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Chapter 22: Ending & Beginning


Wyatt’s voice is different than I remember. It’s distorted and deeper due to the quality of the phone call. Still, it triggers all kinds of things inside of me and I clutch at the receiver like it’s a lifeline.

“Wyatt,” I breathe in a voice barely above a whisper; a little stunned that he even answered. Before I can open my mouth and say things I haven’t thought through, he lets out a noise that I can’t tell – without looking at his face – is good or bad… but then…

"Oh my God. It’s good to hear your voice. How are you? How’s your leg?”

I don’t care about that right now. My head is spinning so fucking hard I think I’m going to puke; I’m no longer aware of where I am. A tidal wave of foreign emotions washes over me as I get pulled back in a world where it’s just Wyatt and I.

“I miss you.”

“Aw, me too, Calix. I’ve been missing you so bad…”

The rush of happiness these words bring me is almost painful. My eyes are stinging – a lump is forming in my throat – but it feels so good... the ultimate relief.

“You’re not – not mad at me?” It doesn’t seem that way but I have to confirm, no matter the cost. At least I manage the tears – funny how that works without chronic pain plaguing me every minute of the day.

Wyatt’s short, bark-like laugh fills the line and I choke on an outgoing breath.

“Of course not. I’m so happy you called. I thought – I was thinking – there’s no way you would… but… what about you? Are you mad at me still?”

“No,” I say, like the idea is absurd, although even twenty-four hours ago I wasn’t exactly sure myself. Suddenly, I find my starting point. “You were right Wyatt – I am useless and stupid. It’s all my fault that this happened and I’m—”

“Hey – don’t say that… you’re not any of those things. I’m sorry I said that—”

“But I am,” I insist, talking over him because the words can no longer be held back after I’ve been trying my best for days. “Wyatt, I’m so stupid… I don’t want to be like that but I am, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry about Canuck – and ruining your life… and – and scratching you—”


“And for telling this therapist about you—I tried to hold back but it just came out of me, Wyatt! Everyone’s asking questions and I—”

“It’s okay just—”

“—tried to give you space, Wyatt, but I just had to call. I had to. I… it still feels like I need you so much...”

“Just slow down,” he commands, using a really comforting, authoritative tone to interject the panicked words flying out of me. “You’re not stupid, Calix. I’m the stupid one. Really stupid – you’re a genius compared to me, alright?” I sniff but keep silent because I don’t want to argue. “You don’t need to be sorry for anything. It’s all my fault… and fucking tell me you’re okay… I’ve been losing my mind—”

“I’m – I’m okay…” All things considered.

“How’s your leg?” he presses.

I look down at the limb briefly as it’s mentioned; gauze covering what I know to be neat, smaller-in-comparison stitches. “They took out your stitches and gave me new ones. It feels loads better… but Wyatt, it was all thanks to you – they told me I would have died...”

“Where are you now?”

“In the hospital,” I say, but then immediately clarify the specifics. “Calgary Foothills.”

“Yeah – I figured you’d go back to see your parents… how’d they—” he pauses briefly as if trying to tread carefully on the next words, “—take the news about your brother?”

Right. Wyatt doesn’t know Dax is actually alive.

“Daxton was rescued too,” I inform. “They found him, Wyatt! He’s alive. He’s right—” beside me.

Freezing like I’ve just had a bucket of cold water dumped on my body, I turn my head slowly to the bed next to mine where Daxton is most certainly giving me a strange look and listening to every word I’m saying. I offer him a shrug but otherwise, the only thing I care about right now is who’s talking on the other end of the line.

“Really?!” Wyatt exclaims, sounding completely excited at the news. “Holy shit… that’s awesome!” I expect a snide comment about my brother – just like the ones he constantly made on the mountain – but Wyatt appears genuinely happy. “I was expecting like… a big investigation and – fuck – well, glad to hear it. And you said you talked to a therapist about me?”

Uh oh.

