Love and Decay, Season Three, Episode Five
I glared at the door for a moment before turning back to the fire. Nobody better follow me out here. I wasn’t in the mood.
I had reached my goddamn limit.
Page was gone.
Page was gone.
Page. Was. Gone.
There were many other things I should focus on tonight while I couldn’t do anything about the Page situation.
I needed to mentally work through our time in Mexico and get my mind straight. I needed to figure out how to survive the rest of this shitty country.
And keep my family alive.
All of us alive.
And I really, really needed to stop obsessing over every goddamn thing that Reagan did or said or thought.
That woman was messing with my mind. In the worst ways.
I shivered from the fever coating my skin. The sunburn and the cool desert air felt unforgivingly abrasive tonight. I hadn’t been able to stomach the idea of putting a shirt on after my shower earlier.
After way too long in the same filthy clothes, my skin needed to breathe. Not to mention the damage the brutal sun had wrought on my forearms, face and neck. The heat from the fire was at odds with the cold breeze. My skin did not appreciate the constant back and forth from hot to cold.
My heart didn’t either.
Really? My heart.
Goddamn it, Reagan. Get out of my head.
I just had to suffer through this night. Tomorrow we would get Page back- because there was no alternate scenario- and then I could get my mind right.
I would be able to think clearly again.
Or as close to clearly as I could get these days.
The door to the house opened and closed. I glanced over to find Reagan walking towards me.
I sucked in a fortifying breath and tried to turn back to the fire.
Tried and failed.
The moonlight shone down on her as if it had chosen this moment to spotlight only her. The rest of the desert faded into black oblivion behind her. She was lit with milky moonlight, the soft glow caressing her dark hair and familiar figure.
She had been beaten up today. Her face and arms were scraped and raw and she clearly favored one side of her body. She looked exhausted from the last week or the last several years or maybe just from today. And her clothes didn’t exactly fit her.
Yet she was still the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and the need to avenge every wrong thing done to her vibrated through my body with ferocious intensity.
I struggled to swallow down the lump in my throat caused by this ethereal vision of her. She didn’t seem human in this moment, she didn’t seem real.
She was so much more than a girl or a woman or anything my mortal mind could come up with. She was beyond human, beyond this ugly reality.
She stopped on the other side of the fire and when her gaze wandered my way, I finally found the will power to stop watching her like a crazy stalker.
Echoes of insecurities and my deepest fear bounced around in my head. Those feelings, those ugly, disgusting, misplaced feelings always went back to him. Kane. To what he did to her.
To what he did for her.
I would never become him. And in the same breath, I would never be him. She would never return to me because I wasn’t him.
Over the last few months, I had finally started to empathize with the bastard. To have Reagan and to lose her…
But this was my choice. I did this to us. I left her.
She hadn’t given me a choice, but the result was the same. I lost her. And I would regret that every day for the rest of my life.
But I also wouldn’t subject myself to her games. Or her capricious heart.
Somewhere in the muck and mire of my confusion, I had pride. I had self-respect.
I reminded myself of those things long enough to feel my will return to me. It was harder these days. It was harder to remember why I kept my distance and why we could never be together. It was getting harder to ignore the way my body responded to her touch and my mind tuned in to her voice. I wanted to stop thinking about her, but I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I wanted to bury my feelings for her and move on.
But it felt like she forced herself in front of me every single chance she got. I swear she got people to try to kill her on purpose.
Sometimes I thought she wanted to die just to spite me. She was so damned determined to sacrifice herself at every opportunity without a care for what she would leave behind… who she would leave behind. And this goddamn world kept giving her plenty of opportunities.
She had no idea how hard I fought for her, how hard I would fight for her. She had no idea how unwilling to give her the death wish she wanted I was.
But I supposed, sooner or later, she would figure it out.
I stretched my hand at my side and tried to erase the memory of her holding it in hers. My leg burned where her fingers had been. Over the last week, my walls had been battered and broken. The careful boundaries I’d put in place were breeched and I was on the verge of breakdown.
I could feel my resolve withering. I could sense my neediness and pathetic pining catching up with me.
If she kept this up, I would snap. It was only a matter of time.
