He’s seething. His face is red and I’ve never seen him this upset before. He begins pacing the hallway, pausing to stare at the cafeteria doors. I’m not convinced he isn’t about to walk back through them, so I decide to get him even further away.

“Let’s go to your car.” I push him toward the exit and he lets me. We walk all the way to the car and he’s silently fuming the entire time. He climbs into the driver seat and I climb into the passenger seat and we both shut our doors. I don’t know if he’s still on the verge of running back inside the school and finishing the fight that asshole was trying to start, but I’ll do everything I can to keep him out of there until he isn’t angry anymore.

What happens next isn’t what I’m expecting to happen at all. He reaches across the seat and pulls me tightly against him and begins to shake uncontrollably. His shoulders are trembling and he’s squeezing me, burying his head in my neck.

He’s crying.

I wrap my arms around him and let him hold on to me while he lets out whatever it is that’s been pent up inside of him. He slides me onto his lap and squeezes me tightly against him. I adjust my legs until they’re on either side of him and I kiss him lightly on the side of his head over and over. He’s barely making any sound and what little sound he is making is muffled into my shoulder. I have no idea what made him break just now, but it’s the absolute most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever seen. I continue to kiss the side of his head and run my hands up and down his back. I do this for several minutes until he’s finally quiet, but he still has a death grip around me.

“You want to talk about it?” I whisper, stroking his hair. I pull back and he leans his head into the headrest and looks at me. His eyes are red and full of so much hurt, I have to kiss them. I kiss each eyelid softly, then pull back again and wait for him to speak.

“I lied,” he says. His words stab at my heart and I’m terrified of what he’s about to say. “I told you I’d do it again. I told you I’d beat Jake’s ass again if I had the chance.” He takes my cheeks in his palms and looks at me desperately. “I wouldn’t. He didn’t deserve what I did to him, Sky. And that kid in there just now? He’s Jake’s little brother. He hates me for what I did and he has every right to hate me. He has every right to say whatever the fuck he wants to say to me, because I deserve it. I do. That’s the only reason why I didn’t want to come back to this school, because I knew whatever anyone was going to say to me was deserved. But I can’t let him talk about you and Breckin like that. He can say whatever the fuck he wants to say about me or Les because we deserve it, but you don’t.” His eyes are glossing over again and he’s in absolute agony, holding my face in his hands.

“It’s okay, Holder. You don’t have to defend everyone. And you don’t deserve it. Jake shouldn’t have said what he did about your sister last year and his brother shouldn’t have said what he did today.”

He shakes his head in disagreement. “Jake was right. I know he shouldn’t have said it and I definitely know I shouldn’t have laid a finger on him, but he was right. What Les did wasn’t brave or noble or courageous. What she did was selfish. She didn’t even try to tough it out. She wasn’t thinking about me, she wasn’t thinking about my parents. She was thinking about herself and she didn’t give a shit about the rest of us. And I hate her for it. I fucking hate her for it and I’m tired of hating her, Sky. I’m so tired of hating her because it’s tearing me down and making me this person I don’t want to be. She doesn’t deserve to be hated. It’s my fault she did what she did. I should have helped her, but I didn’t. I didn’t know. I loved that girl more than I’ve ever loved anyone and I had no idea how bad it was for her.”

I wipe away his tear with my thumb and I do the only thing I can think to do because I have no idea what to say. I kiss him. I kiss him desperately and try to take away his pain the only way I know how to do. I’ve never experienced death like this, so I don’t even try to understand where he’s coming from. He wraps his hands in my hair and kisses me back with such strength, it’s almost painful. We kiss for several minutes until the tension in him slowly begins to subside.

I pull my lips from his and look directly into his eyes. “Holder, you have every right to hate her for what she did. But you also have every right to still love her in spite of it. The only thing you don’t have a right to do is to keep blaming yourself. You’ll never understand why she did it, so you need to stop beating yourself up for not having all the answers. She made the choice she thought was best for her, even though it was the wrong one. But that’s what you have to remember…she made that choice. Not you. And you can’t blame yourself for not knowing what she failed to tell you.” I kiss him on the forehead, then bring my eyes back to his. “You have to let it go. You can hold on to the hate and the love and even the bitterness, but you have to let go of the blame. The blame is what’s tearing you down, babe.”

He closes his eyes and pulls my head to his shoulder, breathing out a shaky breath. I can feel him nodding and I can sense his whole demeanor coming to a quiet calm. He kisses me on the side of the head and we hold each other in silence. Whatever connection we thought we had before this…it doesn’t compare to this moment. No matter what happens between us in this life, this moment has just merged pieces of our souls together. We’ll always have that, and in a way it’s comforting to know.

Holder looks at me and cocks his eyebrow. “Why the hell did you slap me?”