“Yeah – I’m sorry! It all just started coming out but – I didn’t say your name. It’s just that, everyone thinks I’m some kind of hero or something and they all keep asking me questions. I tried to keep quiet but that made it worse!”

“It’s okay. I know you’re trying your best,” he says – suspiciously and uncharacteristically understanding.

“No, it’s not okay. Yell at me or something, Wyatt. I broke my promise and – and I’ll feel better if you just—”

He cuts me off with another rough laugh. “I’m not going to yell at you, Calix,” he says. “Besides… kind of a dick move making you promise that in the first place. I didn’t want to lose what I had out there – I didn’t want to get in trouble – I was trapped in a certain way of thinking but it’s kind of silly now, eh? I’m not mad at all.”

At all?

That’s hard to believe given everything I’ve done… but his words are so sweet and I don’t want to question them just yet. It eases some of the guilt inside of me and I don’t want to waste this precious time I have talking with him by insisting I’m a fuck-up.

“Wyatt, when can I see you again?”

“Soon,” he offers, and then adds, “but only if you’re sure you want to.”

“I do—I want to see you so bad…” In fact, as I imagine it, I get lightheaded and all kinds of exciting thrills race through me. They’re strong and make my stomach knot, my heart hammer, and my hands shake.

I’d get to hug him… smell him… kiss him…

All of these desires are so powerful that I squirm in place on the hospital bed.

“Me too…”

“Then when—?”

There’s a pause – and he’s thinking – because I know Wyatt does that kind of stuff in the moment. I’m sure he’s just been passing this entire time under the assumption I would never call – and after the poisonous way I hissed that I never wanted to see him again, I don’t blame him.

“That’s not an easy one, Calix… the visitor situation doesn’t really work in our case…”

“Yeah…” I agree. I don’t know what my parents – or Dax for that matter – will do if they saw my enormous mountain boyfriend and I making out on this hospital bed like my wild imagination convinces me will happen.

“I’m heading to Calgary though… I stopped in Sparwood and you called.”

“You’re really coming here?” I ask, repeating the most important thing I’ve heard these last few days besides the fact that Daxton is alive. “To see me?”

“Yeah – so we can talk properly, face-to-face… Calix, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I have some things I want to say. I’m sure you do too.” I immediately want to know, right this second, anything and everything he’s referring to. But he continues in a way that leaves no room for my questions. “When are you allowed to leave the hospital?”

“I have to complete this assessment… with the psychiatrist. She thinks I’m crazy.”

“You are a little crazy,” Wyatt teases. “But that’s the best part of you. Tell that fucking bitch to hurry up and discharge you already.”

I laugh – and it’s not the hysterical half-hiccup that escaped me before. It’s a real laugh and it feels so good. Wyatt feels so good.

“Okay, I’ll tell her that…”

“Don’t actually,” he warns, and I laugh again. There’s a small silence as I draw my legs up to my chin – because suddenly the bad one doesn’t feel too stiff. “But call me when you know for sure and we’ll work it out.”

“Okay… and Wyatt – about Canuck—”

“No, Calix, I’m sorry about that, too. Back then… it shouldn’t have even been a question. Canuck’s a wild wolf, eh? Not a pet. I know that better than anyone but – well I just wasn’t thinking. I overreacted… in the moment I just—” Wyatt trails off, unable to finish his sentence. I know it’s probably still hard for him.

“He was your best friend,” I acknowledge solemnly. “I’m so sorry… I didn’t mean for you to lose him because of me.”

“It’s not because of you, and it’s not your fault sweetheart – call me when you can, alright?”

“I will. Bye Wyatt…”

I wait to hear a ‘bye’ in return but there’s just the click of the call ending and I put the phone down with a shaking hand.

