Together We Heal by Chelsea M. Cameron

“That’s all I need to hear,” I said and we were silent for quite a while.

  “My uncle,” she said a while later.

  “Huh?”

  “My uncle was the one who… who hurt me.” Oh. Oh. She’d opened up to me after the last time too. Maybe she felt safer that way. I waited for her to continue.

  “It was before we went into foster care. He would come into my bedroom at night and… well. I’d rather not get into the details. I didn’t say anything, but Stryker found out. The next time he tried something, Stryker went after him with a baseball bat. And that was the end of us living there,” she said. Shit. I’d always thought those kinds of things that happened to other people, but here was this broken and beautiful girl in my arms and someone had violated her in the worst way.

  A bolt of sheer rage went through me.

  “Max?” she said, looking up at me.

  “Yeah?”

  “You’re shaking,” she said in a soft voice.

  “I am?” I looked down and saw that yes, my hands were shaking with rage.

  “Sorry.” I breathed in slowly through my nose, trying to tell myself to calm down.

  “I’m sorry I told you,” she said.

  “No! No. Don’t be sorry. I don’t want you to be scared of me. To be afraid of telling me things. I want you to trust me. I love having you trust me.” She watched me, looking for lies. There weren’t any to find. I would always tell her the truth, at least when it came to this kind of stuff. She deserved the truth.

  “I’m sorry to burden you with this,” she said, looking down.

  “Hey,” I said, grabbing her chin and pulling it up so she’d meet my eyes again. “Never be sorry for that. Ever. I asked for you to tell me. I can handle it. You’ve carried this burden for too long. Let me take some of it.” Tears rolled down her cheeks and dropped onto my chest.

  “I don’t know what I did to deserve you,” she whispered.

  “I think it’s the other way around,” I said, leaning down and kissing her lips.

  WORK WAS A hell of a lot more pleasant the next day with the memories of the previous night.

  “You get some last night?” Annie asked with a wink. Guess I’d been smiling a bit too much. Couldn’t help it, even if I wanted to.

  “Something like that,” I said and she held up her hand for a high five. I gave her one and then shoved her toward the bin of towels that needed to be washed.

  We were going over to Lottie’s for dinner that night and Trish picked me up in the early afternoon.

  “I feel amazing today,” she said, beaming. Her smile was just about as wide as mine.

  “Yeah, me too. I feel like everyone can see it.”

  “Good. I want everyone to know you’re good and satisfied so they don’t go after you,” she said. Trish being possessive? Sexy as hell.

  We arrived early at Lottie’s. I loved that I’d been absorbed into their group. I’d felt a little bit like a gate crasher at first, but that feeling ended pretty quick.

  Lottie was staring at Trish and me a lot that night and it was freaking me out a little. At first I thought maybe there was something on my face, but it wasn’t that kind of look. Lottie pulled Trish aside and they chatted for a few minutes in quiet voices. I wanted to go over and eavesdrop, but I stopped myself.

  “What was that about?” I asked, trying to sound casual when Trish came back over and ducked under my arm. Lottie had decided to go nuts and make lasagna and it was taking longer than she estimated to cook, so we were all just standing around and talking, waiting for the timer to ding.

  “She asked if we had sex because we both have shit-eating grins on our faces.” I nearly choked on my soda. I coughed a few times and she patted me on the back.

  “And what did you tell her?” I asked.

  “I told her it was none of her business and that you had very talented hands.” And I choked again. This girl was going to be the death of me.

  “I can’t believe you told her that,” I said, shaking my head at her when I finally got my breath back.

  She just shrugged.

  “Whatever. It’s the truth.” A cheer went up as the timer went off and we all rushed to take our seats.

  “Guys! It’s not ready yet. If you eat it now, you’ll have third-degree burns in your mouth. Calm down,” Lottie said, her voice rising above the chaos. Her words set off a chorus of groans.

  “You can all starve,” she said, crossing her arms and glaring.

