I nodded. “Okay. Then you have to...I don’t know, fuck. But I can’t handle watching you fall apart like this. I mean, look at you. This is not you. You don’t cry like this, you don’t cower into corners. It totally fucked you up. And I just...I wish I could take it all from you, that I could...fuck! I don’t know.”
Blue eyes still glittering with tears, she gazed up at me and managed a tremulous smile. “Do you want to know what went through my mind when I saw you yell at that doctor?”
I winced. “That I was a stupid motherfucker?”
She shook her head. “No. I thought...where was this amazing man when I needed him to do that for me? Where was he when I was scared and alone, quivering in front of Sander’s intimidatingly powerful parents, or when I walked into that clinic feeling sick to my stomach with unease. Why did he have to show up in my momma’s trailer the very next morning? Why couldn’t he have arrived in my life just one day sooner?”
Devastation swamped me. My throat felt dry, but when I tried to clear it, I had to blink repeatedly to keep my eyes from growing wet. “I wish I could’ve been there, too,” I said in a rusty voice. “I would’ve taken one look at your face and known that wasn’t what you really wanted to do. I would’ve told all those assholes pressuring you into it to go fuck themselves.”
Caroline took my hand and then rested her cheek on my shoulder. “I know you would have. But what bothered me the most was listening to you do that for Zoey and thinking, why hadn’t I just done that for myself? Why didn’t I stand up to everyone and say no?”
“Because you were scared, and intimidated, and alone, just like you said,” I reminded her. I started to rock her back and forth, relieved when she settled deeper into me, relaxing against my chest. “Plus you were young, vulnerable, destitute, and heartbroken from the prick who’d just left you. You didn’t feel as if you had a lot of other options left.”
She sniffed but didn’t answer, just listened to me as I stroked her hair. With a kiss to her forehead, I said, “When I saw you in that doorway of the doctor’s office, looking at me the way you did, I thought that was it. You were done with me because I...because of what I said. But I swear to God, I wasn’t even thinking about what happened to you when I blurted it out. I just...Blondie was getting upset, and she clearly didn’t want—”
“I know,” Caroline said simply. She set her hand on my arm, comforting me, and I shuddered with relief. “I knew it the second I heard it. I just...I needed...”
“To get away?” I guessed. “To go to your place?”
She glanced around her bedroom and gave a small smile. “Yeah. I guess I did.”
I drew in a breath, relieved her tears had stopped. Her face was still red and splotchy and eyes totally bloodshot, but she no longer looked like she was on the precipice of a total breakdown. Cuddling deeper into her, I rested my cheek against hers and asked, “How can I help you through this? What can I do to ease your pain, because I swear to God, I’ll do anything.”
She set her hand on my heart and looked up at me, her eyes filled with so much emotion, I swear, some of it overflowed, spilling into me. “Just love me,” she whispered.
“I do,” I promised. Pressing my forehead to hers, I shifted her around until I had her lying on her back diagonally across her bed. “I love you so damn much it scares the fuck out of me.” Hovering above her, I set my lips against hers and gave her a kiss that would’ve sent a weaker person into a diabetic coma; it was that damn sweet.
But then our mouths opened and our tongues brushed softly. I groaned and buried my fingers in her hair as I settled my weight down on top of hers.
“I had no idea it could be like this,” she whispered, only breaking her mouth away from mine long enough to look at me with a measure of awe. “I had no idea I could share so much with one person and feel so...full. Like, I don’t know...without you in my life, I’m not sure I’d know how to be me anymore. You’ve become a part of who I am.”
I smiled, understanding her completely. “Yeah, well, you make me want to grow up and straighten my shit out so I can take care of you and be a man good enough to deserve you.”
“I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you,” she countered.
I rubbed my nose against hers and smiled. “Do too.”
She grinned back. “Have we gotten serious and emotional enough for one conversation? Because I’m really wet right now and—”