Home > Ugly Love(8)

Ugly Love(8)
Colleen Hoover

I kiss her, and it feels even better now that we have a plan.

“We’ve got this, Rachel.”

She smiles in agreement. “We’ve got this, Miles.”

I give her mouth the appreciation it deserves.

I’m gonna love you for seven months, Rachel.

Chapter nine

TATE

“Nurse!” Corbin yells. He walks into the kitchen, and Miles is following behind him. Corbin steps aside and points toward Miles. His hand is covered in blood. It’s dripping. Miles is looking at me like I’m supposed to know what to do. This isn’t an ER. This is my mom’s kitchen.

“A little help here?” Miles says, gripping his wrist tightly. His blood is dripping all over the floor.

“Mom!” I yell. “Where’s your first-aid kit?” I’m opening cabinets, trying to find it.

“Downstairs bathroom! Under the sink!” she yells.

I point toward the bathroom, and Miles follows me. I open the cabinet and pull out the kit. Closing the lid on the toilet, I direct Miles to take a seat, then I sit on the edge of the tub and pull his hand to me. “What’d you do?” I begin to clean it and inspect the cut. It’s deep, right across the center of his palm.

“Grabbed the ladder. It was falling.”

I shake my head. “You should have just let it fall.”

“I couldn’t,” he says. “Corbin was on it.”

I look up at him, and he’s watching me with those contrastingly intense blue eyes of his. I look back down at his hand. “You need stitches.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah,” I say. “I can drive you to the ER.”

“Can’t you just stitch it up here?”

I shake my head. “I don’t have the right supplies. I need sutures. It’s pretty deep.”

He uses his other hand to rifle through the first-aid kit. He pulls out a spool of thread and hands it to me. “Do your best.”

“It’s not like I’m sewing on a damn button, Miles.”

“I’m not spending the whole day in an emergency room for a cut. Just do what you can. I’ll be fine.”

I don’t want him to spend the day in an emergency room, either. That means he wouldn’t be here. “If your hand gets infected and you die, I’m denying any part in this.”

“If my hand gets infected and I die, I’d be too dead to blame you.”

“Good point,” I say. I clean his wound again, then take the supplies I’ll need and lay them out on the counter. I can’t get a good angle with how we’re positioned, so I stand up and prop my leg on the edge of the tub. I put his hand on my leg.

I put his hand on my leg.

Oh, hell.

This isn’t gonna work with his arm draped across my leg like this. If I want my hands to remain calm and not shake, I’m going to need to reposition us.

“This won’t work,” I say, turning to face him. I take his hand and rest it on the counter, then stand directly in front of him. The other way worked better, but I can’t have him touching my leg while I do this.

“It’s gonna hurt,” I warn.

He laughs as though he knows pain and to him, this isn’t pain.

I pierce his skin with the needle, and he doesn’t even flinch.

He doesn’t make a sound.

He watches me work quietly. Every now and then, he looks up from my hand and watches my face. We don’t speak, like always.

I try to ignore him. I try to focus on his hand and his wound and how it desperately needs to be closed, but our faces are so close, and I can feel his breath on my cheek every time he exhales. And he begins to exhale a lot.

“You’ll have a scar,” I say in a quiet whisper.

I wonder where the rest of my voice went.

I push the needle in for the fourth time. I know it hurts, but he doesn’t let it show. Every time it pierces his skin, I have to stop myself from wincing for him.

I should be focusing on his injury, but the only thing I can sense is the fact that our knees are touching. The hand of his that I’m not stitching is resting on top of his knee. One of the tips of his fingers is touching my knee.

I have no idea how so much can be going on right now, but all I can focus on is the tip of that finger. It feels as hot against my jeans as a branding iron. Here he is with a serious gash, blood soaking into the towel beneath his hand, my needle piercing his skin, and all I can focus on is that tiny little contact between my knee and his finger.

It makes me wonder what that touch would feel like if there wasn’t a layer of material between us.

Our eyes lock for two seconds, and then I quickly look back down at his hand. He’s not looking at his hand at all now. He stares at me, and I do my best to ignore the way he’s breathing. I can’t tell if his breathing has sped up because of how close I’m standing to him or because I’m hurting him.

Two of the tips of his fingers are touching my knee.

Three.

