“MASE? I’M HOME.” I loosened my tie and unbuttoned the first two buttons on my shirt.

“Did you tell your mom I want more banana nut bread?”

I huffed a laugh and opened the fridge to grab a bottled water. “I did. She said if you come visit she’ll make some.”

“All right. Well, I’ll see you later.” He grabbed his keys off the counter and headed toward the door.

“Whoa. Wait. What? She’s not going to make you some tonight. And you told me to get back here immediately and now you’re leaving? I only see my parents once a week and I’d just barely gotten there.”

“Yeah, well . . . I gotta go. I’ll probably see you tomorrow. Or something.”

My jaw dropped as I watched him walk out the door. I’d just spent all day in court and then missed a home-cooked meal for that? Fuck this. I’m changing and going back over there. You just don’t pass up my mom’s cooking for no reason.

Walking quickly into my room, I yanked off my tie and shirt and had begun taking my badge, gun, and cuffs off my belt when my eyes finally noticed the new item on my dresser. My heart skipped a couple painful beats before drumming quickly. My chest tightened and I had to force myself to set the cuffs down before grabbing the mason jar sitting there. It was full of Sour Patch Kids—only the green ones. I squeezed my eyes shut when I felt another person come into the room and swore that if Mason was playing a trick on me, or just trying to get me to go see her again, I’d shoot him.

Blowing out a deep breath, I turned slowly and looked up to see Rachel standing there, looking more beautiful than I remembered. Before any type of hope could fill me, the memory of our last conversation replayed in my mind and pain sliced through my chest. I hadn’t seen her in just over four months, and not one day in that time had passed without my wishing I could go back and change everything.


Neither of us said anything, we just stared at each other. But then her eyes filled with tears and they spilled over, and I couldn’t stay away from her anymore. I didn’t know what she was doing here, and I didn’t know what she wanted from me. All I knew was that I loved her more now than I had when I left, and my girl was crying.

“Rachel,” I breathed when I pulled her into my arms.

A sob hitched in her throat and she buried her face in my neck, her arms tightening around my waist when I kissed the top of her head. I breathed in her sweet scent and almost thanked God out loud for bringing her back to me. Walking us toward the bed, I sat down and pulled her onto my lap before wrapping my arms around her again. I didn’t say anything; I was afraid to. Right then, she was in my arms, and I knew how quickly that could change. So I would keep her there and try to prolong the moment while I memorized the way her body felt against mine.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, and pulled away.

I started to keep her there but knew she wasn’t mine to keep, so I gritted my teeth and let her slide off my lap and to the other side of the bed.

“I—that wasn’t—I wasn’t going to cry. I wanted to talk to you, and I had this whole thing planned out that I was going to say, but then I saw you and . . . and I’m just sorry. That wasn’t supposed to happen.”

I didn’t know how to respond to what she was saying. Rachel was here, in Florida. She’d come to me. If she wanted to say something bad, she wouldn’t have come to the other side of the U.S., right? She would have called, or . . . well, she would have just continued to not talk to me.

“How are you?” It was one of the worst questions I could have come up with. But it was better than letting loose with the dozens of others I was dying to ask.

Her mouth opened but then snapped shut, and her eyes drifted to something behind me as she thought. “Honestly, I’m not okay.”

My fault. It’s my fault she’s not okay. My stomach twisted and I had to clench the comforter so I wouldn’t grab for her.

“The thing that happened with Blake, I’m doing better with. I have nightmares every now and then. But they’re really rare. I went back to work for the rest of the semester, and I decided I’m not going to enroll in classes next semester because I really only went to stay with Candice. I hate what I was majoring in and don’t want to do anything with it.” She smiled shakily and glanced at me. “And I finally visited my parents’ grave.”

“That’s great. I’m really proud of you.”

“I hated you,” she whispered suddenly, and it felt like someone had shot me all over again. “Since the phone call I made to Candice after I found out about it, I’d never told anyone about my parents. I never wanted to. And granted, I told you in a fight, but I realized after that I’d wanted you to know. I wanted you to know everything about me. You always saw through my bullshit, and you didn’t let me hide. I loved that about you.”

My eyes shut and a harsh breath left me at her use of the past tense.

