“Cam.” Her voice was hoarse.
“I’m here, baby. I’m right here.” I sat back down, relieved that I could touch her. I ran my hand down her arm. Her skin was cold. I was about to reach for the blanket to cover her when she sat up abruptly.
Fisting her hands into my shirt, she levered herself up to her knees and threw her arms around my neck. She said my name again, a watery sob. Silent tremors rocked her frame, and I knew she was crying again. I held her close, but we couldn’t get any closer. She was wrapped around me like a vise, as if either of us let go, we’d fall to our deaths.
She murmured something between shuddery breaths, but I couldn’t make it out. I hushed her, stroking down her back and over her shoulders. God, I wanted to take her pain away. All I could do was try to comfort her, be a rock for her while she weathered the storm. Her sobs slowed, and her breathing evened out.
She sat back. Her hands went to my arms, her grip still bordering on frantic. I caught her hands in mine, rubbing the backs gently so she’d know we were still connected. I wasn’t letting her go.
She looked up into my eyes, seriousness taking the place of her sadness.
“I have to tell you something.”
MAYA. A new wave of sadness hit me when I saw the confusion in his eyes. I had to wash that away. Immediately.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Why are you sorry, Maya? My God, your mother died. Why are you apologizing to me?”
“Because I pushed you away, and I shouldn’t have. I’ve been so caught up with everything, but I never thought about how much I was hurting you. And I’ve hurt you enough. God, I’ve hurt us both…so much.” I bit my lip, nearly piercing the flesh.
“Shh, baby, let’s not talk about this right now. You need to rest.”
“No. I need to say this. I—” I fought the urge to go to him again. I wanted to disappear in his warmth. I squeezed his hands tightly in my own. I wanted to breakdown, to let the sobs I held back pour out of me. I looked into his eyes like he was the only man on earth, because for me, he was.
“Marry me, Cam.”
His lips parted and shut again. His expression was frozen, filling me with an empty fear. Suddenly I worried that this was the worst possible time to say these things. But I needed him now, more than ever. And I couldn’t let another day pass without him knowing how I felt.
My stomach was a hard knot as I waited for him to say something, anything. It was as if my heart had left my body. Vulnerable and exposed, I realized then what it’d taken for him to say those words to me before. He could put my broken soul back together right now or wound my heart so badly I’d never be able to give it to another person. He held my fate with a word.
Had he felt this way? Had I done this to him?
“You don’t have to do this, Maya. We don’t have to.”
“I want to,” I rushed. “I can make you happy, the way you make me happy. I know I can, if you just give me a chance. If it’s not too late.”
“Because…” I swallowed hard, pushing the flood of tears down so I could say what I needed to say. “Because I’ve spent years waiting, trying to control pieces of my life that were beyond my control. Because I’m so g*****n stubborn I couldn’t see what I was giving up when you asked me the first time. I see it now, more clearly than I’ve ever seen anything. I shouldn’t have pushed you away then, the same way I shouldn’t have pushed you away this time. I hate myself for it. Because you’re the only one I’ll ever want, Cam, and we’ve been through enough. I don’t want to fight it anymore. I just want to be with you. I want to be your wife. If you’ll have me.”
His breath rushed out. He stared at me for a long moment. Before the tears caught up with me again, he caught my mouth, kissing me tenderly.
“Cam?” I looked into his eyes, my question lingering between us. “Will you?”
“Of course. I can’t breathe without you. I waited five years, I’d wait a lifetime for you.” He cradled me against him, keeping us close. The promise that I would always have his love filled me. My heart pulsed to life, a healing energy radiated across my chest and tingled down to my limbs.
For the first time in my life, I saw love for what it was supposed to be, for what it always should have been. I let it rush in and chase away the pain. I let it soar, nourishing it with every secret hope and dream I’d held for our future.
I laced my fingers with his, holding his hand close to my heart so he might feel it beat for him, for us. If our bodies were two halves once broken, together we were whole again. And I swore then that nothing would break us again.