Page 49

“What?” he says, stepping back in surprise. I drop my hand, grab his, and pull it up. I curl both my hands around his and pull it into my own chest, holding it over my heart.

“Something else happened in the hospital,” I begin slowly, hoping I can paint a clear picture of the tailspin I was thrown into. “When the doctor came in to talk to me, she wasn’t very sympathetic to my plight. She smelled the beer on my breath, looked at my tattoos and piercings, wrinkled her nose in disdain. You know how that goes sometimes.”

Hawke doesn’t nod in agreement with me, but I know he does agree. We often talked about people and first impressions. Hell, I know I made an impression on him the first time he saw me. He loved my wildness and piercings; it’s what attracted him, but we also knew it repelled others.

“The doctor told me something that hit me deeply. In hindsight, I think it was wrong of her to do it, but I didn’t know. Not at twenty.”

Hawke’s Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows hard, but his voice is gruff with uneasiness. “What did she do?”

I squeeze his hand still locked between both of mine and level my gaze at him. I tell him as simply as I can, and try to keep the emotion out of my voice. “She told me it was probably my fault I had miscarried. Went on to list the hazards of drinking and drugs and what they can do to a fetus that early on in a pregnancy. Didn’t matter to her that I hadn’t done drugs, and she never really even asked me my history with alcohol. She just assumed I was a party girl and was pretty clear that, although you could never know for certain, that’s probably what caused the miscarriage.”

“That fucking cunt,” Hawke growls, jerking his hand out of my hold. His arms immediately circle around my shoulders and he slams me into him. He hugs me tight, protectively, and growls again. “I should track her down and—”

“She was right,” I say calmly, cutting through his anger with the one thing I believe to be true about that night.

Hawke pulls his upper body back, loosening his hold on me slightly. He looks down at me, shaking his head in denial, eyes filled with disavowal. “No.”

“Yes,” I say firmly, and pull back. His arms drop and he stares at me helplessly.

“It didn’t register with me that my period was late. I never thought twice about the way we partied. I assumed nothing bad would ever come of it, and I most certainly didn’t think I could get pregnant while I was on the pill. I never gave two thoughts about the consequences of my actions because I was swallowed up by you. You commanded all my attention. You consumed me. Everything was about you, and as long as I had you, I didn’t care about anything else. And don’t pretend it wasn’t the same on your end. As long as you had me, nothing else mattered. We were young and stupid and in no way ready to really grasp the concept of love and commitment. I lay in a hospital emergency room bleeding our child out because I never once thought our actions could ever cause us pain. I was stupid, immature, and I knew—”

My voice cracks, my shoulders slump. Hawke is starting to see that this goes much deeper than just being pissed at him for not leaving the party with me.

“I just knew,” I continue, embarrassed at the way my voice quavers with such heavy emotion. After seven years, the blame and guilt I carried still weighs so heavy on me. “I knew that what happened that night was my fault because I couldn’t see past you. Nothing else mattered to me. At age twenty, we had no worries. You were a hockey god and my lover. I was your goddess and I walked on water as far as you were concerned. I understand now how the young heart and mind fail to see reality and prefer to live inside a false sense of security all in the name of true love. If I had been clued in just a little…had I bothered to look away from your bright, shining star for just a moment, maybe I would have paid more attention to the fact my period was late. Maybe I would have taken a pregnancy test, and maybe I would have quit drinking. I wouldn’t have gone to parties where there was cigarette and pot smoke hanging all around. Maybe I would have showed the maturity and wisdom that was necessary to prevent the death of our child—”

“Fuck,” Hawke groans, that one word laced with such pain, his face is pale and his lips colorless. He grabs me again, pulls me in tight to him. “Not your fault, Vale. Not your fault.”

He squeezes me tight, and my arms come around his waist, finally accepting the comfort and security he could have given me all those years ago. I don’t believe him at all when he tells me it’s not my fault, but that part of me that always loved him revels in his loyalty to me.

“Not your fault,” he continues to murmur, rocking me back and forth in his arms. “Not your fault.”

Not your fault, not your fault, not your fault.

“I’m so fucking sorry,” Hawke murmurs with his lips against my hair, then pulls back to look down at me. His voice crackles with emotion. Tears fill his eyes, then slip and fall down his cheeks. “I should have gone with you. You were more important to me than my buddies, but I took it all for granted. I should have been with you, and I would have been right there when that whack-job doctor dared to make you feel responsible. I should have held your hand, and hugged you and kissed away your tears. I should have assured you that we’d have other chances for babies and that there were a million reasons you could have miscarried.”

I want to open my mouth and denounce everything he’s saying. I can’t stand the pain and grief he’s enduring right now. I can’t stand that I took away his opportunity to be there for me and to share in this as my lover and partner. More guilt presses down on me, and it’s never been more clear to me than in this moment that I greatly wronged Hawke all those years ago.

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