I turned my head and met Jackson’s eyes. They looked almost blue in the cave, and my heart beat at a frenzied pace. Before I could change my mind, I said, “I’m falling for you.”

His eyes searched mine, and I felt like I was falling still, waiting for him to answer. My ears rang like I was plunging toward the earth, and my eyes watered like the wind was flying directly into my face. And I waited. And waited. His expression, unreadable.

He opened his mouth, and my heart leapt in my chest.

Then Gianni said, “Duck.”

Hunt’s large hand cradled my head, and he pulled us both down as the boat glided underneath the rock. My heart was splintering, cracking and peeling every second he stayed silent.

But I shouldn’t have worried.

The very second we were past the overhang, he pulled me up and pressed his lips to mine in the perfect, scorching kiss.

He didn’t say anything. Just melted me with his mouth and pierced me with his eyes, and I supposed I would have to settle for that. He was an action-over-words kind of man, and I liked him that way.

After that, Gianni led us to a private inlet. He tied the boat to an outcrop of rock, gestured for us to jump out, and then pulled his hat down over his face for a nap.

Jackson and I took advantage of the privacy, and with the help of a not-too pointy rock face, we managed to achieve what hadn’t been possible out in the deep water at Cinque Terre.

When we returned to our room that night, our skin was several shades darker, my hair smelled of salt, and we’d managed to get salt and sand in a few inconvenient places.


We both needed a good shower.

“You go first. It’s going to take me forever to get everything out of my hair.” “I could help.” As appealing as that sounded, I knew where it would lead, and I was honestly too tired to even think about sex standing up, let alone perform it. “Thanks, Casanova, but let’s just get clean first. You can get me dirty again later.”

“Looking forward to it already.”

I laughed, and turned to throw my things at the foot of the bed. They hit the floor, and then an arm swooped around my waist, spinning and dipping me backward.

He kissed me slowly, the scruff on his chin tickling my skin. I was constantly amazed at how every kiss with him felt different, felt new. I hoped it would always feel that way.

He stood me up and gave me one more quick kiss.

He said, “I’ve not been this happy in a long time. Ever. Maybe.”

“Me too.”

He whistled as he retreated to the shower, and a smile burst open on my mouth, impossible to contain. I closed my eyes, and stretched out my arms like I’d just finished the only race that mattered.

God, he was perfect.

Well, except for the mess factor, but I could live with that. He’d dumped his things by the door, and I began moving them to the desk.

I could see his phone in the open outside pocket of his backpack, and in a small moment of curiosity and desperation, I picked it up.

I unlocked it. Not to search it, not really. Just to see.

My stomach sank.

Twenty-nine voice-mail messages.


My finger hovered over the screen, and I wanted to listen. Just a quick check, just to make sure they were really nothing to worry about. I touched my finger to the screen, but then immediately pulled it back.

I wasn’t going to be that way. Jackson had been so good about respecting my privacy as we got closer. He hadn’t pushed even though it had been obvious from the very beginning that that went against his nature. He’d done so much for me, more than I could put into words.

I wouldn’t betray him like that. I couldn’t.

I returned the phone as I caught sight of his sketchbook. Somehow the impulse to know what he drew in there was even stronger than the one that wanted to listen to the phone calls.

I told myself I was just going to pick it up, but when I did, a few loose sheets of paper drifted to the floor. I scrabbled to pick them up. I picked up a few sheets, sliding them back into the book. When I turned the last one over, I froze.

For a few seconds, I thought it was the drawing that I’d gotten from that little boy in Budapest. It was the same fountain. I recognized the man at the top, proud and bare like he’d risen up right out of the sea. The same thoughtful women sat below him, their shoulders hunched, their bodies smoothly sculpted.

The drawing was different, though. Darker. Whereas the boy had drawn the world as he saw it, trying to capture the reality of the curves and the physicality of nature, this drawing seemed . . . sad. The shadows melted into each other, throwing the statues into sharp relief. This drawing gave words to the stone women, frozen forever in time, unable to do anything but exist. The boy had only begun to sketch me into the picture, so that I was almost a ghost, little more than a smile, blonde curls, and a flowing dress.

I was a ghost in this drawing, too. Not because I wasn’t fully realized, but because I was. I sat on that bench, both stiff and somehow wilted at the same time, and I watched the world around me with longing buried beneath detachment, covered over with a paper-thin smile that was little more than a smudge on the page.

I looked to the bathroom, where Jackson was currently just on the other side of a door. Maybe I hadn’t imagined him that day. There’d been a glimpse, just the briefest sight of a head that might have been his, but I’d written it off as wishful thinking.

But if he had this, if he drew this, he had to have been there.

I stopped worrying about getting the chair wet, and I stopped worrying about privacy as I took a seat to scan through the rest.

I’d thought I might find comfort in his sketches. He’d seen right through me with his sketch of Budapest. He’d seen that I was hurting when I was only just coming to terms with it. I wanted to see what he saw now. He was so confident that I could beat the darkness in me. Maybe he saw something I didn’t.