I laugh and kiss the cheek that I slapped. My fingerprints are barely visible now, but they’re still there. “Sorry. I just needed to get you out of there and I couldn’t think of any other way to do it.”

He smiles. “It worked. I don’t know if anyone else could have said or done anything that would have pulled me out of that. Thank you for knowing exactly how to handle me, because sometimes I’m not even sure how to handle myself.”

I kiss him softly. “Believe me. I have no idea how to handle you, Holder. I just take you one scene at a time.”

Friday, October 26th, 2012 3:40 p.m.

“What time do you think you’ll get back?” I ask. Holder has his arms around me and we’re leaning up against my car. We haven’t been able to spend much time together since what happened in his car at lunch on Monday. Thankfully, the guy who tried to start shit with Holder hasn’t said anything else. It’s been a rather peaceful week considering the dramatic start of it.

“We won’t be back until pretty late. Their company Halloween parties usually last a few hours. But you’ll see me tomorrow. I can pick you up for lunch if you want and we’ll just stay together all day until the gallery showing.”

I shake my head. “Can’t. It’s Jack’s birthday and we’re taking him out to lunch because he has to work tomorrow night. Just come pick me up at six.”

“Yes ma’am,” he says. He kisses me, then opens my door so I can climb inside. I wave goodbye to him as he walks away, then I pull my phone out of my backpack. There’s a text from Six, which makes me happy. I haven’t been receiving my daily promised texts like she said I would. I didn’t think I’d miss them, but now that I only get one every third day or so, it bums me out a little.

Tell your boyfriend thank you for finally adding minutes to your phone. Have you had sex with him yet? Miss you.

I laugh at her candidness and text her back.

No, we haven’t had sex yet. We’ve done almost everything else, though, so I’m sure his patience will wear out soon. Ask me again after tomorrow night, I might have a different answer. Miss you more.

I hit send and stare at the phone. I haven’t really thought about whether or not I’m ready to pass that first yet, but I guess I just admitted to myself that I am. I wonder if inviting me to his house is his way of finding out if I’m ready, too.

I put the car into reverse and my phone sounds off. I pick it up and it’s a text from Holder.

Don’t leave. I’m walking back to your car.

I put the car in park again and roll down my window, just as he approaches. “Hey,” he says, leaning into my window. He darts his eyes away from mine and he looks around the car nervously. I hate this uncomfortable look about him, it always means he’s about to say something I might not want to hear.

“Um...” He looks back at me and the sun is shining straight on him, highlighting every beautiful feature about him. His eyes are bright and they’re looking into mine like they would never want to look anywhere else. “You uh…you just sent me a text that I’m pretty sure you meant to send to Six.”

Oh God, no. I immediately grab my phone and check to see if he’s telling the truth. Unfortunately, he is. I throw the phone on the passenger seat and fold my arms across the steering wheel, burying my face into my elbow. “Oh my, God,” I groan.

“Look at me, Sky,” he directs. I ignore him and wait for a magic wormhole to come and suck me away from all the embarrassing situations I get myself into. I feel his hand touch my cheek and he pulls my face in his direction. He’s looking at me, full of sincerity.

“Whether it’s tomorrow night or next year, I can promise you it’ll be the best damn night of my life. You just make sure you’re making that decision for yourself and no one else, okay? I’ll always want you, but I’m not going to let myself have you until you’re one hundred percent sure you want me just as much. And don’t say anything right now. I’m turning around and walking back to my car and we can pretend this conversation never happened. Otherwise, you may never stop blushing.” He leans in the window and gives me a quick kiss. “You’re cute as hell, you know that? But you really need to figure out how to work your phone.” He winks at me and walks away. I lean my head against the headrest and silently curse myself.

I hate technology.

I spend the rest of the night doing my best to push the embarrassing text out of my head. I help Karen package things up for her next flea market, then eventually crawl into bed with my e-reader. As soon as I power it on, my cell phone lights up on the nightstand.

I’m walking to your house right now. I know it’s late and your mom is home, but I can’t wait until tomorrow night to kiss you again. Make sure your window is unlocked.

After I read the text I jump out of bed and lock my bedroom door, thankful Karen called it an early night two hours ago. I immediately go to the bathroom and brush my teeth and hair, then turn out the lights and crawl back into bed. It’s after midnight and he’s never snuck in while Karen was home before. I’m nervous, but it’s an exciting nervous. The fact that I don’t feel the least bit guilty that he’s on his way over is proof that I’m going to Hell. I’m the worst daughter ever.

Several minutes later, my window slides up and I hear him making his way inside. I’m so excited to see him that I run to meet him at the window and wrap my arms around his neck, then jump up and make him hold me while I kiss him. His hands have a firm grip on my ass and he walks to the bed, dropping me down gently.

Tags: Colleen Hoover Hopeless Romance
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