Out of breath, p.30
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       Out of Breath, p.30

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
 
Page 30

  ‘Why would you ever think I could hate you?’ he asked so quietly I could barely hear him. Evan lowered himself beside me. I could feel him looking at me, but I couldn’t bring myself to face him.

  She kept her teary eyes fixated on the water. ‘Emma, I could never hate you. I’ve told you that before, and it’s still true. ’ Her expectation that I could made me feel like she’d just punched a hole through my chest. ‘But I need closure, so I can move on. ’

  Emma turned her head towards me. A tortured expression flashed across her face. ‘It’d be easier to hate me. ’

  I scanned her eyes, and the pain held within them cut me open. She looked away, knowing I’d seen too much. She had always been protective of her emotions, keeping them locked up. But her eyes always told the truth. My jaw clenched. She wasn’t who I hated. But I hadn’t exactly forgiven her for leaving me that night … with Jonathan.

  ‘Give me one reason why I should hate you,’ I asked her, not truly expecting an answer.

  Her face became smooth and her eyes sharp when she said, ‘How was your birthday, Evan?’

  His eyes flinched. I knew I had hit a nerve as I’d intended. He had to know. He had to understand why he should hate me. And I needed to remind him, as difficult as it was to watch his face flicker with the remembrance.

  But I wasn’t expecting his expression to change and the cocky grin to emerge when he said, ‘It sucked actually. Yeah, you kinda ruined those for me. ’

  My brow knitted in confusion. Why wasn’t he angry?

  Evan laughed with a shake of his head. ‘Well … you ruined chocolate for me too. ’

  ‘Chocolate?’ He wasn’t reacting the way I expected. But then again, he never did.

  ‘The house, it smelled of chocolate that night,’ he reminded me. ‘So … I can’t eat chocolate. ’

  ‘That sucks,’ I said, redirecting my gaze back to the water, wiping my wet cheeks with the palms of my hands.

  ‘You have no idea. ’ His voice was sarcastic.

  ‘As much as you’d like me to hate you, I can’t. And I’m not here to ask for you back either. ’

  Emma’s shoulders tensed. I hadn’t expected this to bother her. Especially after she’d just begged for me to hate her. I thought she’d be relieved.

  ‘Will you let me try to forgive you?’ I asked her.

  ‘I think it’s easier to hate me,’ she stated firmly. ‘It’s easier than you think. ’

  She believed it. It reflected in the confidence in her voice. And that disturbed me.

  ‘Let’s make a deal,’ I offered, wanting the answers I came here to get.

  Emma shook her head.

  ‘Wait, hear me out. ’

  ‘Fine. Go ahead. ’ She swiped her tear-streaked face, and looked to me with a sigh.

  I grinned. ‘Nate and the guys arrive in two weeks. So let’s say you have two weeks to convince me to hate you. But you have to talk to me. Answer my questions. All of them. Let me try to forgive you. ’

  ‘All of them?’ I asked cautiously, my heart skipping a beat just considering the questions he could ask.

  ‘Yes,’ Evan confirmed. ‘And you have to tell me the truth. In the end, I’ll either hate you, like you insist I should, or I’ll have the closure I came here for. ’

  I was quiet, looking into his eyes, questioning if he was truly serious. He held the slightest smirk on his face, challenging me, which only baffled me more.

  ‘Why is this so important to you?’ I asked.

  ‘Emma?’

  I looked up with a start, not realizing I’d been staring into Evan’s eyes, waiting for him to say … whatever he was going to say. Cole’s approach broke me free from his gaze, and I took in a deep breath to rid myself of the shivers that trailed down my neck.

  ‘Everything okay?’ Cole asked, inspecting our faces.

  ‘Yeah,’ Evan answered for both of us, standing up and brushing the sand from his jeans. I offered a tight smile. Evan turned towards me. ‘So … I’ll see you tomorrow?’

  I knew this was his way of asking if I agreed to his proposal. Even though I still didn’t understand why, I shrugged in agreement. ‘See you tomorrow. ’

  I watched him walk away till my attention was redirected abruptly by Cole, who sat down next to me, blocking my view.

  ‘Are you sure you’re okay?’ Cole asked, taking my hand in his. My back tensed at the gesture.

  Walking away was more difficult than I’d imagined. And it sucked that I’d left her there with Cole. But she’d agreed to tell me the truth. I could finally find out what happened. Why she chose Jonathan. Why she trusted him when she couldn’t trust me. I bit back the anger I could feel rising at just the thought of him, wishing he’d never set foot in her life.

  I was about to venture into the unknown. But that’s what life with Emma had always been. The truth might be more than I could handle, but I knew it would change everything.

  I walked up the steps to the deck and slid the glass door open, stopping short. I hadn’t anticipated a room full of girls.

  ‘Where’s Emma?’ Sara asked, sitting on the chair across from me.

  I thumbed back towards the beach, meeting one set of eyes after another.

  ‘Hi, I’m Serena,’ the girl with powder-white skin and dark-lined eyes said cheerily. She jumped up from the stool and offered me her hand. Her frail, thin hand got lost in mine as she stared up at me with a broad smile.

  ‘Nice to meet you,’ I said, still having no idea who she was.

  ‘These are Emma’s room-mates,’ Sara explained, reading my confused expression.

  ‘Oh,’ I said, still thrown. I’d always pictured Emma living by herself, for some reason.