How can just one phone call with Wyatt take away all my troubles and leave me feeling stronger than ever? Being forgiven is like being cleansed of all my toxic guilt, regret, and burdensome anxiety. My chest literally feels lighter. I can take deep, calm and steady breaths; I’m no longer struggling with a tight throat. Suddenly all these fears – unknowns of what I feel and what will happen –are laid to rest. The plan Wyatt came up with is simple: get discharged, and I get to see him.

And that’s all I need to know because we’ll figure out the rest together.

Wyatt says he wants to talk and all I can think about is going right back to where we were before. I want to glue myself to him and never leave his side. I just want to love him completely again and for half a moment I plan out details to seduce him during our reunion.

At first, I think of Wyatt like he was on the mountain; an easy to tease, sex-deprived man that could be sent to breaking point without doing much pushing.


But then with a shock – I realize that Wyatt isn’t necessarily that same guy. He could easily get a girl now that he’s off the mountain.


Maybe he already has a girl…


Maybe he’s coming to break up with me for real!


Finally, Dax grabs my attention and I get pulled back into the moment – back in time.

7:33 PM MST

“Just what the hell was that about?” my brother asks, totally bewildered.

Daxton is tired – unhealthy – malnourished and more – but since arriving, I haven’t seen him look so alive. “What did I just hear? Tell me what’s going on.”

7:34 PM MST

So I tell Dax everything. All about Wyatt, Canuck, and every single detail of that cabin.

7:45 PM MST

I stop for a breath but it’s all too much for my older brother who is staring at me with wide, horrified eyes – attempting to absorb the massive amounts of information flooding out of me.

But I haven’t even gotten to the bad parts yet…

7:47 PM MST

“And I slept with him!” I cry out. “It was all so unreal, and amazing, and I just—”

“Okay okay, stop!” Daxton finally shouts, interrupting me going into any more detail, but not entirely curbing my need to do so. Ihave to tell him the whole thing so he understands.

“Wait but – we had this fight and like – Canuck ran off with these wolves…”

“Calix—holy shit! What is wrong with you? Did you hit your head going down that hill too? Now… just… just what am I supposed to tell Mom and Dad?”

“Obviously nothing, Dax!” I screech. “You can’t say anything about Wyatt to them!”

“Why? You’re always squealing on me – fucking right I’m going to tell them so they make sure this guy doesn’t get anywhere near you ever again! He’s a complete psychopath!”

“He’s not! He saved me and he’s important to me!” I seethe. “Besides, if you say anything, then I’m telling Dad you’re the one who smashed up the minivan.”

Dax knows exactly what I’m referring to – he was never considered a suspect five years ago, but I knew he’d done it and at the time, kept quiet so he’d take me backpacking through Europe.

“Calix you little shit…” he growls, frustrated. ”Fine. When are you going to tell them? What are you going to say?”

“I don’t know,” I confess, feeling a lot like in-the-moment-Wyatt as I realize I haven’t thought it through.

But then I brighten with a large smile. Wyatt will know what to do; when to tell my parents, what to say and how to say it. I know he’s got the answers, so I just allow myself to shrug off Dax’s question.

“I’ll figure it out.”

There’s a brief silence between us, but Dax is still staring at me, dumbfounded.

“You’re serious,” he realizes. When I nod, his weak hands fly up to his hair and he looks like he’s going to rip every strand out. “Calix – just think about it. You’re not gay… you’re just confused about this guy. Like, you don’t owe him anything—”

My sharp look cuts Dax off. “I didn’t sleep with him because I owe him anything,” I growl. “I did because I wanted to. And maybe I’ve always been gay and just didn’t know it…” I offer – though it doesn’t feel right. It’s more like… I never gave it a thought and assumed I was straight. Girls do it for me too but… so do guys, obviously. I don’t want to make it any more complicated than that.

Daxton is still frustrated with me when Mom and Dad return. He shoots me withering scowls every few minutes but I’ve long since been sucked back into a world I missed so much – one where Wyatt has made good on his promise to keep me.

And he’s on his way.

