Reece kept going. “What? You leave today, are you going to go back to dating a string of losers who aren’t worth breathing the same fucking air as you, because when it comes down to it, you really don’t care about them? Your heart isn’t in it, so you’re safe? But with me, it’s different.”
“You don’t understand,” I whispered, stunned.
“I don’t understand?” He looked like he wanted to shake me. “Babe, I know what it’s like to be afraid. I watched friends die overseas. I come home and every day I go to work knowing it could be my last. I think about my brother, knowing he faces the same shit I do. I’m afraid of losing you.”
I gasped. “Me?”
“Yeah, you. You, Roxy. You have a fucking stalker. I’m scared shitless for you.” Now he really looked like he wanted to throttle me. A little. “It goes beyond that. You could get into the car and crash. I’ve seen the way you drive.”
“Ha,” I muttered.
“Anything can happen to you at any moment, but you don’t see me running away from what we have—what we could have. You’ve got to deal with what happened to Charlie. That doesn’t mean you have to deal with that alone.”
“What do you know about dealing with this?” I snapped.
He pinned me with a look.
“You barely talk about the shooting! You have nightmares because of it!” I shouted, throat stinging. “It’s not like you know how to deal either, Mr. Fucking Perfect.”
“I’m not saying I know how to deal. Fuck, Roxy. You and I both know I had a hell of time handling that and I still do!” he yelled back, and for a second, I thought he might pitch me across the room. I’d kind of deserve that. “I drank myself into a fucking stupor by not dealing with the fact I shot and killed an eighteen-year-old kid.”
I flinched. “Reece, I—”
“No. You’re going to hear me out on this. For almost a year, I dealt with what I had to do by drinking instead of talking to someone—anyone about it. If it weren’t for Jax, I probably would’ve swallowed a goddamn bullet, because let me tell you something, I had to make that choice between life and death enough times in the fucking sandbox to know making that call fucking sucks. I still chose to be a cop knowing I could face that again. Didn’t make it a goddamn bit easier when I had to.”
This was what he hadn’t shared with me the night on the balcony, how bad the guilt and the anger had really gotten for him. Oh my God, I didn’t want to hear this as terrible as it sounded. I didn’t want to even think of him being in that kind of pain. It slaughtered me.
“But Jax got me to talk about it. He got me to take the damn counseling the department required I take seriously. And you’re right. I still don’t deal all that well with it, but at least I’m fucking trying. I’m not pushing you away. I’m trying to deal. But you haven’t tried once, not in six years.”
Unable to stand to hear any of this, I tried again to pull free, but he wasn’t letting me get anywhere.
“You’re going to college for a degree you don’t want, because you’re too afraid to admit and accept that you like working at Mona’s. Not because you don’t have any drive, but because it gives you time to do what you love—paint. But you won’t even take that risk. You’ll continue on, just to stay safe. To not take any risks.”
“Shut up,” I seethed, wishing I never told him about how much I hated taking those classes. It was a good thing he was still holding my wrists, because I probably would’ve smacked him upside the head.
“Yeah, the truth is a fucking bitch, right?” His eyes glinted. “What I don’t understand is how what happened with Charlie made you so afraid to do anything, but you want to know what I do know?” His eyes flashed blue fire. “I love you, Roxy. Charlie’s death isn’t going to change that. This isn’t going to change that. And I know you feel the same way.”
He—he said I feel what?
Yep, it was time for me to roll on out of here. Using all my strength, I jerked away from him, which got me nowhere.
“Roxy, stop it,” he commanded.
Frustration rose sharply but so did something else. We were pressed together in all the places that matter, and despite the fact I was trying to leave him and we were arguing, the longer I sat on him, the more I could feel him hardening underneath me, and my blood was simmering from the contact.
And he said he loved me.
I twisted in his lap, which only succeeded in me grinding down on him. The red-hot sensation licked through me, and I saw the exact moment he felt the same thing I did.
His features tightened. “Jesus . . .”
My breath was coming in short pants as I zeroed in on his expressive lips. I was still trying to pull my arms free, and it was probably a good thing he hadn’t let go, because I’d probably fly backwards. I rocked forward, hoping to knock him off balance, and his answering groan set my body on fire.
I stopped thinking. Or maybe I was thinking so much that I couldn’t grasp and hold any one thought in particular, other than I needed this—I needed him. Just one more time. It took nothing to reach his mouth, and when our lips met, he jerked back a little.
I didn’t want to hear it, especially if he was going to introduce logic into what was happening. Pressing my lips against his, I kissed him harder, and when he didn’t kiss me back, I bit down on his lower lip.