Breathe Me Page 8

“I can’t do this, Sasha.”

“What can’t you do?”

Flicking my eyes back and forth across his face, I felt my lips quiver. Something about him made me want to throw my stuff down and melt into his manly scented chest, like musk and leather combined, and lose myself forever. I was so stupid to think I could make him pay for what he had done to me. I’d never been one for revenge. How do you break someone’s heart on purpose? Hell, I’ve never done it, so how was I supposed to know? This was uncharted territory, a place I never wanted to tread in. That was not written anywhere in my agenda.

I was the kind of girl who wanted to fall in love with an amazing man, get married, have his kids and live happily ever after. Somehow, that image had fractured. I couldn’t pinpoint when exactly I’d let my hopes and dreams warp into happy never after. I’d run from every man since I’d been with Sasha. There had always been one reason or another why they weren’t good enough. They’d do something to make me change my mind, or I’d make up a reason. No matter what, it was always something. Too good looking, too smart, too nerdy, too boring, too stupid, too… something.

Who was I to judge so harshly? Who was I to think I couldn’t break hearts? I’d done it and hadn’t even realized it, over and over. To all those exes, however brief our tenderness had been, I’d taken their hearts and pulverized them before my clothes had even hit the floor, just so I could be the first to run. So why, now that I’d wanted to intentionally do it to someone, to Sasha, did I find myself frozen and unable to say what I wanted from him? Even if it was supposed to just be an act, I’d turned into a stuttering fool.

“I don’t know,” I finally mumbled.

His fingers traced up my arm until they met my collarbone, slowly touching the smooth, rounded bone jetting out near my shoulder. It sent shivers all the way down my body and I could feel the hairs standing on end, betraying how good it felt in every little pore. I pulled away, and the pain flashing in his eyes was overwhelming, too much to bear.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I really have to go.”

“Here.” I paused at the single word, and he slowly deposited a set of keys into my hands, cupping them as if they were precious metal.

“What’s this?”

“I could drive you, but I know you won’t let me. Borrow my car. I’ll pick it up later, whenever you want me to.”

Ripping my eyes from his, I nodded, swung the door open and ran down the driveway of his place toward his car. It wasn’t until I sat in the driver’s seat, cranked the starter, peeled out and pulled onto the main street that I realized I was crying. Hot, fat tears poured down my cheeks, and I made myself pull over before I ended up smashing into another car. I let them fall, splashing down my blouse and onto my skirt, leaving enormous wet spots all over it. My body shook, heaving out the hurt of every broken love I’d ever experienced. I cried for the ones I’d pushed far, far away without a second thought to why I’d done so. I let each tear drop for the ones who had gotten away and the ones I had shoved away.

Last, but not least, I let my broken heart resurface and cried for the love I’d given Sasha so willingly, so long ago. I’d been satisfied having just a corner of his heart before, but now I wasn’t sure if I wanted the entirety of his heart or to run from him faster than I’d ever run before. I’d have to decide whether to take all of him or nothing at all. This game of breaking hearts was not one I could play anymore, but I had to be one hundred percent positive that I could live through the consequences, whatever I decided.

Nothing ever seemed to get any easier.

Chapter Nine



I groaned, Joss’s high-pitched voice echoed in my ear, and I tilted my head toward her, lips firm and ready to take her coming assault. Here we go again….

“What were you thinking? You slept with him, and then you ran away like a frightened kitty when he makes you breakfast and treats you like a queen? What the hell is the matter with you?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty nuts to not want to get my heart shattered again by my first love whom, might I remind you, in case you’ve forgotten already, smashed it to smithereens without a second thought. Pretty insane if you tell me.” I huffed, grabbing the remote to her gigantic flat screen, and aggressively started flipping the channels. Nothing good was on, nothing but daytime TV and overdone rom-coms recycling through the movie channels.

“Okay, alright.” She plopped down beside me, making the couch shake under us. “I get that he screwed you over in college. But come on, Piper. That was years ago. Maybe he’s changed. I saw him at the fair. Definite improvement in the physical department, no?”

