His hand touches my cheek and an instant betrayal crashes into my heart. “You look beautiful, Josie,” he says, voice low and thick. I close my eyes and turn away from his touch. Hot tears sting behind my eyes. I know better. How could I let him touch me? Sure it was only for two seconds, but that’s still way too long. When I look at him again, he gives me a reassuring smile. “You look happy,” he says, shoving his hand in his pocket. He nods his head as if agreeing with something he’s said in his head. “At peace. Something I couldn’t give you. I really am glad you’ve found that. You deserve that.”
“Thank you,” I say softly. He knows too. He knows Seth is right for me. He steps closer and shatters whatever respect I had for him for accepting my relationship with Seth.
“But if that ever changes. If you’re ever unhappy or feeling even a sliver of doubt or if he hurts you or keeps something from you, open that box. Follow it and you’ll know that despite everything we went through I truly loved you. I love you.”
Feeling the sting of his words like a slap on the face, I take a step back, appalled. “How dare you, Blake.” I give him a scathing look, heat pumping in my chest and throat. “Don’t say things like that. You will never get me to change my mind. Even if Seth and I go through a rough time, I will never choose you. I will never be with you. No matter what’s in the fucking box. I’ll never change my mind.”
Undeterred, but giving me the distance I need, he says, “Well then, I suppose you could still open it and follow it. Though I wouldn’t share it with Seth. It might bruise his ego—not being able to give you everything you ever wanted.”
I scrunch my face in disgust. “God, I can’t remember one reason why I ever even liked you, let alone thought I loved you.”
He runs his hand over his scruffy face, closing his eyes. “Dammit, Jo. I didn’t mean for this to turn into this. I guess I’m just a little jealous to see his ring your finger instead of mine.” He shakes his head and gives me a contrite look. “I’m sorry. Forget it.”
He walks away and I start toward the door to go back to Seth. My Seth. The one who makes my heart race with every touch. The one who has loved me for so long but always seems to have more to give. And I’m so fucking glad because out of all the stupid stupid fucking mistakes I’ve made in my life, Seth has never and will never be one of them.
Before I start to our car, Blake turns back around and shatters me once more.
“Oh! Josie. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but be careful out there. My dad’s become relentless with his questions about you. Stay alert and safe.”
He opens his mouth to speak again, but shakes his head and gives me a sad smile, turning to go to his car. And he leaves me there, mouth slack, one hand moving to my stomach and the other to my racing heart.
And it clicks. The last two weeks finally make sense. The way Dad and Seth would stop talking as soon as I entered a room. The way Seth held me tight when we would walk outside in the dark. The moments I’d catch Seth looking in the distance, jaw set, grinding his teeth before he noticed me watching him, flashing a charming smile to negate any fears I may have had. The reluctance to let me go anywhere alone without him or Dad or Brooke or Bandon.
And I break. The. Fuck. Apart.
I collapse to my knees and vomit in the middle of the parking lot.
* * *
Stay tuned for a May release of That's a Relief. Comment away!