“All Good Things Part 2”
Elise was never sad. “Did someone die?” His mind filed through her friends on campus. “Was there an accident?”
She shook her head no, turning away from him to look out the window. His heart broke on that one tiny motion. Everything about her seemed forlorn. His adrenaline rush began to crash as he realized she hadn’t been physically hurt, but something had crushed her spirit. He sat down beside her.
“E. Talk to me.”
She took a shuddering breath and finally brought her gaze to his. He saw it then. The despair in her eyes. And he knew exactly what she needed to tell him.
“No.” She dabbed at more tears. “I’m not pregnant.”
“Then what is it?” he pleaded, wrapping her up in his arms because there was no way in hell he could go take a shower or do anything else until he made whatever was bothering her right.
As she laid her head against his chest she whispered, “I screwed up.”
“What did you screw up? A final exam?”
She sat up and looked at him then, biting her lip while tears dripped from her eyes. Her face was red and her lips began to quiver. He started to pull her back against him because it was obvious she needed comfort, but she wouldn’t allow it. “Wait. I need to tell you.”
“Tell me what?”
“That I slept with Jamie last night.”
Jesse sat up straight. “I’m sorry. What?” He hadn’t been able to decipher her words through all the crying and the lip quivers.
“You heard me,” she began to sob. “Please don’t make me say it again.”
“What I heard was you slept with Jamie Love last night, and I know for damn sure that cannot be what you actually said.”
But she nodded.
What was happening?
For all his advanced education, none of his synapses were firing. There was literally nothing happening between his ears. Nothing but blank, dead space. His eyes were working overtime to pick up the slack, searching her face for clarity. Looking for something that would help him compute.
She slept with Jamie Love? Last night? Like, while he was hunkered down on the edge of a cliff, thinking about how cool it would be if she was snuggled inside his sleeping bag with him, she was …
He was going to be physically ill.
He started to get up and that’s when she reached for him. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I did something so stupid. I love you. You know how much. I just … it just happened and I just couldn’t not tell you. You mean everything to me and …” She dissolved into gut-wrenching sobs.
And yet he had to untangle himself from her because he was going to throw up.
“I’ll be right back,” he whispered, pushing her hands from his arms and stumbling away from the scene as his equilibrium responded in kind to the fact that his world had just flipped upside down.
He hadn’t eaten much over the past twenty-four hours so there wasn’t much to come up. But the convulsive heaving started his head pounding like a sonofabitch. He splashed some water on his face, swished more inside his mouth, spit, then pulled a towel off the rack to dry his face and hands. He sat heavily on the toilet lid before burying his face in the towel. He honestly didn’t know what to think. Jamie Love was what all those tears were about? Honest to God, he should be the one crying.
Eventually he forced himself to stand and take a hard look in the goddamn mirror. There were a whole lot of deep breaths before he was able to gather enough courage to walk back into that room.
Standing tall with hands on his hips, he stared at Elise. “Did that asshole take advantage of you? Were you drunk?” His arms shot into the air. “What the hell, Elise?”
“I know. I know,” she said, wringing her hands. “I let myself get carried away. I regret it more than I can say.” The waterworks spewed forth again.
“Stop it! Stop with the tears and tell me what the fuck happened,” he ordered.
She tried to stop crying, clutching the bottom of her neck like all the unshed tears would choke her.
He’d like to choke her. “What?” he barked. “Start talking, Elise. I mean it.”
“Jesse. Please,” she begged. “I was stupid and careless, and I let four years of Jamie’s teasing, flirty come-ons get the best of me.”
“You were supposed to be with your girls last night,” he ground out. “Or was that just a cover up for this … this clandestine affair?”
“It’s not an affair. It definitely wasn’t premeditated. It was the last big Zeta party before graduation and he begged me to show up. And then I started to get all nostalgic—caught up in our last college this, and the last time we’d do that. And then he and I had our last dance together at two a.m. and the lights came on and we looked at each other and, I don’t know, we didn’t want our time together to end. So we went to his room and, yeah, that was stupid of me, but I didn’t think he was going to pull any moves, but he did, and I … I just didn’t stop him. Or leave.”
“So he didn’t force you?”
“No,” she answered, looking at the ground. “He didn’t force me.”
“And you weren’t any drunker than you usually get?”
She shook her head, wrapping her arms around herself as if she was trying to hold it together.
It was the stupidest question he’d ever asked anyone.
Because she told him.
In vivid detail.
Until he flinched for the third time and she stopped.
She sighed, swiping a tear off her cheek. “I’m telling you all this so you don’t go making up anything in your head,” she defended.
“As if my imagination could drum up anything worse! You went down on him? Are you kidding me?”
“I, I’m not trying to defend myself.”
“Because you can’t. You can’t defend this.”
“I know. I can’t defend it. It was wrong and I’m sorry, and it will never happen again. It meant absolutely nothing.”
“Well, that’s where you’re wrong, Elise. Dead wrong. Because what the two of you did last night means a helluva lot to me.”
“Please don’t let this ruin what we have,” she said meekly as her whole body started to shake. “I know I screwed up and I am willing to do whatever it takes to make things right.” Her tears were pouring forth, but she held her ground.
“Elise,” he sighed, defeated. “I need some space.”
“No.” Panic rose in her voice. “You don’t need space. We need to be together.”
“Time. I need some time to process this. I need some time by myself to wrap my head around this.” He didn’t add that he needed her out of his face before he threw up again, allowing her to further emasculate him.
She must have understood something in his expression because she threw herself against him, wrapping her arms around him. “Please forgive me,” she sobbed. “I love you. I can’t lose you.” She gasped for air. “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
What could he do? His strong, happy girl was broken. As much as he wanted to shove her away he couldn’t. He loved her. He had to offer comfort as best he could. Even though he was just as broken.
He moved them to the couch and cradled her on his lap for a very long time. Until her tearful sobs were spent and his energy for life was all bled out.
He spent three days alone in bed before he came to a decision. Before he sought out Elise … and broke both their hearts for good.
Jesse’s next chapter begins in
Outlaw, Heroes of Henderson Book 10