10:06 AM MST

Dr. Fredericks’ tight bun is high atop her head this morning and I find it distracting. It wobbles precariously to and fro as she tilts and adjusts her crossed legs. With a shake of my head, I try to focus – I need to get discharged as soon as possible, for Wyatt.

Though something must be written all over my face because Dr. Fredericks gives me an odd look - like she’s just noticed a huge booger hanging out of my nose or something - and she’s both disgusted and impressed.

“Did something good happen, Calix?”

I bite back the urge to immediately say yes, so I offer what I hope is a casual – cool – shrug.

“I’m just excited to go home,” I say – a little wistfully to prompt her to get her shit together and let me go already.

Her smile is warm and understanding. “I see – well I have no intention of keeping you longer than necessary, Calix, so tell me, did you reflect yesterday?”

“Boy did I,” I reply – noticing the sarcasm in my voice a little too late. Though – can she really blame me? My tone throws her off a little and she scribbles something in that damn book again, so I continue in a voice that is void of attitude. “I actually did.”

“What about?” she pries.

“I don’t know… all this guilt and stuff. You know, I ended up telling Dax everything yesterday and it actually felt really good.”

More pen scratching.

Dr. Fredericks looks at least a little bit proud of me, and the whole sense of accomplishment is familiar. If it were Wyatt, he would have brought me in close and pet me. He would have smoothed that big hand through my hair and cupped the back of my neck to bring me in close to his chest and –


I’m startled back into the moment again but Dr. Fredericks is patient. There’s no longer a weird look on her face as she prompts me to continue.

“Did you reflect about time?” she asks.

“What about it?”

It makes her laugh. Although it’s not really a laugh; more like a release of air.

“I’ve been researching into your addiction and –”

“Wait,” I interrupt. “What addiction?”

“To time,” she says matter-of-factly. “Calix, you rely on it – and you’re using it as a way to cope with bigger issues. Being diagnosed with ADD was out of your control. So what is in your control? How much time you allow yourself to a certain task; rigid schedules and routine, like the time you wake up. And checking your watch is like receiving a reward; a confirmation of your ability to keep focused…”

Blah blah blah. I blatantly roll my eyes at her.

“You’re making it worse than it is. Besides, I don’t even care about time as much as I care about Wyatt.”

The words fly out on their own and I don’t think they’re that important except this freezes Dr. Fredericks completely. She looks stunned by my words and she starts furiously writing in her book again.

“What do you mean, Calix?” she prompts.

“It’s like… when I’m with Wyatt… I don’t always worry about it,” I explain slowly. After all, this is the first time I’m really thinking about it. “He threw away my watch on that mountain and – well I just didn’t really care…”

“Why do you think that is?”

I dig deep, but draw a blank. I’m not sure if it is something I can really put into words but after several patient moments, I try.

“Well, there was no need. It’s like, a different world with Wyatt… I had other things to worry about…”

Scribbling away, the very professional Dr. Fredericks listens to my explanation with rapt interest. Her free hand gestures that I continue but it feels like any more and I’d just be saying the same things over again.

“I was more worried about what would happen when I left… and if I’d ever see Wyatt again…”

"Will you be seeing him again?” she asks.

I want to tell her yes – and that if she’d stop being such a cock-blocker and just discharge me already, it would happen sooner rather than later… but I don’t. And, I know if I lie, she’ll just see right through me. I go with the safest response.

“I want to.”

Then she says something completely surprising. “Honestly, I think it is a good idea – if it can happen under supervision – a closed, therapeutic session, maybe...” I’m totally shocked and she continues to explain. “You seemed guilt-stricken about several things yesterday. I believe that saying everything you want to say to him – even to your brother – has already helped.”

Little does she know, I already told Wyatt some of the things I wanted to say. And damn – she’s so right. I feel so much better today in comparison.

“I thought you said he’s an abusive kidnapper psycho?”

