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Apparently, neither can he because he stalks toward me and grabs hold of me, one arm around my waist, one splayed out against the side of my neck. I tilt my face up to his, hoping he’s about to realize how wrong he was so he can just kiss me. I want it hard and frantic and fast, but he’s painfully slow as he draws closer.

He lets out a quiet sigh and his mouth is so close to mine, I steal his sigh with a gasp. And then his lips finally connect with mine. It’s both unexpected and overdue. I moan with relief against his kiss and immediately reciprocate.

As soon as our tongues collide, it becomes so frantic, I lose my way around him. My hands get lost in his hair, my reservations get lost in his touch, my anger gets lost in his groan. His tongue strokes mine with delicacy, but his hands are making up for the patience of his mouth. His right arm slides down my back and down to my thigh where my T-shirt ends. He slides his hand up my bare thigh, over my panties and then up my back, this time skin to skin. He pulls me against him but walks me backward at the same time until my back meets the wall behind me.

“My God,” he whispers against my lips. “Your mouth is amazing.”

I think his is pretty amazing, too, but I don’t respond because I’d rather give him back my tongue. He takes it, kissing me deeper, pressing himself against me and into the wall.

This kiss is everything I thought it would be and more. I’m amazed at how healing his mouth is. As soon as he pressed it against mine, it’s like all the stress that’s been swimming around in my head disappeared. All the angst, the frustration, the anger—it subsides with every stroke of his tongue.

This is exactly what I needed.

His hand is now sliding around to my waist, but before he goes any higher, he pauses to catch his breath. I gasp when I have air again, clasping my arms around him, trying to stop the room from spinning. I let my head fall back against the wall. Sagan drags his lips across my cheek and then kisses me on the mouth, soft and gentle, before pulling back to look down at me. He runs a hand down my hair, stopping at the nape of my neck. “That was fucking dazing,” he whispers.

I merely smile because he summed it up perfectly with a phrase I’m not sure I’ve ever used. Fucking dazing.

He kisses the corner of my mouth and then brushes his nose across my cheek. He pulls back, gently taking my face in both hands. With a small smile that completely melts me, he says, “It’s incredible how much better a kiss can make you feel, right?”

I nod. “So incredible.”

His thumb brushes my cheek, and then his satisfied grin falls into a pointed stare. “That’s exactly why I won’t do it again, Merit. You need to fall in love with yourself first.” He watches me for a moment, his eyes searching mine.

I have no reaction.

I’m too shocked to move. Or too hurt?

Did he seriously only kiss me to prove his point?

What?

I’m flat against the wall, unable to move. When I say nothing in return, he releases me and calmly walks out of my room.

I’m too shocked to cry. Too angry to run after him. Too embarrassed to acknowledge that part of what he’s saying might actually have some truth in it. That kiss took away everything I’ve been feeling and replaced it with a momentary sense of euphoria. I’d give anything to have that feeling back. Which is exactly what Sagan was trying to tell me. My feelings for him will cloud all the other stuff that’s going on in my head.

Just because I finally understand what he’s trying to say doesn’t mean I’m over my anger. If anything, I’m even more pissed at him.

Chapter Thirteen

Merit?”

I reluctantly open my eyes and Luck is standing in the doorway of my bedroom. I try to process what time it is, what day it is.

“Can I come in?”

It’s afternoon, I think. I nod and sit up. “Yeah. I didn’t mean to fall asleep. What time is it?”

“Almost time for dinna.”

I smile at his random accent slip. It hasn’t been happening as much as it did at the beginning of the week. He pulls my blanket over his lap and leans back against my headboard. “You’ve had a busy couple of days,” he says. “You probably needed the nap.”

I laugh halfheartedly. “In that case, I think we all needed a nap.” But as it stands, this wasn’t a nap. I’m just now waking up for the day, considering I stayed up most of the night last night pissed off at Sagan for what he said. I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned all night, throwing around all the excuses for why he’s wrong. I don’t even want to think about it again. I glance at Luck. He’s wearing his Starbucks uniform. He looks so strange in normal clothes.

“How do you like your new job?” I ask him.

“Great. Pretty sure any job I have from here on out will beat working on a cruise ship, though.” He pulls at a string on my blanket until it comes loose in his fingers. He puts the string in his mouth and eats it.

“Do you suffer from pica?”

“What’s that?”

“Never mind,” I say, shaking my head.

He pats my leg, and the room grows awkwardly quiet. I sigh. “Are you here to talk about why I swallowed twenty-eight pills?”

Luck shrugs and then says, “Actually, I was going to ask you if you want any beef jerky yet. I still have half a tub in my room.”

I laugh. “No, thanks. I’m good.”

“But since you brought it up . . . are you okay?”

I roll my eyes and drop my head against the headboard. “Yes,” I say, slightly annoyed. Not annoyed that he’s checking on me, but annoyed that my behavior this week is embarrassing and I just want to forget it but I have a feeling no one is going to allow that. Especially my father and Sagan.

“Why’d you do it?”

I shake my head. “I don’t know. I was just exhausted and over it. And drunk.”

He starts unraveling another thread and then spins it between his fingers. “I tried to kill myself once,” he says nonchalant. “Jumped off the deck of a cruise ship into the water. I thought it was high up enough that I would hit the water and it would knock me out and I’d drown peacefully.”

“Did you drown peacefully?”

He laughs.

I don’t know why I’m making light of what he’s telling me. I’ve never been good with serious conversations.

“I sprained my ankle and got fired. But a few weeks later I had a new fake ID and a job with a different cruise line, so the firing didn’t really teach me a lesson.”

“Why did you do it? Did you hate your life that much?”

Luck shrugs. “Not really. I was mostly indifferent. I worked eighteen-hour days. I was tired of the monotony. There wasn’t really anyone who would have missed me. So, one night I was standing on the deck, staring out over the water. I was thinking about what it would be like to jump and not have to get up and work the next morning. When the thought of death didn’t put fear into me, I just decided to go for it.” He pauses for a moment. “A friend of mine saw me do it and he reported it, so they threw me a life raft and had me back on the ship within the hour.”

“You got lucky.”

He nods and looks over at me. He’s unusually serious. “So did you, Merit. I mean, I know they were only placebo pills, but you didn’t know that at the time. And I don’t know many people who would stick their hand down someone’s throat and then sift through their vomit to count the number of pills they swallowed.”

I divert my eyes and look back down at my lap. It occurs to me that I haven’t once thanked Sagan for that. He saved my life, got covered in vomit, and then cleaned it up and watched over me all night. And I haven’t even told him thank you. Now I’m not so sure I even want to speak to him again.

“I did learn something from jumping off that ship,” Luck says. “I found out that depression doesn’t necessarily mean a person is miserable or suicidal all the time. Indifference is also a sign of depression.” He looks me in the eye. “That was a long time ago, but I still take medication for it every day.”

I’m shocked. Luck seems like one of the happiest people I know. And while I do appreciate what he’s trying to do, it’s also annoying as hell. “Are you trying to turn this into an after school special?”

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