“Why is it funny?” I whispered thickly.
“Because what I want to do to you has nothing to do with either of us standing.”
I opened my eyes. Closed them again.
Chase with his back to me, watching Manhattan from his floor-to-ceiling window.
“You’re a wolf,” I groaned. His back was so broad, so corded with muscles I had to remind myself he was mortal like me.
“You’re the moon.” He grinned, tipping his head back to look at the white crystal-like ball. “You drive me fucking crazy.”
I opened my eyes, feeling tears stinging my nose, clogging my throat. I closed my eyes again.
Chase and me lying on the grass, staring at the starless New York skies.
“I want to go somewhere else. Somewhere where you can see the stars at night. Somewhere pure,” I said.
I could hear Chase’s smile when he answered. “Weird that you mention it. I bought a telescope the other day for that exact reason. I can’t see the stars, and it is driving me nuts. But I don’t want to give up city life.”
It was classic Chase to dislike something about his life and bend it to his own will. It was classic Maddie to dislike something about my life and give up, throw in the towel, and start over.
Another tear slid down my cheek. I couldn’t help it.
Chase and me in my bed, Daisy at our feet.
“Ever feel like you’re changing?” he asked.
“Always,” I answered. “We’re always changing. We just don’t notice it because we’re on the move.”
“I don’t want to change.”
“I don’t think you have much choice,” I said softly. “If you don’t change, you don’t live.”
“Maybe I don’t want to live.”
“You know you do.”
He got out of the bed and started dressing.
My eyes fluttered open again. It was us he’d been talking about. I’d been changing him.
Chase and me on the Cyclone roller coaster. Coney Island. It wasn’t a romantic getaway. I’d convinced him to come with, because I felt like having an old-school candy apple.
“You’re not scared of anything, are you?” He grinned at me. Our car was the first one. It went up painfully slowly, an inch at a time.
“Almost.” Our car was shaking. So was my heart. I looked down to take his hand, but he clasped his fingers together in his lap. Closed off to me in ways he didn’t even know I wanted him to open up for me. “Almost anything.”
I opened my eyes for the fourth time, frantic. I remembered what had happened next.
We’d both fallen.
I spent the next hours trying to get as much information as I could from Grant. Dawn broke on the horizon when Grant finally said we should go home to regroup. I texted Sven I’d be working from home and went to check on Chase. He was sitting on the hospital bed, frowning at his phone. He’d been out cold for nearly seven hours.
Chase glanced up from his phone, looking delicious. His hair was messy, his eyes glinting healthily. He seemed to have gained back whatever weight he’d lost last night. The color was back in his face.
“You said you’d keep me in the loop.” His voice cracked, undoubtedly to his dismay.
I strolled into the room, taking a seat on the edge of the bed next to him. “Provided there was news,” I agreed. “I kept my promise.”
“Is Dad conscious?”
“Getting there. He’s stable, though.”
“What did Grant say?”
“He said Ronan will most likely pull through.”
“Fuck. Okay. No news, then.”
I swiveled my head, giving him a Really? glare. He grabbed one of my hands and put it in his lap. Another current ran through me. Like the Cyclone when it dropped.
“I’m buying you breakfast.”
“Thanks, I’m not hungry.” I didn’t want more one-on-one time with him. Knew I was now tipping over. Taking that Cyclone dip, after which I wouldn’t be able to turn my back on him again. I couldn’t fall in love with a man who promised to never give me everything I wanted from life: A husband, a wedding. Children. Love.
“Food is rarely about food,” he said. “It’s about comfort. It’s about sex. It’s about revenge and lust and anger. But food is never about food.”
I smiled tiredly at his observation. We heard a shriek coming from Ronan’s room. Both our gazes flew in unison to the direction of Katie’s roar. Katie wasn’t one to make a scene. Chase jumped from the bed and bolted through the door. I followed him. Katie, Amber, and Julian were standing in the hallway. Katie was panting heavily, her chest rising and falling. Her cheek was marred with red clawing marks, like she was so frustrated she’d tried to rip at her own flesh.
“You have some nerve! I can’t believe you, Julian. That’s a step too far, even for you.”
“I just did what everyone else around here was too chicken to do.” Julian sounded desperate, clutching Amber’s hand a little too tightly. Amber shook his touch off the minute she saw Chase and me. Her face fell when she looked between us. I realized we were holding hands. I hadn’t even been aware we were doing that.
“What’s going on?” Chase let go of my hand, placing himself as a buffer between Julian and Katie. Katie leaned forward and snagged a cluster of documents Julian had been holding, waving it in Chase’s face.
“Bastard brought a legally binding contract for Dad to sign, which puts him as an emergency CEO of Black & Co. He tried to slip into the room while Mom was away picking up stuff for Dad. I was outside making phone calls.”
“Now, before you get your panties in a twist—” Julian was in the process of swiveling toward Chase. Bad idea. Chase sent a sucker punch straight to his face. Julian staggered back, crashing against the wall. He held his nose with both hands, gasping for breath. “Asshole!”
Chase snatched the papers from Katie’s hands and ripped them to shreds. They rained at his feet, gathering around his loafers like snowflakes. Amber stared at him, wide eyed, her eyes rimmed with careful makeup and tears.
Julian dragged his back down the wall, still holding his nose. Blood trickled between his fingers, down to his shirt and the floor. “Feeling threatened, coz?” he hissed.
It was the first time I’d heard Julian referring to Chase as a cousin and not a brother, and I had a feeling it had been a long time coming. When I stared at Julian, such a perfect, one-dimensional Shakespearean villain in my eyes, I had to remind myself he had a life story too. That it was probably difficult to live in the shadow of your cousin, who was a decade younger, successful, gorgeous, and born into American royalty.