Chapter no 14

It Ends with us

My phone rings. I pick it up to see who it is and I’m a little taken aback. It’s the first time Ryle has ever called me. We always just text. How odd to have a boyfriend for over three months that I’ve never once spoken to on the phone.


“Hey, girlfriend,” he says.

I smile cheesily at the sound of his voice. “Hey, boyfriend.” “Guess what?”


“I’m taking the day off tomorrow. Your floral shop doesn’t open until one o’clock on Sundays. I’m on my way to your apartment with two bottles of wine. You want to have a sleepover with your boyfriend and have drunken sex all night and sleep until noon?”

It’s really embarrassing what his words do to me. I smile and say, “Guess what?”


“I’m cooking you dinner. And I’m wearing an apron.” “Oh yeah?” he says.

Just an apron.” And then I hang up.

A few seconds later, I get a text message. Ryle: Pic, please.

Me: Get over here and you can take the picture yourself.

I’m almost finished preparing the casserole mixture when the door opens. I pour it into the glass pan and don’t turn around when I hear him walk into the kitchen. When I said I was just wearing an apron, I meant it. I’m not even wearing panties.

I can hear him suck in a rush of air when I reach over to the oven and stick the casserole inside. I might reach a little too far for show when I do it. When I close the oven, I don’t face him. I grab a rag and start wiping down the oven, making sure to sway my hips as much as possible. I squeal when I feel a piercing sting on my right

butt cheek. I spin around and Ryle is grinning, holding two bottles of wine.

“Did you just bite me?”

He gives me an innocent look. “Don’t tempt the scorpion if you don’t want to get stung.” He eyes me up and down while he opens one of the bottles. He holds it up before he pours us a glass and says, “It’s vintage.”

Vintage,” I say with mock impression. “What’s the special occasion?”

He hands me a glass and says, “I’m going to be an uncle. I have a smoking hot girlfriend. And I get to perform a very rare, possibly once-in-a-lifetime craniopagus separation on Monday.”

“A cranio-what?”

He finishes off his glass of wine and pours himself another one. “Craniopagus separation. Conjoined twins,” he says. He points to a spot on the top of his head and taps it. “Attached right here. We’ve been studying them since they were born. It’s a very rare surgery. Very rare.”

For the first time, I think I’m genuinely turned on by him as a

doctor. I mean, I admire his drive. I admire his dedication. But seeing how excited he is about what he’s doing for a living is seriously sexy.

“How long do you think it’ll take?” I ask.

He shrugs. “Not sure. They’re young, so being under general anesthesia for too long is a concern.” He holds up his right hand and wiggles his fingers. “But this is a very special hand that has been through almost half a million dollars’ worth of specialty education. I have a lot of faith in this hand.”

I walk over to him and press my lips to his palm. “I’m a little fond of this hand, too.”

He slides the hand down to my neck and then spins me so that I’m flush against the counter. I gasp, because I wasn’t expecting that.

He pushes himself against me from behind and slowly slides his hand down the side of my body. I press my palms into the granite and close my eyes, already feeling the rush of the wine.

“This hand,” he whispers, “is the steadiest hand in all of Boston.”

He pushes on the back of my neck, bending me further over the counter. His hand meets the inside of my knee and he glides it upward. Slowly. Jesus.

He pushes my legs apart, and then his fingers are inside me. I

moan and try to find something to hold on to. I grip the faucet, just as he begins to work magic.

And then, just like a magician, his hand disappears.

I hear him walking out of the kitchen. I watch as he passes the front of the counter. He winks at me, downs the rest of his glass of wine and says, “I’m gonna take a quick shower.”

What a tease.

“You asshole!” I yell after him.

“I’m not an asshole!” he yells from my bedroom. “I’m a highly trained neurosurgeon!”

I laugh and pour myself another glass of wine. I’ll show him who the tease really is.

• • •

I’m on my third glass of wine when he walks out of my bedroom.

I’m on the phone with my mother, so I watch him from the couch as he makes his way to the kitchen and pours himself another glass.

That is some seriously good wine.

“What are you doing tonight?” my mother asks.

I have her on speakerphone. Ryle is leaning against a wall, watching me talk to her. “Not much. Helping Ryle study.”

“That sounds . . . not very interesting,” she says. Ryle winks at me.