“Are you okay?” Her words were overly loud and jolted me out of my thoughts.
For all of my constant watching, I hadn’t noticed she’d moved closer to me. “What makes you think I’m not okay?”
She lifted one of her shoulders and buried her chin in it, “A hunch?”
Breath punched out of me and I ran my hands through my hair, wishing I was strong enough to rip it from the roots. “I’m that obvious?”
This time she couldn’t hide her smile. “Slamming the door didn’t help.”
I swallowed and confessed some truth, “I can’t stand waiting. Page is out there. Alone. And I can’t do anything to help her until tomorrow. I want to go now. I want to tear this country apart until I find her. I want to destroy every single person that stands in my way and I want to do it with my bare hands.”
She straightened, her shoulders pushing back and her chin lifting. I waited for her judgment… for her disappointment. I had just revealed some of the ugliest parts of me and I knew it was too much for her. For anyone.
As it should be.
This world had turned me into a shadow of my former self. I hardly recognized myself anymore. I couldn’t expect Reagan to find the good man I used to be buried beneath all the shit and decay of this place.
She shocked the hell out of me though. “I want to do the same thing.”
I spun towards her, anxious to find the truth or the lie in her eyes.
She met my gaze and admitted, “I want to hurt every single person that took her away from us. Hurt them until they stop breathing.”
I suddenly couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t think and I couldn’t keep my hands to myself. If she wanted to look at me like that there would be consequences.
“I didn’t expect you to understand.” I hated how weak my voice sounded- how weak I sounded. This girl tied me up in knots. I was lucky to still be standing.
I felt her temper flare as if it were heat against my side or an earthquake beneath my feet. “Why not? We’re all desperate to get her back. We’re all tired of this country and these hardships and all of these people that keep trying to kill us. You’re not alone. Don’t ever think you’re alone.”
I chewed on those words for a second before deciding to push her. If she wanted to play this game with me then I was going to make her finish it. She couldn’t get away with this half-hearted compassionate bullshit.
She needed to know me.
All of me.
“Sometimes my violent thoughts scare me.”
When her fingers touched my bare skin, I couldn’t figure out who was shaking harder.
“Mine, too,” she whispered. “This world has changed me. I can’t even recognize myself anymore.”
She was in my arms before I decided to put her there. I couldn’t let her talk like that. I couldn’t let her give in to those ugly insecurities that seemed to haunt her so ferociously.
When her tears hit my chest, I thought she might have permanently damaged me. A spidery splinter fissured through me, from head to toes. I couldn’t let her feel this way.
No matter what had happened in our past or how we felt about each other today, I couldn’t stand the idea of her crying over what she had done to survive.
She was the strongest person I knew and she was justified in all of her actions.
Except for maybe that thing with Kane.
I would not stand up for her there.
But other than that, she protected those that she loved and she fought tooth and nail for a better life. Those were not crimes.
They were not sins.
So I gave her the one thing she needed. The one thing I needed the most too. “I recognize you,” I promised her. “I see you and know exactly who you are.”
She wrapped her arms tighter around me and said words that would sooth my soul for a very long time, “I see you too.”
I didn’t think she meant for me to hear her. She said it as quietly as she could, but I was attuned to everything about her.
Besides, those words meant so much to me that I had to pause for a minute to make sure they were real. To make sure I didn’t make them up in my head just because they were what I wanted to hear.
I pulled back to look at her, to gage her expression myself. All that stared back at me was conviction and beauty.
I needed to get away from her before I did something I would regret.
Instead, I found myself saying, “I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve expected you to die. It is slowly killing me.” When she trembled in my arms, I surged forward, uncaring of the consequences, “I will not survive without you.”
“Her hand reached up to lay over my heart. Her palm was hot against my cold skin. Her fingers stretched wide and made me feel things I had tried and failed to bury. “Don’t let me die,” she begged, the emotion transparent in her broken tone. “Don’t let me leave you.”
Did she honestly think I would? The fissure deepened into a cavern that stretched beyond me. “I can’t, Reagan,” I said honestly. “I tried to let you leave. I am not a strong enough man to let you go.”
Her eyebrows raised and I realized I had said too much.