I inhale again and try to focus on finishing his stitches.

I can’t.

This is deliberate. This touch isn’t an accidental graze. He’s touching me because he wants to be touching me. His fingers trail around my knee, and his hand slips to the back of my leg. He lays his forehead against my shoulder with a sigh, and he squeezes my leg with his hand.

I have no idea how I’m still standing.

“Tate,” he whispers. He says my name painfully, so I pause what I’m doing and wait for him to tell me it hurts. I wait for him to ask me to give him a minute. That’s why he’s touching me, isn’t it? Because I’m hurting him?

He doesn’t speak again, so I finish the last stitch and knot the thread.

“It’s over,” I say, replacing the items on the counter. He doesn’t release me, so I don’t back away from him.

His hand slowly begins to slide up the back of my leg, all the way up my thigh, around to my hip and up to my waist.

Breathe, Tate.

His fingers grip my waist, and he pulls me closer, still with his head pressed against me. My hands find his shoulders, because I have to grab onto something in order to steady myself. Every muscle in my body somehow just forgot how to do its job.

I’m still standing, and he’s still sitting, but I’m positioned between his legs now that he’s pulled me so close. He slowly begins to lift his face from my shoulder, and I have to close my eyes, because he’s making me so nervous I can’t look at him.

I feel him tilt his face up to look at me, but my eyes are still closed. I squeeze them a little tighter. I don’t know why. I don’t know anything right now. I just know Miles.

And right now, I think Miles wants to kiss me.

And right now, I’m pretty damn sure I want to kiss Miles.

His hand slowly trails all the way up my back until he’s touching the back of my neck. I feel like his hand has left marks on every single part of me he’s touched. His fingers are at the base of my neck, and his mouth is no more than half an inch from my jaw. So close I can’t distinguish if it’s his lips or his breaths that are feathering my skin.

I feel like I’m about to die, and there isn’t a damn thing in that first-aid kit that could save me.

He tightens his grip on my neck … and then he kills me.

Or he kisses me. I can’t tell which, since I’m pretty sure they would feel the same. His lips against mine feel like everything. Like living and dying and being reborn, all at the same time.

Good Lord. He’s kissing me.

His tongue is already in my mouth, gently caressing mine, and I don’t even remember how that happened. I’m okay with it, though. I’m okay with this.

He begins to stand, but his mouth remains on mine. He walks me a few feet until the wall behind me replaces the hand that was on the back of my head. Now he’s touching my waist.

Oh, my God, his mouth is so possessive.

His fingers are splayed out again, digging into my hip.

Holy hell, he just groaned.

His hand moves from my waist and glides down to my leg.

Kill me now. Just kill me now.

He lifts my leg and wraps it around him, then presses against me so beautifully I moan into his mouth. The kiss comes to an abrupt halt.

Why is he pulling away? Don’t stop, Miles.

He drops my leg, and his palm hits the wall beside my head as if he needs the support to continue standing.

No, no, no. Keep going. Put your mouth back on mine.

I try to look at his eyes again, but they’re shut.

They’re regretting this.

Don’t open them, Miles. I don’t want to see you regret this.

He presses his forehead against the wall beside my head, still leaning against me as we both stand quietly, attempting to return air to our lungs. After several deep breaths, he pushes off the wall, turns around, and walks to the counter. Luckily, I didn’t see his eyes before he opened them, and now his back is to me, so I can’t see the regret he obviously feels. He picks up a pair of medical scissors and cuts through a roll of gauze.

I’m stuck to the wall. I think I’ll be here forever.

I’m wallpaper now. That’s it. That’s all I am.

“I shouldn’t have done that,” he says. His voice is firm. Hard. Like metal. Like a sword.

“I didn’t mind,” I say. My voice isn’t firm. It’s like liquid. It evaporates.

He wraps his wounded hand, then turns around and faces me.

His eyes are firm like his voice was. They’re also hard, like metal. Like swords, slicing through the ropes that held what little dangling hope I had for him and me and that kiss.

“Don’t let me do that again,” he says.

I want him to do that again more than I want Thanksgiving dinner, but I don’t tell him that. I can’t speak, because his regret is caught in my throat.

He opens the bathroom door and leaves.

I’m still stuck to the wall.

What.

The.

Hell?

