Till Death Do We Part (AU/CC M/L ADULT) (Complete)

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Applebylicious
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Till Death Do We Part (AU/CC M/L ADULT) (Complete)

Post by Applebylicious » Sun Aug 29, 2004 1:55 am

Winner - Round 6

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Title: Till Death Do We Part
Author: Lindsay
Category: AU M/L (Liz POV)
Rating: Uh... no need for this, right?
Disclaimer: The characters of Roswell belong to The WB, Melinda Metz, and UPN.
Summary: Angst. Uh...yeah.
Author’s note: Yes, I've started another fic. No, it won't be long...only three parts. No, I won't forget the others. I couldn't get this out of my head, so here it is for your enjoyment or otherwise...


dedicated to Deejonaise for reasons that are unexplainable, lol. I lurve you, muffin!

Till Death Do We Part


<center>Part 1</center>


“Why do you stay with him?”

I look up and meet his frustrated gaze, the golden glint of his eyes piercing me as he stares stonily ahead. The argument is an old one, and my answer is automatic. “Because I love him.”

Funny how the more I say it, the less convinced I sound. The truth is…I don’t know why I’m still here, still plodding along in a life that hasn’t made me happy in more years than I care to remember. The fact that Max knows the truth - and I don’t doubt he does since he and Michael have remained close friends all these years - leaves me feeling defensive and wary all at once.

He knows about the booze, the drugs, the countless women that I’ve turned a blind eye towards because when it’s all said and done…I love my husband. Don’t I? I used to think so, but sometimes…I wonder if I’m deluding myself when I think that if I just try harder, if I did something differently…things would somehow go back to the way they were.

He snorts softly, an angry expression filtering across his handsome features before he turns away. I don’t need the years of friendship to read his thoughts. I know what he thinks of me, and it eats me up inside even as I know I’m trying my very best. It never seems to be enough.

When he finally speaks again, his voice is hard and gruff. “Why do you let him do it, Liz? I just don’t fucking understand.”

I swallow hard against the instant answers that spring to my tongue. I force myself to remember that he only sees it from an outsider’s perspective, that he just…doesn’t get it. “I think you should leave,” I hear myself say, even though that’s the last thing I want. If I were being honest with myself, the sight of him does more to make me feel at ease than any moment with my husband ever has.

In my world, Max Evans represents comfort, peace. He’s been there for me since we were knee-high and still riding vehicles that required training wheels. Every important moment in my life has involved him, even the meeting of my future husband.

I met Michael through Max, the classic friend-of-a-friend incident that everyone always warns you against. Don’t date a friend’s friend. I heard that so many times during Michael’s and my short courtship that I began to instinctively block it out. After all, how could they know what we felt for each other? They didn’t see the way he was around me…they couldn’t understand how I could possibly be interested in him.

Not that there was anything wrong with Michael Guerin. Quite the contrary, actually. He was everything I’d ever dreamed about, from his brooding good looks to his sharp sense of wit. He was generous and kind, and he appeared to be exactly what my mind had conjured as the “perfect man”.

Appearances can be deceiving.

It was only after our whirlwind marriage had occurred that I discovered a darker side of the man I’d fallen in love with so easily, without question. It didn’t happen all at once, just subtle clues that led me to believe that maybe…just maybe I’d rushed into an impending disaster.

Empty alcohol bottles, half-smoked joints hidden where I was never meant to look. The stale scent of perfume clinging to wrinkled clothing in the laundry basket. Long hours and longer absences.

I’m not blind, nor am I stupid. I know what’s going on underneath my own roof, with my own husband. But just because I haven’t flown off the handle and confronted him about his actions the way Max expects me to, doesn’t mean that I’m naïve or weak. I just want it all to go away.

Arguing has never solved anything between Michael and I. He’s impossible to fight with, because everything rolls off his shoulders like water. Whereas Max is passionate and volatile, given to expressing his opinion over the most inconsequential detail. He’s always been that way…the rebel, the champion…whatever the moment called for. Right now he’s decided to make me his newest project, and the last thing I need or want is his pity.

