“Sometimes I want to live forever, to be the last one standing, and then there are moments when I wonder whether I can even survive one more death in my life.”
His fingers tightened their grip on her waist and he pulled her further back into the cradle of his body, needing to feel her skin against his. She’d arrived early in the afternoon without calling, had simply knocked on the door and waited for him to come for her. Which, of course, he had. He always would. He’d half-expected a phone call, maybe even a visit, after Irving had rung him, but he hadn’t prepared himself for the shell-shocked expression on Stevie’s face. He loved her softness and her vulnerability butthat awful numbness, those empty eyes that came with grief? He wished he could banish that forever.
“You’re a survivor, Stevie. You always have been. You’ll be okay.”
“I want more than okay,” she whispered like it was a secret she didn’t want to tell.
He kissed her bare shoulder, once, twice, trying not to worry about her lack of response to his touch. “What do you want?”
“To be happy.” Lindsey’s stomach dropped and he wrapped an arm around her, his fingers stroking lightly over her stomach. She’d made him keep the lights off when they’d come down to his studio, and while he desperately wanted to turn her to face him, to be able to see her body, her face, her eyes, he respected her need for darkness. That desire wasn’t a stranger to him either.
The first time he’d had sex with Kristen after, he’d demanded the same, had even drawn the curtains so the moonlight would be kept out. He’d made love to his wife, too fast and too reckless, and it had felt fucked up beyond belief to feel like he betraying somebody else.
He could feel the inhalation, her sigh. “I used to wish for more, you know. I wanted everything.”
“Sweetheart, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Maybe I’m being punished.” It was a question not a statement, and he wished he knew how to re-assure her. He’d often struggled with that, with her tears and her fears and everything that needed more than a quick fuck to fix. “I mean, I know that people do just die and it’s not anything personal, but christ, it feels like it is.”
“You got to say goodbye to him, right?”
Stevie turned, nudging one of her legs between his and burrowing her head in the crook of his neck. “Yeah. Don took me a few weeks ago. I just held his hand for a little while. Like with Dad. You remember, right? I always wondered whether he heard me. Dad, that is. I spent so many hours, so many days, just praying he’d wake up. Even, selfishly, just so I’d KNOW.”
“The doctor said - ”
“The doctor was trying to comfort us.” Her breath came out in a soft puff against his chest and he rubbed her back, trying to express what his words couldn’t. “I don’t think he heard, Lindsey, I truly don’t.”
“Don told me the doctors had been hopeful but…”
He kissed her forehead, feeling something in his throat constrict at the raw pain in her voice. She’d always been so open with him about her emotions and how she felt. When they’d started going together that had been a burden as well as a source of pride but now? The fold-out bed wasn’t the most comfortable place to sleep in the world but he genuinely didn’t want to be anywhere else.
“I thought he squeezed my hand at one point but the doctors said it happens sometimes. An involuntary twitch more than anything else.”
“Jess did the same with me. I’d picked up the phone to tell you the good news when one of those nurses informed me. I almost wished she was dead.”
She let out a short laugh at that, jabbed his stomach. God, he needed to work out. “Hopes being crushed…”
“Hopes being crushed, indeed.” Tentatively, he brushed his lips against hers. “I’m sorry, you know, truly. I know this one’s extra hard.”
She fidgeted at those words, avoiding his eyes.
“I think I’m sad for the wrong reason,” she replied, her wide eyes asking him for absolution he couldn’t give. “I just… He was great, fantastic, and I’ll miss him but… My first response was fear. It just made me scared about Don. About you. About everyone else, you know.”
“I know it’s awful,” she said, the words coming out in a rush, like she didn’t want to even pause for breath in case he made her go away. “I know I’m a horrible person, that I should be mourning him, not thinking about myself but god, Lindsey, too many people are dying. I couldn’t bear it if - ” She broke off on a choked sob. “You,” she said fiercely, her nails digging into his bicep. “You’re not allowed, okay.”
“I have too much to live for,” he said brusquely, trying to stop from welling up. “Too many people.”
Lindsey laughed, nuzzled her breast. “Especially you. We’re not done yet. Need a few hundred more years so we can sort out our shit.”
Her own laugh was halting and rough. But genuine. Maybe she needed a distraction as much as he wanted to provide one. “I might be tempted to keep stirring up trouble just to extend our lifespans, honey.”
“Like you need an excuse,” he said, rolling her onto her back so he could feel her against him better. Ah, yes. She lifted her hips slightly and laughed loudly when he scowled. “You’ve always been trouble, you witch.”
And she had. The good kind, the bad kind and everything in between. She grabbed his ass, and he could feel his dick hardening against her. This was the good kind. They’d made love earlier, within minutes of her arrival, a quick coupling on the couch that had had nothing to do with love and everything to do with oblivion. He’d had qualms about using his studio for this when he’d first set it up, had even told Stevie a firm no the first time. Since then… He nipped her ear, loving the way she tensed and then relaxed into him further. God, she was sweet. Lindsey had learned years ago that he had almost no resolve when it came to his ex-girlfriend.
“You know, Stevie, you claim to want me to live forever and then you - ” She reached for him, stroking him until he was almost bucking into her hand. “Christ. Cause of death: Stephanie Lynn Nicks. That’ll be it, you know. Poor doctor who has to write that death certificate.”
“Knowing my luck,” Stevie said, her voice low - like sex, like the warmth of feeling sated and in the arms of a loved one - “I’ll be charged with homicide.”
She wanted happy, he’d give it to her. Lindsey knew it would be temporary, that a quick fix like this never solved anything, and yet he’d never been that strong. If she wanted him… He pulled her hands away and held them firmly above her head before thrusting against her with almost no finesse, needing her to know how close she’d brought him.
“Worth it,” she said on a gasp.
“You’re worth everything,” he said, meaning it. She stopped moving under him for a moment almost like she didn’t believe him, and he found himself wishing she’d never become this cynical and suspicious. “I mean it.”
She tilted her hips toward him, silently urging him to keep going. He slid into her and maybe it was cliché to say it felt like coming home but… He closed his eyes against the rightness of it all. “Prove it.”