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Chapter no 62

Unravel Me (Shatter Me Book 2)

I’m so tired when I walk into my room that I’m only half conscious as I change into the tank top and pajama pants I sleep in. They were a gift from Sara. It was her recommendation that I change out of my suit while I sleep; she and Sonya think it’s important to give my skin direct contact with fresh air.

I’m about to climb under the covers when I hear a soft knock at my door.

Adam

is my first thought.

But then I open the door. And promptly close it. I must be dreaming.

“Juliette?” Oh. God.

“What are you doing here?” I shout-whisper through the closed door. “I need to speak with you.”

“Right now. You need to speak with me right now.”

“Yes. It’s important,” Warner says. “I heard Kent telling you that those twin girls would be in the medical wing tonight and I figured it would be a good time for us to speak privately.”

“You heard my conversation with Adam?” I begin to panic, worried he might’ve heard too much.

“I have zero interest in your conversation with Kent,” he says, his tone suddenly flat, neutral. “I left just as soon as I heard you’d be alone tonight.”

“Oh.” I exhale. “How did you even get in here without guards stopping you?”

“Maybe you should open the door so I can explain.” I don’t move.

“Please, love, I’m not going to do anything to hurt you. You should know that by now.”

“I’m giving you five minutes. Then I have to sleep, okay? I’m exhausted.” “Okay,” he says. “Five minutes.”

I take a deep breath. Crack the door open. Peek at him. He’s smiling. Looking entirely unapologetic.

I shake my head.

He slips past me and sits down directly on my bed.

I close the door, make my way across the room from him, and sit on Sonya’s bed, suddenly all too aware of what I’m wearing and how incredibly exposed I feel. I cross my arms over the thin cotton clinging to my chest— even though I’m sure he can’t actually see me—and make an effort to ignore the cold chill in the air. I always forget just how much the suit does to regulate my body temperature so far belowground.

Winston was a genius to design it for me. Winston.

Winston and Brendan.

Oh how I hope they’re okay.

“So . . . what is it?” I ask Warner. I can’t see a single thing in this darkness; I can hardly make out the form of his silhouette. “You just left earlier, in the tunnel. Even though I asked you to wait.”

A few beats of silence.

“Your bed is so much more comfortable than mine,” he says quietly. “You have a pillow. And an actual blanket?” He laughs. “You’re living like a queen in these quarters. They treat you well.”

“Warner.” I’m feeling nervous now. Anxious. Worried. Shivering a little and not from the cold. “What’s going on? Why are you here?”

Nothing. Still nothing. Suddenly.

A tight breath.

“I want you to come with me.” The world stops spinning.

“When I leave tomorrow,” he says. “I want you to come with me. I never had a chance to finish talking to you earlier and I thought asking you in the morning would be bad timing all around.”

“You want me to come with you.” I’m not sure I’m still breathing. “Yes.”

“You want me to run away with you.” This can’t possibly be happening. A pause. “Yes.”

“I can’t believe it.” I’m shaking my head over and over and over again. “You really have lost your mind.”

I can almost hear him smile in the dark. “Where’s your face? I feel like I’m

talking to a ghost.” “I’m right here.” “Where?”

I stand up. “I’m here.”

“I still can’t see you,” he says, but his voice is suddenly much closer than it was before. “Can you see me?”

“No,” I lie, and I’m trying to ignore the immediate tension, the electricity humming in the air between us.

I take a step back.

I feel his hands on my arms, I feel his skin against my skin and I’m holding my breath. I don’t move an inch. I don’t say a word as his hands drop to my waist, to the thin material making a poor attempt to cover my body. His fingers graze the soft skin of my lower back, right underneath the hem of my shirt and I’m losing count of the number of times my heart skips a beat.

I’m struggling to get oxygen in my lungs. I’m struggling to keep my hands to myself.

“Is it even possible,” he whispers, “that you can’t feel this fire between us?” His hands are traveling up my arms again, his touch so light, his fingers slipping under the straps of my shirt and it’s ripping me apart, it’s aching in my core, it’s a pulse beating in every inch of my body and I’m trying to convince myself not to lose my head when I feel the straps fall down and everything stops.

The air is still. My skin is scared.

Even my thoughts are whispering. 2

4

6 seconds I forget to breathe.

Then I feel his lips against my shoulder, soft and scorching and tender, so gentle I could almost believe it’s the kiss of a breeze and not a boy.

Again.

This time on my collarbone and it’s like I’m dreaming, reliving the caress of a forgotten memory and it’s like an ache looking to be soothed, it’s a steaming pan thrown in ice water, it’s a flushed cheek pressed to a cool pillow on a hot hot hot night and I’m thinking yes, I’m thinking this, I’m thinking thank you thank you thank you

before I remember his mouth is on my body and I’m doing nothing to stop

him.