  “Even me?” Zan said. Her glare melted and she stood on her tiptoes to give him a kiss. He still had to lean down. There was quite a height difference between them, but it didn’t seem to stand in the way of their relationship. It was nice to see.

  “No, Alex, I would never let you starve.”

  “Aw, thanks, L,” he said, gazing down into her eyes as if she’d created the world.

  Will made gagging noises and Lottie flipped him the bird while she kissed her boyfriend.

  “Like you’re one to talk,” Simon said as Brady cuddled in his lap. “You and Aud suck face every chance you can get.”

  “Hey!” Audrey said. “We do not. Do we?” She looked at Will. He shrugged.

  “I just know when I see your lips, I have to taste them.” He grabbed her and dipped her dramatically whilst kissing her. Simon and Brady cheered and I realized how much I’d come to care about these people in such a short period of time.

  Finally the food was ready and we all went after it like we’d been starved for a week.

  “Animals. I’m never cooking for you again,” Lottie said as her food essentially disappeared.

  “That’s a lie,” Will mumbled through a mouthful. She rolled her eyes.

  “Probably.”

  AFTER DINNER THERE was more baby name debate.

  “I swear to God, if we keep having this conversation, I’m going to leave. I can’t take all this input. We can’t take all this input,” Stryker said as he stroked Katie’s stomach. She hadn’t popped yet, but there was just a tiny bit of something there. If you didn’t know her, you wouldn’t notice it.

  “Look, we’re going to pick names, but we’re not going to share them. We don’t want any comments. Thank you,” Katie said, closing her eyes.

  “Ugh, I’m so tired,” she said though a yawn.

  “Want me to take you upstairs?” Stryker said, ready to leap to his feet and carry his fiancée if she required it. I couldn’t make fun of him, because I’d do the same damn thing if Trish asked, and I’d feel like a superhero doing it.

  “Yeah, sure.”

  “Okay, sweetheart.” They left and everyone else departed except for Trish and me. And Lottie and Zan, but it was their place, so they obviously weren’t going to go anywhere.

  I was waiting for Trish to tell me she wanted to leave, but she was on the couch and chatting with Lottie. I loved watching her from a distance. I got to admire her with her knowing I was doing it.

  “Things seem to be good between you,” Zan said. I looked up at him. Damn that guy was tall.

  “They are. Better than they’ve been in a while.” He nodded as if he understood.

  “It took a lot for L to trust me. It took me opening myself up and showing her all my insides. Even the ugly parts. I was so scared, but losing her scared me more,” he said. God, did I ever understand that.

  “I know it’s not easy for her and I love her for trying.” He put some dishes in the sink to rinse them off before putting them in the dishwasher.

  “Have you told her that?”

  “What? That I loved her?” I asked. He nodded. “Just once. I don’t want to freak her out, you know? I don’t want her to feel bad if she can’t say it back.”

  He nodded again.

  “Those are hard words to say, but keeping them in when you want to say them is even harder.” Now I was the one nodding.

  The water splashed while I opened the dishwasher and took the dishes from him and started stacking them. I’d always done the dishes at home. My mo
m said it was because I was so good at getting in as many dishes as possible and have them all get properly clean. It wasn’t a great skill, but it was something.

  A pang went through me when I thought about stacking the dishwasher with my mom. It had been months. I missed her. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. But I couldn’t go back.

  “You’ll figure it out,” he said, handing me another dish. Zan wasn’t much of a smiler, but he gave me one.

  “I hope so,” I said.

  “I can’t believe you lied to me about the fact that you were having sex,” Lottie said when I filled her in about what was going on with Max. I hadn’t really had a choice because she’d accosted me and demanded, in her Lottie way, that I tell her what had changed with Max. Fortunately, she was the only one who noticed the difference, or maybe everyone else was better at hiding it.

  “Yeah, well, I just wanted you all to think I was normal. Guess that was a stupid idea.” I sighed and rubbed my eyes. My friends could be exhausting sometimes. I just wanted to crawl into bed with Max. With that thought, I was wide-a-fucking awake. My entire body tingled at the thought.