“It’s not all about sex, Joss,” I hissed. I dropped the remote, letting it clatter onto the wooden coffee table. Huffing out a breath, I leaned against the back of the sofa, never wanting to pull my hair out more than at that moment.

“I know that, but it’s a definite plus. You can’t tell me you miss that horrible dry spell, can you?” She laughed and retrieved the remote, flipping the TV to a long-running soap that I couldn’t stand and loathed with every cell of my body.

“No, but still….”

“But nothing. Look. He made you breakfast. He told you he’s sorry and was an ass and would do anything to win you back. Well, I’m sure he has his work cut out for him, but why not enjoy it for what it is? Come on, Piper! What happened to you? You’re no fun anymore.”

“Hey!” I cried out, shaking my head as I jumped up. “You’re not helping.”

“Sorry, but it’s true.”

“I’m not fun? I’m very busy, by the way. I have a successful career, and I worked all hours to get where I’m at. Don’t forget it.” I paced the room, tugging on a strand of hair as I again let Sasha run through my mind.

“I know, sweetie, but you need to have fun, too. Maybe that’s all this is, you need to learn to enjoy it, no matter what. If it gets to a better place, then so be it. If not, well, it was worth the ride. That’s all I’m saying.” Joss sighed, picking up the espresso coffee she’d just made from a home espresso machine, and took a sip. Mine sat cold, abandoned on the table.

“You really think so? Just have a good time, and if he decides to be a jerk again, just brush it off?”

She nodded. A mouthful of drink scalded her tongue as she waved her hand around. “Yes!”

I made my way to sit next to her again, my eyes pleading as I waited for her to continue. “I don’t know if I can do it.”

Her warm hands found mine, and her motherly smile emerged. Giving them a pat, she pulled me in for a tight hug. “You can do it. Just let things go. Let things happen. You can’t always control the world. Trying to will only make you miserable and paranoid. Just let go.”

I sighed, inhaling the faint scent of magnolia emitting from her skin. I always found it weird how she got me all worked up and could just as easily calm me down.

“Okay. I’ll do it. He’s been texting me all morning. Should I answer back? Should I wait and make him sweat it?”

“Oh, honey, he’s already sweating.” She winked and took another swig of coffee. “Text him. At least he texted you right away. Adam didn’t even call the night after.” Her voice choked at the mention of her latest flame.

My head snapped up, and I eyed her, noting the stilted sadness in her expression. “No… he didn’t? Maybe he’s busy.”

“Maybe.” She shrugged and snuggled back against the cushions. “Aren’t they always? Too busy, working, hanging with pals… who the f**k cares? I don’t. There are manlier men than him, if you know what I mean. No one is too busy to text or call. Next!” A wink and her smile flashed back on, like a light switch flipped up once more, moving on like nothing could keep her down. She was like that, usually, nothing could darken her mood for long. Not after losing Will. Nothing could be worse than that.

“Hey,” I offered. It was my turn to give her reassurance. “You’re right. Did you a favor and got rid of his sorry ass before you had to.” We busted out laughing until we were both hiccupping from the exertion. Afterward, the silence embraced us and we sat, calm and momentarily happy, just us two, like always. As we snuggled and listened to the drone of the soap opera, I always found that the one good thing about the soaps was that they reminded me how nice it was to be drama free. Maybe not completely drama free but compared to them, our lives were much more pleasant.

SHIFTING ON MY feet, I peeked up at those indigo eyes which sucked me in each time I dared steal a glance. Wearing a pair of white shorts and a form-fitting black tank and barefoot, I waited impatiently for whatever he had brought with him this time. Oh, if only I could read minds, for I could barely stand the torment that passed through me while I waited for him to continue after he’d surprised me, showing up at my doorstep and declaring he had something über-important to tell me, something to confess. Well that gets just about anyone’s attention, and I’d been all ears.

