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The darkest hour, p.36
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       The Darkest Hour, p.36

         Part #1 of KGI series by Maya Banks
 
Page 36

 

  She smiled faintly. “I don’t know why I was so afraid of you in the beginning. You’ve been nothing but kind to me. ”

  He smiled back and reached over to squeeze her hand.

  Garrett touched her hair, and she turned to see concern in his blue eyes. “What’s it going to be, sweet pea? You want to talk to Ethan or you want us to make him go away?”

  CHAPTER 35

  ETHAN stood at his brother’s front door simmering with impatience. It was locked or he’d already be inside, and if Sam didn’t hurry the fuck up, Ethan was going to break it down.

  He raised his fist to pound again when the door opened and Sam stood on the other side, his expression almost accusing.

  “Where is she?” Ethan demanded as he shouldered past his brother.

  “She’s in the living room,” Sam said stiffly. “With Garrett. ”

  Sam seemed to be studying him as he spoke, but Ethan didn’t care. He was frantic with worry over Rachel. As he walked by Sam, it looked like Sam wanted to say something to Ethan, but again, Ethan ignored his brother and focused on finding Rachel.

  When he entered the living room, he saw Rachel huddled on the couch next to Garrett. It was obvious she was upset, and Garrett raised his head and sent Ethan a look that would have made a lesser man piss in his pants.

  Jesus, what the hell was going on?

  He dropped to his knee in front of Rachel and pried her hands away from Garrett’s.

  “Baby, what’s wrong?” he asked softly. “What happened? I woke and you were gone. Do you have any idea how scared I was? The truck was gone. You were gone. I had to call Sean and ask him to drive me over here. ”

  She flinched away from him, withdrawing like she couldn’t bear to touch him. He stared at her in shock.

  Garrett got up and backed away until he stood close to Sam.

  “Do you want us to stay, Rachel?” Garrett asked in a quiet voice.

  Ethan looked between them, more confused than ever. Something was going on here that he himself was clueless over. A sick feeling settled into his stomach. Had she remembered everything?

  Rachel shook her head. “No. But thank you. ”

  “We’ll be in the basement if you need anything,” Sam said as he and Garrett turned to walk out of the living room.

  “Rachel?” Ethan asked when they were alone.

  The knot in his belly was growing larger with each passing second.

  “I found this,” she said as she thrust rumpled papers toward him.

  He knew without looking what they were. He couldn’t even bring himself to look into her eyes.

  “Oh God. ”

  Her hands shook as she continued to hold out the papers. “I kept having these dreams about you being angry, that you hated me. ”

  “Shhh. ” He pressed a finger to her lips and shook his head. “God no. Never hated you, baby. Never. ”

  She shook him off and stared down at the papers. “These say you did. Or at least that you didn’t love me anymore. That you thought our marriage was over and you wanted out. God, you didn’t even try to get rid of them. You left them in the same place I saw them before I left a year ago. ”

  What could he say? He had no defense for all the pain he’d put her through.

  “I left them there because I wanted to be able to tear them up in front of you. To beg you for another chance. A chance I never got. ”

  “Talk to me, Ethan,” she begged. “I need to know. More than the divorce papers. This isn’t the sole source of our problems. I don’t remember everything. Just pieces here and there. I didn’t even know I’d lost a baby until Sam told me tonight. Or that you quit the SEALs right after. I need to understand what happened. ”

  He staggered back, his gut boiling. He wasn’t prepared. He’d lived with the knowledge every second of every day that she’d eventually remember and that he’d have to explain, but he still wasn’t ready. He wasn’t ready to face the prospect of losing her when he’d only just gotten her back.

  He took a deep breath to steady his fried nerves. This was important. This was his life. He couldn’t—wouldn’t—lie to her no matter how bad it made him look.

  “You were so excited when you found out you were pregnant,” he said, smiling as he remembered just how excited she’d been. “I was gone a lot, and I worried I wouldn’t be there when you gave birth. Garrett said he’d step in, no problem. I should have been grateful, but I was jealous and resentful.

  “And then you miscarried while I was in parts unknown. I didn’t even know about it until my team surfaced. Sam had been trying to reach me. I felt so guilty because I knew how much you wanted our child. I felt guilty because I wasn’t there when you needed me the most, that you had to go through it alone. ”

  He glanced back at Rachel, who still sat on the couch, her arms clutched around her slim waist. Her eyes haunted him. There was so much pain—and confusion—as she tried to filter through what she could remember versus what he was telling her.

  “So I came home and there was Garrett. Garrett the rock. Garrett who’d been with you the entire time. I was furious—mostly with myself—and insanely jealous. I was also angry and grieving for our baby, and I lashed out at you. God, if I could take it all back. ”

  He ran a hand through his hair and gripped the back of his neck as he turned away from her again.

  “I resigned my commission because I knew I’d failed you. You never asked me to. You never would have. You knew how much the Navy meant to me. But I quit anyway and I hated it. Hated being home. Hated not knowing what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life. Hated looking like a failure to my family and my wife.

  “I resented you even though I knew, I knew deep down that it wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t your choice. It was mine, but I resented the hell out of you, and I started to blame you. I was my own worst enemy and I was destroying our marriage and your love, and that only made me angrier. ”

  A sound of pain escaped Rachel’s tightly pressed lips. She looked as though he’d struck her. He wanted none of it to be true. He wanted never to have hurt her, but he wouldn’t lie to her now. It was like poison in the very heart of his soul, and he had to get rid of it. All of it.