“I didn’t say anything like that,” she denies. “I shared that you may be affected by a cycle of traumatic bonding; punishment and reward… ups and downs as you refer… in hopes you would be aware of the effects your relationship with this man has had on your subconscious and ego—”

Ugh, it’s never-ending.

“—sake of your mental well-being, you should take the steps necessary to address…”

On and on she goes. Finally, I have to interrupt or I feel like I’ll explode.

“So am I good?” I ask impatiently. I don’t need a watch to know that it feels like I’ve been in this office forever.

“You want to hear my full assessment?” Dr. Fredericks asks, though I don’t know why I need to hear any more after her last spiel. “It is my professional opinion that you are dependent, Calix. You are dependent on time, and others, and this dependence has transferred to a person who you regard as your hero. Not only that – but you gave this person a lot of control, Calix. Probably more than you’re used to giving. You didn’t need time to control you, when that was this man’s job. I think that a number of factors contributed to a breakdown that occurred the moment there was a change in your environment – post traumatic stress, shock—”

I stop listening again, but hold eye contact and nod when she uses certain dry inflections in her voice.

Finally, she says the words I want to hear.

“I’m going to write up my request for you to be discharged this afternoon. Go home and get some well needed rest. And, if you feel like talking again, feel free to make an appointment.”

11:15 AM MST

My parents are ecstatic about the news I’m being discharged, though Daxton looks like he’s ready to murder somebody. As I frantically get ready to leave, I make sure to hug him tight from the side of his bed and pretend as if I’m the one comforting him.

“Don’t worry Daxey,” I sing. “I won’t forget about you.”

Though, when I say it, an odd feeling takes over – I’m reminded that on the mountain, I definitely forgot about Daxton – intentionally…

“Be careful,” he stresses, hugging me back and continuing in a low voice only I can hear. “Don’t do anything stupid with you-know-who.”

“Voldemort?” I offer in jest, but I know he’s referring to my reckless addiction to Wyatt and I give him one last hug. “Love you. Get better soon.”

2:03 PM MST

After a lot of paperwork, and a prescription filling, we’re finally on our way back home; my parents are driving me there right now.

I’ve actually gone quite a while without checking the time, except it just happens that I’ve glanced at the front dash of Dad’s Tahoe. I broke like, a record or something – but curse myself anyway. I need to prove to myself, and to everyone else, that I’m notaddicted to time at all.

“We’ll be back later—” Mom carries on.

“—for supper,” Dad interrupts. “But only for—”

“—a little bit – honey, Daxton has another surgery so—”

It just keeps going and going and I feel like jumping out of the car and running for the nearest telephone.

2:28 PM MST

Dad carries all my stuff and Mom helps me inside the house – then suddenly I’m in my room again and it’s surreal. Everything is both familiar and not. Like, my patternless bed sheets; I know I’ve had them for years, but it’s like seeing them up close for the first time, through a new lens, with a distorted memory of how they ever were.

I sit down on the edge of my bed, feeling sick to my stomach. I hate its pillowy softness… its luxurious springs.

I’d rather sleep on the forest floor next to Wyatt.

2:56 PM MST

My parents have finally left me alone to the silence and pace of my own thoughts, and the first thing I do is pick up the handset to the cordless phone and dial my number.

It’s so thrilling I can’t keep still. I’m prepared to chant, “come see me, come see me,” as soon as Wyatt picks up!

But then almost immediately after the sound of the digits being dialled, a Not-Wyatt voice speaks into my ear.

“We’re sorry. The number you have reached is no longer in service. Please hang up, and dial again.”

2:57 PM MST

I frantically dial Mom’s cell phone number – heart pounding and chest tightening as I face an unprocessable reality where I can’t get a hold of Wyatt.

She picks up in a heartbeat.


“Mom?” I say, trying not to sound as panic-stricken as I am. I might be doing a good job of it due to how breathless I feel. “What—what’d you do to my phone?” I ask.