“You want me to leave,” he echoes in a disgusted tone, but I gather that his disgust is aimed towards an inner source and not at me. Sure enough, he swivels around to pin me with another probing stare before his lips part to add, “This has to stop, Liz. Look at you.”

I glance down, seeing nothing wrong with the practical linen pants and silk blouse I’d donned for our weekly luncheon. With a frown, I glance back up to reply, but he cuts me off with a tired sigh.

“Not your clothes, babe,” he murmurs softly, one hand falling on my shoulder to turn me towards the mirror glancing off the wall. I catch his concerned expression in the glass, the light glinting off the small gold hoop in his left ear. I’m irritated by the sharp pang that shoots through me at the sight, wishing I didn’t find the damn thing so sexy.

And that’s the crux of a completely different problem, another reason why I find myself working so hard to make my marriage work. Because deep down…I’m just as guilty as Michael is. I’m sexually attracted to my best friend…the one stable influence in my life. And it isn’t something that sprang up overnight, but over years of having him in my life. Always being there…with his gorgeous smile, his open honesty. And yeah, his freakin sexy body adornments.

Michael would never dream of “defacing” himself with piercings or ink, desperate to uphold his working image as neat and pragmatic. But Max…Max has a raw edge to him that heats the blood. While he comes across as clean-cut, all he has to do is open his mouth to prove that streak of wildness that has never managed to dim.

He does so now, rolling the silver ball around on his tongue as one hand gently caresses the nape of my neck. “Look at your eyes, Parker,” he rumbles in a husky voice that nearly sends a shiver down my spine. I don’t bother correcting him, even teasingly, that my last name hasn’t been Parker in over five years. Max has never called me Mrs. Guerin. “What do you see?”

I struggle to keep my expression unchanged, even as my legs threaten to buckle and tears spike my lashes. I know exactly what he sees…what he expects me to see. And I do. But it’s not enough to keep me from backing away from him, crossing my arms over my chest in subtle defense as he watches my silent retreat. “I’m fine, Max,” I whisper, looking everywhere but at him. My gaze falls on the framed photo of Michael and I on our wedding day, propped against a crystal vase of white roses. I trace one silky petal as he curses softly behind me.

“Are you?” he answers sarcastically, and I can sense the emotion building in his tone. “Are you really? Damn you, don’t lie to me!” His hand comes out to grasp my elbow, spinning me around to meet his fiery glare. A surprised gasp escapes my throat, but I’m not afraid. I could never be afraid of Max. Even with the dangerous expression lurking in his eyes, I know he would be the last person in the world who would ever hurt me.

“I know about it all, Liz,” he bites off, his nostrils flaring with anger. “Who the hell do you think he comes to after he bangs whatever office slut he picks up every week? Who the hell do you think has to let him in…let him sleep off whatever fucking binge he’s involved in until he’s coherent enough to drive himself fucking home?”

I wince, not just from the cruel truth but from the volume of his tone. “Don’t yell at me!” I manage, trying unsuccessfully to pull away from him. His strong fingers clench firmly around my arm, dragging me closer as tears begin to spill down my cheeks. The pity I detest enters his gaze, and suddenly…I lose my control. “Fuck you, Max!” I hear myself shriek, surprising him enough to jerk away. “You think I don’t know you know, you bastard?”

“Liz…”

“Don’t,” I warn him through angry tears. “Just leave! Michael will be home any minute and…I don’t want you here.”

His jaw clenches at my statement and like before, he refuses to acknowledge it. Instead, he snaps, “You don’t know what the fuck you want anymore, Liz.”

And there it is. The bare-boned truth of it all. My eyes flick to his, and I glimpse the pain and frustration glimmering in those beautiful amber orbs. I realize he’s purposefully allowing me to see his feelings for what they are and at that moment…I’m scared shitless.

