Breathe Me Page 2

“But you did,” I huffed. I was getting angry again, but I couldn’t help it. He’d just had to go there and ruin the moment. Just like Sasha. Nothing ever changes, I thought.

“Wait.” I could hear him exhale, almost grunting in frustration. Wow. I was flustering Sasha Koval, not the other way around? It had me intrigued, to say the least. “You didn’t let me finish.”

“Okay.” I held out my hand. “So finish and stop wasting my time.”

His jaw flinched, but it still doesn’t stop him. “I never thought I’d see you again. But since fate has smashed us together again, which I prayed for actually, I knew I had to take this chance to speak to you.”

I waited, unsure of what he was getting at. The music from the carousel filled the air around us as the Ferris wheel continued its endless spinning. I was ready to get off, and as we crested the top once again, the atmosphere seemed to be void of air. He always could steal my breath away, and tonight, he was still doing what he did best.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I never thought my actions through. You were this perfect woman, and I made mistake after mistake with you. I should’ve held you closer, held you so tight you’d never slip away or want to let go. You have to know that if I could do it again… I would. Not a day goes by that I don’t see your face in my mind and wish I could tell you this. So many times I’ve pretended to say these words to you, hoping that when the day came, I’d be ready.”

We passed the loading platform, and the Ferris wheel slowed. It was finally over, and they were letting the riders off one chair at time. We’d have to go all the way around again to get back to the platform and exit the chair. From the way the minutes ticked by, it was going to be a long ride around. I pondered just how tragic of a landing I’d have if I jumped off.



“What the hell do you want from me?”

He looked stunned and a little bit more awake from his previously glazed-over look. This made me feel a wee bit sorry for him, but it served him right. Wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve can be a violent, rough ride.


“You said you’re sorry. Okay. Fine. I can respect that. Once we get off this ride, we go on with our lives, and your torment ends. I’m so happy for you.”

Sasha blinked back at me. Confusion swam across his handsome face. His hair was a bit messy from sweating in the heat all day, and my fingers itched to run through his locks. If only he hadn’t screwed it all up, where would we have been?

The summers in Las Vegas were nothing to joke about. The dusk was a welcome relief from the endless broiler of the sun’s heat. It made some of his spiky blonde hair lay flat in spots, in disarray. Somehow it made him look almost harmless, like a wet dog in need of shelter or a swift hosing off.

I shook off the caretaker in me. Why did I always do this to myself? Every time someone looked helpless or in need, I was there, picking up the pieces, making it all right. No, not this time. Hell no!

With a swift movement, his hand was on my wrist, gripping it firmly but not hard. His eyes looked focused, sobered up from whatever fantasy he’d been living in his mind. I was now feeling more aware of his seriousness, like life or death depended on what he was going to say next.

“Piper, I want another chance. I’ll make it right, I swear. You’ll never be sorry if you give me another chance to love you the way you deserve. I won’t be the fool this time. I’ll be there, no matter what the cost. I swear it.”

I stopped tugging my arm back, his words shocking me like an ice bath. “What?”

The sounds of people laughing and the clinks of rings against glass bottles hammered in my head. A headache was growing, and I desperately wanted to hop off this hunk of metal junk ride. In fact, my chest felt like a fire was consuming every bit of oxygen surrounding me. There was no air, and I was afraid I was going to suffocate.


Glancing up, I felt his fingers encase my hand softly and begin stroking my skin. It sent tiny little prickles of pleasure up my arm, melting into my chest as I slowly inhaled. The Ferris wheel jerked again, finally bringing us to the platform. The operator yanked up the metal bar, the steel creaking from a lack of lubricant. Sasha jumped out, turned back and offered his hand to help me out. I took it, not because I couldn’t get out by myself, but because I was still processing every single word he’d spoken. My mind was a jumbled mess, and I needed to think.

Sasha Koval had bested me once more, and he didn’t even know it.