“I’m not sure how you’ll take this, but I figured what the hell. I’m in this forever, and I’d like you to meet someone really special to me.”

My eyes widened, and I found myself flicking them down to my lazy Saturday clothes and smoothing down the wrinkles with my nervous fingers. Who could it be? Why did he have to spring it on me? I wasn’t one for such surprises, and he’d already promised no more surprises for the rest of the week. I should’ve known he’d forget that so quickly. I was glad I had at least showered and changed into a fresh set of clothes. Otherwise, I would have made him wait.

“I’m not ready to meet anyone….”

“It’ll be fine, you look great. Come on,” he begged, throwing me that smile that seemed to know just how to melt my exterior wall with the precision of a laser beam. I groaned as I nodded, pressing my lips together disapprovingly. I hoped he knew what trouble he was. It was the least he could do.

“Let me grab my shoes and purse. One sec.” I turned and sighed, running my fingers through my hair as I searched the room for my things. Throwing on some sandals, I swung my purse over my shoulder and shuffled to the doorway, where he waited patiently. His face lit up as I approached, making my semi-fouled-up mood ease a bit. I muttered that I hated surprises and yanked the door behind me, clicked the lock and followed him down the stairs toward his car.

“I’m sorry to spring it on you, but I had to, before I changed my mind,” he said as we approached his vehicle. It was running, the AC humming under the hood as the fan clicks on and off. I stopped in my steps, already not wanting to know what was next. Obviously someone was in the car, the same car I’d had Joss follow me in to drop off at his house a few days before, after my sudden attack of fear, when I’d left him abruptly.

“This sounds bad.”

“No! Not bad at all. I’m just excited and nervous at the same time.” He waved me over. When I still didn’t budge, he returned, took my hand and tugged me along. “It isn’t bad, I promise.”

He unlocked the car and a blast of cold air escaped as he reached inside. Sasha stepped back and let a small boy slide out of the seat. The kid just stared at me with large, hard blue eyes which looked extremely familiar. I’d seen them in my dreams for years, and here were a small pair that matched them perfectly.

“I want you to meet my son, Cameron. Cam, this is Piper. She’s a really special lady.” The kid couldn’t have been more than five. His baby fat still clung to his bones and smoothed out his features. He eyed me up and down, observant and coy, just like his father.

“Hi,” his small voice responded, and he held out a tiny hand. I took it, feeling its smooth yet perpetually sticky little kid skin. I didn’t know what to think. What did this mean?

“Hello there, Cam.” I shook his hand and let mine drop to my side. His soft wisps of blond hair were neatly brushed to one side, and his shirt had a Spider-Man logo displayed brightly against the royal blue of the fabric. Small stains lined the collar, as if he’d been eating candy recently.

“Cam, I knew Piper a long time ago and luckily just got to see her again after hoping I’d be so fortunate.” Sasha shifted on his feet, making us both turn toward his nervous shuffle. “I’m really glad you guys could meet. Let’s go get some lunch!” He helped Cameron back into the back seat and opened the door for me on the passenger side. I plopped down into the frigid interior of the car, stunned and speechless.

I sat there in silence, unsure of how to react. Sasha has a son. If I calculated right, and the kid was about five years old, Sasha had knocked someone up pretty soon after we had broken up. I glanced back toward the kid, who was busy watching the cars pass outside with great interest. He must’ve felt my eyes on him because he suddenly turned and met mine. I gave him a small smile, but he just continued to stare curiously at me. I wondered what was running through that little brain.

I turned away and faced the side window, feeling a small pinch of sadness. He could’ve been my child if Sasha hadn’t messed it all up. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Having kids wasn’t something I’d ever really thought about. If we’d stayed together, would things have been vastly different between us? Maybe it was a good thing he’d knocked up someone else; he obviously wasn’t with her anymore. That might’ve been us, broken anyway.

Clearing my throat, I returned my gaze to Sasha. His fingers drummed on the steering wheel, alternating between gripping it and laying them casually on his thigh.

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