He pulls back.

My eyes refuse to open.

His finger t-touches my bottom lip.

He traces the shape of my mouth, the curves the seam the dip and my lips part even though I asked them not to and he steps closer. I feel him so much closer, filling the air around me until there’s nothing but him and his body heat, the smell of fresh soap and something unidentifiable, something sweet but not, something real and hot, something that smells like him, like it belongs to him, like he was poured into the bottle I’m drowning in and I don’t even realize I’m leaning into him, inhaling the scent of his neck until I find his fingers are no longer on my lips because his hands are around my waist and he says

“You,” and he whispers it, letter by letter he presses the word into my skin before he hesitates.

Then. Softer.

His chest, heaving harder this time. His words, almost gasping this time. “You destroy me.”

I am falling to pieces in his arms.

My fists are full of unlucky pennies and my heart is a jukebox demanding a few nickels and my head is flipping quarters heads or tails heads or tails heads or tails heads or tails

“Juliette,” he says, and he mouths the name, barely speaking at all, and he’s pouring molten lava into my limbs and I never even knew I could melt straight to death.

“I want you,” he says. He says “I want all of you. I want you inside and out and catching your breath and aching for me like I ache for you.” He says it like it’s a lit cigarette lodged in his throat, like he wants to dip me in warm honey and he says “It’s never been a secret. I’ve never tried to hide that from you. I’ve never pretended I wanted anything less.”

“You—you said you wanted f-friendship—”

“Yes,” he says, he swallows, “I did. I do. I do want to be your friend.” He nods and I register the slight movement in the air between us. “I want to be the friend you fall hopelessly in love with. The one you take into your arms and into your bed and into the private world you keep trapped in your head. I want to be that kind of friend,” he says. “The one who will memorize the things you say as well as the shape of your lips when you say them. I want to know every curve, every freckle, every shiver of your body, Juliette—”

“No,” I gasp. “Don’t—don’t s-say that—”

I don’t know what I’ll do if he keeps talking I don’t know what I’ll do and I don’t trust myself

“I want to know where to touch you,” he says. “I want to know how to touch you. I want to know how to convince you to design a smile just for me.” I feel his chest rising, falling, up and down and up and down and “Yes,” he says. “I do want to be your friend.” He says “I want to be your best friend in the entire world.”

I can’t think.

I can’t breathe

“I want so many things,” he whispers. “I want your mind. Your strength. I want to be worth your time.” His fingers graze the hem of my top and he says “I want this up.” He tugs on the waist of my pants and says “I want these down.” He touches the tips of his fingers to the sides of my body and says, “I want to feel your skin on fire. I want to feel your heart racing next to mine and I want to know it’s racing because of me, because you want me. Because you never,” he says, he breathes, “never want me to stop. I want every second. Every inch of you. I want all of it.”

And I drop dead, all over the floor. “Juliette.”

I can’t understand why I can still hear him speaking because I’m dead, I’m already dead, I’ve died over and over and over again

He swallows, hard, his chest heaving, his words a breathless, shaky whisper when he says “I’m so—I’m so desperately in love with you—”

I’m rooted to the ground, spinning while standing, dizzy in my blood and in my bones and I’m breathing like I’m the first human who’s ever learned to fly, like I’ve been inhaling the kind of oxygen only found in the clouds and I’m trying but I don’t know how to keep my body from reacting to him, to his words, to the ache in his voice.

He touches my cheek.

Soft, so soft, like he’s not sure if I’m real, like he’s afraid if he gets too close I’ll just oh, look she’s gone, she’s just disappeared. His 4 fingers graze the side of my face, slowly, so slowly before they slip behind my head, caught in that in-between spot just above my neck. His thumb brushes the apple of my cheek.

He keeps looking at me, looking into my eyes for help, for guidance, for some sign of a protest like he’s so sure I’m going to start screaming or crying or running away but I won’t. I don’t think I could even if I wanted to because I don’t want to. I want to stay here. Right here. I want to be paralyzed by this

moment.

He moves closer, just an inch. His free hand reaches up to cup the other side of my face.

He’s holding me like I’m made of feathers.

He’s holding my face and looking at his own hands like he can’t believe he’s caught this bird who’s always so desperate to fly away. His hands are shaking, just a little bit, just enough for me to feel the slight tremble against my skin. Gone is the boy with the guns and the skeletons in his closet. These hands holding me have never held a weapon. These hands have never touched death. These hands are perfect and kind and tender.

