All the while Jase speaks, Aria’s eyes don’t leave me. I can feel her gaze burning into me. My flesh. My very soul.
“Could you guys give us a minute?” I ask my brother as a spike of pain ricochets up my right side, from my toes to my hip and up the back of my shoulder and down the front. My entire body is in agony.
But it’s my chest that hurts the most. The pain that fills the vacant hollowness of my chest where there should be warmth. I finally look at Aria, letting my gaze roam down her small body. Her thin cotton shirt is wrinkled, presumably from waiting in the chairs all this time for me to wake up.
Please God, let her have waited for me. It must mean something for her to be here. I don’t remember everything that happened, but I’m sure I told her I loved her. I’m certain if ever there were words I would utter as death came to take me away, they would be only those that spoke of what she meant to me. Everything.
“I need to speak with Aria.”
“Please forgive me.” I’ve asked him so many times tonight. This time it’s to his face while he’s conscious, not while his eyes are closed and he’s far away from me, close to death’s door and never able to hold me again.
The second the door closed, I couldn’t help but to plead once more for him to forgive me. “I shouldn’t have left.” I let the words fall from my lips as I make my way closer to him.
He has the darkest eyes I’ve ever seen, but the specks of silver pierce into me… always. The way he looks at me, as if I only exist to be consumed by him, will haunt me until the day I die. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m dying inside being this far away from him. I need to touch him, to hold him and make sure he’s really here. My heart doesn’t believe he’s all right. And it hurts inside of me like no other pain I’ve ever felt.
“As long as you forgive me, I’ll forgive you of any and every sin you’ve ever dared commit. Just love me. All I want is you, Aria. I can’t lose you.” His last words are strained, the pain of his wounds showing even with the steady drip of the IV forcing painkillers into his veins.
I can’t even think about forgiving him, knowing it didn’t have to end like this. I didn’t have to run. It seems childish now, standing in front of him, seeing the consequences of my fear and my rash decision to hide the truth from him and flee from it all.
“Carter,” I say, and his name is a tortured word on my tongue. “I’m so sorry,” I utter painfully as I reach for him, getting closer to the hospital bed and letting my hand fall onto his forearm. My legs are weak; I’m barely able to stand seeing him like this.
My beast, hooked up to a machine and riddled with pain. All because of me and my foolishness.
“Forgive me,” I can barely get the words out, letting everything between us fall. Every pretense, every wall. There’s no room for any of it between us. “I shouldn’t have run from you.”
“I forgive you.” His deep voice is raw. “I already told you I have. All I want is you.”
All the words I wanted to tell him are strangled in the back of my throat, refusing to come out at the sight of him.
“We aren’t perfect. And if I could, I’d go back and change the way we came to be, but I’ll be damned if I’d let you go.”
He’s saying everything I dreamed he’d say, but I still have to tell him and I can’t.
I can’t bear to tell him why I left.
“It’s okay, songbird,” Carter tells me, soothing me and luring me to come even closer. “I love you,” he whispers and that breaks me. Finally, and completely, I break for him. Every piece of me shatters.
And I’ve never felt more complete in my life. Thoroughly ruined for the man I love.
There’s one secret left. One small truth that could change everything. And it won’t be kept hidden any longer.
“Do you want to know something?” I ask him, feeling the tension in my body increased with anxiety. The secret I’ve been holding is going to swallow me whole unless I give it the freedom to be spoken.
With his gaze tired, the exhaustion of everything weighing down the strength Carter possesses, he brushes my cheek with his knuckles, and I take his hand in both of mine.
“Anything and everything,” he tells me and lets out a deep exhalation.
With a small smile wavering on my lips, I let out the secret just beneath my breath, “I think I’m pregnant. That’s why I ran.” The secret punctures my chest, creating a crater so deep it will never be filled if Carter’s reaction doesn’t mend the wound. “I didn’t know what to do.”