I jerked away from Aspen and frantically dabbed my wet eyes. But Oren already stood frozen in the doorway, seeing everything. The ornery grin on his face instantly dissolving, he glanced from me, to Aspen, and back to me.
Shit. I’d forgotten he was coming over tonight to get help from Aspen for his job applications.
“What’s going on?” he demanded.
“Oh, nothing.” A sudden flurry of motion, Aspen popped from her chair, waving her hands. “You know us girls. We cry at happy greeting cards.”
Oren arched her a disbelieving glance before he turned back to me. His gaze tracked every tear that had slipped down my cheek. “I don’t see any greeting cards.”
Aspen cleared her throat and sent him a tense smile. “To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit, Mr. Tenning?”
It took a few more seconds for Oren to drag his attention from me, but when he did, he still looked distracted as he turned to Aspen.
Lifting a folder in his hand, he reminded her, “Resume. Proofreading. Your red pen once again slashing its way across one of my papers.”
“Oh, right. Sorry.” Pressing her hand to her forehead, Aspen blew out a frazzled breath. “I forgot.” Then she frowned slightly and set her hands on her hips. “And for your information, I no longer use red ink.” Then she cleared her throat discreetly. “It’s green now.”
One corner of his lips hitched up at her joke, but his gaze strayed back to me and his smile fell. I knew as soon as he opened his mouth, he was going to ask all over again what was wrong. But thank God, the ringing of Aspen’s cell phone in the charging station on the counter interrupted him.
Aspen hurried to it and checked the screen before a soft smile lit her face. “There’s Noel. He’s at the grocery store and probably has a question. Excuse me a moment.”
As she walked stiff-backed from the room, Oren shook his head, staring after her. “She’s still so formal and teacher-ish sometimes; it freaks me the fuck out.” Then he turned to me and lowered his voice, “Now, seriously. What the hell is wrong?”
No way could I put any of this on Oren. It was way too personal and distressing and...and deep for whatever we had going on between us. I stood up so quickly I almost knocked the chair over backwards behind me. Rushing to catch it, I fumbled awkwardly. “Oh, it’s just—shit, sorry—you know, girl stuff,” I answered vaguely, mimicking Aspen’s term.
Oren caught my hands, trapping them on the back of the chair. “Don’t pull that bullshit on me, Caroline. What the fuck happened?”
I met his near-angry gaze. “I said it was girl stuff. Do you really want the grisly details?”
“Like a heavy fucking menstrual cycle is going to scare me off. Besides, I know that’s not what this is about. You’re crying, and I want to know why.”
“Fine,” I snapped. I tried to pull my hands from his, but he locked his grip around my wrists. “I went to the doctor today for...for birth control.” I could feel the challenge in my stare when I lifted my face to meet his gaze, and I don’t know why I put it there. Maybe I was daring him to back down and leave the issue alone. Sharing distressing doctor’s news meant we weren’t just bed buddies. It meant there was more to us than just sex.
But he didn’t back down. “And.?”
“And he had to do an exam first.”
Instant understanding lit his gaze, and I was once again overwhelmed with the need to cry. “Shit.” He closed his eyes briefly. When he opened up, his hazel eyes were full of misery. “The abortion messed you up down there, didn’t it?”
“Yeah.” My shoulders curled in around my chest as I bowed my head and squeezed my eyes closed. “He doesn’t think I’ll ever be able to get pregnant again.”
“Damn,” he breathed out softly, his warmth soaking into my cold, numb bones as he shifted closer. Then his breath was in my hair. “I’m sorry.”
When his fingers gently touched my shoulder, I stepped back and turned my face away. “Seriously, you don’t have to—”
“Will you just shut up and come here.” He grabbed me with more force and yanked me against him. His large hand cradled the back of my head, guiding it into place against his shoulder. Then his arms enfolded me, and he just held me like that.
I shuddered the moment his lips touched my temple. Burrowing deeper into him, I grabbed handfuls of the back of his shirt and held on for dear life.
My sorrow erupted, and I started crying again, in great sobbing heaves.