He takes a determined step forward, something I’ve never glimpsed before shining in his eyes. I stumble back, thoughts whirling in my mind as I stare at him. The only thing I can think to say is, “Don’t do this.” My voice comes out soft and pleading and halts him in his tracks.

He runs a hand stiffly through his hair, closing his eyes and tugging. “Babe…” he starts huskily, his lashes lifting as he pierces me with a meaningful stare. “Liz…you’re making yourself miserable and I can’t stand it anymore.”

“I’m not miserable!” I screech, the tears ravaging my cheeks speaking a different truth. “This is none of your business, Max! I love Michael, okay? I love him and—”

“I love you!” he interrupts with a yelp, and both of us freeze as the words reverberate in the air around us. I stumble farther back, collapsing onto the couch as I gawk at him, my gaze surely reavealing the horror and guilt swimming inside of me. “I love you,” he repeats in a fierce whisper. “I can’t let you do this to yourself anymore. Leave him, Liz. For God’s sake…”

I feel numb. There’s no other way to describe the cold sensation creeping inside of me at his admission. Because I know it for what it is – Max Evans’ way to “champion the underdog”. I study him, every familiar feature, the glimmer of hope in his gaze. “You don’t,” I state in a cool voice that betrays every emotion I possess. I stifle the nearly overwhelming urge to run into his arms and ask him to hold me as he’s done so many times before. To make it all better again. “Max…you’re upset right now and saying things you don’t mean aren’t helping the situation.”

He blinks those ridiculously long lashes, his eyes widening. His face is such an open canvas that I can see every thought he has in the few seconds before he speaks. Confusion, disbelief, irritation, fury… “Excuse me?” he asks, and I notice for the first time that he’s trembling. “Fucking excuse me?

“Don’t curse at me,” I say shakily, swallowing as his expression darkens. “You shouldn’t have said that, you shouldn’t have—”

“Shouldn’t have spoken the goddamned truth?” he roars, exploding into motion as his arm swipes out and overturns the vase of flowers. Water soaks a dark circle into the carpet, but I can’t take my eyes away from the man vibrating with rage. “You’re so fucking blind, Liz!” he shouts, his voice cracking on my name. “Christ! You think this is something new…something that happened overnight?”

The fact that he’s nearly mimicking my earlier thoughts about him is enough to have me shaking again, and I open my mouth to reply but he shoots me a ferocious glare that has me pressing my lips together.

He reaches up to yank at the hoop in his ear, an unconscious action that is so incredibly sexy my breath catches. “You think this is easy for me?” he continues gruffly, and I can feel his burning gaze as I stare at his feet. Anywhere but at those eyes… “You think it was ever easy for me to let you be with him? When I knew…I fucking knew…” He breaks off, shaking his head as a bitter laugh escapes his throat.

“Knew what?” I find myself saying, even as I wish I could take the words back as our eyes meet in a heated clash.

“What do you think?” he mocks quietly, throwing his arms in the air. “Michael can do no wrong in your eyes, babe. He’s perfect, remember? How’s a guy supposed to compete with that?

Of course, the cruel irony of his statement…and what I’m sure he wants me to realize…is that Michael is not perfect. He’s about as far from perfect as possible. I think a part of me knew it even back then…but I was blinded, like Max said, by the fact that Michael treated me a different way from everyone else I’d ever known. He treated me the way I expected him to, with my silly schoolgirl fantasies.

Max isn’t perfect, either. But he’s never claimed to be. He’s perfectly imperfect…and he says he loves me. Says he always has. And now I have no idea what to do, because I think I might love him, too. I’m not the type of person to turn my back on my vows, I love in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Only…I said those vows to the wrong person. And admitting that I did…that I fucked up beyond belief…is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“Babe…say something,” he whispers fearfully, and I look up slowly, vision clouded by tears and mists of the past.

And the only thing I can say is, “I’m…sorry.”

He stares at me for a long moment, then his expression falls before tightening into an unreadable mask. I can tell he’s preparing to make some grand closing statement, something truly worthy of a Max Evans’ tirade. But he only stares at me and says, “Goodbye, Liz.”

