God, it hurt.
I was in love with him.
And he wasn’t ready.
He might never be ready.
And that was the heartbreaking reality of what I’d signed up for.
Nodding once, I swallowed past the thick lump in my throat. I tried one last time to fight for us. “Please, Kas. Stop being such a bastard for one measly second and think. Just one second, ask yourself why you left last night. Why you headed to that dorm without me after the best sex we’d ever had. You did it to protect me. You knew, didn’t you? You knew you’d forget. You’ve been keeping things from me. Those moments you space...they’re getting worse, aren’t they?”
He scowled, tripping back at my sudden shift in mood. “I already told you—”
“And I told you that this is real. What I feel is real. What you feel is real. Just search your mind and—”
“If you know anything about me, you already know that’s never going to happen. I just told you, I will never go rifling through my past.”
“In that case, you’re doomed to always be lost and alone.” My chest burst with pain. “The only way you’re ever going to heal, the only way you’re ever going to find happiness, is if you face what you’ve buried inside you.”
“I’m...I’m tired.” He suddenly stumbled, tripping to the large wingback and falling into it. Cradling his head in his palms, he muttered, “Just stop, Gemma. I need you to stop.”
“All I’m asking is for you to drop your walls,” I murmured. “To see the mess and the magic of what happened between us last night. I’m asking you to do it...for me.”
He stiffened in the chair, his long hair quivering on his shoulders. “Don’t try to twist this. Don’t make it seem as if you care.”
My temper flashed. “You made me care. You made me believe—” I cut myself off, glaring at the carpet, unable to look at him. “You did some awful things last night, Kas, but you were also...kind and sweet, and...I wanted you. I wanted you so damn much.” I dared look up. “I still want you, even while you’re hurting me.”
He sucked in a breath, his eyes meeting mine.
That all-encompassing chemistry between us sparked and hissed. I felt a physical pull to go to him. A clench in my core. A tingle in my lips. I wanted to crawl into his lap, to kiss him, to claw my way inside that broken head of his and yank out the memories he was too afraid to analyze.
“You want me?” he breathed.
For a second, we hovered on a precipice that could fall either way. Fall right, and we could fall into each other. We could kiss and fondle, and tumble to the floor to repeat the rough ravaging of last night. Or we could fall left, and trip even farther apart. We could stay enemies; stay trapped in this terrible carousel.
I’ll lose him.
Lose the Kas who had the power to make me love, all while leaving me with a version of the man I hated.
The agony of that hurt me more than I could stand.
My anger sprang hot again, choosing war instead of words. “Last night, when your body was deep in mine, I let myself dream. I dreamed that I was always meant to find you. That I would help you, heal you, and eventually take you home with me. I was willing to turn my back on my own life in order to save yours. I was ready to give it all up.” I laughed with utter exhaustion. “Now, you’re making me feel stupid. I get that you’re not well. I get that your concussion is still a factor and can cause mood swings. And I get that medically, you have every right to be afraid if you truly can’t remember. But what you don’t have the right to do is make me feel like an idiot. Your denial—your stark refusal to even listen to me—goes to show how incredibly naïve I was to think one night of affection would fix a decade of your problems.” I swiped at a lone tear. “But you know what? You’ve just proved that regardless of your amnesia and all the stuff you’ve repressed, what’s really going on here is your inability to fight for something that could save you. I’m trying to fight for you, Kas. But you...you’re not ready to fight for me.”
I swiped at another tear. “You’re still too conditioned. Too trapped by this place.”
He went deathly still. “You’re saying I want to be conditioned. That I’m choosing to be a worthless slave, still chained to this place? That I stayed because I was too fucking weak to run when I had the chance?”
I froze. “What? No, I’m not saying that at all.”
He swooped to his feet, stabilizing his balance by grabbing onto the chair arm for a second. His eyes met mine beneath drawn eyebrows. Rage I hadn’t seen since the first few days of our acquaintance glowed obsidian in his gaze. “You think I don’t want this shit to stop? That I don’t want to be free? Of course, I want to be fucking free! I tried to run. And I would’ve succeeded if they hadn’t shackled me to the bed night and day. I would’ve died trying to escape. But then they brought the others here.”