  “I’m just a little hurt you didn’t trust me. I mean, I know you’ve got a dark past, but I’m not going to judge you. I would never judge you, you know that, right?” She stopped herself before she went really off the rails. Zan had been a calming influence on her, but every now and then she still went verbal crazy.

  “I do trust you,” I said, which was kind of a lie. I trusted her with certain things.

  “You’re my best friend, aside from Zan and Will. You’re my best friend that I’m not related to, or sleeping with.” I put my hand on my heart.

  “I’m honored.”

  “Shut up, you know what I mean. I love you, Trish. You’re like a sister to me and I just want you to be happy. That’s it.” Well, shit, now my eyes were going to start watering again.

  “Ugh, why am I so emotional lately?” I said, brushing my fingers under my eyes, trying to hold back the tears.

  “PMS?” Lottie asked and I wanted to hit her with a pillow.

  “Nope. Just… life. I think I used to just shove things aside and not deal with them, but I only have so much space to store things I don’t want to feel. The space is getting used up and now I’m forced to face things like a normal person. It sucks ass, really.” I laughed a little and caught a glimpse of Max helping Zan with the dishes. They were a lot alike in some ways.

  “Girlfriend, I know all about shoving shit in boxes. But then the shit crawled out of the boxes and showed up in my dorm this year,” she said, throwing a fond smile at Zan, despite just calling him shit.

  “And then that shit turned into something wonderful and I’m so grateful it happened. That somehow we ended up in the same place. I can’t imagine my life if I hadn’t forgiven him. If I’d kept hating him for the rest of my life.” She shuddered.

  I sighed and tried to think about my life sans Max. Nope. Definitely wanted to put that particular thought in a box. And then set that box on fire.

  “Things aren’t perfect. We fight and we drive each other crazy and there’s still the issue of his brother and his parents, but all the good moments far outweigh the bad and the struggles. I just… I love him.” Her eyes were shiny with emotion and I felt a tightening in my chest. She was so free with that word.

  I couldn’t remember the last time I’d said it. Really said it. Not just as a throwaway comment. “I love you, babe”, or something like that tossed at my friends didn’t count. I told Stryker I hated him on a daily basis, but he knew the opposite was true.

  Chewing my lip, I tried to think of a simple way out of my current predicament. I could just throw caution to the wind and strip down and tell him to take me. Fuck my brains out. He’d do it and it would probably be completely mind-blowing if all of our other physical interactions were any indication.

  What about after? After we could breathe normally and the sweat dried and the euphoria wore off, what then?

  I couldn’t answer that question.

  “When it’s right, love will find a way. Despite everything, it will find a way,” Lottie said, rubbing my arm to comfort me. I wasn’t big on physical touch, but I’d gotten more used to it since I’d made friends.

  “Thanks for listening. And not being too pissed about me lying to you,” I said.

  “Anytime, babe,” Lottie said, getting up and giving me a hug. I looked over and locked eyes with Max. He was giving me the kind of look that said he was thinking about what we’d done yesterday. Like a bolt of lightning, the need to do it again shot through me so fast my knees wobbled.

  “You okay?” Lottie asked, noticing, of course. I plastered a big fake smile on my face.

  “Yup. Peachy keen.” She gave me a look that said my smile probably looked a little deranged, but whatever. I couldn’t see Max, but I could feel him walking toward us. His arms encircled my waist and I let myself rest back against him.

  “Ready to go?” he said in my ear. I nodded, not trusting my voice at the moment. He wasn’t even touching me in a sexual way, but I felt like Zan and Lottie were getting way too much of a show.

  “You two have a good night,” Lottie said with a wink. “And call me if you ever need to talk.” She pointed her finger at me and I nodded. Zan called out his goodnight and then we were out in the chilly night again.

  I barely noticed. My body was on fire.

  I WASN’T SURE if she was going to let me go ahead again so soon, but the second we got into her room, she slammed the door and fucking attacked me.