He turns around, presenting me with his broad back as he walks to the door. He doesn’t look back, simply opens the door and walks away, leaving me motionless on the couch as I stare at the spot where he had stood only seconds before.

I love you…Leave him Liz, for God’s sake…

My ears are ringing, and it takes me a minute to realize that the sound is coming from the telephone. I blink twice, my heart racing as I wonder if it could be Max. Would he call so soon? I answer with a hesitant, “Hello?”

“Liz?” The voice is definitely not Max, and the slightly drunken timbre makes my back go rigid. “Hey babe…I don’t think I’ll be able to make it home tonight. Don’t hold dinner for me, okay?”

Before I can respond, girlish giggling erupts in the background followed by raucous male laughter. The sounds of glasses tinkling and loud music filters above Michael’s voice as he adds, “Love ya.”

I finally manage to open my mouth to say, “Michael…” but the sound of the dial tone rings in my ear. I press the receiver to my forehead, feeling the burn of tears behind my closed lids. At that moment, with no one around to witness my absolute desecration, I fall apart. The phone rolls to the ground as I drop my head in my hands, loud sobs escaping from my throat in an angry torrent.

I glance up to see the wedding picture again, our smiles appearing mocking in the face of my pain. In a flash, I have the frame hurling at the wall, the sound of shattering glass mingling with harsh howls. The scattered shards resemble my life, as cliché as it sounds.

A frantic knocking drags my gaze towards the door. I contemplate not moving, just letting them all rot in hell. I don’t give a damn who it is. But I find myself starting to stand as the door swings open to reveal a heavy breathing Max, his eyes red-rimmed.

He takes in the sight of me, releasing a ragged breath before he’s across the room. “I’m sorry…I’m sorry,” he chokes out over and over, his arms wrapping around me. “Baby…”

The sound of his voice, the feel of his warm body next to mine breaks down the last of my defenses and I cling to him as my tears soak the soft cotton of his shirt. I hear him whispering into my hair, his hands gliding down my back. “Forgive me…” I hear him begging softly, and I just cry all the more at the knowledge that he’s here with me, while the man I vowed to spend the rest of my life with is off God knows where doing God knows what.

“Max…” I croak, glancing up to meet his emotional gaze with my own. “What am I going to do? What am I…” I can’t finish the statement because he leans down and presses his forehead against mine, offering gentle support as we both tremble together.

“I don’t know, babe,” he responds thickly. One blunt finger traces my cheek, wiping the tears away and lingering along the curve of my lip. As he gently rubs the tip of his thumb along my mouth, I find my blood heating, the emotion inside of me turning from anger and hurt, to a sharp desire. He meets my gaze, knowledge flaring in his tawny depths as we both realize our position.

He leans further down and brushes a soft kiss against the corner of my mouth, dragging forth a shaky gasp from my throat. As if pleased by the response, he does it again…lingering longer as I turn slightly into the tentative kiss. The second our lips meet, something explodes and I would have fallen if he hadn’t been there to catch me.

He catches my lower lip between his teeth, nibbling urgently as my fingers bury in his hair, further tousling the thick softness. He groans, one hand sliding down to cup my bottom and press it against him as our tongues clash together. “Jesus Christ,” he gasps as he pulls away and stares at me through heavy-lidded eyes.

He catches my hand on its descent to his groin, staring at it and rubbing along the platinum band that encircles one slim finger. When he looks back up, there is a wealth of turbulence in his gaze. “Liz…”

I throw myself at him, closing my eyes and glorying in the way he makes me feel. Feelings I’ve never felt before, even during my best moments with Michael. He resists at first, then gradually I feel the press of his hands against me, that infamous passion pushing to the forefront as his kiss becomes more frenzied, more demanding. “Yes,” he hisses out as I caress his tongue piercing. The feel of the metal rubbing against my tongue feels so deliciously scandalized that I can’t keep from purring in pleasure.

