She always told herself it was the last time. Every time she’d open the door to him, she’d assure herself that after today, she’d tell him it was over. That…they couldn’t do this anymore. That something had to change.
But she never did. And she cherished every touch, every kiss, every caress knowing one day it would be over. That even though they both lacked the motivation and desire to do so, one day…it would end. And she’d only have the memories.
She sighed and stared at the ceiling of her studio. They never went to the bedroom—she knew the guilt that lived in her would be unbearable if this happened there. There was a small couch in there that they made do with.
She listened to the rustle as he dressed silently. She heard him pull his jeans over his legs and narrow waist. He zipped and buttoned them before searching for the black t-shirt he’d worn over.
She clutched the afghan higher on her chest and propped herself up on her elbow. “It’s behind the easel,” she said quietly.
He didn’t look at her, just nodded and headed across the room to pull the cotton shirt from the floor and he slid it over his head. He sat on her stool and pulled on his socks and boots.
“This can’t happen again,” he said.
A conversation they’d had more than once. It was always the same. They’d swear it wouldn’t happen again and then maybe a few days later or even hours later, he’d show up at her door and they’d barely make it to her studio before their clothes were gone and he was inside her.
But inevitably, it would be over and they would lay in silence for a few moments before he’d dress, tell her it couldn’t happen again, and then he’d leave.
And she’d start to cry.
It was a vicious circle, one that would destroy her one day, she was sure. But for now, she’d live for every single forbidden touch.
His hand was on the studio door—he was about to leave her again—but he stopped and turned and looked at her. She was staring right back at him. Just a few moments longer, she told herself. He’d be gone and she could let it go.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
Familiar words but they were different this time. His voice was low, thin and nearly desperate. She swallowed hard and slid her feet to the ground, sitting up and wrapping the afghan more securely around herself. “Jason—”
“I can’t keep coming here…doing this…and hurting…” He stopped, averted his eyes from her. “We’re hurting people. And I never wanted to do that.”
He was right and she had the sinking feeling that this time, when he said this couldn’t happen again…that this time he really meant it.
She blinked her eyes rapidly, trying to keep the tears from spilling over her lashes. “I know,” she choked. “Oh, God, we’re such horrible people.”
He crossed the room then and kneeled in front of her, pressing his forehead into her knees. “Elizabeth…we can’t keep doing this.”
He raised his bloodshot eyes to hers, stunning her with the desolation she saw in them. “I leave you every day and go back to the penthouse,” he told her quietly. “I look at Courtney and I feel like I’m choking. Because when she comes and she hugs me, and I feel her arms around me…I’m pretending that they’re yours.”
She bit her lip. “I know. Because I see Ric and when I feel his hands on my face, on my skin…I’m pretending it’s you.”
“I can’t…I can’t leave her,” Jason said, voicing what she knew to be true. “I can’t hurt her like that.”
“I can’t leave Ric,” she whispered. “He’s…he’s sick and I can’t do that to him.”
He nodded and clenched his hands around her own and held them tightly. “But I don’t think that I can walk away from you today and not come back.”
“We have to do something,” she breathed. “We can’t keep doing this Jason. The guilt is devouring us both. When does it get to be our turn to be happy?”
“Maybe we don’t get the chance.”
“But why?” she asked, desperately. The tears she’d been trying so hard to keep back spilled over her lashes and streamed down her cheeks. “Why did we do this to ourselves?”
“Please don’t cry,” he whispered. “I can’t…I can’t do this if you cry.”
“I’m sorry,” she managed to say, clutching a hand to her mouth. “I’m sorry. I just…I just can’t watch you walk away.”
He touched her face, stroked the curve of her jaw. ”I love you,” he said so softly she almost didn’t hear him. “I love you with everything that I am.”
“I love you, too.” She slid forward until she was off the couch and practically in his lap. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her mouth to his, as if a kiss would solve it all.
The kiss was soft and gentle—as if they were other people, normal people and they’d just professed their love for the first time. He pulled the afghan from her body, tossed it towards the floor and laid her down gently on it.
“I love you,” he whispered again. He brushed soft kisses over her face, her neck before finding her lips again.
Her hands found the hem of his shirt and pulled it over his head. He was quickly shed of the clothes he’d only just put back on.
“I need you,” she moaned, burying her face in his neck. “Please Jason.”
His hands explored her body, desperate to know every inch, every curve of her soft skin. He spread her legs easily and she drew one leg up to wrap around her waist. He slid deep inside her and she closed her eyes, feeling the connection for what she accepted would be the last time.
As Jason thrust—slowly at first—she felt the warmth of his own tears on her skin and she knew he knew it was the end, too. She threaded her fingers in his hair and moaned, fighting the release. Her walls started to tighten and she started to sob.
It was over in a few more minutes—not long after she gave in, he let go, too and they parted and lay sprawled out on the floor.
“I know,” she whispered.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
After another moment, she felt him stand and she closed her eyes, listening to the familiar sounds of him dressing. She kept her eyes closed and listened to the floorboards creaking.
“I have to go.”
“He’ll be home soon anyway.”
“I know, Jason. I know.”