  OKAY. That was what we were doing. She was so eager that her teeth drew blood and it mixed with her taste and I wondered for a fraction of a second if I was a vampire and I’d just never figured it out.

  Hair got pulled, clothes got torn, growls and moans filled the air. We were like two wild animals who were fighting one minute and fucking the next. It was raw and hard and rough.

  And it was the hottest fucking thing ever.

  Just when I thought Trish had reached the pinnacle of sexiness, she jumped up a few levels. I didn’t know how much more I could seriously take.

  She broke the kiss and her violet eyes seared into mine. She hadn’t even had time to take out her contacts and her eyes were even more intense with the unnatural color.

  “I want you to go down on me,” she said and for a second, I thought I had blacked out.

  “You?” I said. I was only capable of forming words with one syllable. Hell, I wasn’t sure what my name was at the moment.

  She sat up (somehow we’d ended up horizontal on her bed, which I definitely didn’t recall happening) and removed the rest of her clothes, pausing for just a second with her fingers hooked into her panties.

  “You. Don’t…” I still couldn’t say actual words and that made her laugh just a little. She took one bracing breath and then pulled her panties off and my girlfriend was naked in front of me for the first time ever and yes, I was dead. I was definitely dead.

  I’d seen almost everything else before, but the fact that the only thing that stood between me and all that perfect skin was air made it so much more. So. Much. More.

  She allowed herself a moment of shyness and then she lifted her chin and dared me to say something. Fortunately, words weren’t in my wheelhouse at the moment, so I just got up and went to her, pulling her into my arms. I only had my boxers on, but I thought she would be more comfortable if we were both on a level naked playing field, so I slipped them off.

  She’d seen me before, but the way she looked down at me made me feel like I could bench press a fucking building while saving a million little old ladies while also doing an epic victory dance to end all victory dances.

  She made me feel like I was the entire world.

  I put my hands on her cheeks and tilted her head up.

  “I know it scares you, but I have to tell you that I love you so much, Trish. I can’t hold the words in anymore.” I kissed her mouth and she kissed me bac
k. It also saved her from having to answer right away. I wanted to give her some time. She pushed me away and put her arms on my shoulders.

  “I want to say it. I really do. Not just because you said it, but because I think… I think I feel that way, but I’m not sure. I’m afraid and that’s the best excuse I can give you. Just know that I have never felt this way about anyone. Never trusted anyone this much with my body. I want to give you everything. Everything.”

  Her feverish lips met mine again and we were right back to where we started when the door slammed.

  Somehow, we got back on the bed and then I got her on her back and went to work devouring her. She writhed beneath me and I did whatever I could to make her moan as much as possible. Her fingers tugged at my hair so hard I was pretty sure I was going to be missing some in spots by the time this was over, but who the hell cared? I was getting to go down on my girlfriend, something that I’d been aching to do since the first time we’d kissed.

  The first time I’d explored her body, I had taken my time. Teased her. Yeah, there was no time for that now. I was intent on my goal and the closer I got, the more I wanted it.

  “Please, Max,” she said in that little moan that had a whiny edge to it. Demanding. Pleading. Begging. Begging for me and only me. For what I could give her.

  I fucking loved it.

  Scooting down further, I moved her legs apart. She didn’t offer any resistance, but I looked up at her face just to make sure she wanted me to do this. She put her hand in my hair and tugged.

  “Please.” That was all I needed.

  I sealed my mouth over her and kissed her most sensitive part. Her hips almost smashed my teeth in as she jerked from the sensation. I put one hand on her hipbone to steady her and then went to work. I was going to enjoy every single second of this.

  I pulled out every single trick I knew, and tried a few things just to see what would happen. Judging by her hold on my hair, her hips and her voice, I quickly figured out what she liked and what drove her absolutely wild.

  Adding a couple of fingers, I had her nearly thrashing off the bed. She was unashamed and uncontained and sweet.

 
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