And he leans in, so carefully. Breathing and not breathing and hearts beating between us and he’s so close, he’s so close and I can’t feel my legs anymore. I can’t feel my fingers or the cold or the emptiness of this room because all I feel is him, everywhere, filling everything and he whispers

“Please.”

He says “Please don’t shoot me for this.” And he kisses me.

His lips are softer than anything I’ve ever known, soft like a first snowfall, like biting into cotton candy, like melting and floating and being weightless in water. It’s sweet, it’s so effortlessly sweet.

And then it changes. “Oh God—”

He kisses me again, this time stronger, desperate, like he has to have me, like he’s dying to memorize the feel of my lips against his own. The taste of him is making me crazy; he’s all heat and desire and peppermint and I want more. I’ve just begun reeling him in, pulling him into me when he breaks away.

He’s breathing like he’s lost his mind and he’s looking at me like something has broken inside of him, like he’s woken up to find that his nightmares were just that, that they never existed, that it was all just a bad dream that felt far too real but now he’s awake and he’s safe and everything is going to be okay and

I’m falling.

I’m falling apart and into his heart and I’m a disaster.

He’s searching me, searching my eyes for something, for yeses or nos or maybe a cue to keep going and all I want is to drown in him. I want him to kiss me until I collapse in his arms, until I’ve left my bones behind and floated up into a new space that is entirely our own.

No words. Just his lips. Again.

Deep and urgent like he can’t afford to take his time anymore, like there’s so much he wants to feel and there aren’t enough years to experience it all. His hands travel the length of my back, learning every curve of my figure and he’s kissing my neck, my throat, the slope of my shoulders and his breaths come harder, faster, his hands suddenly threaded in my hair and I’m spinning, I’m dizzy, I’m moving and reaching up behind his neck and clinging to him and it’s ice-cold heat, it’s an ache that attacks every cell in my body. It’s a wanting so desperate, a need so exquisite that it rivals everything, every happy moment I ever thought I knew.

I’m against the wall.

He’s kissing me like the world is rolling right off a cliff, like he’s trying to hang on and he’s decided to hold on to me, like he’s starving for life and love and he’s never known it could ever feel this good to be close to someone.

Like it’s the first time he’s ever felt anything but hunger and he doesn’t know how to pace himself, doesn’t know how to eat in small bites, doesn’t know how to do anything anything anything in moderation.

My pants fall to the floor and his hands are responsible.

I’m in his arms in my underwear and a tank top that’s doing little to keep me decent and he pulls back just to look at me, to drink in the sight of me and he’s saying “you’re so beautiful” he’s saying “you’re so unbelievably beautiful” and he pulls me into his arms again and he picks me up, he carries me to my bed and suddenly I’m resting against my pillows and he’s straddling my hips and his shirt is no longer on his body and I have no idea where it went. All I know is that I’m looking up and into his eyes and I’m thinking there isn’t a single thing I would change about this moment.

He has a hundred thousand million kisses and he’s giving them all to me. He kisses my top lip.

He kisses my bottom lip.

He kisses just under my chin, the tip of my nose, the length of my forehead, both temples, my cheeks, all across my jawline. Then my neck, behind my ears, all the way down my throat and

his hands slide down

my body. His entire form is moving down my figure, disappearing as he

shifts downward and suddenly his chest is hovering above my hips; suddenly I can’t see him anymore. I can only make out the top of his head, the curve of his shoulders, the unsteady rise and fall of his back as he inhales, exhales.

He’s running his hands down and around my bare thighs and up again, up past my ribs, around my lower back and down again, just past my hip bone. His fingers hook around the elastic waist of my underwear and I gasp.

His lips touch my bare stomach.

It’s just a whisper of a kiss but something collapses in my skull. It’s a feather-light brush of his mouth against my skin in a place I can’t quite see. It’s my mind speaking in a thousand different languages I don’t understand.

And I realize he’s working his way up my body.

He’s leaving a trail of fire along my torso, one kiss after another, and I really don’t think I can take much more of this; I really don’t think I’ll be able to survive this. There’s a whimper building in my throat, begging to break free and I’m locking my fingers in his hair and I’m pulling him up, onto me, on top of me.

I need to kiss him.

I’m reaching up only to slip my hands down his neck, over his chest and down the length of his body and I realize I’ve never felt this, not to this degree, not like every moment is about to explode, like every breath could be our last, like every touch is enough to ignite the world. I’m forgetting everything, forgetting the danger and the horror and the terror of tomorrow and I can’t even remember why I’m forgetting, what I’m forgetting, that there’s something I already seem to have forgotten. It’s too hard to pay attention to anything but his eyes, burning; his skin, bare; his body, perfect.