  ‘I’m Meg. ’ The girl with the curly auburn hair and cautious green eyes waved from the couch, clearly not as thrilled to see me as Serena.

  The petite blonde just glared at me.

  ‘That’s Peyton. ’ Serena leaned towards me. ‘She doesn’t like you very much. ’

  My mouth opened in shock at the honesty.

  ‘Shut up, Serena,’ Peyton snapped, obviously overhearing her.

  ‘O-kay,’ I said slowly, not exactly comfortable with the judging eyes. ‘I think I’m going to go now. ’

  ‘I’ll drive you,’ Serena offered in a rush. ‘Peyton, give me your keys. ’

  Peyton rolled her eyes, but tossed the keys to Serena anyway.

  ‘I’ll see you later, Sara,’ I said, uncertain why I was a little afraid to get in the car with Serena. Sara nodded. I picked up my things and followed the girl dressed all in black out the front door.

  ‘So you went to the funeral,’ Serena said, hopping in the red Mustang parked on the street. Her voice was upbeat and friendly, not at all reflective of the Goth persona I’d expected.

  ‘Yes, I did,’ I answered cautiously, very aware this was more than just a polite offer to drop me off.

  ‘And she was a disaster, right?’ Serena sounded like she already knew the answer.

  I nodded, eyeing her apprehensively.

  ‘We should’ve gone. I told the girls we should have gone, even though Emma told us not to. ’

  ‘I don’t really know if that would’ve helped, if that makes you feel any better. ’

  ‘But still. We should’ve been there. ’ She appeared upset by this.

  Nate really didn’t live far from Cole. I was actually surprised at how close the houses were. I could have easily walked.

  Serena pulled the car to the kerb and turned towards me. ‘I’m glad you went. I’m glad you were there for her. Thank you. ’

  I nodded in acceptance, still wary of her friendliness. ‘Thanks for the ride. ’ I removed my bags from the back seat and started to walk towards the large beach house.

  ‘Evan,’ Serena called to me. I turned around. ‘We’re going to fix her. ’

  A bright smile full of certainty spread across her face before she spun the car around and head
ed in the opposite direction.

  I watched her drive off, and a smile crept onto my face too.

  20

  Guilt Trip

  ‘GOOD MORNING,’ COLE MURMURED WITH his head against the pillow. He was alert and waiting for me.

  I groaned, still half asleep.

  ‘I was a jerk yesterday,’ he confessed, running his eyes along my face in concern. ‘I’m sorry. ’

  Cole hadn’t touched me when I crawled into bed last night, after the girls had left and Sara had gone to her room. But I knew he wasn’t asleep either as he lay with his back to me.

  I went to say something, and then clamped my mouth shut with a grimace.

  Cole chuckled. ‘Go do your bathroom thing and come back here. ’

  I slid out of the bed and emerged a few minutes later, a little nervous to hear what he was about to say.

  ‘So,’ I started us off, ‘last night was beyond awkward. ’

  ‘I guess I was … jealous,’ he admitted. ‘I wanted to be there in Connecticut, but you asked me not to. And … he was there. I’m not the jealous type … and I hated how I was last night. So, I’m sorry. ’

  I could feel his discomfort. It wasn’t what he did, expressing himself.

  I smiled and set my hand on the red of his cheek. He closed his eyes to my touch, absorbing the charge. I felt it running along my arm, speeding up my pulse. It soothed me, momentarily erasing the torment I’d been through in the past few days. I needed it … him … to help me forget.

  I scooted closer, and he slid his hands along my waist.

  ‘I didn’t want you there,’ I whispered, leaning closer to his lips. ‘I wanted you here, for when I got back. ’ I ran my tongue over his lower lip, and he inhaled quickly.

  Cole’s grip on my waist tightened as I ran my hands over the definition of his chest, tucking my nose into his neck and brushing my lips along his pulse. ‘Don’t be jealous. ’ I continued to whisper. ‘There’s nothing to be jealous of. Please don’t be like you were last night again. I didn’t like it. ’

  ‘I know,’ he said breathily into my hair, running his warm hands up my back, peeling my T-shirt off. ‘I’m not that guy. ’

  ‘No, you’re not,’ I said with a slight gasp as his tongue trailed down my neck. He pushed the shorts over my hips, and I kicked them to the end of the bed. His mouth made its way towards mine, consuming me.

  Suddenly I couldn’t get enough of him, pushing my hands through his hair, and kissing him fervently.

  I could feel his boxers slip away, and I pushed him onto his back. A moan escaped as I slid my leg over the top of him. His hands caressed my body, making me arch my back as I lowered myself on top of him, inhaling quickly at the intensity.

  ‘Emma,’ he gasped in pleasure as I worked into a slow rhythm. I closed my eyes and gripped his thighs behind me as he guided me with his hands on my hips.

  My entire body was on fire with a tingling heat. I could feel it spread through me, igniting my flesh. Every fibre taut. Cole sat up, and I wrapped my legs around him, our rhythm slower and deeper. I opened my mouth to gasp as he slipped his tongue in, capturing my breath. My body tensed around him, and he held me tighter. My back arched, peeling me away as he ran his lips down my chest. I groaned loudly and he grunted beneath me, his fingers pressing into my back. I waited for his body to ease before sliding back down to the bed, my head on his chest.

 
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