He took my hand and gave it a shake. Misty blue eyes met mine as he grinned at me again. “Bless you for what you’re doing. You’re a good person.”
“Trust me, I’m not. But I’m trying.”
“Ah, what the hell. You only live once, hit me with one of those apples.”
I placed a shiny red apple on his tray and felt McKenna watching. Glancing her way, I knew she’d overheard the entire exchange. I’d meant those words. I wasn’t a good person. But I wanted to be. For her. “We need to talk,” I said, low under my breath.
“Not now,” she breathed, her eyes slipping closed. She looked like she was on the verge of tears. I wouldn’t push her right now, but I didn’t have much time left.
“I have to be at work soon.”
She looked over at me again, confusion marking her features. “You came here before work?”
She knew it was a big deal that I’d taken the time to come here. Good. “Got up early, got the guys off to school, and yeah. I came to see you. You didn’t return my text. I thought you were ignoring me.”
Drawing a deep, but shaky breath, McKenna continued looking straight ahead. “Can we just enjoy this?”
I knew volunteering was important to her and I suddenly realized she thought I was interrupting. “Can we talk later, then?” I asked.
She nodded. “Okay.”
“Yeah?” Pretty blue eyes flashed on mine.
“I didn’t sleep with her.”
She set down the cup of juice she was holding with trembling hands. A moment later she disappeared out of the room, treading down a long hallway, and I took off after her.
Shit. She’d agreed to talk later, and yet I kept pushing. But I needed her to believe that. I hadn’t laid a hand on that girl. And after hurting her so badly the last time we were together, my own conscience needed clearing.
I heard soft sobs coming from the women’s restroom and I pushed open the door and entered, securing the lock behind me. The stall door on the end was closed and I could see her gray tennis shoes beneath the opening. “McKenna?”
The cries stopped. “Go away, Knox.”
Fuck. I slumped against the wall, fighting the urge the punch something. “I just needed to see you, make sure you were okay. The way we left things last time….”
“I’m fine, okay. Or at least I was going to be. Being here is my sanctuary, my escape. But now you’ve taken that from me, too.”
She was hiding in the damn bathroom stall because of me. I should have felt sorry I’d come, but I didn’t. I’d needed to see her with my own eyes or I was going to lose it. “When you didn’t show up Saturday, I kind of freaked out. Are you done leading group?” Because of me?
“No, I was at a retreat with counseling seminars all weekend.”
“Can I just tell you one thing?”
She sniffed. “And then we’ll talk about the rest later?”
“Whatever you want.”
“I never slept with Amanda. Not even close. I have no desire to sleep with her. We exchanged phone numbers because she wanted someone to talk to about raising a baby while recovering from addiction, and I’d told her I have custody of my three brothers. She’s freaked out that she has a baby on the way and wanted someone to talk to.” There was a long pause from McKenna. “Do you believe me?”
“If you weren’t with her, then why did you answer that it’d only been one week since your last sexual encounter? Were you with other girls while we were….” A choked little sob escaped her throat.
“Do you want to know why I said that it’d been one week since my last sexual encounter?”
Silence. She thought she didn’t want to hear this. But she did.
“When I answered that question, it’d been one week since you’d come to me in the night, let me kiss and touch you. And even without sex, that was the most erotic encounter of my life. Touching you over your panties, knowing you trusted me, making you come… that meant everything to me. It wasn’t even about sex. It was about trust. And after that, all other memories of girls I’d been with were wiped from my memory. There was only you. So that’s why I said one week. And no, there’s been no one else since.”
The bathroom door unlatched, and McKenna stepped out slowly. Her eyes were watery and the tip of her nose was pink. She was still the most beautiful girl in the world. She’d pulled off her hair net and gloves at some point, reminding me that I still had mine on. I smiled weakly at her and pulled off the accessories, dropping them into the nearby wastebasket.
Crossing the room toward me, I opened my arms and McKenna folded herself against my chest. I held her and gently swayed with her in my arms. It’d been a tough week for her. Distress was written all over her features and she felt thin and frail. I wanted to take her home and put her in my bed and never let her go again. Instead I continued lightly rubbing her back, letting her calm down and collect herself. I’d wait as long as it took. I no longer cared about getting to work on time. If she needed me, I wasn’t going anywhere.
A few moments later, she lifted her head from my chest and crossed the room to stand in front of the sink, inspecting herself in the mirror.
“You look beautiful,” I murmured. She smirked at her reflection in the mirror. It was the truth. She splashed cool water on her cheeks and I handed her a paper towel. “You okay?”
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