“It’s actually very interesting,” I say to her. “I help him study a lot. Mostly reviewing fine-motor control of the hands. In fact, we’ll probably be up all night studying.”

The three glasses of wine has made me frisky. I can’t believe I’m flirting with him while I’m on the phone with my mother. Gross.

“I gotta go,” I tell her. “We’re taking Allysa and Marshall out to

dinner tomorrow night, so I’ll call you on Monday.” “Oh, where are you taking them?”

I roll my eyes. The woman can’t take a hint. “I don’t know. Ryle, where are we taking them?”

“That place we went to that one time with your mom,” he says. “Bib’s? I made reservations for six o’clock.”

My heart feels like it slinks down my chest. My mother says, “Oh, good choice.”

“Yeah. If you like stale bread. Bye, Mom.” I hang up and look at Ryle. “I don’t want to go back there. I didn’t like it. Let’s try something new.”

I fail to tell him why I really don’t want to go back there. But how do you tell your brand-new boyfriend that you’re trying to avoid your first love?

Ryle pushes off the wall. “You’ll be fine,” he says. “Allysa’s excited to eat there, I told her all about it.”

Maybe I’ll get lucky and Atlas won’t be working. “Speaking of food,” Ryle says. “I’m starving.” The casserole!

“Oh shit!” I say, laughing.

Ryle rushes to the kitchen and I stand up and follow him in there. I walk in just as he pulls the oven door open and waves away the smoke. Ruined.

I get dizzy all of a sudden from standing up too fast after having

three glasses of wine. I grab the counter beside him to steady myself, just as he reaches in to pull the burnt casserole out.

“Ryle! You need a . . .” “Shit!” he yells.

“Pot holder.”

The casserole falls from his hand and lands on the floor, shattering everywhere. I lift up my feet to avoid broken glass and mushroom chicken splatter. I start laughing as soon as I realize he didn’t even think to use a pot holder.

Must be the wine. This is some seriously strong wine.

He slams the oven shut and moves to the faucet, shoving his hand under the cold water, muttering curse words. I’m trying to suppress my laughter, but the wine and the ridiculousness of the last few seconds are making it hard. I look at the floor—at the mess we’re about to have to clean up—and the laughter bursts from me. I’m still laughing as I lean over to get a look at Ryle’s hand. I hope he didn’t hurt it too bad.

I’m instantly not laughing anymore. I’m on the floor, my hand pressed against the corner of my eye.

In a matter of one second, Ryle’s arm came out of nowhere and slammed against me, knocking me backward. There was enough force behind it to knock me off balance. When I lost my footing, I hit my face on one of the cabinet door handles as I came down.

Pain shoots through the corner of my eye, right near my temple. And then I feel the weight.

Heaviness follows and it presses down on every part of me. So much gravity, pushing down on my emotions. Everything shatters.

My tears, my heart, my laughter, my soul. Shattered like broken glass, raining down around me.

I wrap my arms over my head and try to wish away the last ten seconds.

“Goddammit, Lily,” I hear him say. “It’s not funny. This hand is my fucking career.”

I don’t look up at him. His voice doesn’t penetrate through my body this time. It feels like it’s stabbing me now, the sharpness of each of his words coming at me like swords. Then I feel him next to me, his goddamn hand on my back.


“Lily,” he says. “Oh, God. Lily.” He tries to pull my arms from my head, but I refuse to budge. I start shaking my head, wanting the last fifteen seconds to go away. Fifteen seconds. That’s all it takes to completely change everything about a person.

Fifteen seconds that we’ll never get back.

He pulls me against him and starts kissing the top of my head. “I’m so sorry. I just . . . I burned my hand. I panicked. You were laughing and . . . I’m so sorry, it all happened so fast. I didn’t mean to push you, Lily, I’m sorry.”

I don’t hear Ryle’s voice this time. All I hear is my father’s voice. “I’m sorry, Jenny. It was an accident. I’m so sorry.”

“I’m sorry, Lily. It was an accident. I’m so sorry.”

I just want him away from me. I use every ounce of strength I have in both my hands and legs and I force him the fuck away from me.

He falls backward, onto his hands. His eyes are full of genuine sorrow, but then they’re full of something else.

Worry? Panic?