She opened her mouth and started to say, “I need you to know that-”
But I didn’t want to hear the rest. I didn’t want to hear her excuses or listen to her grieve Kane.
Or even say his name. If she said his name right now I would need to destroy something valuable.
With my bare hands.
So I did the only thing I wanted to do. The only thing I had wanted to do for a very long time.
I kissed her.
Maybe that made me stupid. Or maybe it made me a glutton for punishment. Maybe it was just that she had made me fall in love with her so deeply that I would forever be bound to her.
No matter how hard I fought it.
The moment I tasted her sweet lips, I knew I’d made a colossal mistake. Except I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t want to do anything but keep kissing her… keep tasting her… keep worshiping at the altar of every co-dependent, f-ed up tendency of mine until we both died from lack of oxygen.
I couldn’t get enough of her.
And that was why this was a mistake. I had denied myself long enough that I had convinced myself I could live without this.
I could survive without her.
But now I realized the truth of us… the truth of me. I was a liar.
A terrible liar.
My lips moved over hers, my tongue tasting her tongue, my hands touching her skin, my heart beating in tandem with hers… and everything wrong and misdirected about me clicked back into place. I was suddenly the man I was supposed to be. I was suddenly the man I wanted to be.
Reagan awoke something inside of me that lay dormant without her, some great, purposed being that fought valiantly and lived righteously. Separate we were lost, broken people.
Together we were right.
She was not a perfect girl. I had a running list of reasons why I should stay away from her.
But with my mouth on hers, I felt all of those imperfect pieces and wanted her still. She was strong and she was afraid. She was smart and she was naïve. She was beautiful and yet she was broken. She was life and she was death.
I let my hands roam over her, touching her as much as possible. My teeth nipped at her lip, her jaw the column of her throat, but I couldn’t slow my aggressive pursuit of her. It was as if I wanted to convince her to come back to me in this one kiss.
My mind warred with my heart and I tried desperately to sort through the thick confusion blanketing my thoughts. My body wanted this more than it had ever wanted anything before. And my heart didn’t need to be persuaded.
She tasted better than anything I could remember. Her body felt right in my hands. She felt like perfection against me. Out of all of the ugliness I had seen lately, she was so achingly lovely that my body shook from the force of my want.
I trailed kisses over her mouth, across her jaw and to that delicious place at the base of her throat. I stayed there, breathing her in, memorizing the taste and touch of her skin. Her arms held me tightly… possessively… familiarly and I never wanted to leave this moment.
I wanted to stay here with her forever and forget about every single thing that had come between us.
It was suddenly too much. That thought sent me reeling over the edge, back into the sanity I should never have left.
I wanted to stay here, but I couldn’t.
There were too many things between us. There were mountains and miles and a thousand reasons to never have touched her again.
My frustration and anger welled inside of me, threatening to tear me apart. It pushed its way out of me, forcing a groan of pure, unfiltered agony.
I stepped back. I couldn’t stay this close to her and continue to think clearly. I had to get away from her.
I had to leave. Now.
“I’m sorry,” I bit out. But I wasn’t.
“For what?” Confusion flitted over her features and I wanted to eat my own words.
“I shouldn’t have done that.” This time it was the truth. I might not be sorry for it, but I still shouldn’t have done it.
She took a step towards me, frustration and determination radiating off her. I knew I had to end this. I wanted to believe I was immovable… indestructible, but she could ruin me.
She could destroy me.
As we descended into an argument where I shared more truth with her than I had been brave enough to confess yet, I felt my chest tighten and constrict with so much pain that I could have sworn I was having a heart attack.
It physically hurt me to say these things to her… to end it so completely with her.
Even after all of this time.
By the time I escaped into the house, I was barely holding it together. I wanted to rip the door off the hinges and anything else that stood between her and me.
I wanted to obliterate all of the barriers between us and make her mine again.
But at the same time I knew that none of that was possible. I had built those walls for a reason. I had put this distance between us for a reason.
And I would be more vigilant than ever to maintain that space between us.
I had let my lips taste the forbidden fruit and now I faced death like never before.
The slow, sinful death of a woman that would always be the beginning and the end of me.
I might fight it… her… this. But even if I lost she would still feel like winning.