I shake my eyes. It’s all the confirmation I need.
Is this my fault? Do I have some gene that leads me to seek out unavailable bastards?
‘But that’s why she’s here?’
I lift a hand to his chest and then instantly regret it when I feel his heart beating beneath my palm as though it’s talking to me. It’s racing.
‘Don’t lie to me.’
His eyes lock to mine. ‘Yes.’
I suck in a breath. It gets nowhere near my lungs.
‘Do you know how often I’ve thought of Sienna since meeting you?’
I glare at him.
‘Barely at all. Even when I’ve spoken to her I’ve been thinking of you.’
‘You’ve spoken to her?’ I flush hot and cold all over. It’s history repeating itself and I cannot bear it.
He has the decency to look somewhat apologetic. ‘She’s called me a couple of times.’
‘Of course she has!’ I say, with an angry shake of my head. ‘I told you from the beginning—I’m not going to get in the middle of this. I’m not! I won’t.’
‘I told her it’s over. It is over between her and me.’
He presses a kiss against my hair and I shake my head in instant visceral rejection of the intimacy.
‘You have to believe me.’
I want to. I want to so badly.
‘I’m your Sienna Band-Aid, remember?’
For a second he looks vague, as if he doesn’t even remember that he said that. Then, ‘Jesus. That was a stupid throwaway comment.’
‘Like when you told me you loved me?’ I retort, my heart boxing itself away with every moment that passes.
A disembodied voice comes into the lift. ‘This carriage will be restarted in fifteen seconds. Safety checks confirm operation.’
He moves his hands to my cheeks, holding me still as he does so often, trying to forge a line of trust and reliance between us.
‘This changes nothing.’
My heart is wrapping itself up, determined not to crack any further.
‘Don’t you get what a big deal this was for me?’ I stare at him, honesty in my face. ‘I am terrified of what I feel for you and yet I came here anyway. I decided to trust you, and that was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.’
‘I’m not Jeremy,’ he says softly. ‘Most guys aren’t. In six years I never once thought about cheating on Sienna—and, believe me, I had plenty of opportunities. That’s not who I am.’
I squeeze my eyes shut at the sense of his words, and at the temptation to believe him. Because deep down I do, and pushing him away makes not a skerrick of sense.
‘The problem is, Jeremy didn’t just cheat on his wife and on me. He made me question everything. He made me question what I think and feel so that I can’t say if I’m misreading you or myself right now.’
‘I know. I get it. I begged you to trust me and you did—and then you found my ex in my hotel room. Any woman would find that hard, let alone after what you’ve been through.’
His understanding should mollify me, but it doesn’t. ‘I don’t remember how to trust. I thought I could... I came here... I don’t know what I was expecting when I came here. It was wrong.’
‘But you did want us to give this a shot?’
I shake my head and then nod, and then the elevator moves and I suck in another breath, trying to equalise.
‘Then let’s try. Please.’
‘No.’ A short, emphatic word. ‘No.’ Louder. I lift my hands and push at his chest. ‘You can burn me once, Ethan. But not again. Not again.’
The lift doors open. There’s a team of technicians there. I step out and, sensing that he might follow me, spin around.
I lift a hand, staring at him, and I walk away backwards for a few steps, pinning him with my eyes, making sure he doesn’t step off the lift.
He doesn’t. But he watches me the whole way across the foyer.
I feel his eyes on me and I know it’s for the last time.
DAY FOLLOWS NIGHT, follows day, follows night, and I bear witness to it all. I’m aware of the rotation of the earth around the sun but I am weary.