“Hurting you will always be my biggest regret.”
The sincerity of his words matched the truth in his eyes. Both made my heart sting, and emotions I wasn’t ready to deal with surfaced. “Why tonight, Nash? Why are we having this conversation now?”
He closed the distance between us and came to a stop only inches away. “Isn’t it obvious? You can’t run from it.”
I opened my mouth to argue but quickly shut it.
“You think I don’t notice that, if we’re in the same room and someone walks out, leaving us alone together, you rush to follow?” He reached out to tuck a wayward strand of hair behind my ear. The gesture was turning into a habit. “When was the last time it was just the two of us in the same space for more than three minutes?”
I knew the answer without thinking. “After the wedding, when you walked me to my car.”
“And before that?”
He was quiet while I shuﬄed through memory after memory. “I don’t know,” I answered softly.
“Fine. Here’s your chance. Say whatever it is you need to say.” I kept my arms crossed, needing the barrier between our bodies.
“I miss you.”
The pure honesty in his statement caused my breath to catch.
“I think about you a thousand times a day.” He reached out to trail the pad of his thumb over the line of my jaw. “I’m not asking you to forget about the past, Mace, but I am asking you to stop living in it.”
His words caught me oﬀ guard, but there was no denying their truth. I had lived my life tethered in the past. Those moments when I felt like I was softening toward Nash, I’d force myself to remember all the ways he had hurt me. Clinging to the pain he’d caused. Bone-deep hurts that he knew nothing about.
The past was swathed in secrets and cloaked in guilt. Instead of trying to escape it, I used it as a shield. An excuse to push away not only Nash, but others as well. I had boarded up the walls of my broken heart. Yet here Nash stood, doing his damnedest to pry me open. As much as I had once hated Nash, there was a part of me that loved him, too.
“That’s easier said than done. I don’t think I know how to stop living in the past,” I confessed.
“Try.” For the briefest second, my eyes fell shut, and a lifetime of memories ﬂickered behind my closed lids.
The good times. Moments that weren’t shrouded in hurt but ﬁlled with laughter and love.
Six years old: Nash stealing a kiss from me on the playground.
Nine years old: Climbing the huge live oak tree in the park. I was too scared to climb back down, but Nash was right beside me, promising he wouldn’t let me fall.
Twelve years old: Knobby knees and barely there boobs, I was on Nash’s arm at the school dance.
Fifteen years old: Standing on my parents’ front porch, listening to Nash swear he would always love me.
Heat pooled in my belly. A shiver danced down my spine.
Nash hooked his right thumb and index ﬁnger under my chin, angling my face slightly upward.
There was too much history between us.
“Nash?” I braced my hands on his bare chest, realizing too late what a bad idea it was.
“Yeah, Mace?” I swallowed hard, searching for the words, but then he brought his perfect lips to my neck, landing on the spot he knew was my undoing.
He didn’t play fair, and I didn’t stand a chance against the heat of his mouth. What started as a spark burned to a blaze that consumed all rational thought.
Nash kissed his way up my neck, across my jaw, and to the corner of my mouth. He nipped my bottom lip, tugging it between his teeth.
I opened on a whimper, and that was all the invitation he needed to delve inside.
His hands shifted to cup my face as his tongue tangled with mine. I knew by the way he dominated my mouth that this was so much more than a kiss.
It was a battle in a war we had been waging for years.