“Oh – hang on… Daniel did – no it’s Calix – did you phone Telus about that bill? Uh huh – you did? Well – okay, Calix? Your dad had the line removed from our account this morning. Oh, just a sec’—” There’s a brief pause and I can hear Dad’s deep rumble in the background. “He says – he says he thought you didn’t have it when it wasn’t found on you?”

“Ugh – Mo-om!" I groan, though I’ve never hated my father more than this moment, I’m sure.

“Well, do you have it?”

“I – I—”

There’s nothing I can say to her that wouldn’t give me away. I struggle desperately to respond but Mom just makes it worse.

“Honey are you okay? Do you want us to turn around?”

I hear honking in the background as if Dad has just broken a bunch of laws attempting a U-turn, but I urgently shout into the receiver.

“No! No – I’m – I’m alright it’s just – just hard to think about where I… I had it last so… I need to be alone, in my room...”

“Well – okay if you’re sure…”

“Bye Mom. Love you.”

I hang up the phone and fall to the floor.

3:01 PM MST

It sucks so bad again.

3:23 PM MST

I don’t know what I’ll do but… not seeing Wyatt isn’t an option.

Suddenly crazy, desperate, thoughts sound pretty good. A few of them convince me that I need to leave – immediately – and head for that mountain because Wyatt has to go back there eventually. He’ll know that’s where to meet me.

But as soon as I stand up there’s a rush of gravity that pulls these senseless ideas out of my head and point out all the flaws in them, including that I have no means to get there.

3:45 PM MST

Another round of insanity.

I’ve somehow convinced myself that when Daxton’s better, I’ll make him guide me to the same spot as before.

I’ll get back.

4:06 PM MST

No, no. It’s still ridiculous no matter how you look at it.

4:08 PM MST

I pack anyway.

Underwear, socks, jeans and multiple T-shirts; I throw them all in Dad’s favorite camo duffle bag.

As I rummage through his pre-packed bathroom organizer – filled with a spare toothbrush, toothpaste, and other toiletries – I notice condoms and lube stuffed away into a compartment. It is convenient, to say the least, so I just zip everything up and throw it back in.

4:27 PM MST

When the bag is packed and ready, I admire its full shape from above and try to think up step two.

But that’s hard.

I don’t really know where to begin to find someone so off the grid as Wyatt. He doesn’t exactly strike me as the type to have Facebook, but I power up Mom’s laptop to check anyway.

4:33 PM MST

Nope. Although I do have a shitload of notifications…

4:48 PM MST

A thought strikes me, and it may very well be as crazy as all the others.

Wyatt said he was from Nanaimo. If I could find his parents – who I’m not even quite sure exist because he’s never mentioned them to me – then maybe that’ll lead to him.

5:02 PM MST

I’m about to head out the door with the packed duffle bag when something catches my eyes in the window.

I do a double-take, and that’s when I notice the old, rusted white pickup parked across the street.

I squint – struggling to see so far from a distance – and can barely make out a human form in the front seat. Call me crazy, but I think there’s the outline of a beard…

I don’t know what to call it; instinct? Some kind of, sixth sense for Wyatt? I’ve never seen his truck before. I have absolutely nothing to go off of, but I rush to open the door anyway – not really taking it easy on my bad leg. Whipping it back, I stumble over the landing and nearly face-plant my way down the front steps, but once I’m out in the yard the door to that truck opens and the first thing I see is a red, plaid pattern that is eternally familiar.


There’s no doubt it is him – and as excited as I feel, something freezes me at the sight. I literally stop mid-step as he shuts the door and starts walking towards me in greeting; a somber smile on his face.

My thoughts are disjointed and half-formed – and there’s a million of them. There are so many things I want to do – all at once – that I’m paralyzed with indecision.

“Hey Calix,” he greets, keeping a more-than-reasonable distance from me as if he’s trying to keep some space between us.

It fuels a bunch of fears and insecurities I’ve been trying to push away since our last phone call.

“Wyatt?” I say, still in awe. “How did you… how did you find me?”

