Rick stood frozen where he stood. He wanted to look around and take in her space, her really, but he didn’t dare move. She said to get out, but he didn’t know if Tara was talking to him or Aaron.
“Who?” Aaron finally asked, his eyes sliding over to Rick.
“You, Aaron,” Tara said softly. “You don’t need to be here for this.”
Rick wanted to breathe a sigh of relief that she wasn’t kicking him out, but he knew being in that room with her and unable to leave until they’d worked everything out was going to be borderline torture. Sure, he wanted to talk, but more than that he wanted to haul her against him and kiss her until she forgot what she was so mad about. Why she was hurt.
If Rick could take back the stupid words he’d said that day, he would. The truth was, for him, a part of it was just sex. He was young and dumb and thought he could sleep with her and not have it affect him. The other part of him though, that part craved her every second since he let her out of his grasp. If it had truly just been sex for him, he never would have left. But he knew he’d hurt her, and he knew he couldn’t look her in the eyes again and not have her, and that she’d never let him near her again.
Aaron finally nodded his head, then walked past Rick, clapping his shoulder as he went by. Rick didn’t budge, but he wanted to run out the door behind him. He couldn’t though. He owed it to Tara to tell her the truth so she could move on.
He knew there wasn’t any hope for him moving on.
When the door clicked closed behind Aaron, Tara ran her hands over her face. Rick wanted to pull them back and just look at her, but he wasn’t going to push. If they were going to talk, he was going to let her lead it. He would answer all her questions and tell her the truth, no matter how much it hurt him to admit how he felt.
“Why are you here? The truth?” she finally asked.
“Aaron left me a message that said he needed me here. I couldn’t get in touch with him or Michelle so I flew home. When I got here he told me he’d tricked me into coming for your birthday.”
She blew out a long breath and sunk down into a chair. His chest hurt to see her pain, pain he’d felt but buried for years. He knew she was hurting all that time, but he convinced himself it wasn’t happening, that Aaron was exaggerating. To see it in person was like being flayed alive.
“When he told you, why didn’t you leave?”
The truth. He owed her the truth. “I wanted to. God, I wanted to. He told me you were in love with me and miserable and that I owed it to you to make this better.”
“You don’t owe me anything,” she snarled at him. “You walked out and never looked back. You’ve made a living at running away. Why stick around now?”
Rick shook his head. “Because you deserve better than me, and if there’s even a small chance you’re still hung up on me, I owe it to you to let you go so you can find the happiness I know isn’t in the cards for me.”