Breaking the Rules (Page 58)

Breaking the Rules (Pushing the Limits #1.5)(58)
Author: Katie McGarry

Crap.

Just crap.

Behind me the door squeaks open. It’s Noah. I can sense him, taste him. Like he’s been absorbed into my pores. Like he’s embedded into my being.

The urge is to run to him, to embrace him, to have his arms shelter me like they have so many times this summer, but this constant push and pull will never end if I do.

Footsteps against the loading dock and the sound of material rustling. Noah’s shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans. I’ve seen him do it a million times, and I can picture him clearly in my mind: his jeans riding low against his hips, his body cocked to one side, his biceps straining as he tries to look relaxed, when on the inside he’s anything but.

“You once hugged me like that,” Noah says.

Moisture fills my eyes, and I blink it back. There’s no accusation in his voice. No anger. Just hurt.

“I brought Isaiah to work on your brother’s car to impress you. You were dating that ape Luke again, and each time I saw you with him, it got under my skin. When Isaiah told you that he could get it running and you hugged me…” Noah trails off, and I close my eyes, permitting the sweet memory of that day in the garage to caress my skin.

“I didn’t understand it at the time, but I loved you then. I fell for you the moment you called me out in the guidance counselor’s office, and I’ve been yours since.”

I love you. Words that Noah doesn’t throw around. I turn, and Noah’s exactly how I imagined—strong and handsome as ever.

“Now that’s an apology,” I whisper.

His lips tug up then fall back down. “I’m learning.”

“I wasn’t hugging him like I hugged you. Today was stupid. An impulse. That day in the garage, Noah…you meant something to me then, too. Hunter’s giving me a chance with my art. That’s all. I mean, he’s ten years older than me. He’s not even interested in me that way.”

Evidently not in agreement, Noah straightens his arms as if he’s creating fists in the pockets of his jeans. “Is he going to buy your work? Hang it in his gallery?”

“I don’t know. That’s when you interrupted.”

Noah stares at the ground, and I hate the tension building in our silence. Please, please, please let us be okay.

“Jacob’s last game is next weekend, and he wanted me to come. We could leave tonight, swing through Texas on our way home. Last week, you mentioned a gallery in Dallas then another one someplace in Oklahoma. We could visit those and not be rushed for orientation.”

My mouth pops open as I try to sort and categorize. Going home and his brothers and galleries in Texas and… “You said you wanted to go to a party tonight.”

“It’s a party. We can skip it.”

What the heck? “You made a federal case about it. You wanted to go. You’re the one that wanted to be here in Vail.”

Noah rubs the back of his head. “You wanted to start home a few days ago. You wanted to visit those other galleries. I’m telling you we can do it.”

“I don’t understand. Hunter was seconds away from making my dreams come true, and now you want to go home?” It’s like the earth has vanished beneath my feet and I’m falling, forever falling. “Besides, we came here for you. What about finding your mother’s family?”

Noah pales out, and I flinch as if punched. I’ve never seen him like this before. Not even when he told me that he gave up custody of his brothers. “Noah? What’s wrong?”

His forehead wrinkles, and he kicks at the concrete. “Are you happy here?”

My arms drop to my sides as I hunt for something to grasp. The world is shifting and not in a good way. It’s the dizzying kind. The distorting kind. I don’t like the heaviness in his words. “What are you asking?”

I search Noah’s eyes. There’s a stark honesty and an ache radiating from them. His hurt literally rips my heart wide open.

“I’m asking if you’re happy here. I’m asking…” Noah clears his throat, and he tears his gaze away. “There’s a lot of people here so I’m guessing this is some sort of school, and I’m saying I want you to be happy.”

My pulse pounds at every pressure point, and Noah has to sense it. Even though Noah hasn’t moved, it’s like he’s fading…into the shadows…into the darkness…to realms that I fear. “Where is this coming from? Why did you leave so early today? Why didn’t you answer when I called? Explain to me what’s going on, because you’re scaring me.”

“I discovered some info on my mom’s family,” Noah answers.

His words hang in the air, and I’m terrified to breathe. “And?”

“Just God fucking with me again.” His shoulders slump forward.

I internally kick myself. Noah walked in and caught me hugging Hunter—a man he doesn’t trust—while Noah was bleeding.

I touch the top of Noah’s shoulder, and the connection jolts both of us. He withdraws. A prick of rejection begs me to lash out, but I ignore the emotion. I risk a second attempt, and this time Noah stays still when I glide a hand along his arm and step into the shelter of his body.

Come on, Noah. I’m trying here. A part of me melts when Noah finally loops a loose arm around me. Can’t complain. It’s contact. I rest my head on his shoulder, and he leans his body into mine. He’s not really holding me. It’s more like I’m keeping him upright, and I’m okay being his rock. Whatever happened today had to cut him deep.

Understanding that there are some pains that are too hard to verbalize when they’re fresh, I offer the out…for now. “Later, then?”

“Later.” A pause. “Forget what I said about leaving. We’ll go when you’re ready. Stay the whole week.”

“Give me a few days, okay? Let me see what I can do on this Aires painting, then we’ll go. We’ll skip Texas, and you can be home in time to watch Jacob play. I swear.”

Noah gently kisses my forehead. “Okay.”

But it doesn’t feel okay. Noah’s hurt, and I don’t know how to ease his suffering. “Do you have to work today?”

“Yeah. A few hours this afternoon.”

“When you’re done you should round up Beth and Isaiah, and then we’ll go to the party.” Maybe that’ll help.

Noah twirls a curl around his finger and yanks. “How about I send Isaiah and Beth and we spend time alone in the room.”