One last time, she spoke his name, only for him to hurl the carton at the wall. He whirled around, and the fridge door slammed shut with a clatter, the whole thing rocking, something inside it falling over. With a crash, the eggs hit the ground, but she couldn’t see them.
All she could see was this man, and the bands of control with which he was trying so damn hard to keep himself together. And failing.
His ragged inhalation was a hairline fracture to her ribs. His fist hit the front of the fridge, and then his foot, and there was another, wetter, angry sound of pain inside his lungs.
She was moving before she could think.
She stepped around the mess he’d made, right up to him. Those broad, strong shoulders still radiated distance, still told her with everything he had in him to stay away, but the hurt in his bones spoke louder.
And that was something she could never ignore.
With a hand on his arm, she tugged him around, and he resisted, clumsy with the crutches and as stubborn as the day they’d met. But she managed to get a hand on his face, to touch the stubbled line of his jaw, thumb brushing up against the corner of his mouth. He let out a sound that might have been punched out of him, and her own eyes went blurry as she pulled at him to look at her.
His gaze was glass and steel, both ready to break and impossibly hard. A skittering pang throbbed through her chest.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”
For his loss and for asking. For everything.
Something in his expression cracked. This time, when she tried to draw him in, there was no resistance. One of his crutches tumbled to the ground, an arm going around her waist. He pressed his face into her hair and let out a breath against her ear, damp and shuddering, and she felt it like an ache inside her heart.
Closing her eyes, she curled her hand around the back of his neck. There was something so raw about him. Like he’d never said those words before, maybe not even to himself.
Like years had passed since he’d been held.
So she tucked him closer. Wrapped him up and took his weight. Took his confessions.
And tried to give him back all she had in return.