He’s completely unharmed by my touch.

He’s careful not to crush me, his elbows propped up on either side of my head, and I think I must be smiling at him because he’s smiling at me, but he’s smiling like he might be petrified; he’s breathing like he’s forgotten he’s supposed to, looking at me like he’s not sure how to do this, hesitating like he’s unsure how to let me see him like this. Like he has no idea how to be so vulnerable.

But here he is. And here I am.

Warner’s forehead is pressed against mine, his skin flushed with heat, his nose touching my own. He shifts his weight to one arm, uses his free hand to softly stroke my cheek, to cup my face like it’s spun from glass and I realize I’m still holding my breath and I can’t even remember the last time I exhaled.

His eyes shift down to my lips and back again. His gaze is heavy, hungry,

weighed down by emotion I never thought him capable of. I never thought he could be so full, so human, so real. But it’s there. It’s right there. Raw, written across his face like it’s been ripped out of his chest.

He’s handing me his heart.

And he says one word. He whispers one thing. So urgently. He says, “Juliette.”

I close my eyes.

He says, “I don’t want you to call me Warner anymore.” I open my eyes.

“I want you to know me,” he says, breathless, his fingers pushing a stray strand of hair away from my face. “I don’t want to be Warner with you,” he says. “I want it to be different now. I want you to call me Aaron.”

And I’m about to say yes, of course, I completely understand, but there’s something about this stretch of silence that confuses me; something about this moment and the feel of his name on my tongue that unlocks other parts of my brain and there’s something there, something pushing and pulling at my skin and trying to remind me, trying to tell me and

it slaps me in the face

it punches me in the jaw

it dumps me right into the ocean. “Adam.”

My bones are full of ice. My entire being wants to vomit. I’m tripping out from under him and pulling myself away and I almost fall right to the floor and this feeling, this feeling, this overwhelming feeling of absolute self- loathing sticks in my stomach like the slice of a knife too sharp, too thick, too lethal to keep me standing and I’m clutching at myself, I’m trying not to cry and I’m saying no no no this can’t happen this can’t be happening I love Adam, my heart is with Adam, I can’t do this to him

and Warner looks like I’ve shot him all over again, like I’ve wedged a bullet in his heart with my bare hands and he gets to his feet but he can hardly stand. His frame is shaking and he’s looking at me like he wants to say something but every time he tries to speak he fails.

“I’m s-sorry,” I stammer, “I’m so sorry—I never meant for this to happen

—I wasn’t thinking—” But he’s not listening.

He’s shaking his head over and over and over and he’s looking at his hands like he’s waiting for the part where someone tells him this isn’t real and he whispers “What’s happening to me? Am I dreaming?”

And I’m so sick, I’m so confused, because I want him, I want him and I want Adam, too, and I want too much and I’ve never felt more like a monster than I have tonight.

The pain is so plain on his face and it’s killing me. I feel it. I feel it killing me.

I’m trying so hard to look away, to forget, to figure out how to erase what just happened but all I can think is that life is like a broken tire swing, an unborn child, a fistful of wishbones. It’s all possibility and potential, wrong and right steps toward a future we’re not even guaranteed and I, I am so wrong. All of my steps are wrong, always wrong. I am the incarnation of error.

Because this never should have happened. This was a mistake.

“You’re choosing him?” Warner asks, barely breathing, still looking as if he might fall over. “Is that what just happened? You’re choosing Kent over me? Because I don’t think I understand what just happened and I need you to say something, I need you to tell me what the hell is happening to me right now

—”

“No,” I gasp. “No, I’m not choosing anyone—I’m not— I’m n-not—” But I am. And I don’t even know how I got here.

“Why?” he says. “Because he’s the safer choice for you? Because you think you owe him something? You are making a mistake,” he says, his voice louder now. “You’re scared. You don’t want to make the difficult choice and you’re running away from me.”

“Maybe I just d-don’t want to be with you.”

“I know you want to be with me!” he explodes. “You’re wrong.”

Oh my God what am I saying I don’t even know where I’m finding these words, where they’re coming from or which tree I’ve plucked them from.

They just keep growing in my mouth and sometimes I bite down too hard on an adverb or a pronoun and sometimes the words are bitter, sometimes they’re sweet, but right now everything tastes like romance and regret and liar liar pants on fire all the way down my throat.

Warner is still staring.

“Really?” He struggles to rein in his temper and takes a step closer, so much closer, and I can see his face too clearly, I can see his lips too clearly, I can see the anger and the pain and the disbelief etched into his features and I’m not so sure I should be standing anymore. I don’t think my legs can carry

me much longer.

