Sean insists on getting me coffee. As we walk back to his car, he wraps his coat over my shoulders.
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“Really, I’m fine. It’s better this way.” I try to shirk it off and give the wool coat back to him, but Sean puts it on me again, pressing my shoulders tight.
“No, it’s not. Avery, there are other things to do—ways to feel something besides pain.” Sean glances at me out of the corner of his eye. When we get to his car, he pulls the door open and holds it for me.
“What makes you think that’s what I’m doing?” I stop in front of him Sean’s warm breath turns white as he sighs, looking down at me.
“Can you seriously ask me that question? Now you know why I avoid New York. Now you know why I’m a deranged fuck that can’t get involved with anyone, the reason why I was looking for a call girl. When she died, it left a hole in my chest. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel it pulling, trying to suck me under. Some days I let it. Some days I can’t stand the thought of tomorrow, of going through the motions again.” Sean speaks with confidence, but his eyes say something else. His hand is clutched into a tight fist. He holds it over his heart, protecting what’s left.
The pit of my stomach falls away as he speaks. I know exactly what he’s talking about. “So you hired me. That’s how you deal with it?” His gaze falls to the side and he nods. A year ago, I would have condemned him for saying something like that, but not now. I’ve been through too much to judge him Sean’s protecting himself, forcing himself to feel something besides grief. It is the same thing that I do, leaving with no coat.
“So, your sweater and lack of coat might not stem entirely from money issues, am I right?” Sean presses his forehead to mine. A light smile crosses his lips.
I look up at him from under my lashes. “No one has noticed that before. I’m not even sure that I knew what I was doing. I understand feeling cold. I understand what it means and what I should do But, my God—Sean I don’t understand this.” I gesture at the grave yard. “I don’t know what to do Days pass and turn into months, but nothing changes. It’s not better. I feel myself getting chipped away. Soon there will be nothing left to hold on to.”
My throat tightens as I speak and I drop my gaze. It feels like someone is strangling me. Admitting that I don’t know how to cope with all this makes me feel weak, like I’ll falter and fade away. This entire time, I’ve carried this massive burden on my own two shoulders. I’ve never said it to anyone, and here I am confessing my deepest secret to the guy who bought me.
Sean pulls me against his chest and holds on tight. I can barely feel his touch, I’m so numb. He squeezes me tighter and tighter until all the air is forced out of my lungs. That’s when he loosens his
grip. “There is more to hold onto than you think.” He kisses my forehead and releases me.
I’m aware of the warmth of his moist lips on my cold skin, but I can’t feel the kiss. It has nc comfort, no joy. It’s just a touch, like pressing my finger to the tip of a needle. I’ve done that, just to see if I could feel the sharp pain of the needle when it pricked my skin. Instead, the only indication that I should stop was a bead of blood that dripped down my palm
Sean’s voice pulls me from the memory. “Avery, let’s not waste the day just trying to muddle through it. Let’s do something.” Sean smiles softly at me. “We’ll start with coffee and go from there.” I nod.
Sean holds the door to his shiny black sports car open and I slip into the seat. When Sean gets in and turns on the car, I ask, “No motorcycle?”
“I only ride when your car is in danger of being stolen and right now,” he lifts his chin toward my car, “it looks like it’s in its element.” His voice is lighter, his tone teasing.
“Hey!” I smile at him and add, “Don’t dis my car. She’s been with me through thick and thin.”
“I’ll have her returned to your dorm while we’re out so she can continue to attract scallywags and thieves.” Sean starts the car and glances over at me with a playful look on his face.
I snort laugh, not expecting his lightness. “Scallywags?”
“Yes, and that would be me. The day we met, your little car attracted both types of very virtuous men.” The corner of his mouth twitches, like he wants to smile.
“Yeah, normally I’d shove everyone in the backseat and cruise up and down Deer Park Avenue blasting the radio.”
That makes him smile. He pulls away from the cemetery and for the first time in a long time, I feel like I might be okay.