The heart always wants what it can never have.
I knew she'd never look at me twice.
But that didn't stop my heart from beating for her.
You see, I’m not the good guy.
On the outside, I might look like it, I might even smile at you.
But it’s a lie.
It’s all a lie.
There’s nothing redeemable about me.
Except for her.
But I’m the last person she’d ever want to be with.
Because I’m the reason he died. I’m at fault.
But she doesn’t know it was me.
Atonement is my only salvation.
Protecting her, because I finally fell.
And the monster she needed protection from…
The next afternoon as three rolled around, I tapped my foot nervously and waited for Jayne to arrive. After scanning the new crowd of students who’d entered the commons, my gaze greedily took in her heart-shaped face and wide smile that grew as soon as she spotted me.
It was amazing to consider, yet, as wondrous as it was, it was fake — false and a hell of a deception on my part.
But that she wanted to be around me, that she liked me was a drug I couldn’t reject. I knew that someday soon I’d have to do it, make the clean break and walk away, but I couldn’t do it, not yet, not when I had heaven so close.
“You ready?” I stood and asked.
Her beauty was constantly overwhelming. From her clear eyes, filled with wonder and delight to the perfect shape that God blessed with every tempting curve. But what captivated me was her inner strength, her passion for life, and the innocent nature with which she attacked it.
“Let me take that for you.” I held out my hand, waiting for her to give me the pink backpack she carried.
“Really?” She cocked a skeptical brow.
“No, I’m offering so I can leave it here.” I replied sarcastically. Wiggling my fingers I enticed her to hand it over.
“Well thanks.” She handed it over, her gaze softening.
“Real men wear pink.” I hitched the carnation-pink bag over my shoulder.
She giggled as we made our way out of the commons. Glancing at me shyly, she nodded to the pack. “It looks good on you.”
“I know,” I shot back.
“So, where are we going?”
“Didn’t we cover this? Nosey equals…” I let it linger, teasing her.
“Annoying. I remember. Fine.”
“Where are you parked?” I asked as we made it to the parking lot.
We headed to her car, and I waited for her to pop the trunk. Then I placed both bags in and closed it. “Ready?”
“Okay, it’s not far. Want to walk?”
Her smile was as warm as the summer sun, melting away the quiet whispers that tried to remind me how I was playing with fire.
Swallowing hard, we walked a few steps, and I reached out and grasped her hand. Lame. I couldn’t believe it was such a huge step for me to simply hold her hand.
But it was.
It was the world, literally in the palm of my hand.
Her grasp was immediate, and as I glanced at her, a beautiful rosy blush graced her cheeks, highlighting her already stunning beauty.
We made our way to the small ice cream parlor on the edge of campus and, true to form, I ordered Neapolitan, and Jayne ordered the strawberry cheesecake flavor. When she pulled out some cash from her pocket, I frowned at her. “No… girls don’t pay.”
“Girls don’t pay?” she asked, her expression a question almost as if she were debating whether to be impressed or offended.
“Out of respect.” I shrugged and paid for our order then walked to a side table.
“Respect?” she asked, her expression open.
“Yeah, I know you could pay for it. It’s not that I doubt that… it’s that as a guy, it’s an… honor to take care of a woman.”
“Oh, wow.” She tilted her head and studied me. Then she took a bite of her ice cream. “How old are you Alder?”
“Uh, I’m twenty-three. Why? How old are you, Jayne,” I teased, hoping she couldn’t sense my discomfort.
“Twenty. It’s just that you seem… older. You know? It’s… nice.”
“Nice? Okay, has no one ever told you that guys hate to be called nice? It’s like saying a girl has a great personality.” I held up imaginary quotes.
“Hey!” She tossed her napkin at me. “I happen to have a great personality.”
“Yes, yes you do. But that’s not all you’ve got going for you. But I must say, the whole great personality part is one of my favorite aspects.” I winked.
“Look at you, turning something I should be ticked over into a compliment.” She replied while narrowing eyes, studying me.
“Yeah, well, keep your charm in check.”
“Yes ma’am,” I teased and took a big bite of ice cream, letting the cool sweetness distract me from the temptation she presented.
We talked for at least an hour.
And that was where it started. It seemed like as much as I knew our relationship couldn’t go anywhere, I couldn’t stop taking hit after hit, moment after moment with her. With each study date we’d have, or short walk from one class to another, I’d tell myself that I’d just commit every second to memory so that when I faded away, out of her life, I’d still have those precious smiles, those captivating expressions she’d flash when something amused her, or the light of intelligence that illuminated her amber gaze. I was in deeper than ever before. Because I’d loved Jayne when I’d just been the creepy stalker, in Raphael’s words, but now that I was actually with her, it was a million times worse.
About two weeks after spending every available moment with her, I found myself at the center, beating the shit out of the boxing bag, fighting myself, trying to justify my actions.
“What to talk about it?” Raphael’s voice asked quietly as he went behind the bag and held it for me.
“I’m in deep,” I whispered then spun and kicked the bag.
“You still seeing her?” he asked, knowing the answer. “Yeah.”
“It’s like you’re willingly being drawn and quartered.” He sighed. “It’s not that I think so little of Jayne that she’d never forgive you… but even if she did, man… it wouldn’t ever be the same. You know that, right?”
“I do. I know it all, Raphael, Okay? I know it so well that I’ve freaking stopped sleeping at night, knowing that I have to let go, but I don’t want to. I want her… I want this so badly.” My chest constricted, like I had been holding my breath for far too long. “For the first time in so long, I’m at a place where I’m actually proud of who I’m becoming… and that guy is the one who’s totally winning her heart… but I don’t have a freaking chance of a snowball in hell because of the past I can’t escape. It’s so… screwed up.”
“No argument there. This is messed up in a way that’s… I don’t even know, man. But… you gotta let it go.” Raphael came around the bag and put his hand on my shoulder.
“I know. If it were just me who would end up bleeding, I’d live every last moment till I bled dry, but it’s not just me.”
“No, it’s not, dude. It’s her. And if you really love her like you say…” He let the thought linger.
“Then I’ll think of what’s best for her rather than what I want,” I finished, feeling like I was slowly sliding a dull knife through my heart.
“Love doesn’t take,” Raphael said.
And I was pretty sure the price would kill me, ripping what was left of my soul from my body.
Kristin’s inspiration for the romance she writes comes from her tall, dark and handsome husband with killer blue eyes. With five children to chase, she is never at a loss for someone to kiss, something to cook or some mess to clean but she loves every moment of it! She loves to make soap, sauerkraut, sourdough bread and gluten free muffins. Life is full of blessings and she praises God for the blessed and abundant life He’s given her.
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