He growls in response, his hands suddenly grasping my thighs and lifting my legs off the ground to wrap around his waist. I shift sinuously, trying to get as close as I can to him, wishing to crawl inside of him…to drown in the scent of him. I focus my attention on licking the shell of his ear, tugging on the gold earring as he curses lightly and walks faster down the hall.

Seconds later we’re rolling across the bed in a tangled mass of naked limbs, tearing at clothing and licking every inch of flesh revealed. He grabs my hands, shoving them over my head as he crawls on top of me. The strength and wildness burning inside of him is palpable as he stares down at me, his eyes heavy and desirous.

I allow myself to feast on the sight of him, the rippled muscles stretching taut over bronzed flesh. A flash of color catches my attention on his lower abdomen, and realize I’m staring at a tattoo of a King of Hearts. The symbolism nearly makes me laugh even as the sheer sexiness of it sends my passion soaring to new heights.

“What?” he asks gruffly, pressing me further into the bed and licking a trail between my breasts. His lips close around a swollen nipple and I nearly levitate off the bed as his thick hardness probes my hip. “You want me?” he asks softly, glancing up from my breast to capture my eyes. “Tell me.”

That instant it all comes rushing back to me. The fact that I’m about to make love with someone else in the same bed I share with my husband every night…well, every night he deigns to come home…weighs upon my conscience. A prickle of unease wiggles its way through the fog of desire, and I wonder if I’m only making yet another mistake.

He starts to sit up, a vulnerable expression coloring his features. “It’s all right,” his voice breaks. “I won’t…I’ll never say anything.”

The fact that I know he wouldn’t try anything to damage my marriage despite his professions of love, is like a splash of cold water. And suddenly I realize…he’s perfect. He’s everything I could ever want and I was too damn blind and too damn proud to see it until now. I catch his arm, waiting until he glances down at me with a hesitant expression before whispering, “I want you, Max. Please…don’t leave me, too.”

As selfish as I realize the words sound as soon as they leave my lips, he melts into me and begins whispering incoherent words against my hair. I slide my calves along his, bucking my hips and hoping he gets the hint. “I need you now,” I whisper tearfully. “Max…please…”

He holds my gaze, sliding inside of me in such a sleek motion that we both groan. My eyes blur from the feel of it, and as he starts thrusting I can only dig my nails deeper into his shoulders and hold on. We’re both panting, drenched in perspiration as he throws his head back and grits his teeth. “God baby, I’m so…fucking…”

“I love you,” I admit bluntly, unable to keep the emotion from my tone as he stares down at me in disbelief. “I need you. I…I’m lost without you, Max.” And we both fall.

An hour later, we lie wrapped together, my head resting on his naked chest as he slowly sifts my hair through his fingers. We haven’t said much during this time, but there’s really nothing left to be said. Besides the obvious.

“I want to be with you,” he whispers fervently, breaking the silence between us. As if afraid of my response, he hurries on with, “I love you, Liz. You…you said you loved me.”

I tilt my head, my heart beating rapidly as I study his wary expression. “What are you saying?” I ask softly, even though I know. It’s the only thing on either of our minds.

He takes a deep breath, his arms instinctively tightening around me as though preparing for the moment I would flee. Then he blurts out, “I want you to leave him.”

I don’t move a muscle, having expected nothing less. I can feel the thick pulse of his heart beneath my cheek and I can only imagine the thoughts racing through his mind. I lift my head, preparing to tell him the only thing I can. That I love him and want to be with him, too.

The shrill sound of the phone causes us both to jump, and a small sliver of uncertainty creeps through me as I note the late hour. Normally, no one but Max would bother calling at this time, and since I know Michael is out and he never returns before dawn, I have no idea who could be on the other end. “Hello?” I answer, feeling Max’s gaze burning into my back.

“Mrs. Guerin?” an unfamiliar male voice questions gruffly. “This is Sheriff Valenti.” He pauses, and I can hear the sounds of an ambulance in the background as my blood pressure begins spiking. He sighs heavily before adding, “I’m afraid I have some difficult news.”