He digs into the pockets of his jeans, pulls out my phone, and I’m immediately aware that he’s done a bit of shopping. The dark denim of his new pants is un-frayed, and has no holes in it whatsoever.

Now that I get a good look at him – running my eyes up and down his body – I notice the only thing that’s not new is the lumberjack coat.

Wyatt extends his arm and offers me the device with a silly grin.

“I noticed the service was gone, so I tried going to the hospital – like super casual, eh – but they told me you’d been discharged so that’s when I thought, oh shit. Then I looked through your phone, and you have this address listed as “home” in Google Maps so… I thought I’d try it out. I didn’t know if you’d be here or anything... but I’ve been parked out here for a good hour.”

My bones feel like they’re vibrating. I don’t know why it’s so overwhelming to see him again. It’s been three days… but it feels a hundred times longer than that and I can’t stop staring at him. His beard looks neater than ever – probably trimmed – and his hair isn’t as choppy as I remember either. The only thing that hasn’t really changed are his blue eyes, brighter than ever as they meet and hold mine.

Say something, I urge myself – reminded of the moment that I left the mountain and how I froze up then, too. I feel like something deep inside me just wants to run up and hug him but… I’m afraid if I do he’ll just remember how I’m needy and annoying and stupid and—


Wyatt pulls my attention back to him so effectively that I’m momentarily confused about what I was thinking about a second before he interrupted. Then I remember that it was just those damn anxious insecurities again.

“You okay? Do you need to sit down or something?”

My knees do feel weak…

Wyatt assumes caregiver mode in about five seconds flat as he takes a few steps towards me, steadies me by the arm, and gently lowers me onto the grass on my front lawn.

This helps a little bit. Or at least, now that he’s a few feet closer, one clear thought rings true.

“I’m just so happy to see you.”

This makes him smile for real and he lets out a laugh. “I’m happy to see you too, Calix. You look really good.”

“Are you kidnapping me?” I ask with hopeful awe, cutting to the important part. I say it like that because it’s more of an inside joke between us, but I’m a legal adult and desperately willing – it’s not really kidnapping at all.

“Only if you want me to,” he offers.

I don’t know why, but he’s looking tall and mischievous towering above me. It’s really fucking sexy. I get so happy that I bounce back up to my feet in a mad rush and grab his hand.

“Yeah, kidnap me right now. I already packed, so let’s go –”

“Wait a sec’,” he says – another command I’ll senselessly follow any time. “I have more to say.”

“Say it in the truck,” I offer, though he shakes his head and I give in, turning to face him and listen.

“No,” he insists. “I gotta say it now.” But there’s a strange pause. He looks straight at me and squeezes my hand in his. “I love you Calix.”

Holy shit. “What?”

“– I love you so much. I’ve been so sorry for not telling you before you left. You’re right. I didn’t know what love was… but fuck… now I do, and it’s changing everything because I just can’t stand being away from you. I’m so happy when I’m with you, Calix, and I missed that in my life. The way you look at me… it makes me want to be the incredible guy you see me as. I love that you don’t give up on me. It drives me crazy sometimes, but God, I love that stubbornness, too. I love how fearless, funny, and honest you are… I love how strong you make me feel. I love everything about you and I need you back. I’m asking a lot... but you started this and—”

“Shut up!” I interrupt finally. “I get it already. Just stop talking and start kissing me!”

Wyatt acts on the demand immediately by giving my wrist a rough yank so I go crashing into his body. I go weak with all of the feelings that take over me. He kisses me hard – almost brutally – and my lips start to ache but it’s so wonderful; each time they throb it’s just a reminder that Wyatt’s really here… that he really loves me…

It’s all I need.

I know that just by tightening my hold on him.

Loyal, protective, capable Wyatt will take care of me forever. God he’s so amazing it’s just ridiculous. Yeah there are shortcomings, but I love those too. I love his people-hating, holier than thou attitude. I love the way his brows pinch when he’s angry. I love his tone of voice, his intimidating aura… I fucking love it all so much that I moan out his name.