Chapter Two


Back Then

ONCE UPON A time, I’d fallen in love with the wrong person. He had caught my eye in French class, of all places, during my freshman year of college. I’d already taken four years of French in high school, but figured it’d be an easy A, so I might as well kick back and enjoy myself. Still, I didn’t want to fail my first semester, so this was an obvious choice to cover my international culture requirement.

Sasha Koval had slipped quietly into the empty chair next to me as I shuffled my binder and pens around. The room was filled with long, white laminate tables, separated into two distinct sections with a worn, carpeted path down the middle to the front board. I remember glancing at him in my peripheral vision, observing how light his blonde hair was, almost as if it had been bleached either by chemicals or by a long, hot summer under the blazing sun. Not a trace of sunburn could be found across his smooth skin, but he wasn’t as pale as some of the guys in the room. Most never saw daylight, having spent the summer before the start of the semester avoiding responsibility and holed up in their rooms or apartments, playing video games and eating munchies.

Not Sasha, though. He’d spend summers at some beach, any would do. His twinkling, indigo eyes studied every crevice in the room and hovered over every face. I was pretty sure he’d memorized everyone’s features in mere seconds, including mine, when I realized he was staring right back at me.

I flicked my eyes away from his handsome face as fast as I could and bore them into the whiteboard at the front just as the teacher, Ms. Andrews, made her way to the podium. Heat rose, rushing across my face and making the sweat seep from my body. Still feeling the weight of his eyes on me, I shuffled my folders and pens, hoping to look much too busy to be affected by the most perfect specimen of a man I’d ever seen.

You can imagine how little I heard that first day. It was sheer torture sitting through the endless drone of the teacher’s monotonous voice as she went through the syllabus and spoke French as much as possible, forcing the room to repeat the rolling r’s and use our tongues in ways the English language had no use for. Maybe that was why I loved French so much. It was romantic and sensual in the way it made you use your lips, sway your tongue and made one want to flit the hands into the air.

It was a fine distraction from Sasha, whose name I’d finally gotten to know when Ms. Andrews forced each one of us to introduce ourselves and stand up to the absolute attention of the crowded room, like we were still in middle school or something. Apparently she was the only French teacher at this college, so her classes were jam-packed. The more the merrier. It just meant there were probably twice as many eyes studying the sweat stains on my back than there’d been in my high school classes.

Never had I ever been so relieved to watch the clock tick to the eleven o’clock hour. Class was only an hour long, but it had felt like an eternity to me. Rushing toward the door only found me caught up in the clog of students trying to escape just as fast as I’d wanted to. The funnel kept me in the room longer, long enough to feel a sharp tap on my shoulder.

I’d spun around to come face to face with mister dream guy. His eyes looked mischievous while his smile made me wish I had put on more makeup and spent more time in front of the mirror, curling my hair. It was arresting, like time had frozen, as I was slowly pushed along with the crowd toward the hall. His body hovered way too close. In fact, the warmth seeped through my clothes as he bumped into me, pressing his rock-hard body to mine. The people behind him weren’t that patient either and continued to push at us as we inched along. I could’ve died. His breath was caressing along my neck, sending sweet little slivers of pleasure down my spine.

“You dropped this.”

I managed to turn and lowered my eyes to his hand. He had held out a pink ribbon pen, one I’d bought that morning from a neighbor’s daughter who’d been selling them for breast cancer research. Who can turn down a charity, right? Not me. Especially not since she’d been a Girl Scout, with her gleaming white teeth smiling and wearing her Scouting best threads. I was a sucker for their cookies, too, so that wasn’t any help.

“Thank you.” I slipped my fingers over the end of the pen, softly grazing his hand as I plucked it away from his grasp. His eyes took me in, like they knew me, like I’d stared into those same eyes a thousand times before. This uneasiness made me shiver again, and I had to avert my eyes to even attempt to catch my breath. His closeness was making the air dangerously thin, and my anxiety slowly slipped from control.