The phone slips out of my hands as horrifying realization dawns. “Oh, my God.”

<center>Part 2 will be posted later tonight...stay tuned.</center>
Last edited by Applebylicious on Wed Dec 08, 2004 9:39 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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Applebylicious
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Post by Applebylicious » Sun Aug 29, 2004 9:07 pm

<center>Part 2</center>


I fly through the hosiptal doors, Max hot on my heels as I flag down the first orderly that crosses my path. “Excuse me!” I wave my arm to catch her attention, my voice tearful and betraying my desperation. “Excuse me!”

The nurse turns around with a harried expression on her face, her eyes widening further when she glimpses me. God only knows what must be running through her mind due to my bedraggled appearance, the tears streaking my face. “Miss?” she asks hesitantly, her gaze scouring down my body, obviously looking for sustained injuries.

“My…my husband…” is all I can manage before a choking sob escapes my throat. I press my fingers against my trembling lips, hearing Max approach as his hand falls heavily on my shoulder.

“Her husband was in an accident,” he speaks in a quiet rumble. I feel his gaze, but can’t make myself look at him. Right now I can’t think about anything other than the fact that while my husband was in a drunken stupor and driving his car into telephone pole, I was fucking some other man in our bed.

The nurse asks for Michael’s name and I blank out as he answers, his fingers gently squeezing my shoulder as I stand there in dazed horror. The minute the nurse leaves to find us some sort of explanation, he tries to turn me towards him. “Liz? Look at me…”

I jerk away from the concern in his tone, anxiously trying not to glance at his profile and glimpse the pain and sorrow etched across his own features. I know he’s hurting right now, too. Michael is his close friend and no matter what kind of husband he might be, Max loves him. I know this as easily as I know my name.

“Liz,” his voice sounds again, soft and pleading. “Baby, please…”

The use of the gently uttered moniker wrenches something inside of me and I begin to shake as I pull away from him, turning to meet his tired eyes. His thick hair is still rumpled from our lovemaking, and the gold earring flashes back at me. But this time, the only thing I feel is disgust when I see it.

Disgust at myself for being attracted, even now, to his potent aura. Disgust at Michael for not being what I needed, for not living up to my expectations. And mostly, disgust at Max for being exactly what I need when I can’t have it. When I shouldn’t even be thinking it.

His eyes narrow in concern, as though he can read the thoughts spinning around my brain. His lips press together and he attempts to move forward when the nurse reappears with news of Michael. As we follow her down the quiet hospital corridor, I wrap my arms around myself while struggling to block out the pungent scent of disinfectant and the stale aroma of sickness.

The heavyset woman pauses, turning to glance at me before saying in a faintly pitying voice, “You only have a few minutes. We don’t normally allow visitors in this unit at this hour…” Her eyes flicker meaningfully towards the clock hanging on the bare wall behind us. “The on-call doctor will be in shortly to answer any questions. I’m…sorry.”

The words seem strange from a person who is surrounded by this type of occurance day in and day out. Yet, somehow I know she geniunely means it. I nod weakly, managing a soft answer of thanks before my hand falls on the doorknob.

A larger palm covers mine, and I look up into deep golden eyes. “I’m here,” he whispers, one hand brushing through the tousled strands framing my face. “You’re not alone, Liz.” His voice is so low and vehement that it takes my breath away for a long moment before he links his fingers through mine and pushes.

Our gazes fall on the figure lying in the bed and my throat closes up in a rush of pain, anger, and overwhelming guilt. I sprint across the room even as I have to force my feet to take every step. Tears filling my eyes, I reach out and place my hand lightly against his forehead.

I can hear Max cursing in the background, his words husky with grief and anger as I take in the cuts and bruises marring my once handsome husband’s face. Shaking, I trace the creamy bandage covering the entire left side of his face. Faint traces of burned flesh peek out from the dressing, causing a sickening feeling to rise in my stomach.