“I have – more to – say,” Wyatt comments again between urgent, rough kisses that he’s planting. He lifts me up, and carries me, teasing me with a tongue I’ve missed. I don’t really realize how far he’s taking me until we arrive at his rusted white truck with peeling paint.

“No—stop talking…”

Wyatt’s stupidly big smile makes it hard to kiss him properly and I pull back to frown. Then he proves he’s still his asshole self by slamming me into the side of his truck and digging in to tickle me with his scratchy beard.

As I’m forced to laugh, twist, and writhe in an attempt to push Wyatt off, I breathlessly try to reason with him. “Wait – hahaha – I – Wya-tt – my… duffle-bag…”

But he just keeps going.

“As soon as you left I realized exactly where I want my life to be – and it’s not on some mountain in Butt-Fuck Nowhere by myself ever again.” I hold my breath to let him finish. “I know I was a jerk. I know I should have done things differently… I know you can be happy without me—”

I throw myself at his hard body once more.

“I want to be with you – Wyatt – I always have. Stop talking like that.”

“Yeah? You’re fucking crazier than me,” Wyatt breathes against me, tickling me with wild beard hairs. His arms flex and I’m subjected to a bone-crushing embrace. Beautiful, warm, unbelievable happiness fills me. “Calix – I love you…”

Those incredibly gentle words are all I ever wanted to hear.

“I love you too.”

I laugh against him and press my face into his chest. He’s still wearing my shirt under his new one – it’s pulled as tight as ever across his body and has an odour about it like he hasn’t changed it for days. But that unmistakeable, sweet musk is incredibly comforting, even if it is fainter than normal.

“You ready?” he asks after a silent moment to collect ourselves from these grossly over-romantic theatrics.

“We’re leaving now?” I ask, pulling off him to look up past his beard.

“Yeah, I can’t hang around too long, eh?”

“What about my parents? Dax?” I glance down the road, half-expecting them, but Wyatt just shrugs against me and relaxes his super strong hold.

“It’s up to you, sweetheart.”

I debate it.

I do.

A part of me wants to go back there, kiss them goodbye, and tell a drugged-up Daxton that he’ll have to find a new climbing partner.

But now that I’m back with Wyatt – I simply cannot bear the thought of leaving his arms for one second.

“I wanna go right now.”

I don’t care where. I don’t care for how long. I know Wyatt’s got all that sorted out and quite honestly that’s all I’ll ever need.

He gives me a wet, hard smooch to the center of my forehead then jerks his thumb to the house. “Where’s your stuff?”

“Front door – can’t miss it,” I say, and next thing I know he’s jogging back and opening the front door. I can’t really get him to lock it either because I don’t have my keys, so I just hope for the best and get excited when Wyatt returns with my things.

He opens the rusted door of his truck with a loud creak and prepares to give me a step up into the raised cab.

“Okay, get in.”

I scramble forwards and climb into the old pickup. It smells damp and unpleasant inside, but I let him help me up and scooch along a narrow bench-like front seat to the passenger side. Wyatt slides my bag in after me and then follows next. When he’s sitting beside me, turning the key in the ignition, I let loose the first of many questions.

“Where are we going? Back to the cabin?” I told myself I didn’t care… and I don’t… but natural curiosity gets the best of me more often than not.

“No,” he shakes his head, then offers me a wicked smile. “We’re going to Nanaimo.”

“Nanaimo?” I repeat, voice cracking with surprise. “What’s in Nanaimo?”

“My Dad – his property – we’re going to build our cabin there.”

Our cabin.

It sounds so nice I’m already giddier than ever, squirming in my seat excitedly.

“For real?”

“Yup,” he nods. “You wanna go, right?”

I give him a look like he’d better start driving and Wyatt chuckles, pulling an old-school gear-stick into reverse and backing out of his parking spot.

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