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I reached for his hand again, this time, he held it, too scared to be upset that he hadn’t told me. “Did it dissolve?”

His voice was a whisper. “No.”

“Is it…leaking?”

“Not yet.”

“So…you have to have surgery?”

“I’m waiting to find out.”

“What’s there to find out?” I jumped to my feet. “If they can fix it, they need to fix it!”

“Let me see…” Zane sighed. “Ticking time bomb or Russian Roulette?”

“Stop smiling!” My voice caught in my throat. “This isn’t funny! This can’t be solved by marshmallows or being naked.”

His eyebrows shot up. “No?”

“No!” I yelled. “It’s…this is bad.” I paced the room. “Did we call all the best doctors? Do you have them flying in? Are you going somewhere for the surgery? Can you even fly?”


“Stop fixating on the stupid things!” I clenched my hands together. “Of course we’re a we. I’m keeping you, you promised.” Tears welled in my eyes threatening to spill over onto my cheeks. “You”—my chest felt heavy—“promised.”

Zane held open his arms. I crawled into them, ducking my head against his chest while he ran his hands along my bare skin.

“I want you to go,” he whispered, and I tensed. “You’ve kept me. I’ve kept you. Now it’s time for you to move on, Fallon. Not because I don’t want to live in a world where an us exists, but because I can’t stand the idea of that world being shattered by a freak accident like my death. I refuse to go into surgery if you stay because I know you. I know you, Fallon. You’ll make me promises, you’ll refuse to leave my bedside. If I’m not okay, if I wake up, and I’m not the same, you’ll be stuck with this worship of the man I was, and that’s not fair to you.” He subjected me to an intense stare. “Or to me. So I want you to kiss me, I want you to kiss me so hard you can’t breathe, and then I want you to walk out of this room and go to college. I want you to outsmart every guy you meet, I want you to experience life to the fullest. I want that future for you, especially now that mine is so uncertain. Can you do that for me?”

I sobbed against his chest. “No.”

He let out a curse. “Why the hell not?”

“Because…” Tears continued to stream, I couldn’t stop them, I couldn’t. “Because she left you, even though she had to go, she left you, and you needed her. And now you’re going to leave me, don’t you see? I need you. I need you!” I slammed my hand against my chest with little effect. “It’s unfair to tell me you’re going to keep me, only to toss me away when we need each other the most. It was unfair of your sisters to abandon you, unfair that you had to fend for yourself. And the minute you gave yourself to me, I swore I would never be that person. I swore you would never see my back. Ever.”

“You have a sexy back.”

“Be serious.” My lower lip quivered.

“I am.” He ran his hands down my spine. “It’s gorgeous.”

“Distraction won’t work. If you want me to leave, you’re going to have to physically remove me and note I’m not above using sex as a way to stay by your side.”

“Damn it, stop being so stubborn.” His face twisted with anger. “Just go! What if I don’t want you? What if I’m tired of you?”

I kissed him.

As hard as I could.

As hard as he asked me to.

Until I couldn’t breathe.

Until I couldn’t think.

When our mouths broke apart, he let out a rough curse. “That wasn’t playing fair.”

“Keep me,” I begged. “Please.”

“That’s my line.” His eyes locked on mine. “That’s been my line all my life.”

“And now it’s mine.” I kissed his hands. “Let me stay.”

“And if something happens?”

“You’ll know you were kept.”

“Yeah.” He sighed resting his forehead against mine. “And so will you.”

Chapter Thirty-Seven



It was my new mantra, the damned sentence kept going on repeat over and over in my head until finally I just tuned it out and watched as she made a little marshmallow tower on my hospital tray.

“It’s going to fall.”

“Shhh!” She placed a marshmallow on the top of the pyramid and pulled back just as it took a tumble sending the thing crashing down. “Ugh.”

“My turn.” I rubbed my hands together. “You forget,” I licked one side of the marshmallow. “It’s about the lick.”

Her face turned bright red.

“I’d love to know where that little mind of yours went right now.”

She turned redder.

“That good huh?” I whispered, wishing like hell we weren’t waiting for the stupid results from the surgeon to see if we were moving forward or just waiting for my little bomb to go off. I would have loved nothing more than to lock the door, pull the curtain, and devour those red lips.

“I can be quiet.”

“Hell…” I wiped down my face with my hand. “Are you seriously trying to kill me?”

She maneuvered her little body next to me, tossing a thigh over mine as her knee slowly raised up and rubbed against me. “Really. Quiet.”

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