I inch across the room. Our arms brush together, brief like the kiss of a butterfly’s wings. The contact stiffens my spine, and images of him drawing me into his broad chest flash in my head.
“You okay?” Law asks me steadily, confirming he maintains his control.
“Mmhm!” My voice sounds high pitched. It requires all my strength not to fidget and drum my fingertips along the counter while I wait for the water to heat. As soon as the coffee drips into the carafe, I select two mugs from the cupboard directly above the machine and move them one after the other beneath the stream.
“In a hurry?”
“I thought I’d get some caffeine to you before you fall asleep in my kitchen.” I extend a mug his way, careful to avoid contact with his skin.
Eyebrows raise at me over the rim as he sips. Nerves steal over me. The panic restricts blood to my hands. I change my grip from the handle to the heated porcelain body of the cup.
We sip in silence. Seconds pass like minutes. “How’s the hand?”
“Oh.” I bring my hand to my face, inspecting the fresh gauze I’d forgotten about until his question. “It’s fine.” I shrug.
“Good to hear.”
Silence descends again while I struggle for something to say. “Thanks. For, um…” I flap my bandaged hand in the air. “You know.”
Why does he have to be so fricken hot? Even in the cheesy uniform, he looks confident and calm. Relaxed against my countertop, one booted foot rests over the other, and he grasps his mug by the handle in front of his stomach. He examines me. Not like I confuse him and he can’t make sense of me. No, he studies me like a puzzle. When he draws another drink and swipes his lips with his tongue, my attention snags on his mouth.
“Cami,” he calls softly. His tone isn’t warm, but it isn’t ice either. The tenor feels like a crisp breeze on a fall day when winter is nearby. The hair on my arms stands on end.
“Yeah?” My answer isn’t soft. The one word is high. Maybe a little pleading.
“What happened to you?”
He comes right out with it, not beating around the bush, not playing nice. Law doesn’t pretend not to have some idea of why I disappeared now that he knows about Evelyn. But, for the prior decade and a half, he lived without a clue.
How do I tell him the truth without giving him everything?
“You know what happened. You’ve seen my daughter, Law. I—you can put it together.”
His grip tightens subtly on the mug. “What I can put together is that you got pregnant and took off. What I’m missing here is why? I don’t want the watered-down PG version. I want it all. I’ve always wanted it all with you, Cami. Don’t hide it from me now.”
As he utters the word pregnant, his mouth twists in disgust. Can I blame him for finding me revolting? Not when I feel the same about myself.
Rather than look at him, I busy myself with tracing my index finger around the rim of my mug. Steam condenses on my fingers. “I did something stupid, and that’s all that matters.”
“I won’t ask you again. I have a right to know why you left me.”
I flip out a hand. “I don’t think you do. We were kids. Now we’re not. A long time has passed since then.”
“Dammit, Cami. Tell me! Tell me why you crushed me all those years ago. Tell me why I’ve spent the last fourteen years haunted by the ghost of the love of my life,” he spits bitterly.
Flames lick my insides, chasing away the perpetual chill. “You didn’t want to be with me. You wanted to see other people.”
“I didn’t mean permanently, and you damn well knew that.”
He cuts me off. “Lawrence.”
“Lawrence,” I amend, hating the chasm using his full name puts between us. “I was a sixteen-year-old girl. Back then, it was the most unimaginable thing to happen. I’d already lost my dad, my mom was practically a piece of furniture, and Ritchie–”. Saying his name in context to a time when he was alive chokes me. I blink back the heavy wave of tears threatening to fall.
“You were all I had left,” I whisper.
“Christ,” he bites out and examines his boots.