“I was trying so hard to cling to the thought of you coming to save me,” she said, choking, and had to clear her throat. “When you ran into that house . . . God, I just remember thinking, He’s here, he came for me. But then it hit me what you were saying, who you were with, and I—I couldn’t even focus on Blake anymore. My heart shattered when I realized that you’d lied to me. And when I woke up, all I knew was that I’d fallen in love with a lie. You’d broken down every wall I had so that there was nothing between us, and I didn’t even know who you were, Kash,” she whispered, and wiped at a few new tears.

“Rachel, I couldn’t tell you—”

“I know. Mason and Candice told me everything. I know about the hit, all your undercover work. I know. But you should have never pursued a serious relationship with me when you were hiding something that big. And you should have never asked me to marry you. If you couldn’t give me you, you should have never asked me to give myself to you. That wasn’t fair to me.”

“I’m sorry for not telling you. But I loved you then, and I love you now . . . I’ll never be sorry for asking you to marry me.” Her eyes shut and she took a deep breath in, and before she could respond, I said the words I’d been thinking since the second Detective Ryder put West’s picture in my hand. “I’m so sorry I didn’t keep you safe, Rachel.”

Her eyes flew open. “Are—”

“I hate myself for letting that happen to you. I swore I would never let him, or anyone else, touch you again, and I couldn’t even keep that promise.”

“Kash, stop.” Her blue eyes were searching my face incredulously. “How can you even say any of that? You saved me. I owe you my life—”

I shook my head. “You don’t owe me anything.”

“Yes, I do. That’s the reason I’m here.”

I flinched. The reason she’s here is because she feels like she owes me her life? I have to live through the heartbreak again for this? Getting off the bed, I ran my hands through my hair roughly and growled as I paced, “I don’t want you to feel like you owe me shit. That was my job, Rachel. I was supposed to find him before he could hurt anyone else, not come in at the last minute and fucking save you! You should have never been there in the first place! I literally watched you walk away with a killer, and I did nothing.” I stopped pacing with my back to her, planted my shaking fists on my hips, and hung my head. “The minute I realized I was in love with you, my purpose in life changed to taking care of you . . . to keeping you safe . . . and to loving you. I failed at almost all of those, along with my job. So no, Rachel, you don’t owe me a damn thing. And I’m sorry you came all this way because you felt like you did.”

“Kash,” she said softly, “I didn’t come here because I felt like I owed you something. I meant you saving me is the reason I’m here . . . here as in alive. And I do owe you my life, but that’s not why I’m in Florida, in your bedroom. I’m here because I’m miserable.”

God, I knew how she felt.

“Like I said, I’m moving on from what happened and I’ve healed more in the last few months from my parents’ death than I did in four years. But I feel like I’m lost. I tried telling myself that you and I were all wrong for each other and that I couldn’t forgive you for what you did. I kept saying that tomorrow it wouldn’t hurt so much and tried to convince myself that you were moving on with your life because you never cared about me.”

I turned quickly to tell her how wrong she was, but she kept talking.

“But I finally realized that even with the lies, what you and I had was more real than anything I’ve ever experienced. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t fool myself into thinking that I could ever get over you.” She licked her lips and looked at me before looking at her lap. “I told you that first night we were together that you made me feel like I was in love and terrified at the same time. And that’s still true. I’m terrified at the depth of my feelings for you. I’m terrified of how easily you can hurt me. And I’m terrified of living the rest of my life without you. I physically moved on with my life, but a part of me died each day I was away from you.”

My breathing was heavy as I stared at her. She was still looking at her lap and I needed to see her, I needed to know what this meant for us. Squatting down in front of her, I placed my hands on either side of her hips on the bed and looked at those beautiful blue eyes. “Rachel, what are you saying?”

“I’m saying I can’t live without you. I still love you.” Her words were so soft they were almost inaudible, but I’d heard, and it was all I needed to know.

I sat up and crushed my mouth to hers as I laid her back on the bed and hovered over her. Her hands gripped my shirt and she moaned my name before deepening the kiss.

“I’ve missed you so much,” I whispered against her skin, and sucked on that sensitive spot behind her ear. “Forgive me, Rachel.”

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