Ignoring him, I get into bed next to him and pull the blanket over me. Closing my eyes, I try to force myself to sleep, but as long as he’s awake next to me, I know I won’t be able to.
Jace switches off the television, so the only light in the room is coming from his nightstand. Closing my eyes again, I can actually feel myself about to drift off when I hear his voice.
“I was in a car accident my senior year of college.”
Biting my bottom lip, I roll over to find him still sitting up cross-legged, his hands twisting in his lap. Leaning up onto my elbow, I watch him turn his head.
“It was just before spring break. I’d gone out with my two best friends, Casey and Bryan. Shooting pool, having a couple beers. We were making plans for what we’d do back home. On the way back to our apartment, we were hit head-on by a drunk driver.”
My heart’s racing and I cover my mouth with a hand, sitting straight up in bed next to him. His hands are shaking, but I let him continue.
“I woke up in the hospital, I had no idea what happened. Broke my right leg in two places, fractured my arm.”
I think back to the times we were intimate, and I faintly recall a scar on his right thigh. I never thought much about it, but now I realize that’s what it must be from.
He lifts his head, and when I see the tears in the corners of his eyes, I bite back my own emotions.
“Casey was sitting next to me, not wearing his seat belt. He was thrown from the car. Broken neck killed him. Bryan was brought into emergency surgery, but he died on the table.”
Shifting around, I climb onto his lap and he latches onto me, his face pressed to my throat. Running my fingers through his hair, I soothe him as best I can, my other hand rubbing circles on his back. “I’m so sorry, Jace.”
“We eventually learned the driver had a blood alcohol content of more than three times the legal limit. A year later he was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.”
Pulling back, I frame his face with my hands and kiss his forehead. “I’m so sorry.”
“I shouldn’t have yelled at you earlier, but I can’t drive and be distracted like that. It took me over a year to even be able to drive after the accident, and for a long time after that, I wouldn’t get behind the wheel without a whole lot of anxiety and stress. Eventually, with the help of a therapist, I moved past it. But in that moment earlier, all I could see was us crashing, and it scared the fuck out of me.”
“You don’t have to apologize. I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you.”
“For so long, Stella, the guilt threatened to pull me under, and I think it’s why I’ve never gotten serious about anyone, just stayed to myself for the most part. Moving on felt wrong.”
“But it was just an accident. It wasn’t your fault, Jace.”
He swallows thickly and nods. “I know, but I lost my two best friends. We’d been friends since we were kids. I lived and they didn’t. How is that fair?”
“I ask myself that every day when I remember that Mom and Dad won’t get to meet this amazing man I have right in front of me.”
Jace gives me a small smile and runs his thumb down the side of my face. “I know, baby. And if I could change that I would. In a heartbeat.”
I move off his lap, and Jace lies down on his side. I push the blankets away from us. In the faint light, I lean down and run my fingers over the long silver scar on his thigh, gently pressing my lips to it. Jace pulls me into his arms, tucking me into his chest. Tangling my leg with his, I run my hand up and down his side.
“I’m sorry you lost them, Jace. But I’m so glad you’re still here.”
His chest hitches on a breath, and I hug him tighter. I’m not sure if he’s crying or if he’s holding it back, but either way, I need to hold him. Have him in my arms. I know telling me all of that wasn’t easy for him.
Still holding each other tight, we fall asleep, the promise of tomorrow full of love and light.
Sun shining through the window wakes me up, Jace plastered to me from behind. Looking back over my shoulder, I see him still fast asleep, so as carefully as I can manage, I slip out from under his arm and pull the sheet back up over him. Stopping in his bathroom to wash my face and use the facilities, I step back into the bedroom and find him still asleep.
Padding out to the kitchen, I reach for his canister of coffee and go about making a pot. While it brews, I look through his fridge, trying to decide what to make for breakfast. Settling on omelets with green peppers and onions and sausage, I grab what I need. Ten minutes later, the coffee is ready, as are two plates of omelets. I’m cooking up the sausage when a pair of warm arms slides around my waist and I’m pulled back against Jace.
“Morning, beautiful,” he whispers against my neck, and I turn my head to give him a kiss.
“Morning. Hungry? I made omelets, and there’s coffee in the pot.”
“Thanks, babe.” Kissing my cheek, he moves around me to grab a cup of coffee.
“Today’s our day off. You wanna do anything today?” I ask softly, settling down on a stool at the island.
He sits next to me and shrugs. “We could just hang out,” he suggests, reaching for a plate of food. He takes a bite and groans, shoveling another forkful into his mouth. “This is so good.”
“Glad you like it.”
Together we eat breakfast in silence, and then I carry the plates to the sink. I wash and he dries, and when we’re done, he holds a hand out to me and I take it. Jace pulls me back to his bedroom, and in that moment, I realize something.
I’d go anywhere with him.
Because I am completely and undeniably in love with Jace Miller.