Home > Beholden (Salvation #2)(6)

Beholden (Salvation #2)(6)
Author: Corinne Michaels

“You love him,” Nina says as a statement.

“I do.” I don’t hesitate because it’s true. “But I don’t know how he feels anymore. He pushed me away when Aaron died. He told me we were done. I just … I couldn’t.”

“You don’t have to explain to me, Catherine. I understand these stupid, stubborn Cole men better than anyone. Jackson has a lot of issues from losing a lot of people he’s loved. You have to give him time. He’s one of those who feels the weight of the world on their shoulders. He’s always been that way. Even as a child. You’ll work it out—I have faith.”

That word again. Everyone is always saying to have faith. To trust in each other and our faith that things will work out. I’ve learned on more than one occasion it’s not always reality. Life has a way of slapping you in the face and then kicking you a few times just for good measure.

“Our relationship happened extremely fast,” I pause trying to figure out how to explain what’s in my heart. “It’s been a whirlwind, but I thought we were finally on the same page.”

Fate intervened again by rearing her ugly face. Reminding me what a cruel bitch she is and that I shouldn’t get too comfortable.

“When it’s meant to be, things have a way of working themselves out. Brendan and I separated once,” Nina says holding my gaze.

“Jackson never mentioned.”

“Jackson and Reagan were still young and they probably don’t know or don’t remember,” she explains. “I couldn’t take the deployments anymore. The nights of being alone, waiting and wondering. Then there was the fact that he was following his passions while I was stuck at home. I felt trapped.”

I’m stunned.

“Wow. What made you guys work it out?”

“I loved him. He was gone, but it wasn’t because he didn’t love me and the kids. It was quite the opposite. He hated being away. Loathed the times he missed, but he was willing to walk away from his dream for me. But I never wanted to be the reason he gave up the Air Force. I knew he would resent me at some point, if I forced his hand. Imagine knowing you were the reason he gave up his dreams. Give him time, honey. He’ll come around.”

“God, I hope so.”


I have to leave tomorrow. Despite my intention to stay, there’s talk about Raven and problems within the company that need to be dealt with. I got an email from my boss asking when I’d return, and I’m running out of excuses as to why I need to be here. Yes, he’s my client, but I don’t need to sit vigil by his bedside to manage the story. Nina and Mark are out talking to the nurses trying to get answers on the recent spikes in heart rate.

“Jackson,” I whisper, softly brushing his hair back. “Baby, I can’t do this. I don’t know what to think anymore. I need you. Please. Please, I’m so alone.” My heart is aching as I beg him. “I l-love you, Jackson. I love you. D-Do you remember the zoo? Remember how you held my hand and we walked through the park?” I pause as the memories of our time together start flooding back. “I remember every moment. I remember how it was when you left me too, and I can’t have it end like this. I can’t have the last memory I have of you being you walking away from me. I need you to love me. To choose me.” The steel in my voice hardens as I become more resolved. This has to work out. “I need you to wake up and be the man who watches movies with me, who holds me when I cry. I need more of that, Jackson. But I’m so scared. I’m so scared you’re going to wake up and push me away again—or not wake up at all. I’m terrified that this is it for us. I’m begging you—I …”

“Catherine, honey,” Nina says softly behind me.

I swipe my hand across my cheeks and take a calming breath. “Sorry. I’m just …”

There’s really nothing I can say at this point. It’s unclear when he’ll wake, and each day that passes, my hope dwindles.

“He’ll come through. You have to be strong.”

“I’m trying. It’s been so long. And I d-don’t want t-to …”

“Do you still have to leave?” his mother asks.

“Tomorrow morning. I have to go back.” The words taste bitter as they roll off my tongue. “There are things I can’t do from here. God, it’s ripping my heart out to leave him when he’s still …”

“I know. But you have to keep fighting.”

“I hoped he’d be awake by now. I don’t want him to think I wasn’t here.”

“Oh, Catherine, we would never let him think that,” Nina pauses. “Why don’t I come back later?” She gently pats my hand and grabs her bag.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I have some things I need to get done, and I think you need to talk to him. Now, don’t you leave without saying goodbye, okay?”

“Of course, thank you so much,” I say as she strolls out of the room.

I curl up on his bed careful not to touch any of the wires. I need to touch him, feel his body and warmth. Even if he’s not really here with me, it comforts me. All of the anger I held on to is gone. The fact that I could potentially lose him again erases the previous fight. He was so lost in the shock of that phone call and all I wanted to do was be there for him. Yet, he pushed me away.

My hand rests on his chest as I feel his heart beneath me. “I never got to tell you what happened while we were apart.” I use this time to tell him about the things we missed during our separation after the fight we had at my apartment. “I read the letter my father wrote me. The night I pushed you away after the fight with Neil, I figured, why not? And I opened it. I sat there on the floor and read everything I always needed to hear from him. He basically apologized for everything. After I got through the entire letter, do you know what I hated most?” I pause, letting the question remain unanswered by him. “That I was more upset about pushing you away. I hated myself for being so weak. For being so scared.” Jackson consumed me. He took a part of me I wasn’t sure I could give and it made me push against him. “How is that? This man who I’ve longed for since I was a kid gave me answers, yet all I wanted was you.”

And then he left me.

“I never believed in fate, but then I met you. Who falls on someone’s lap? I mean, that’s just crazy. But it happened.” I grab his hand and pull it to my chest, weaving our fingers together.

“Life has managed to slap us around a bit though. We keep fighting this current pushing us the wrong way. Yet here I sit, waiting, hoping, praying you’ll wake up and we’ll get back on course.” Leaning over gently, I press my lips against his cheek and then his lips. I wait, hoping in some ridiculous way I can break the spell. “I hope you know how much you own my heart. And I hate you for it. I hate that you’ve stripped me of my defenses and made me feel, when all I want to do is be numb. Then this wouldn’t hurt so damn much. I would be able to grab my bag and walk away. Let you fight your demons on your own.” I take a deep breath. “But instead I’d rather watch you breathe.”

Lying here with him, I relish in his touch. I focus on the man who showed me I was enough, who gave me the strength to love again. With Jackson, I can be me without fear. We both have a lot to overcome, but our love can endure it. He would never cheat or deceive me. Closing my eyes, I let the sound of his monitor lull me to sleep against his shoulder.

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