I’m no longer stuck to the bathroom wall.

Now I’m stuck to my chair, conveniently seated at the dinner table next to Miles.

Miles, whom I haven’t spoken to since he referred to himself or us or our kiss as “that.”

Don’t let me do “that” again.

I couldn’t stop him if I wanted to. I want “that” so much I don’t even want to eat, and he probably doesn’t realize how much I love Thanksgiving dinner. Which means I want “that” a lot, and “that” isn’t referring to the plate of food in front of me. “That” is Miles. Us. Me kissing Miles. Miles kissing me.

I’m suddenly very thirsty. I grab my glass and down half of my water in three huge gulps.

“Do you have a girlfriend, Miles?” my mother asks.

Yes, Mom. Keep asking him questions like that, since I’m too scared to do it myself.

Miles clears his throat. “No, ma’am,” he says.

Corbin laughs under his breath, which stirs up a cloud of disappointment in my chest. Apparently, Miles has the same view on relationships as Corbin does, and Corbin finds it amusing that my mother would assume he’s capable of commitment.

I suddenly find the kiss we shared earlier a lot less impactful.

“Well, aren’t you quite the catch, then,” she says. “Airline pilot, single, handsome, polite.”

Miles doesn’t respond. He smiles faintly and shovels a bite of potatoes into his mouth. He doesn’t want to talk about himself.

That’s too bad.

“Miles hasn’t had a girlfriend in a long time, Mom,” Corbin says, confirming my suspicion. “Doesn’t mean he’s single, though.”

My mom tilts her head in confusion. So do I. So does Miles.

“What do you mean?” she says. Her eyes immediately grow wide, though. “Oh! I’m so sorry. That’s what I get for being nosy.” She says the last part of her sentence like she just came to some realization that I still haven’t come to.

She’s apologizing to Miles now. She’s embarrassed.

Still confused.

“Am I missing something?” my dad asks.

My mother points her fork at Miles. “He’s gay, honey,” she says.

Um …

“Is not,” my dad says firmly, laughing at her assumption.

I’m shaking my head. Don’t shake your head, Tate.

“Miles isn’t gay,” I say defensively, looking at my mother.

Why did I say that out loud?

Now Corbin looks confused. He looks at Miles. A spoonful of potatoes is paused in midair in front of Miles, and his eyebrow is cocked. He’s staring at Corbin.

“Oh, shit,” Corbin says. “I didn’t know it was a secret. Dude, I’m so sorry.”

Miles lowers his spoonful of mashed potatoes to his plate, still eyeing Corbin with a perplexed look about him. “I’m not gay.”

Corbin nods. He holds up his palms and mouths, “I’m sorry,” like he didn’t mean to reveal such a big secret.

Miles shakes his head. “Corbin. I’m not gay. Never have been and pretty sure I never will be. What the hell, man?”

Corbin and Miles are staring at each other, and everyone else is watching Miles.

“B-but,” Corbin stutters. “You said … one time you told me …”

Miles drops his spoon and covers his mouth with his hand, stifling his loud laughter.

Oh, my God, Miles. Laugh.

Laugh, laugh, laugh. Please think this is the funniest thing that’s ever happened, because your laugh is also so much better than Thanksgiving dinner.

“What did I say to you that made you think I was gay?”

Corbin sits back in his chair. “I don’t remember, exactly. You said something about not being with a girl in more than three years. I just thought that was your way of telling me you were gay.”

Everyone is laughing now. Even me.

“That was more than three years ago! This whole time, you’ve thought I was gay?”

Corbin is still confused. “But …”

Tears. Miles has tears he’s laughing so hard.

It’s beautiful.

I feel bad for Corbin. He’s kind of embarrassed. I do like how Miles thinks it’s funny, though. I like that it didn’t embarrass him.

“Three years?” my dad says, still stuck on the same thought I’m still kind of stuck on.

“That was three years ago,” Corbin says, finally laughing along with Miles. “It’s probably been six by now.”

The table slowly grows quiet. This embarrasses Miles.

I keep thinking about that kiss in the bathroom earlier and how I know for a fact it hasn’t been six years since he’s been with a girl. A guy with a mouth as possessive as that one knows how to use it, and I’m sure it gets used a lot.

I don’t want to think about it.

I don’t want my family thinking about it.

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