We finally reach her apartment after what feels like a solid hour in the truck, though it’s only been a matter of minutes. I barely have the truck in park before she’s jumping out and walking to the stairs. I kill the engine and race after her, not giving any thought to what I’m going to say when I reach her. She’s fast as hell. I don’t catch her until she’s on the second flight, almost to her door.
“Evie, wait,” I say, as I grip her by the elbow to stop her.
She shakes me off. Her eyes narrow. “You don’t get to chase me. Not after the way you’ve made it crystal clear you don’t want anything to do with me.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“No? Then explain it to me, because I’m not understanding why one minute you want me to stay with you and the next you are running out of my apartment like you can’t bear to be in the same room as me.”
I rake my hand through my hair. “God dammit, Evie, why can’t you just leave things as they are?”
“As they are? Like how you completely stopped talking to me, then show up at dinner and expect me to be fine seeing you again?”
“It’s for the best that you’re not around me.”
She points her finger at my chest, mere inches from touching me. “You don’t get to decide what’s best for me.”
“I do when I’m involved.”
“Seriously? What about high school? Was all that shit you put me through best for me? Were you seeking me out, day after day, only to torment me, for the best? Because, as I remember it, those were far from the best days of my life. As a matter of fact, I’ve been living in a perpetual hell for quite some time now.”
My anger is rising to meet hers, but mixed with mine is also shame and regret for all I’d done to her in the past. “You’ve been living in hell? Fine. I’ll take credit for everything I dragged you through in high school. I was a grade A dick. I should never have done to you what I did, and for that I will always hate myself. You didn’t deserve any of it. But right now, as we stand at this moment, it’s better if I leave you alone.”
She throws her hands up in the air then back down to her sides. “Then why the hell did you follow me up here, Cy?”
“Because I can’t fucking walk away from you! Because every waking moment of every fucking day, I think about you!” I’m breathing heavy, my chest rising and falling. I can only imagine how feral I look.
Evie stumbles back until her ass hits the railing. “What?”
All my anger slowly leaves me. She’s right. I should never have followed her. I would have been better off staying in my truck. “Never mind.” I turn and walk down a few steps, but then she’s behind me, grabbing my arm, turning the tables.
“Oh, no you don’t. You don’t get to come after me, say all you did, and walk away like none of it ever happened.”
“Can’t you see, Evie? I’m no good for you. Every time I’m near you, shit gets out of hand. You’re better off without me in your life.”
“No, I’m not.”
“I only bring pain with me. Nothing more. I can’t offer you anything when I’m hollow inside.” I rub the center of my chest, feeling the familiar ache that resides there without Evie in my life. Yet, as she stands before me, looking so fucking beautiful, the ache is still there because she isn’t mine. I can’t and shouldn’t touch her. I should turn away and leave her, but I’m frozen in place.
She lays her hand over mine on my chest and peers up into my eyes. “You’re not hollow. You have good in you. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be here right now. There’s a part of you that wants to be near me. Just as there is a part of me that longs to be near you.”
I close my eyes for only a moment before gently removing her hand from mine. It’s sheer torture to do so, but I know I must. “I have to go.”
“Please, don’t.” She doesn’t understand how being this close to her is driving me crazy. I’ve got to get out of here. Distance needs to be put between us. I turn and start down the steps again.
“If you leave now, don’t you dare come back,” she says, causing me to stop in my tracks. “I mean it, Cy. You can’t keep toying with me. I want you here. With me.” I keep my back to her, unable to look into her eyes. If I do, I’ll give in. “I don’t care about what happened in high school,” she continues. “None of it matters. Only what is happening right here, right now. Stay with me. Please.” The pleading of her voice almost has me turning. Almost.
I shake my head and go down the remaining stairs; all the while telling myself it’s better this way. Sure, my heart feels like it’s being ripped from my chest. But she needs to find someone who will lift her up, be the man she needs. Not someone who is broken beyond repair and will only drag her down into the bleak abyss with him.