“Y-yes.” I pluck another word from the tree lying in my mouth, lying lying lying on my lips.

“So I’m wrong.” He says the sentence quietly, so, so quietly. “I’m wrong that you want me. That you want to be with me.” His fingers graze my shoulders, my arms; his hands slide down the sides of my body, tracing every inch of me and I’m pressing my mouth shut to keep the truth from falling out but I’m failing and failing and failing because the only truth I know right now is that I’m mere moments from losing my mind.

“Tell me something, love.” His lips are whispering against my jaw. “Am I blind, too?”

I am actually going to die.

“I will not be your clown!” He breaks away from me. “I will not allow you to make a mockery of my feelings for you! I could respect your decision to shoot me, Juliette, but doing this—doing—doing what you just did—” He can hardly speak. He runs a hand across his face, both hands through his hair, looking like he wants to scream, to break something, like he’s really, truly about to lose his mind. His voice is a rough whisper when he finally speaks. “It’s the play of a coward,” he says. “I thought you were so much better than that.”

“I’m not a coward—”

“Then be honest with yourself!” he says. “Be honest with me! Tell me the truth!”

My head is rolling around on the floor, spinning like a wooden top, circling around and around and around and I can’t make it stop. I can’t make the world stop spinning and my confusion is bleeding into guilt which quickly evolves into anger and suddenly it’s bubbling raging rising to the surface and I look at him. I clench my shaking hands into fists. “The truth,” I tell him, “is that I never know what to think of you! Your actions, your behavior—you’re never consistent! You’re horrible to me and then you’re kind to me and you tell me you love me and then you hurt the ones I care most about!

“And you’re a liar,” I snap, backing away from him. “You say you don’t care about what you do—you say you don’t care about other people and what you’ve done to them but I don’t believe it. I think you’re hiding. I think the real you is hiding underneath all of the destruction and I think you’re better than this life you’ve chosen for yourself. I think you can change. I think you could be different. And I feel sorry for you!”

These words these stupid stupid words they won’t stop spilling from my mouth.

“I’m sorry for your horrible childhood. I’m sorry you have such a miserable, worthless father and I’m sorry no one ever took a chance on you. I’m sorry for the terrible decisions you’ve made. I’m sorry that you feel trapped by them, that you think of yourself as a monster who can’t be changed. But most of all,” I tell him, “most of all I’m sorry that you have no mercy for yourself!”

Warner flinches like I’ve slapped him in the face.

The silence between us has slaughtered a thousand innocent seconds and when he finally speaks his voice is barely audible, raw with disbelief.

“You pity me.”

My breath catches. My resolve wavers.

“You think I’m some kind of broken project you can repair.” “No—I didn’t—”

“You have no idea what I’ve done!” His words are furious as he steps forward. “You have no idea what I’ve seen, what I’ve had to be a part of. You have no idea what I’m capable of or how much mercy I deserve. I know my own heart,” he snaps. “I know who I am. Don’t you dare pity me!”

Oh my legs are definitely not working.

“I thought you could love me for me,” he says. “I thought you would be the one person in this godforsaken world who would accept me as I am! I thought you, of all people, would understand.” His face is right in front of mine when he says, “I was wrong. I was so horribly, horribly wrong.”

He backs away. He grabs his shirt and he turns to leave and I should let him go, I should let him walk out the door and out of my life but I can’t, I catch his arm, I pull him back and I say, “Please—that’s not what I meant—”

He spins around and he says, “I do not want your sympathy!” “I wasn’t trying to hurt you—”

“The truth,” he says, “is a painful reminder of why I prefer to live among the lies.”

I can’t stomach the look in his eyes, the wretched, awful pain he’s making no effort to conceal. I don’t know what to say to make this right. I don’t know how to take my words back.

I know I don’t want him to leave. Not like this.

He looks as if he might speak; he changes his mind. He takes a tight breath, presses his lips together as if to stop the words from escaping and I’m about to say something, I’m about to try again when he pulls in a shaky breath, when he says, “Good-bye, Juliette.”

And I don’t know why it’s killing me, I can’t understand my sudden anxiety and I need to know, I have to say it, I have to ask the question that isn’t a question and I say “I won’t see you again.”

I watch him struggle to find the words, I watch him turn to me and turn away and for one split second I see what’s happened, I see the difference in his eyes, the shine of emotion I never would’ve dreamed him capable of and I know, I understand why he won’t look at me and I can’t believe it. I want to fall to the floor as he fights himself, fights to speak, fights to swallow back the tremor in his voice when he says, “I certainly hope not.”

And that’s it. He walks out.

I’m split clean in half and he’s gone. He’s gone forever.

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