The highly anticipated and epic conclusion to the Chasing Red duology!
"Red," Caleb whispered. "Do you know how I felt when you left me?"
I looked into his eyes. The emotion I saw in them, the intensity, and the tenderness filled up my throat.
"I felt ruined. Because, Red, every time you break me apart, you put me back together. And I always come out better than before."
"So," he cupped my face, stroking my cheek with his thumb. "Ruin me."
We were back at the beach. It was past midnight, and the place was deserted, as if it had been waiting for us all day.
As if it had been waiting for this moment.
We lay on the sand, on the same blanket he’d brought when he took us here the very first time. It seemed like a long time ago. Before, he would have reached for my hand, threading his fingers through mine.
Not this time.
I turned onto my side so I could look at Caleb. His eyes were closed. The breeze blew a lock of his bronze hair against his forehead, and I wanted to brush it back so badly.
“I miss you, Caleb.”
He didn’t respond. His eyes remained closed, but I knew he heard me because I saw his breath catch in his chest.
I had hurt him badly, and he was probably still angry at me. He must hate me, but I would rather have that than a cold shoulder.
I needed to explain. I needed to tell him what I really felt.
I took a deep breath, gathering courage. “All my life I had to work hard to get the things I wanted. To reach the places I needed to be. I had to be strong—stronger than most people. Because I had to be. I shut out everyone. And why not?”
I rolled onto my back and looked up to the dark velvet sky, at the bright half-moon and the stars glittering like diamonds. It was so beautiful, so peaceful with the sound of the lapping waves. But a storm was brewing inside me.
“People are selfish,” I continued. “They always want something from you, and when they get it, they leave. So I never let anyone in. But then…I met you. You made me feel. You made me want things that I never allowed myself to want before. And it scared me. It scared me so much. So I didn’t trust you. I didn’t allow myself to. Every time I felt myself getting close to you, I pulled away.”
“Why?” he asked, his voice low and quiet. “Because…because it hurts to hope for the impossible. How can someone like you want to know someone like me? All I have is a suitcase of sad stories and a broken heart. My walls are high and impossible to break down, and I won’t let anyone in. But I felt your warmth…seeping through the cracks. How did you know where to find me?” My voice broke. “No one else ever worked to find me, Caleb. No one else stayed long enough to even try”—I felt a tear slide down my cheek— “until you.”
I sat up, pulling my legs close to my chest and burying my face in my arms. I felt him sit up and move closer to me.
“I didn’t trust what you felt for me,” I admitted. “I was scared. I kept waiting for you to disappoint me. Everyone else did. And I think that…that…somehow there’s something wrong with me. Something missing. That I’m not enough to make you stay, that somehow, someday you’re going to get bored with me and leave.” I sobbed. “All my life, my dad told me it was my fault. That I was the reason for all the bad things…” I swallowed. I didn’t want to talk about him. I didn’t even know why I’d mentioned him.
“I wish he was in front of me so I could hurt him,” Caleb said. “More than he hurt you.”
I heard the anger in his voice. He paused for a moment, and I could hear him breathing slowly, trying to calm himself. When he spoke again, his voice had softened.
“Red,” he whispered. “Do you know how I felt when you left me?”
I lifted my head and looked into his eyes. The emotion I saw in them—the intensity and the tenderness—filled my throat.
“I felt ruined. You ruined me. There is anger, but every time I see you, my anger fades away. And there is pain, but what is love without pain? Because, Red, every time you break me apart, you put me back together. And I always come out better than before. So.” He cupped my face, stroking my cheek with his thumb. “Ruin me.”