Chapter 18 - Knox
I woke up feeling rested instead of restless, having had the best sleep I’ve had in years. I had a deep, dreamless sleep - the kind of sleep I’d forgotten existed anymore.
I felt like me again, and for a moment, a flash of guilt sliced right through me, but then it evaporated again, replaced by this feeling of contentedness, of feeling as though finally, the world was right again.
An involuntary smile settled on my lips as my eyes opened, and they found her immediately. She was still sleeping, her breathing even and rhythmic. How could one person make such a difference? How could she take away that feeling of smothering heaviness that rested on my chest each day?
Then, for a moment, that feeling of heaviness weighed on me again, but it wasn’t on my chest this time; it was in my heart. God - I was falling for her, wasn’t I? This was exactly what was happening here.
But I couldn’t. This thing could well end up destroying us both if we weren’t careful. I’d indulged myself this weekend, asking her to stay with me. And although it was the best damn feeling in the world to wake up like this, I also knew I couldn’t let this happen again. I’d been weak, I gave in, and we were both going to pay for this.
She sighed, a hint of a smile curving on her full lips. Fuck, she was beautiful - I loved waking up with her like this. Despite my defenses, she had gotten close, way closer than anyone had been in years. And it scared me that I felt like this. She wielded power over me; I told her things I’d never told anyone else. But it felt as though the universe was laughing at me again. Giving her to me for a sliver of time, when I knew I couldn’t keep her.
Her dark lashes fluttered open, and those electric blue depths hit me like a lightning bolt. And then she smiled and looked so damn content, mirroring just exactly the way I felt.
“Morning, Knox,” her voice was raspy from sleep, and it was the sexiest sound I’d ever heard.
“Morning, Snow,” I placed a kiss on her lips, silently wishing I could wake up like this every day. But it was wishful thinking, because I couldn’t let this happen again.
Her lips moved against mine, instigating something sinful. Her body ground into me, she flung a leg over mine, and just like that, we tangled again. It was compulsion; there was no choice. And as I moved inside her, our fingers intertwined, our gazes locked, I nearly said it. I nearly spilled words I couldn’t afford to say. So, I kissed her again, sloping my lips onto her mouth, to prevent me from saying a word. But even though I didn’t say a thing, I couldn’t suppress what I was feeling, because it was forceful as an avalanche...
Eventually, we got out of bed, and we went to the beach again. She sat on the sand, watching me conquer the waves. And for exactly the first time in five years, I didn’t feel that tremor of sadness, of guilt, ripple through me as I did what I loved. I felt free, unshackled, like I could finally breathe again.
And that’s when I realized that something had changed. It was inside of me, deep inside the echoes of my soul. Slowly, the darkness was being outshone by her light. Because the fact was, she lit something inside of me, with every day, with every breath.
“Would you like to come in?” She asked hesitantly, tucking a loose wisp of hair behind her ear in an almost-nervous gesture.
I’d just stopped in front of her house, after what could only be described as the best damn weekend of my entire life. Snow and I just worked, and being with her made me feel as though I could be happy again. As though perhaps, I’d paid for my sins at last.
But I was wrestling with myself again because chances were that her family would be there. It would be breaking through another wall, getting in deeper with her again.
But after the weekend we had, I didn’t feel as cautious as I should have. I wanted to push those thoughts of leaving aside, like I have been for the past two days, and pretend that time wasn’t running out. It was just one more thing, just for today - it wouldn’t make that much of a difference in the greater scheme of things, would it? And the last thing I wanted was for Snow to think that I was just using her - she deserved more than that, but she also meant more than that.
“Sure,” I nodded, although the rational part of me knew that I probably should’ve politely declined. This wasn’t helping the situation at all - it didn’t help to keep a necessary distance between us, but just narrowed it again.
Her face lit up, and she smiled, and that made that niggling feeling all worth it just to see her smile like that.
We walked hand in hand to the front door. And suddenly I felt nervous. I was out of my depth, and I knew it. Shit - this was a bad idea, but I couldn’t turn around now, could I? And then it slammed into me that I was probably going to run into Adam Davis - Snow’s father. I hadn’t been thinking - it meant that he would probably talk to my dad, and I’d have to come clean to my parents about me seeing dad’s boss’ daughter, too.
This had the potential to get messy - very messy, indeed. I never meant for things to go this far. I never meant for this to be more than just a casual fling. But this thing between Snow and I was an avalanche.
And my fears were realized when we walked in, and her mother and father were having an animated discussion just inside the foyer.
“She’s all grown up now, Adam, you have to remember that,” Mrs. Davis said, and then both of their heads turned, and their gazes landed on us simultaneously.
I was inwardly steeling myself, because although I didn’t know Adam Davis well, I knew him well enough to know that he was highly protective of his family.
" Hi, Mom and Dad...” Snow said, clenching her hand tighter inside mine.
Adam’s eyes narrowed immediately as his gaze settled on me, and he sized me up. But then, his eyes lit up in recognition.
“Knox Vaughn... is that you?” He stepped closer, stretching out a hand. And although he was looking at me with a level of distrust, immediately taking in that I was holding his daughter’s hand, there was also a smile on his face.
“It is. It’s been a while, Adam,” I accepted his outstretched hand, and returned his particularly firm handshake with an equally firm response.
“Good to see you again, Knox. How are the studies going?”