I flipped open the sketchbook, full of hope and fear, wishing that somewhere in those pictures I would find my next foothold, a hand to pull me up.

Instead, they sent me tumbling over the edge.


Your turn, sweetheart.”

I couldn’t look at him. I was barely holding it together, and I knew if I looked at him, I was going to fall to pieces. I just wanted to rewind time, take back a few more precious seconds of happiness. I would have cherished them more if I’d known they were coming to an end. But that’s life, I guess. We’re always a half a second late and one word short of what we really need.

“Kelsey? You okay?”

Jackson walked toward me. He reached out, skin to skin, and I moved so fast that my chair toppled over.

“Don’t touch me. Don’t you dare.”

His expression crumpled like a discarded ball of paper, and it looked so authentic, so real that my heart jerked.

I threw my gaze up to the ceiling so that I wouldn’t have to see, so that I wouldn’t get fooled again.

“I don’t understand,” he said. “Did I do something?”

There weren’t words for the horror I felt, so I grabbed the sketchbook off the seat of the stool next to me, and slapped the picture of the fountain in Budapest onto the bar.

“That was the day after we met.”

I covered it with a second picture of me sleeping on the train from Budapest to Prague. My face was soft, angelic even, but still sad.

“A few days later.”

“I—” He opened his mouth, maybe to make an excuse, but I cut him off with another sketch.

“And that’s me in front of the monastery in Kiev. Now, I’m not great with time and dates, but that’s roughly a month ago. A month.”

“Kelsey, I can—”

I slammed down another page, and I felt the force echo up through my elbow to my chest.

“And here’s Bucharest. I’m not in this first one, but, oh, look, there I am.” I laid a second and a third. “And I sure as hell don’t remember seeing you at that club in Belgrade, but I guess you were. You captured the light perfectly on that one, by the way.”

I went to lay down more sketches, angry and fighting with tears, but my hands shook. Like leaves, the papers drifted to the ground. Places I’d seen. Cities I’d visited. The last month of my life sketched out in black and white.


“Just explain something to me, Hunt. Is it a game? Or are you a stalker? Are all those missed calls your parole officer? I called you a serial killer that first night or, well, the first night for me. I’d been kidding, but maybe I’d known something was off even then.”

“I swear it wasn’t like that, Kelsey. I know it looks bad, but it was never my intention to—”

“To what? Follow me across a continent? Worm your way into my life? Into my bed? God, but you were fucking patient, weren’t you? If you’d slept with me that first night, I would have left and been on my way. But no . . . that wasn’t enough.”

He gripped my shoulders, and for the first time, fear coiled around my anger because I had no idea what he was capable of. Even now, I had no idea what he wanted from me.

“It’s not a game. I meant every moment, and I can explain all of this if you’ll just give me a chance.”

A vibration buzzed on the desk, and I snatched Hunt’s phone from where I’d set it down.

I held it up to him. “Or I could find out the truth for myself?”

He threw out a hand as I pressed answer, but I ducked, pulling back a few feet. I stood near the door of the bar and pressed the phone to my ear.

I saw Hunt’s expression first—devastated and defeated. Then I heard a familiar voice through speaker.

“It’s about damn time, Hunt. Tell me what the hell my daughter is doing or you’re fired.”

The phone slipped from my hand, and time seemed to move into slow motion as it dropped. My heart fell at the same speed, long enough that it could have passed through galaxies before it hit the floor. The phone at least made a satisfying crack when it landed, but the crash of my heart was nothing more than a dull, hollow thud.

“Not just a stalker. A paid stalker.”

I guess it wasn’t me he wanted something from after all.

It’s a quiet thing when your heart breaks. I thought it would be loud, louder even than the air rushing around us when we’d dove off that bridge. I thought it would drown everything else out.

But it happened like a whisper. A small, clean split. It broke in a second, and the pain was little more than a pinprick.

It’s the echo that kills you. Like the echo inside the Grotta Azzurra, that tiny little sound kept bouncing around the cavern of my ribs, getting louder and louder. It multiplied until I heard a hundred hearts breaking, a thousand, more. All of them mine.

“Kelsey, just listen.”

How could I listen? I couldn’t hear anything over this pain.

Outside. Outside maybe the sound would have somewhere to go. I grabbed my bag. It didn’t have everything in it, but it had the most important things. It had what I needed to run.

I blew past him, and I didn’t even look at his body, at the towel slung around his hips. I couldn’t let myself. My mind was decades ahead of the rest of me. My body still remembered the shape of his and that damn gravity still pulled and pulled and pulled.

So I pulled back, and broke out into a run.

I thought I would make it farther, that maybe I could make it down to the main road, and for once there might be a taxi nearby without having to wait or call.

He overtook me before I’d even worked up a sweat. He’d pulled on a pair of gym shorts and two unlaced tennis shoes. He panted like he was running from the devil himself.

“Don’t come near me.”

“I never meant to hurt you, Kelsey. I love—”

“Don’t say it. Don’t you fucking say it.”

“I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

Most Popular