He slowly pulls up his right hand and it’s covered in blood. Blood is trickling out of his palm, down his wrist. I look at the floor

—at the shattered pieces of glass from the casserole dish. His hand. I just pushed him onto glass.

He turns around and pulls himself up. He sticks his hand under the stream of water and starts rinsing away the blood. I stand up, just as he pulls a sliver of glass out of his palm and tosses it on the counter.

I’m full of so much anger, but somehow, concern for his hand still finds its way out. I grab a towel and shove it into his fist. There’s so much blood.

It’s his right hand. His surgery Monday.

I try to help stop the bleeding, but I’m shaking too bad. “Ryle,

your hand.”

He pulls the hand away and, with his good hand, he lifts my chin. “Fuck the hand, Lily. I don’t care about my hand. Are you okay?” He’s looking back and forth between my eyes frantically as he assesses the cut on my face.

My shoulders begin to shake and huge, hurt-filled tears spill down my cheeks. “No.” I’m a little in shock, and I know he can hear my heart breaking with just that one word, because I can feel it in every part of me. “Oh my God. You pushed me, Ryle. You . . .” The realization of what has just happened hurts worse than the actual action.

Ryle wraps his arm around my neck and desperately holds me against him. “I’m so sorry, Lily. God, I’m so sorry.” He buries his face against my hair, squeezing me with every emotion inside of him. “Please don’t hate me. Please.”

His voice slowly starts to become Ryle’s voice again, and I feel it in my stomach, in my toes. His entire career depends on his hand, so it has to say something that he’s not even worried about it. Right? I’m so confused.

There’s too much happening. The smoke, the wine, the broken glass, the food splattered everywhere, the blood, the anger, the apologies, it’s too much.

“I’m so sorry,” he says again. I pull back and his eyes are red and I’ve never seen him look so sad. “I panicked. I didn’t mean to push you away, I just panicked. All I could think about was the surgery Monday and my hand and . . . I’m so sorry.” He presses his mouth to mine and breathes me in.

He’s not like my father. He can’t be. He’s nothing like that uncaring bastard.

We’re both upset and kissing and confused and sad. I’ve never

felt anything like this moment—so ugly and painful. But somehow the only thing that eases the hurt just caused by this man is this man. My tears are soothed by his sorrow, my emotions soothed with his mouth against mine, his hand gripping me like he never wants to let go.

I feel his arms go around my waist and he picks me up, carefully stepping through the mess we’ve made. I can’t tell if I’m more disappointed in him or myself. Him for losing his temper in the first place or me for somehow finding comfort in his apology.

He carries me and kisses me all the way to my bedroom. He’s still kissing me when he lowers me to the bed and whispers, “I’m sorry, Lily.” He moves his lips to the spot on my eye that hit the cabinet, and he kisses me there. “I’m so sorry.”

His mouth is on mine again, hot and wet, and I don’t even know what’s happening to me. I’m hurting so much on the inside, yet my body craves his apology in the form of his mouth and hands on me. I want to lash out at him and react like I always wish my mother would have reacted when my father hurt her, but deep down I want to believe that it really was an accident. Ryle isn’t like my father. He’s nothing like him.

I need to feel his sorrow. His regret. I get both of these things in

the way he kisses me. I spread my legs for him and his sorrow comes in another form. Slow, apologetic thrusts inside of me. Every time he enters me, he whispers another apology. And by some miracle, every time he pulls out of me, my anger leaves with him.

• • •

He’s kissing my shoulder. My cheek. My eye. He’s still on top of me, touching me gently. I’ve never been touched like this . . . with such

tenderness. I try to forget what happened in the kitchen, but it’s everything right now.

He pushed me away from him. Ryle pushed me.

For fifteen seconds, I saw a side of him that wasn’t him. That

wasn’t me. I laughed at him when I should have been concerned. He shoved me when he should have never touched me. I pushed him away and caused him to cut his hand.

It was awful. The whole thing, the entire fifteen seconds it lasted, was absolutely awful. I never want to think about it again.

He still has the rag balled up in his hand and it’s soaked with blood. I push against his chest.

“I’ll be right back,” I tell him. He kisses me one more time and rolls off of me. I walk to the bathroom and close the door. I look in the mirror and gasp.

