I asked each member of the group to share how many days since their last sexual encounter. As each person spoke and Knox’s turn got closer, my stomach coiled tight and nervous energy shot through my veins. Something was about to happen.
It was Amanda’s turn next, so I forced my eyes from Knox, trying to be a good group leader and listen as she spoke. “I’ve been struggling with a lot of change in my life lately, and I’m not proud of it, but I slipped up last weekend. It’s been one week of celibacy now for me.”
I nodded and gave her a tender smile, and then my eyes swung back over to Knox.
“Same here. One week,” he choked out.
Several things struck me at once and my brain fought to catch up. He wasn’t counting our time together last night, probably because it hadn’t led to sex, and his length of abstinence matched Amanda’s perfectly. They’d exchanged phone numbers one week ago at the end of group and…what? Met up for sex that day? My body broke out in a cold sweat and my heartbeat rang in my ears.
With my windpipe threatening to close and tears shimmering in my eyes, I jumped from my seat and fled the room. I ran blindly down the hall, tears burning my vision and a rock-solid lump in my chest. It would have been one thing for him to drunkenly mess up with a stranger before we started really seeing each other, but planning a sex date with a member of our group?
I heard my name being called behind me and pushed my legs faster. I couldn’t have anyone see me break down like this. I felt betrayed and humiliated. Why had I ever thought I could do this? Change this man and have something meaningful. I was an idiot. I’d been living in the fantasy of it. Being near Knox had made me feel better about my own life, but all of that had just come crashing to a close.
“McKenna! Stop!” Knox called behind me, closer this time.
I gripped the door handle to the stairwell, threw it open, and ran down two flights of stairs before I collapsed in a heap. I couldn’t breathe, could only feel my heart clenching and dying inside my chest. I huddled against the wall, sobbing uncontrollably while tears and snot streaked my face.
Knox sank to his knees in front of me. “McKenna?”
I wiped my cheeks with the back of my hand and drew a short, shuddering breath. “When were you last with someone, Knox?”
“Other than you?” he asked, his brows pinched together as though he was the one angry about something.
He released a deep sigh and looked down. A thick, uncomfortable silence settled between us. My heart slammed against my ribs and with each second of his silence, my doubts only grew.
“She’s pregnant, you know.”
His eyes snapped up to mine. “Who?”
“Amanda,” I croaked.
He didn’t respond at first. He just sat there, silently blinking at me. “I know.”
If he was still doing what he used to, I couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t move past it. Selfishly, I needed all of him. I needed him to be stronger because I most certainly was not strong enough for this. He was breaking me apart and I didn’t even think he knew it.
“I thought I could do this. I thought I was strong enough, but I’m not. Not at all.” A hiccup escaped my throat as I realized everything I’d be losing. Instead of constantly beating myself up, I’d focused on fixing Knox. And now I had no idea what good that had done me or where we stood.
“I can’t stand by and watch you use random girls and then cuddle with me at night like everything is fine.”
Angry hands tore through his hair, leaving it standing in disarray. Our happy memories of just last night seemed like so long ago. “You think this is a surprise for me? I told you I’d f**k this up.”
I hated hearing him admitting defeat, for not fighting for this—for me. When he was ready to change and grow, he would. I’d wanted to be part of his growth process, but it seemed I hadn’t been. I wasn’t the girl to change him.
“I’m not right for you. I’m all hard edges and a mistake-riddled past. I’m too f**ked up for someone like you. You have to see that. No amount of counseling or talking will fix the shit I’ve done, McKenna. You should leave while you can.”
I was quiet while he spoke, my head empty and my heart in tatters. Knox was trouble; I should say good-bye and move on with my life. I needed to stop playing house with him and his brothers before it was too late.
I just didn’t want to.
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