She’d fought to convince me pretty hard that what she said truly happened last night.
But what if something completely different had occurred?
What if I’d caught her running and fucked her on all fours in the forest as punishment? What if she’d tried to kill me with the dinner she’d made, and I’d smelled the poison, only to smash the food all over the carpet? What if she’d begged me to let her go, and I’d said yes? Wouldn’t that make her look at me as if she cared? Only to hate me when I woke and reneged on such a promise?
So many scenarios.
So many stories, just like all the paper ones glowering at me from their bookshelves.
I trembled as I closed my eyes, commanding my thoughts to stop playing hide and seek. Instantly, walls soared into place, chains clunked tight, and rusty padlocks loomed in my mind’s eye.
I didn’t want to wade through the shit shackled behind those doors, I just wanted to know what the hell happened last night for Gemma Ashford to look at me as if I was good.
As if I’d shown pieces of myself that made her fall.
“I’m not yours forever, Kas. I’ll never be.”
Her voice came and went.
A phrase that sounded familiar, but I couldn’t remember when.
I scrubbed my face with my hands, itching at the hair on my cheeks.
A whiff of papaya crawled up my nose—
I gasped, rocking backward, inhaling my fingers, doing my best to trigger whatever recollection just came and went.
Oh, God, what if she was telling the truth?
What if I had given her a bath last night?
What if we slept together?
What if I’d actually earned her heart?
The kid who was worthless. The boy who was abused. The man who was forgotten.
Ah fuck, why can’t I remember?
Panic coated my palms with sweat as I rifled through my thoughts.
The seasons changing.
The river glowing blue.
I could remember all of that with perfect clarity.
Gemma nursing me.
Gemma cursing me.
Gemma promising to teach me the pain of heartbreak.
I dug deeper.
I kept digging.
I can’t remember what happened next.
Flickers of arguments. Feelings of desire, frustration, and fear. All interspersed with missing blankness. My mind had become a book with torn out pages, erased paragraphs, scribbled sentences. Vital information hadn’t just been stolen; it’d been deleted as if it never existed.
Wh-what’s happening to me?
I bent over and rocked, groaning with nausea, with pain, with rapidly building fear that I was getting worse.
The word blasted through my skull with familiarity, just like her shrug.
Was I schizophrenic?
Was having Swiss cheese for a brain a symptom of such a thing?
Wrenching my head up, I glared at the bookcases and the many tomes, novels, and texts I’d devoured over the years.
See...I remembered that.
I remembered my solitude and loneliness. I remembered my Fable family. I remembered dark and disgusting things. And I also remembered those memories were locked up tight for a reason. So why couldn’t I remember something nice for once?
“Goddammit!” Swooping upright, I stumbled to the side with vertigo and tripped to the bookcases.
I had to know.
I couldn’t live like this.
I couldn’t take her looking at me as if we’d shared so much, only for her to tell me things that couldn’t possibly be true.
If we actually slept together last night?
If something impossible because possible, then I’m more fucked than I thought.
I was lost because if I could forget something like that. If I could sleep with the girl I wanted more than anything and not have a shred of remembrance of how she felt, how she moved, how she tasted then...
I might as well drown myself in the river.
I might as well end this goddamn struggle because what sort of cruel, sadistic joke was life playing on me when I finally had someone to call my own and I couldn’t fucking remember her!
You can’t afford to call her your own, remember?
I didn’t know who I was anymore.
I had no strength or desire to love.
Yet I wanted to love more than anything.
My hands reached for the medical texts, my fingers running down spines, my eyes squinting past haze, struggling to read. My broken arm throbbed from whatever I’d done to it last night. The fresh cuts on my knuckles oozed, and the scent of papaya kept teasing my memories.
The smell hissed as if it was stark evidence, collaborating Gemma’s claim that we’d lain beneath the stars together.
I froze, doing my best to imagine it. Two of us in the bath. My hands on her body. My cock pulsing inside her.
There had to be something in this godforsaken place that could help me.
Ripping out a medical journal, I carried the heavy book back to the chair and collapsed.
Sinking into the leather, I skimmed the contents until I stopped on concussion.
Holding my breath, I flipped to the right chapter and shook my head, trying to be free of the rocks and fog that’d never left me alone since falling off that awful cliff.