Blood. In my hair, on my cheeks, on my body. It’s all his blood. I grab a rag and try to wash some off, and then I look under the sink for the first aid kit. I have no idea how bad his hand is. First he burned it, then he sliced it open. Not even an hour after he was just telling me how important this surgery was to him.

No more wine. We’re never allowed vintage wine again.

I grab the box from under the sink and open the bedroom door. He’s walking back into the bedroom from the kitchen with a small bag of ice. He holds it up, “For your eye,” he says.

I hold up the first aid kit. “For your hand.”

We both smile and then sit back down on the bed. He leans against the headboard while I pull his hand to my lap. The whole time I’m dressing his wound, he’s holding the bag of ice against my eye.

I squeeze some antiseptic cream onto my finger and dab it against the burns on his fingers. They don’t look as bad as I thought they might be, so that’s a relief. “Can you prevent it from blistering?” I ask him.

He shakes his head. “Not if it’s second-degree.”

I want to ask him if he can still perform the surgery if his fingers have blisters on them come Monday, but I don’t bring it up. I’m sure that’s on the forefront of his mind right now.

“Do you want me to put some on your cut?”

He nods. The bleeding has stopped. I’m sure if he needed stitches, he’d get some, but I think it’ll be fine. I pull the ACE bandage out of the first aid kit and begin wrapping his hand.

“Lily,” he whispers. I look up at him. His head is resting against the headboard, and it looks like he wants to cry. “I feel terrible,” he says. “If I could take it back . . .”

“I know,” I say, cutting him off. “I know, Ryle. It was terrible. You pushed me. You made me question everything I thought I knew about you. But I know you feel bad about it. We can’t take it back. I don’t want to bring it up again.” I secure the bandage around his hand and then look him in the eye. “But Ryle? If anything like that ever happens again . . . I’ll know that this time wasn’t just an accident. And I’ll leave you without a second thought.”

He stares at me for a long time, his eyebrows drawn apart in regret. He leans forward and presses his lips against mine. “It won’t happen again, Lily. I swear. I’m not like him. I know that’s what you’re thinking, but I swear to you . . .”

I shake my head, wanting him to stop. I can’t take the pain in his voice. “I know you’re nothing like my father,” I say. “Just . . . please don’t ever make me doubt you again. Please.”

He brushes hair from my forehead. “You’re the most important part of my life, Lily. I want to be what brings you happiness. Not what causes you to hurt.” He kisses me and then stands up and leans over me, pressing the ice to my face. “Hold this here for about ten more minutes. It’ll prevent it from swelling.”

I replace his hand with mine. “Where are you going?”

He kisses me on the forehead and says, “To clean up my mess.”

He spends the next twenty minutes cleaning the kitchen. I can hear glass being tossed into the trash can, wine being poured out in the sink. I go to the bathroom and take a quick shower to get his blood off of me and then I change the sheets on my bed. When he finally has the kitchen cleaned up, he comes to the bedroom with a glass. He hands it to me. “It’s soda,” he says. “The caffeine will help.”

I take a drink of it and feel it fizz down my throat. It’s actually the perfect thing. I take another drink and set it on my nightstand. “What’s it help with? The hangover?”

Ryle slides into bed and pulls the covers over us. He shakes his head. “No, I don’t think soda actually helps anything. My mom just used to give me a soda after I’d had a bad day and it always made me feel a little better.”

I smile. “Well, it worked.”

He brushes his hand down my cheek and I can see in his eyes and in the way he touches me that he deserves at least one chance at forgiveness. I feel if I don’t find a way to forgive him, I’ll somewhat be placing blame on him for the resentment I still hold for my father. He’s not like my father.

Ryle loves me. He’s never come out and said it before, but I

know he does. And I love him. What happened in the kitchen tonight is something I’m confident won’t happen again. Not after seeing how upset he is that he hurt me.

All humans make mistakes. What determines a person’s character aren’t the mistakes we make. It’s how we take those mistakes and turn them into lessons rather than excuses.

Ryle’s eyes somehow grow even more sincere and he leans over and kisses my hand. He settles his head into the pillow and we just lie there, staring at each other, sharing this unspoken energy that fills all the holes the night has left in us.

After a few minutes, he squeezes my hand. “Lily,” he says, brushing his thumb over mine. “I’m in love with you.”

I feel his words in every part of me. And when I whisper, “I love you, too,” it’s the most naked truth I’ve ever spoken to him.

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