I give Avery a long look before turning to Vale’s door. I square my shoulders, put on my most apologetic look, and enter.
Immediately, I realize what I had been feeling as dread truly wasn’t that. I know this because now I’m feeling it. A cold, heavy pit of foreboding sits low in my stomach as I see Vale in her bed under the covers. The blinds are closed, curtains drawn shut, so the room is dim despite the early morning hour. I have her back, her small body clearly outlined under the burgundy quilt pulled up to her chin.
She looks lost, pathetic, and utterly alone. A sharp stab of pain hits me square in my breastbone.
“Vale,” I say quietly, and her body gives a slight jerk, but she doesn’t respond in any way.
“Baby,” I say as I take a tentative step toward her. I’m envisioning that I did the worst thing ever to her last night, without a single recollection of it. And yet that doesn’t seem right because no matter how drunk I may have been, no matter how out of control, I know deep in my heart I could never, ever do anything to hurt Vale.
I sit down gingerly on the edge of her mattress and lay an unsteady hand on her shoulder. “Vale…are you okay?”
I want to grab her and pull her onto my lap. I want to wrap my arms around her in comfort, even though I don’t know why I’d be offering it. I want her to cling to me in need, and assure me that I haven’t done something to fuck all of this up.
Still, she doesn’t answer me, so I push at her, despite what I’m now feeling as a very thick and icy wall of tension between us.
“Vale,” I say, my voice a bit stronger. “You’ve got to talk to me, honey. Are you too sick to take me to the airport today? Because if so, Oliver can do it. I’d want you to stay in bed and get better, but I’m leaving, babe. We have to talk. Need to know why you’re pissed off at—”
“Hawke,” she says quietly, cutting me off.
I freeze, peer at her through the gloom, and she turns that beautiful face my way. Vale is wildly stunning in a completely unconventional way. She’s always been a bit of a rule breaker when it comes to fashion and norms. In fact, I remember the first time seeing her at school after I’d moved here, I was stunned that one side of her head was shaved, while the other side held a long, thick fall of raven-black hair. Those crystal-green eyes sparkled, but they did have competition from her facial piercings—one ring through an eyebrow, a Medusa stud piercing just above her upper lip, and one ring through her right nostril. She also has one through her tongue, a solid barbell that has slid across my own tongue and even my dick on hundreds of occasions.
Her black hair is now worn in long, choppy layers, but she still sports all of her facial metal, including two high nostril piercings, and her body holds a variety of tattoos she’s had done over the past two years. While Dave is an easygoing and laid-back type of dad who had no problem with her piercings, he wouldn’t let her get a tattoo until she turned eighteen. That was too permanent in his mind to agree to for a minor.
So on her eighteenth birthday, I picked her up at Dave’s house and took her straight to a tattoo parlor. He just shook his head with a knowing smile, because he had no doubt that’s where his spitfire daughter would be on that day.
With me. At a tattoo parlor.
He sure as shit wouldn’t have wanted to know that we ended the night with her in my bed, losing her virginity.
“Hawke,” she says again…quietly, and I’m displaced from my memories. Her hair is lank, her skin pale. Dark circles under her eyes tell me she didn’t get any sleep last night.
I reach a hand out to touch her face but she shrinks away from me, and the pit in my stomach grows tenfold.
“I don’t want to see you anymore,” she whispers as tears fill her eyes. “You’re leaving, I’m staying, so we just need to end things now.”
“Did I do something last night?” I blurt out in a panic, my hands coming to her shoulders. I need to hold on to her…desperately. “Please tell me, I don’t remember shit.”
She shakes her head and pushes up in the bed. Her hands come out from under the quilt to pull it up to her chest as she rests against the headboard.
“What the fuck, Vale? Why did you stay here last night?”
She looks at me with dead eyes and says, “It doesn’t matter.”
“It does fucking matter. The only thing I remember is you wanting to leave the party and me not wanting to. I woke up on Oliver’s living room floor. Now what the fuck happened in between?”
If it’s possible, Vale’s eyes look even more fatigued and she takes in a shuddering breath. Just as I think she’s getting ready to enlighten me, her door opens and Oliver sticks his head in. “Dude, you have got to hit the road. As it is, you’re going to be lucky to make your flight.”
His eyes cut from me over to Vale, who turns her head away to stare at the wall.
I scrub my hands through my hair, which I’ve always worn long, between chin and shoulder, depending on my mood. “Fuck…give me just a minute, man.”
Oliver nods and eases out, shutting the door quietly.
I turn to look back at Vale and she won’t give me the courtesy of a return glance. So I take her jaw, squeezing slightly, and force her to turn and look at me. When she does, I feel my heart shrivel up and die.
There’s nothing there.
“Are we over?” I ask her quietly.