His lips touch my ear. “I don’t want to let you go again for the rest of my life.”
“I loved you,” I murmur dejectedly.
“I loved you too, Cami. I still do.”
“No. I loved you. I nearly killed myself to spare you. I fought to build a life for Evelyn and me I knew you’d respect, even though you hated me, and I knew you’d never see it. I still lived my life with you in the back of my mind, like a shadow no amount of light would erase. I missed you, even though I knew you weren’t coming back.”
“I am back. I’m back now.” He isn’t getting me.
“You aren’t back.” This time when I fight to get up, he lets me go. Scrambling off the bed, my feet hit the floor, and I cross to the other side of the room.
He tilts his head and waits.
I swallow thickly. “My Law loved me with my flaws. When I made mistakes, he embraced them. Now I know, better than anybody, that I fucked up beyond repair, but I am not, and never will be, a victim.”
It’s his turn to drop his mouth open. “Cami…”
“You don’t get to tell me that I am,” I hiss, feeling wildly caged.
“He raped you,” he spits in fury through clenched teeth.
“I let him have sex with me.”
“By definition of the law–?
“BY DEFINITION!” A short bark of laughter escapes. “I was sixteen. Yeah, a judge would have thrown him in jail or given him a slap on the wrist, but I can tell you since I was there that I did absolutely nothing to push him away.” I lean forward, losing the grip on my sanity and control. “Is that what you want to hear? Do you want to hear how he kissed me and that I thought it felt good? Do you want to hear me tell you I remember what it felt like having him shove his hand inside of my jeans, and I didn’t say no? That I didn’t scream or fight him off?”
“Definition or not, he drugged you. He was the adult, and he knew what he was doing was wrong. He did it anyway. Do you think that maybe you didn’t fight or scream because you couldn’t? That subconsciously you knew there wasn’t anybody around to hear you?” He springs to his feet, but thankfully doesn’t come any closer. “Do you really remember enough to tell me you didn’t say no or pass out and close your eyes? That, in and of itself, would negate any consent you may think you gave.”
My eyes slide to the side in thought, but I’m not quick enough in disguising it. He sees and knows he hit his mark.
“I’ve lived with my mistake for fourteen years, and I didn’t say no. I’ve fought so hard to make something of my life, of Evelyn’s life, after he left me to dig myself out of that hole. I can’t agree with you. I won’t.”
“You’ve been torturing yourself all this time. I know that’s hard, baby, but you need to look at it from another perspective. If that were your daughter instead of you, would you say those same things to her?”
“Fuck you, Law. Of course, I wouldn’t.”
“Exactly.” He stares me down with determination in his eye. He takes a step toward me, and I reciprocate with a step to the side. “Because deep down, you know. Your guilt for hurting me has clouded your judgment, but you know. If it were anybody else you cared about you’d be standing over here with me, instead of over there defending your side.”
I close my eyes and drop my head back against the wall. The thud sounds more painful than it feels. Soft footfalls approach me, and my lids shoot open as I shuffle to the side. “You’re wrong.”
Faster than I can react, he lunges and pins me against the wall. His forehead hits my temple, and his lips brush the shell of my ear. “No, you are. You are, Cami, my god, the most stubborn ass woman I’ve ever met, and I’m going to spend the rest of my life proving to you that you are wrong.”
His hands cup the sides of my head. I stay still.
“Do you know what my first thought was when I read that letter? That my entire life, everything I’d known, from the second you took off until the moment I found that envelope in a safe deposit box, had been a lie. You’re the only true thing in it. You’ve always been the one true thing. That’s how I know. What happened that day was on him. You didn’t do a damn thing wrong.”
He lifts and presses a hard kiss to my forehead. The way he forces his lips away seems painful, and I can’t understand why. Then I watch, still frozen against the wall, as he heads for the door.
“Why does it take a letter from your father to suddenly forgive me?” I call to his retreating back, fading fast into the sadness that threatens to envelop me. Why do we continue to play this game if it’s never going to work out?
His torso faces the door, but he turns his neck to look at me. “It doesn’t.” The determination I see on his face slows my racing heart. “The only reason I left town was because I needed some time to forgive myself. I forgave you the second I dragged you from the room when your daughter’s heart stopped before your eyes. The love I’d witnessed from you was more powerful than anything I’d known in my entire life.”
“But you were so mean,” I whisper without the filter I should apply with Law.
“Yeah. I was pissed and confused, and I took that out on you. That doesn’t mean I didn’t forgive you.”
As Law is known to do, he walks away, leaving me speechless in my bedroom.