A long gash slices through his opposite cheekbone, expertly stitched together but still not enough to hide the permanent damage. Both legs are wrapped in casts and his chest rises and falls shallowly, the breathing apparatus threaded through his nose the final accent on the gruesome presentation.

I don’t even realize I’m crying until a tear falls on his cheek, slipping down the sallow flesh and disappearing beneath his battered and scraped chin. I blink rapidly, pulling back to wipe both eyes as the door opens and the doctor appears.

For the next half hour, I sit in a state of numb acceptance as words like “critical condition” and “possible brain damage” are delivered to me in that same faintly sympathetic tone. I don’t say anything, simply stare blankly at the ghastly visage of my husband as the doctor explains how Michael was found by a passing truckdriver, face-first through the windshield of our brand new Camry Solara.

Apparently fate was on my husband’s side, because shortly after the paramedics were called to remove Michael’s unconscious body from the vehicle, an explosion occurred from the ruptured gas tank. Unfortunately, Michael and one of the paramedics were badly burned during the accident. Which is just what I needed to feel…yet more guilt for the faceless person who saved my husband’s life. Or whatever might be left of it.

Max asks the questions I should be asking, learning the details I should be gaining. The doctor pins him with a speculative glance more than once during his address, but I don’t feel like explaining the situation.

Yes, doctor. Meet my best friend. Oh, and did I mention that he became my lover while my currently comatose husband was being turned into a human slice-and-dice?

Suddenly it feels like every wall in the room is slowly closing in on me as I sit there listening to the doctor and Max speak. My eyes begin to burn from the strain of not blinking, my nails digging into my palms and leaving behind red welts.

I hear Max’s quiet murmur of goodbye as the doctor leaves us again, and glance over to see him staring at me with an unreadable expression. I don’t answer the unasked question lurking in his eyes as I get up, nor do I speak the entire way home to the house. The minute Max parks the car, I shove the door open and practically race inside.

I hear him calling after me, the sound of the car door slamming as my shoes flap across the sidewalk. “Liz! Liz, wait!” But I can’t wait. I can’t…

I rip open my purse, fingers trembling as I attempt to shove the key into the lock. Just as I manage to get the door open he appears, his expression dark and frantic as I step inside. His foot comes out to wedge between the door and we have a momentary battle of wills that he ultimately wins.

I back away, my hands at my mouth as tears blur my vision. As he steps into the darkened apartment, I feel my knees buckle as everything finally comes crashing down on me. The numbness is no longer there to cushion my fall as my knees hit the soft carpet, my face pressing against the floor as hot tears leak out of my eyes. I press my nose into the carpet, my hands clenching in my hair as I hear him hurry to my side.

He pulls me in a kneeling position, breath harsh and heavy as he forces me to meet his gaze with a hand cupping my cheek. The faint moonlight illuminates his features and the ragged anxiety there has me bawling all over again.

“Christ,” he whispers, his own eyes suspiciously bright. “Christ!” He drags me into his arms and I gladly let him. Burying my face in his shoulder and delighting in the solid warmth he represents, I began to sob in earnest as shudders rack his body as well. His arms tighten around me, his cheek rubbing against the top of my head.

“Why…? Why would he do this to me? How could he…” I blubber, unsure if my fevered words make any sense, but unable to care. “Why?

“I don’t know, baby,” he whispers heartbreakingly. “I don’t know. I’m so sorry.” I feel him press a gentle kiss against my head and I freeze as he continues to hold onto me for dear life. A wild symphony of emotion surges through me, and I pull away from Max’s embrace and flee across the room to put some sort of distance between us.

His hands fall limply to his side as he swallows and stares at me from the spot where he still sits on his knees. “Liz…” his voice catches and I’m horrified to see the tears spiking his lashes. “Baby come here, you need—”

“You don’t know what I need!” I hear the words burst from my lips, and the raw anger and contempt bleeding through them shocks us both. He stares at me with wounded eyes, his throat working spasmodically. I can see the wheels of his mind churning, trying to determine the best way to approach the situation. And me.

