He gave me an odd look before strolling into the library, the chain around his middle hissing quietly on the carpet, the links vanishing through the house like a never-ending snake before sinking its fangs into my ankle. “I passed out before I got to my dorm. Ended up contorted on the staff stairs for most of the night. You?”
Not waiting for me to reply, his gaze fell to the ruined pieces of rabbit and the smashed crockery. Nudging a piece of meat with his bare toe, he scowled. “What the hell happened in here? Did you just drop this?”
I frowned. “What? No, of course not. It happened last night. I didn’t realize the mess; otherwise, I would’ve cleaned up earlier.”
“Last night?” His forehead furrowed into deep tracks. “What the hell happened last night?”
My heart didn’t know if it wanted to stop or hiccup. “We, eh...” I took a step toward him hesitantly, my nervous energy switching into panic. “We, um...we had sex. Twice...”
“What?!” His eyes flared wide, his attention skimming down my body as if seeking evidence of such a claim. He shook his head, stumbling a little to the side. “You’re lying.”
I flinched. “I’m not.”
“Well, you’re not telling the truth.” He ran a shaky hand through his hair. “I know you don’t like me very much, but giving false memories to a guy you pushed off a cliff is low...even for you.”
My stomach lurched. “I don’t like you very much?” I whisper-choked. Goosebumps shot down my arms, tingling with fear and loss. “Y-you...don’t remember, do you?” My question was just breath. Strained and terrified breath. “Please, please tell me you remember.”
Pain I’d never felt before fissured through my ribs.
His forehead furrowed with deeper tracks, fear glimmering in his stare. “Remember what exactly? That I woke up in wet clothes and have no idea why? That I have cuts on my hands and bruised knuckles with no memory of what happened?” He swallowed hard enough for his throat to contract with muscle. “I have a splitting headache, and I’m sick to death of feeling as if I’ll topple over at any moment, so please...stop lying and tell me what happened. The truth this time. Where did the meat come from? Why is such precious food all over the carpet?”
My world bottomed out for the umpteenth time since climbing into this valley.
Don’t you dare...
Don’t you dare do this to me.
“Tell me!” he snapped.
I wanted to run. To find the Kas who’d made me fall last night, not fight with this replica who knew nothing, who felt nothing, who looked at me as if I was nothing.
Making eye contact, I did my best to swallow all the agonizing, unrequited love inside me. “We slept together.”
Woefully inadequate. Totally depthless.
“We willingly spent the night together,” I forced out around my pain. “We were...happy.”
“Happy?” he grunted, his hands opening and closing by his sides. He looked lost...ready to break. “How...I don’t—”
“We were happy because we opened ourselves up to what we’ve been fighting all along. You admitted you care for me, Kas. And I...I admitted that I care for you too. We didn’t just sleep together. It was so much more than that.”
He shook his head, his scruff-hidden face clouding with temper. “You already said that, and I already said it’s not possible.”
“Why?” I balled my hands, beginning to tremble. “Why isn’t it possible?”
He looked away, focusing on the ruined rabbit pieces. His eyes danced to the spinach smears, honey puddles, and finally the wallpaper with its violent, bloodstained rips. He sucked in a breath, swaying. “It’s not possible because I would remember something like that. I would remember fucking you. I know I would.” His gaze caught mine, throbbing with the same sort of loss I felt, only his was from disbelief and confusion instead of fear that everything we’d shared was gone. “It’s not possible that I would forget something like that. If I did, then...” He trailed off, inky dread coating him.
He didn’t finish.
He didn’t need to.
I heard the hovering, unspoken words.
If he could forget the intensity of last night. If he could forget how we’d bound ourselves together through sex and confessions, then nothing was sacred. Nothing was safe. All of this. Every day together. Every minute of falling and caring and wanting...was pointless.
Utterly, awfully pointless.
Tears stung my eyes.
How was I supposed to navigate this?
How was I supposed to stay standing after I’d dropped my guard and let him in, trusting that last night had changed both of us?
Was I strong enough to do this again?
Did I have enough love inside me to care for someone who might never love me back?
Grief burned, but I inhaled, fighting for strength. “Last night, you had a moment when you spaced. Maybe...maybe this is just another moment. It will come back. Just relax and let your mind recall—”