When he finally released me, I could see that my earlier suspicions weren’t ridiculous after all. His face was weighed down with something, the humidity not the only thing making him sweat.
“Thanks,” I said, trying not to sound as wary as I felt.
“God, I’ve missed you.” He hugged me and then kissed my forehead, leaving his lips against my skin for a moment longer. Then he took my bag. “We’re in building five, Club Level, with an ocean view.” He smiled, but there was sadness in his eyes.
“I upgraded. We’re in the same tower as Travis and Abby. The room is incredible. I can’t wait for you to see it.” He gestured for me to follow him outside where a man in a golf cart was waiting.
We sat together in the backseat, jerking when the driver stomped on the gas. Taylor looked over at me, both relief and admiration in his eyes. The golf cart sped along the narrow road for at least two minutes before we reached our building. Taylor didn’t speak again even though he looked like he wanted to.
The driver parked and carried my bag across the road and down a stone walk. We passed doors that led to rooms, moving to the side whenever a couple or family would step out, carrying beach bags, towels, or cameras. We ascended a few stairs, and then I followed the men to the room I would share with Taylor.
That thought made me suddenly nervous. We weren’t technically together even though it seemed all was well. An important conversation was inevitable, and I wondered if Taylor wanted to get that out of the way now or if he would keep me waiting all weekend.
Taylor took my bag, tipped our driver, and then used his key card to open the door. Fresh flowery smells filled my nose, and my sandals clicked against the tiled floor. The white linen and light décor was sophisticated but cozy, and directly in front of where we stood was a large sliding glass door, the curtains pulled back to expose the full beauty of the Caribbean Sea.
I dropped my bag. “Oh my God,” I said, my feet carrying me straight for the door.
Taylor beat me there, sliding open the glass.
I stepped out, hearing songbirds and watching the fronds of the palm trees dance with the breeze that were wafting the smells of the ocean to our balcony. The private beach of the Ritz-Carlton was lined with beach loungers, umbrellas, Hobie Cats, and paddleboats. An impressive sailboat was docked not two hundred yards from swimmers, white paint proudly marking its name, Lady Lyndsey.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anything this beautiful before in person,” I said, shaking my head in awe.
From the corner of my eye, I could see him staring at me. I turned to him, letting his milk-chocolate eyes take in every detail of my face.
“I’m so glad you’re here. I was worried. For several days.”
“I told you I’d come. You bought the ticket. I wasn’t going to stand you up.”
“You drunk-texted me. There are worse things—like torture, for instance.”
A crease formed between his brows. “It’s been a long week. I think I fell in love with you more every day. I guess there’s some truth to that saying.”
“Yeah, and so does thinking you’ve lost the woman you’re crazy in love with. When I was alone and even when I wasn’t, I said some pretty awful things about you in my head, Falyn. I take them all back.”
I wondered what his crew and even his brother must think about me. I could only imagine what he’d said out of frustration.
“I didn’t dump you. We took a break, so you could think about something important.”
He blinked. “So … we weren’t … we’re still together,” he said more to himself than a question. All the color drained from his face, and he backed away from me, sitting down hard in a wicker chair.
“I wasn’t clear. Either way, it wasn’t fair. It was stupid and cruel, and … I’m sorry.”
He shook his head. “You don’t apologize. You definitely shouldn’t apologize for this.”
I sat next to him. “What I did was shitty, no matter my line of thinking or my intentions. I’m just lucky you love me and that you’re more patient than you let on.”
He stared at the floor and then smiled up at me. “Let’s just pretend last week never happened. Fade out last Friday. Fade in the moment I saw you in the lobby.” When I didn’t respond, he continued, “I thought about it like you asked, and I don’t feel any differently than the night I left.”
He exhaled like the wind had been knocked out of him. “More now than ever.”
“Maybe it was a good thing then? The break?”
“I don’t know about that,” he said, pushing the table between us back and pulling my chair closer to him. “But there’s not a doubt in my mind about how much you mean to me. You’re the last woman I ever want to touch.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, unable to shake the guilt. “I just meant I should have listened to you. You were right about me trying to force it, and even though I didn’t realize it, I was probably trying to push you away. I don’t want you to leave me even if that makes me selfish.”
I leaned in, pressing my lips to his, and I sighed as he wrapped his arms around me.
“It doesn’t make you selfish, Falyn. I’m the selfish one. Jesus, I’m sorry, too. I just want to forget about it, okay? Can we do that? It’s just you and me. Nothing else matters.”
As he held me in his arms, the world was right again. I was never so glad to be wrong.
He pulled away with a frown. “I have to get around. The guys are all in Shep’s room, getting ready.” He stood up, leading me back into the room by the hand.
I sat on the end of the bed, watching as he opened the closet and pulled out a plastic-covered tux. He held it up, shrugging. “America insisted we go traditional.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing you in that.”
“Fresh towels are in the bathroom if you want to take a shower before the ceremony. I’ve already had one, and I feel like I need another one.”
“Maybe you should take one with me?” I said, arching an eyebrow.
He dropped the tux and rushed to kneel next to me. “We’re okay, right?”
He planted a kiss on my lips. When he pulled away, disappointment flashed in his eyes. “I wish I could. The ceremony is in the gazebo on the beach. Just around the corner and down the stairs.”
“See you in ninety minutes,” I said, waving to him as he walked backward through the door.
When the door closed, I slipped off my sandals and padded across the tiles to the cold marble floor of the bathroom. The quiet allowed me enough time to think about my awkward reunion with Taylor, and a lump formed in my throat. Colorado Springs was a thousand miles away, and I couldn’t seem to hide from the guilt. Instead of seeing it in my reflection in the mirror, it had been in Taylor’s eyes.
As glad as I was to see him and to know that he wanted me despite the knowledge that we would never have children, something still felt off. So many questions crowded my mind. Maybe I had hurt him beyond repair. Maybe what I had done to him changed him. Maybe it had changed us.