“Great, thanks. I’m finishing my undergraduate degree this semester, actually.” My eyes darted briefly to Snow, and that smile disappeared right off her face again.
“That’s great news. Come on inside. Do you need a job, son?” Adam asked, leading us to their exquisitely furnished lounge room.
“Hi, Knox - I’m not sure if you remember me...” Mrs. Davis smiled, and I nodded, smiling back.
“Of course, Mrs. Davis. I hope you’ve been keeping well.”
“I have, thanks. Take a seat, please - can I get you anything to drink?”
“No thanks.” Shit. This situation was uncomfortable as hell.
We took our seats, Snow and I sitting next to each other on a three-seater sofa, still holding hands - a detail which clearly hadn’t escaped her parents as they gave each other a knowing look, and Mrs. Davis’ smile broadened just a little in amusement.
“So, Knox, are you coming to work for the firm after you graduate?” Adam asked again, clearly taking an interest in my plans.
“No, actually, I’m enrolled to complete my Masters.” I didn’t particularly want to elaborate.
He nodded. “Good plan. From what I’ve heard, you’ve done good work when you completed your summer internship at the firm. We’d be happy to have you back when you’re ready to start looking.”
Snow’s dad was being gracious. Extremely gracious. And yes, I’d run into him once or twice during my summer internship at his firm a few months ago, but the fact was I didn’t have much to do with him at all. He was probably feeling sorry for me - like most people who knew about what had happened. And that was another reason why I’d applied to go overseas - to get away - to escape my past. Because the fact was, everyone in my life knew about it. I was tired of seeing the pity in people’s eyes. I didn’t want or need special treatment - I wanted to earn my place in the world. I felt the need to start over, to make a new beginning in a new place, where no-one knew - where I could look people in the eye without seeing that sympathy there - without feeling that there was something wrong with me.
“So, Knox... are you seeing my daughter?” Adam was all business again, now that we had the initial pleasantries out of the way.
“Dad...” Snow said, but I smiled at her, squeezing her hand, indicating I was happy to answer her father’s questions. I didn’t need her to shield me; I could handle myself.
“I am.” I looked Adam in the eyes. I had nothing to hide. If there were going to be judgement from his end due to the fact that his daughter was seeing someone beneath her, then he’d have to say that to my face.
He nodded, and Mrs. Davis’ smile widened again as she placed her hand inside her husband’s, sending him a wordless message as their gazes met for a second.
“You’re a good kid, Knox, from a good family. I count your dad as a friend, and I have the highest respect for him professionally. But let’s be clear: treat my daughter well, please; otherwise, no amount of friendship and goodwill towards your family will save your backside, understood?” Adam said sternly, not mincing his words.
Snow’s eyes widened, and she bit her bottom lip from nerves.
“Understood.” I met his piercing gaze head-on.
“Dad, he saved my life that day at the beach,” Snow said softly, and both of her parents’ jaws dropped.
‘Shit.’ I hadn’t been planning on bringing that up, either.
“You brought Melody to the hospital that day?” Mrs. Davis asked, immediately sounding emotional.
“Yes. It was lucky that I was in the right place, at the right time,” I smiled at Snow, and she squeezed my hand, looking at me again as though I was some sort of saint.
“We can’t thank you enough, Knox. Thank you for what you did for Melody, and for us. If it weren’t for you...” Mrs. Davis was highly emotional now, wiping a tear away.
I just nodded, not wanting to make a bigger deal out of the whole thing than what it was already. Because I didn’t want any of them to feel like they owed me anything.
“Thank you, son. That’s how the hospital got hold of us so quickly, I imagine? You recognized Mel?” Adam asked with a slight frown.
“Yes. I knew it was one of the twins - I wasn’t sure which one at the time. I gave them your name, Adam. And then, Mel and I ran into each other shortly afterward again,” I explained, and he nodded, a serious expression on his face.
“I meant what I said earlier. Anytime you need a job - anything - let me know how I can help. And for what it’s worth - as long as you treat my daughter well, you have my full support.”
Snow shifted uncomfortably in her seat, and she bit her bottom lip. Shit - she looked like she wanted to cry, just then. This situation was becoming messier and messier by the fucking second.
“Thanks, Adam. I appreciate it. But there’s something else you should know.” I decided to go for broke and be brutally honest here.
“What’s that?” His eyebrows shot up immediately.
“When I said I’d be pursuing post-graduate studies, I meant I’d be moving to London.”
Adam and his wife looked at each other again, and Mrs. Davis wore a frown this time.
“When is that, Knox?” She asked before her husband could.
“In about six weeks.”
They both nodded, looking intently at Snow, but her face remained stoic and devoid of expression. Her parents, on the other hand, were very clearly not impressed by that information.
“I see,” Mrs. Davis nodded, looking at Snow with something that looked like concern.
“Well, it’s been nice seeing you again, Knox. Thank you again for saving my daughter’s life. You’re always welcome in this house. Clearly, whatever’s going on between you and Melody, is fairly recent. But I’m going to ask you one thing: please try not to leave my daughter with a broken heart,” Mrs. Davis smiled as she said the words, but I could see the worry in her eyes. It was as though she knew that Snow and I were struggling to contain this thing between us, just then.
And as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t give her any reassurances. I couldn’t make any promises, just like I couldn’t make any promises to Snow. Because the fact was that everything about us was temporary. I just hoped that the heartbreak after I left, would be temporary, too...