I couldn’t stay in this room one more night. Of course, I didn’t want to go out into that wild mess either. Before it got too carried away, I locked the door to my room and went to the window to escape. I didn’t want anyone making themselves at home on my bed while I was out. I didn’t think any of them would attempt to get in the window. I’d been locked away for two weeks. Everyone knew, by now, that my room was off limits.
Making sure no one saw my escape, I headed down to the water. Just a long walk to stretch my legs and breathe in the clean ocean air and then I’d head back to hole-up for the night. Maybe I wouldn’t be so restless tonight. Breaking into a jog, I pushed all those memories that tended to creep in when I let my guard down to the back of mind. I imagined myself running from all of it. Leaving it in the past as my hair flew out behind me. Silent tears streamed down my face as I let it go… one memory at a time.
This place was like a frat house. I didn’t like that. I didn’t like it at all. I started to knock on the door when music pounded through the thin walls. Some bikini-clad girls leaned over the railing on the second floor and called out what all they wanted to do to me if I’d just come on up. Shaking my head, I headed for the corner room that faced the ocean.
A guy had a girl pressed up against the side of the building and I was more than positive they were hav**g s*x. This crap had surrounded Lana for two weeks. I was going to kill Ethan once I got back home. She didn’t belong here. If someone had touched her… I stopped myself. I couldn’t do this. I had to win her back. If I went all caveman, she would fight me.
Turning the corner the window facing the ocean greeted me. I glanced at the other windows to this unit and they all faced the pool. It had to be Lana’s room. I knocked and waited but there was nothing but silence. The lights were off. Could she actually be somewhere in this wild bunch of people? I reached down and thought I’d check and see if the window was locked. It wasn’t. Not smart, Lana. Didn’t she know better than to leave her windows unlocked? Anyone could have gotten in. I didn’t want to think about it. I needed to focus.
Pushing the window open, I stepped inside the room and the sweet smell of her perfume filled the room. Jewel had given me directions straight to Lana and I’d missed the cue. The room was empty. I glanced over toward the door and realized it was locked. So, she’d escaped through the window. She wasn’t at this party.
She’d be back. I just needed to wait. I was close. Sitting down on the bed, I reached over and took a pillow. Holding it to my nose, I inhaled. God, I missed this smell. Burying my face in her scent, I sat watching the window… waiting.
The tears were dried on my face as I made my way back to the condo. I’d run for over an hour. My lungs burned and my legs would probably feel like Jell-O tomorrow. I wasn’t big on exercise so this was gonna hurt.
Pulling up my window, I stepped inside to find someone sitting on my bed in the dark. Naturally, I screamed.
“Lana, it’s me.” Sawyer’s hands were on my arms instantly. Sawyer… Sawyer was here.
I stood frozen, trying to decide if I’d passed out from the running and this was a dream.
“I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m sorry.” The words “ I’m sorry,” snapped me out of my shocked haze and I jerked out of his grasp and moved away from him and toward the door quickly.
“Lana, please don’t. Please listen to me. Don’t shut me out. You have no idea—”
“I have no idea? Me? Yes, I have an idea. I want you to leave. Do you understand me? LEAVE. I. Do. Not. Want. To. See. You.” I was yelling but I knew no one would hear me over the noise outside.
“Lana, please,” Sawyer begged and walked toward me hesitantly. I closed my eyes and crossed my arms protectively over my chest. I hated how the pleading sound in his voice pulled at me.
“If you ever felt one small amount of anything for me, you’ll leave and let me move on,” I whispered fiercely.
When he didn’t respond, I was torn between joy that he was leaving meaning he felt something for me, no matter how small it may be, relief that he wouldn’t be here to witness me crumble to the floor, and agony because seeing him had completely ripped me open.
I heard the faint rattle of paper and I opened my eyes slowly to see Sawyer standing in the same spot with a worn looking letter in his hands. He began to read:
“I made the mistake of opening my heart up to someone who clearly could never feel the same about me. I knew Sawyer loved you. I’ve known it since we were kids. I thought maybe just getting his attention for a short time would be enough. It wasn’t.”
My chest felt like it was going to explode. He had the letter I’d left Ashton. Oh, God.
He lifted his eyes from the paper and looked directly at me with so much pain in his eyes and something else… “I loved Ashton once. She was my childhood crush. She was all I really knew. But when she left me, I didn’t cry. When you left me, I wept like a baby.”
I stopped breathing as he lowered his eyes back to the paper in his hands.
“I’ve grown up with two parents who never once thought about me in the choices they made. My emotions weren’t something they concerned themselves with and maybe that is my fault because I didn’t speak up. I just pushed the hurt and anger deep inside me. I wanted to be strong because I knew they were weak. I’m tired of being strong. I’m tired of being second best. I need someone to love me.” He stopped reading and lifted his eyes to stare at me once again. “You should never and I mean, never, be anyone’s second choice. Anyone who doesn’t see you for the incredible gift you are is a blind bastard.”
He lowered his eyes back to the paper and began reading again,
“Staying in Grove isn’t a possible option for me. I let myself hope for too much. I’ve been broken too many times. I can’t stay somewhere near… someone who will eventually destroy me.” His green eyes lifted to meet mine and the tears glistening in them took my breath away. “If I lose you because of the blind idiot I’ve been then I will be the one who is destroyed.”
He continued to read:
“You had the right Vincent boy all along. Don’t take him for granted this time. He loves you in a way that I hope to one day inspire in someone. He would give up the world for you. When you have someone that special, that incredible that loves you, don’t let it go. This is your second chance to treasure what you’ve had all your life. Sawyer was always the Vincent boy worth fighting for. He’s the special one.” Sawyer slowly folded the paper and rubbed his thumb over it as if it were something precious then tucked it back into his pocket.
“Ashton didn’t have the right Vincent boy. I know this because I understand now what love really feels like. The kind that consumes you. Love holds the power to break you. It holds the power to complete you. When I read this letter, I was standing in Ashton’s living room after fixing things for her and Beau, which was all I wanted to do. They belong together. They’ve always belonged together. I get that now. Not because she chose him, but because you chose me. Until you, I was lost. I thought Ashton was what my life was supposed to be. Letting go of the comfort zone that our relationship represented was hard. Then you came into my life like a light bursting through the darkness. You made everything make sense.” He took a step closer to me and I fought the urge to throw myself in his arms.
“Lana. I think about you every minute of every day. When I’m with you, my world is complete. When I touch you, I understand the meaning of life. When I lost you, I completely shattered. You. Own. Me.”
A tear rolled down my face and dropped from my chin. That wasn’t enough. This time I needed more.
Sawyer reached out for my hand and pulled me closer to him. I wanted to melt in his arms but I couldn’t.
“I love you, Lana. I love you so much. Everything about you. The way you lips curl up slowly when you smile, the freckle right under your perfect little bottom, the way your laughter sends warmth flooding through my veins, how your touch lights me on fire. I love you and I will spend the rest of my life making sure you know that you are my number one. You will always be my number one.”
That was it. That was enough. That was all I’d ever need to hear.