Page 66

“Why?” she pressed me, her voice sounding determined to uncover the truth as to why she was so far off the mark.

I sighed, turned the radio completely off, and said, “Honestly…I think I don’t trust you not to hurt me again. I think the betrayal of what you did…the way you cut me loose before…I apparently just can’t let it go.”

I felt it before I saw it. Almost as if the temperature in the car dropped a few degrees, then I imperceptibly saw her body tighten through my peripheral vision. I turned my head to look at her and was shocked by the flash of anger I saw in her eyes. I expected to see contrition, but she was pissed.

“You can’t let it go?” she asked incredulously.

“Apparently not,” I said, with my own anger building. I felt I still deserved to be offended. I thought I still had the right to be wary.

“You are a fucking hypocrite,” she spat at me.

My head jerked to look at her again, but she turned away from me to stare out the window. She never said another word. The minute I pulled into the players’ parking lot to bring her back to her car, she jetted out faster than lightning. I should have gone after her, but I didn’t have the energy. I figured I’d give her time to cool off, and we’d hopefully be able to talk about it more the next day. We had a road trip and I planned on sitting next to her on the plane and we’d figure it all out. I had hoped, given time, she’d be cool with us continuing. Taking things slowly. Giving my feelings time to develop and catch up to hers.

Yup. I’m a moron.

A moron for even thinking that I could exist in a relationship based on inequitable feelings. Totally a dumbass for thinking that Vale was hurt less than I gave her credit for.

She didn’t show up at the airport the next day for our road trip and panic surged within me. I grabbed Goose, pulled him aside before we boarded, and demanded to know where Vale was. It was her turn to go on the road. He just shrugged and said, “She wasn’t feeling well. Called me last night and asked me to take this trip.”

Okay, she’s hurt and now pissed. I get it. I expected her to keep silent and ignore me for four days, so I was beyond shocked when I called her that night from the hotel in Los Angeles and she picked up on the second ring.

“Hey,” she said softly.

My mind blanked at first, so sure that she’d ignore me. But I rallied and asked the thing that really had me worried, because no matter my torn and twisted feelings, I never want to hurt Vale. I know what it feels like and I don’t want her to feel that way. So I asked, “Are you okay?”

I heard her blow out a breath, and with a tired voice she said, “Yeah. I’m good. Just needed a little away time to get my head together.”

“I’m sorry,” I told her sincerely. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“I know,” she said, and I could even hear an accepting smile in her voice. “But I get it. I can’t judge your feelings, just as I know you can’t judge mine.”

“I don’t want this to end, Vale. Can we talk about this?”

“Sure,” she said, and I felt a wealth of relief in that one simple word. “When you get back.”

I hung up and felt more grounded. She said we could talk and that was good, right? Except she never said it back to me that she didn’t want it to end either. That could have been an oversight, but it could also have been a roundabout way of her saying it’s not going to work. This, of course, left me dazed and confused for the next four days. I didn’t try to call her again and she never called me. I’m ashamed to say this hurt, but I’m not sure why. I’m sure she was equally as hurt.

So I played like shit in our back-to-back games against the LA Demons and the Dragons. I made stupid penalties and got in a pissing match with Zack that was totally my fault and not his. I was grumpy and irritable, and the only one that seemed to call me on my shit was Max when he told me last night at dinner to get my head out of my ass. He said my attitude was “hurting the team” and I knew that to be true.

But in about fifteen minutes, the plane is going to be landing in Raleigh and I’m going to head to her apartment. I had texted her before we boarded, asked if I could come over to talk, and she responded with just one word. “Okay.”

When I pull into her apartment complex, I almost expect to see her packing her car up, as if my dream on the plane was prophecy. Instead, I see her waiting at the top of the staircase, sitting pensively, staring down at me. I get out of my car, pocket the keys, and walk up the flight.

“Hey,” I say, and I’m relieved when she gives me a smile of welcome.

“Hey.” Her voice is hesitant…nervous.

“Dave inside?” I ask, nodding toward her apartment door.

“He fell asleep in his recliner so I thought we could talk out here.”

I nod and take a seat next to her, bumping the side of my leg against hers. I feel out of sorts, and push for that little touch, hoping it grounds me. I don’t know what to say to make this better, but I need to make it better. I’m not ready for this to be over.

Vale surprises me by leaning toward me and resting her head on my shoulder. Her hand slips in between us and finds mine where she grasps it. Clearing her throat, she says, “I’m sorry.”

“Me too,” I say quickly, because I am. So fucking sorry that I hurt her and couldn’t give her what she needs. But maybe…one day.

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