“You’re most welcome. You’re Piper, right?” A faded foreign accent framed his words as he spoke, perking up my interest in this guy. Couldn’t hurt to engage in a bit of small talk, right? He was definitely the kind of guy I’d want to know more about. But guys like him were never interested in me. So what would make this any different?

“Yes. Sorry, I didn’t catch your name….” My brain decided to freeze in its synapses.

“Sasha. Sasha Koval.”

I nodded, relaxing as I let my smile take over. He was dreamy, in every sense of the word. He had a slender build with a touch of huskiness which made me want to run my fingers down his chest, across what probably was a six pack stomach under that cream-colored thermal shirt. It hugged his build quite nicely, and I gulped as I tried to pay attention to walking straight. Faded jeans hung snug at his h*ps but were the loose, relaxed fit. He made it look good, that was a definite. Gulping, I ripped my gaze away from his body, hoping he hadn’t caught me studying him too long. I could feel my long brown hair clinging to my neck, and I wished with every fiber of my being that I had pulled it back into a pony tail. It was darn right unbearably hot with him so close.

“Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too. Hey, I’m pretty new in town, I was wondering if….”

The spill of the crowd let out into the wide hallway, and I hurried out the door while half listening to him. I stopped in my tracks as his voice momentarily faded. I turned to find that he had stopped to let some students pass before jogging up to me. I had a full view of him now, and I felt a tickling warmth tumble in my belly as I watched him move. He prowled like a predator, very sleek, very dangerous.

“I was wondering if you wanted to hang out some time. You probably know this town better than I do.” He flashed his disarming smile again, making me want to actually groan out loud from the radiance of it. Instead, I swallowed back the dry desert in my mouth and smiled like a fool right back. Had he just asked me out? Nah. Well, maybe….

“Been here my entire life.” I straightened, wanting to slap myself for sounding so incredibly plain and starstruck. “I mean, yeah, I guess we could hang out sometime.”

If it was possible for a smile to light up more than his did, I’ve never seen it. “Great! What’s your number, Piper? I could call you. Or email you? I could text you, if you prefer.” Was he nervous, too?

I tried to answer, but no words came out. I was literally speechless and staring at him like a drooling dog.

Whoa, nelly, find your words, girl, find ‘em.

“Uh, yeah. Um. You can call me. You got a pen?” I shifted on my feet, feeling a sudden urge to run and never look back. He motioned toward my hand, still holding the pink pen he’d just given back to me not a moment before. “Right. I mean, got something to write on?” I was such a retard.

Maybe I should’ve known better, but at the time, I didn’t have a clue what I was jumping into. If someone had told me it was a vat of boiling oil, I would’ve willingly walked into it. I’d have laughed and told them how absolutely full of crap they were. Sasha was as hot as they got, but he was harmless, right?

He produced a small notepad and eagerly placed it in my small hand as he patiently waited. He didn’t look nervous. In fact, he didn’t seem at all inexperienced at asking out women, which should’ve sent a huge, blaring alarm ringing through my head. But I was oblivious, and this oblivion made me ignore the signs as I scribbled my number on his notepad.

Just like that, I’d handed him my heart, and he’d taken it, slipped it into the back pocket of his snug jeans—which showed off his rear end in a most indulging way—without a second’s thought. Waving goodbye, he’d headed off toward his next class, leaving me to enjoy the view for just a bit longer.

I didn’t know it then, nor could I have predicted it, but I was in so much trouble, just like that. Well, I suppose a part of me did know it, but another part of me told the other part to go screw itself and enjoy the view.

Chapter Three


In the Past…

MEMORIES SCENTED WITH beer and pizza smells wafting around the fraternity house like they’d embedded themselves into the walls and furniture, filling my head with so many past parties and times gone by. I held a plastic cup of alcohol, but it remained, for the most part, untouched. The music made the walls vibrate and the picture frames moved with the beat. Nothing could have put me in a festive mood that day, not even having Piper in the same room, because what I had to do was like asking me to hack off an arm.

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