  “I shot you down at every opportunity. You tried. God, you tried. You loved me and I shit on it because I was eaten alive inside with resentment and my own personal unhappiness. I didn’t want to hear I love you from your lips, but the moment you stopped saying it, I resented you even more. I was the worst sort of ass, and I finally decided that the least I could do for you was to set you free. Noble, huh?”

  He threw up his hands in disgust and turned back around. The agony on her face made him want to puke. He wanted to touch her, to hold her, but he was afraid to, because if she rejected him now, he was lost.

  “I was too much of a coward to just man up and tell you that I was unhappy with my decision. You would have supported me. I know you would have. So I made you miserable and then threw the divorce papers at you. I’ll never forget the look on your face, Rachel. It’s eaten me up for the last year. You walked away thinking I hated you and that I wanted out of our marriage, and I never got to make things right between us. ”

  She stood shakily, her hand going down to the edge of the couch to steady herself on the way up. Her face was pale, her eyes huge. She looked . . . devastated.

  She licked her lips and briefly looked away as if gathering her courage. Ironic, since she was the only one between them who had the strength and courage of a warrior.

  When she looked back at him, the emotion in her gaze hit him square in the gut. Tears swam over her dark brown eyes and slid silently down her cheeks.

  “Do you want out, Ethan? Is that guilt that’s eating you why you’re with me now? Because you feel responsible for what happened and that the last words you said to me were about wanting a divorce? Did you want me to find those papers?”

  No longer able to stand ap
art from her, he crossed the room and gathered her in his arms.

  “No, baby. God, no. Never. I didn’t want out then. I don’t want out now. I love you. I made mistakes. Mistakes that cost me everything. The moment you walked out that door, I knew I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. I spent the entire week you were gone planning the right things to say to you when you got back home. I was prepared to beg. To do whatever I had to do to make you stay and to show you I loved you.

  “And then I got the news that you’d died. ”

  His voice cracked, and he couldn’t go on anymore. Even saying the words brought back the reality of that day. Of feeling like the entire world had dropped from beneath him. He never wanted to go back there.

  “I’m so sorry, baby. I’m so sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I couldn’t be the man you needed then or now. At first I kept the papers because I wanted to tear them up when you got back. But then when I was told you died, I kept them as a reminder of all I’d lost and that the fault was mine and mine alone. When I discovered you were alive, they were the very last thing on my mind. I totally forgot I’d left them there. ”

  He slowly drew away, needing to see her. He touched her face, smoothing the red tear blotches against her pale skin.

  “I love you,” he whispered.

  Hot tears spilled over his fingertips, and he whisked them away, his soul hurting with each one that slithered down her cheek.

  “I need to know that you’re with me now because you love me and not because you feel obligated to right some past wrong,” she choked out. “I can’t live thinking you feel trapped because your dead wife came back from the grave. I can’t live thinking I’ve been given everything I’ve prayed for the last year when it’s not real. It’s hell and not heaven. ”

  He kissed her forehead and then her nose. Then both of her eyelids. He kissed the damp trails away from her cheeks and finally pressed a gentle kiss to her quivering mouth.

  “The day I learned you were alive was the single greatest day of my life. For whatever reason, God gave me a second chance. He gave us a second chance. I don’t deserve it, but I want it more than I want to live. I want to spend the rest of my life proving to you that you can trust me this time, Rachel. ”

  She looked at him with such hope and devastation that it broke his heart.

  He grasped both her hands and brought them up to his chest to lie over his heart.

  “I don’t expect us to have it all worked out in a day or even a month. You have a lot to remember. I have a lot of trust to rebuild between us. Will you at least come home with me so we can talk about this some more? Please, Rachel. Come home with me. Give me this much. I know I don’t deserve it, but at this point I’m begging. ”

  She hesitated, staring back at him with tortured eyes. He’d sworn he never wanted to see such anguish in her face again, like the day she walked away when he’d told he wanted a divorce. And yet now, it was ten times worse. She was infinitely fragile and so utterly destroyed that he feared she may never trust him again. What if he lost her? What if after the miracle of getting her back, he lost her after all?

  “I’m scared,” she said in a hoarse, heart-wrenching voice. “I’m sick at heart. ”

  She pulled her hands away from his chest and turned away from him. The seeming rejection knotted his stomach. This was how she felt. The day he told her it was over. This was how she had to have felt. Like the world was coming down around her and there wasn’t a damn thing she could do.

  It hurt him that he’d hurt her—had hurt her for so long. If he could protect her from those memories, he’d do it in a heartbeat, but God, he couldn’t. His time was up.

  He reached out to touch her hair and then let his hand drift down to her shoulder. She flinched but he didn’t draw away. He couldn’t. He didn’t want any distance between them. He couldn’t accept that he could possibly lose her after getting back everything he’d ever wanted.

  “Rachel,” he whispered. “Look at me please. ”

  For a long moment, she hesitated, and then she finally turned, her eyes lowered at first. He rubbed his thumb over her jaw and to her chin until she raised her gaze to meet his.

  “I love you. I want you. I want us. ”

  She swallowed and raised a shaking hand to wipe at the corner of her eye. “I want that too, Ethan. But only if it’s real. ”

  “Then come home with me. ”

  She stared back at him, her heart so vibrant in her eyes. Finally she nodded her agreement, and his chest caved in with relief. At least she wasn’t refusing to speak to him.

  “Let me tell Sam and Garrett that I’m taking you home, so they won’t worry. ” He raised one of her hands to his mouth and kissed her open palm. “Be right back, baby. ”

  Ethan hurried down to the basement and stuck his head in the door. He didn’t want a confrontation with his brothers, especially Garrett. It was bad enough Van knew about Ethan’s fuckups, but now that Sam and Garrett also knew, it made Ethan feel like an even bigger ass.

 
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