kill you—”

“No, Juliette, listen to me.” He’s desperate now, his eyes up, searching my face. “I was worried too, okay? I was worried too. Really worried. I thought—I thought that maybe—I don’t know, I thought maybe it would be bad or that maybe we wouldn’t be able to work through it but I talked to Castle. I talked to him and explained everything and he said that I just have to learn to control it. I’ll learn how to turn it on and off—”

“Except when you’re with me? Except when we’re together—”

“No—what? No, especially when we’re together!”

“Touching me—being with me—it takes a physical toll on you! You run a fever when we’re together, Adam, did you realize that? You’d get sick just trying to fight me off—”

“You’re not hearing me—please—I’m telling you, I’ll learn to control all of that—”

“When?” I ask, and I can actually feel my bones breaking, 1 by 1.

“What? What do you mean? I’ll learn now—I’m learning now—”

“And how’s it going? Is it easy?”

His mouth falls closed but he’s looking at me, struggling with some kind of emotion, struggling to find composure. “What are you trying to say?” he finally asks. “Are you”—he’s breathing hard—“are you—I mean—you don’t want to make this work?”


“What are you saying, Juliette?” He’s up now, a shaky hand caught in his hair. “You don’t—you don’t want to be with me?”

I’m on my feet, blinking back the tears burning my eyes, desperate to run to him but unable to move. My voice breaks when I speak. “Of course I want to be with you.”

He drops his hand from his hair. Looks at me with eyes so open and vulnerable but his jaw is tight, his muscles are tense, his upper body is heaving from the effort to inhale, exhale. “Then what’s happening right now? Because something is happening right now and it doesn’t feel okay,” he says, his voice catching. “It doesn’t feel okay, Juliette, it feels like the opposite of whatever the hell okay is and I really just want to hold you—”

“I don’t want to h-hurt you—”

“You’re not going to hurt me,” he says, and then he’s in front of me, looking at me, pleading with me. “I swear. It’ll be fine—we’ll be fine—and I’m better now. I’ve been working on it and I’m stronger—”

“It’s too dangerous, Adam, please.” I’m begging him, backing away, wiping furiously at the tears escaping down my face. “It’s better for you this way. It’s better for you to just stay away from me—”

“But that’s not what I want—you’re not asking me what I want—,” he says, following me as I dodge his advances. “I want to be with you and I don’t give a damn if it’s hard. I still want it. I still want you.”

I’m trapped.

I’m caught between him and the wall and I have nowhere to go and I wouldn’t want to go even if I could. I don’t want to have to fight this even though there’s something inside of me screaming that it’s wrong to be so selfish, to allow him to be with me if it’ll only end up hurting him. But he’s looking at me, looking at me like I’m killing him and I realize I’m hurting him more by trying to stay away.

I’m shaking. Wanting him so desperately and knowing now, more than ever, that what I want will have to wait. And I hate that it has to be this way. I hate it so much I could scream.

But maybe we can try.

“Juliette.” Adam’s voice is hoarse, broken with feeling. His hands are at my waist, trembling just a little, waiting for my permission. “Please.”

And I don’t protest.

He’s breathing harder now, leaning into me, resting his forehead against my shoulder. He places his hands flat against the center of my stomach, only to inch them down my body, slowly, so slowly and I gasp.

There’s an earthquake happening in my bones, tectonic plates shifting from panic to pleasure as his fingers take their time moving around my thighs, up my back, over my shoulders and down my arms. He hesitates at my wrists. This is where the fabric ends, where my skin begins.

But he takes a breath.

And he takes my hands.

For a moment I’m paralyzed, searching his face for any sign of pain or danger but then we both exhale and I see him attempt a smile with new hope, a new optimism that maybe everything is going to work out.

But then he blinks and his eyes change.

His eyes are deeper now. Desperate. Hungry. He’s searching me like he’s trying to read the words etched inside of me and I can already feel the heat of his body, the power in his limbs, the strength in his chest and I don’t have time to stop him before he’s kissing me.

His left hand is cupping the back of my head, his right tightening around my waist, pressing me hard against him and destroying every rational thought I’ve ever had. It’s deep. So strong. It’s an introduction to a side of him I’ve never known before and I’m gasping gasping gasping for air.

It’s hot rain and humid days and broken thermostats. It’s screaming teakettles and raging steam engines and wanting to take your clothes off just to feel a breeze.

It’s the kind of kiss that makes you realize oxygen is overrated.

And I know I shouldn’t be doing this. I know it’s probably stupid and irresponsible after everything we’ve just learned but someone would have to shoot me to make me want to stop.

I’m pulling at his shirt, desperate for a raft or a life preserver or something, anything to anchor me to reality but he breaks away to catch his breath and rips off his shirt, tosses it to the floor, pulls me into his arms and we both fall onto my bed.

Somehow I end up on top of him.

He reaches up only to pull me down and he’s kissing me, my throat, my cheeks, and my hands are searching his body, exploring the lines, the planes, the muscle and he pulls back, his forehead is pressed against my own and his eyes are squeezed shut when he says, “How is it possible,” he says, “that I’m this close to you and it’s killing me that you’re still so far away?”

And I remember I promised him, 2 weeks ago, that once he got better, once he’d healed, I would memorize every inch of his body with my lips.

I figure now is probably a good time to fulfill that promise.

I start at his mouth, move to his cheek, under his jawline, down his neck to his shoulders and his arms, which are wrapped around me. His hands are skimming my suit and he’s so hot, so tense from the effort to remain still but I can hear his heart beating hard, too fast against his chest.

Against mine.

I trace the white bird soaring across his skin, a tattoo of the one impossible thing I hope to see in my life. A bird. White with streaks of gold like a crown atop its head.

It will fly.

Birds don’t fly, is what the scientists say, but history says they used to. And one day I want to see it. I want to touch it. I want to watch it fly like it should, like it hasn’t been able to in my dreams.

I dip down to kiss the yellow crown of its head, tattooed deep into Adam’s chest. I hear the spike in his breathing.

“I love this tattoo,” I tell him, looking up to meet his eyes. “I haven’t seen it since we got here. I haven’t seen you without a shirt on since we got here,” I whisper. “Do you still sleep without your shirt on?”

But Adam answers with a strange smile, like he’s laughing at his own private joke.

He takes my hand from his chest and tugs me down so we’re facing each other, and it’s strange, because I haven’t felt a breeze since we got here, but it’s like the wind has found a home in my body and it’s funneling through my lungs, blowing through my blood, mingling with my breath and making it hard for me to breathe.

“I can’t sleep at all,” he says to me, his voice so low I have to strain to hear it. “It doesn’t feel right to be without you every night.” His left hand is threaded in my hair, his right wrapped around me. “God I’ve missed you,” he says, his words a husky whisper in my ear. “Juliette.”