I expect him to try to wheedle his way, using words of sympathy and offering support. Not that I believe he’d use that as a means to an end, I know he’s hurting. But I also know that Max has no intention of letting whatever has started between us end. His eyes say as much right now as they pierce my own.

I expect him to be gentle and understanding, therefore allowing me to feel as though I have some sort of control over the situation. What I don’t expect, is exactly what he does. Which I realize I should have expected all along.

He simply stands, blinking at me as the light catches the sheen in his eyes. His broad, muscled form taut with tension, he opens his mouth and repeats in a tone that shatters me, “What about what I need? I need you, Liz. I…I love you.”

“Don’t say that,” I wail, collapsing into the nearest chair and dropping my head in my hands. “Don’t you see what we’ve done? My God, Max…what have we done? What have I done?”

“It wasn’t your fault,” he breaks in immediately, his voice snappy and pained. “We love each other, Liz. It wasn’t wrong. This…” he gestures between us with a sweeping motion of his arm, “isn’t wrong! Can’t you see that?”

“How can you see that?” I hiss sharply, ignoring the pangs of truth his words needle inside of me. “Michael’s in the hospital, Max. He might…he might not make it.” My voice breaks, but I press on regardless of the wince that shudders through his body at my blunt appraisal. “And all you can think about is sex?”

The words are callous and meant to hurt, but I wasn’t prepared for the flash of heated rage that springs forth in his gaze. Within seconds he’s standing in front of me, nostrils flaring as I stare up at him in a sort of dazed fascination. When he speaks, his words sound like thunder and I’m vaguely surprised not to see lightening crack in the distance.

“Sex?” he grinds out, his hands clasping my arms and pulling me against him. “You think this is about sex? You bitch…” His voice trails off and he mutters a heated oath before dragging me to my toes and crashing his lips down on mine.

I don’t even try to fight him, knowing he’s simply trying to prove a point. I allow his tongue to sweep the inside of my mouth, his hands to mold my breasts as arousal cracks between us. Because I know he won’t push me any further.

Sure enough, he pulls away and pins me with a hot stare. “This isn’t about sex, Liz. If it was I’d already have you in bed with my cock buried so fucking deep inside of you that you couldn’t breathe, and you know it.”

My breath catches on his dark words. “Max…”

“I love you, I’ve loved you every goddamn second you were with him,” he whispers, his grip turning into a caress as he closes his eyes with a pained grimace. “And I fucked up, because I didn’t let you know that. I never let you know, baby, because I was sure that your idea of perfect wouldn’t mesh with my reality.”

Irrational anger wars with shock at his revelation. “Are you trying to tell me that you made the decision of what’s right for me?” I demand tearfully. “You think you know a damn thing, Max Evans?”

“Yeah, I do,” he returns just as sorrowfully. “I know that you saw Michael as your every childhood fantasy come to life, Liz. And you’re still doing it…still painting him as a saint. He’s a fucking human being, Liz. He made a mistake…he—”

“Stop!” I shriek, pulling at my hair and spinning around as my heart races in my breast. “The only mistake that’s been made was made earlier in that bed,” I point a shaky finger down the hall.

“You don’t mean that,” he answers softly. “You’re upset, confused…but what you felt then was real, Liz. We’re real.”

“No, we’re the fantasy,” I whisper, turning back around to face him. I blink rapidly, trying to clear my vision as he stares at me silently. “All of this,” I mimic his earlier gesture, “isn’t real, Max. This,” I hold my hand up, allowing the light to catch on the band of my wedding ring. “This…is real. This is all there can be.”

His lips are trembling, although I don’t know whether it’s from hurt or anger. “What are you saying?” he asks in a deadly calm voice. “Are you going to deny what you felt in there? With me? Because of something you had no control over? Are you going to give up a chance to be happy, baby? Really and truly happy? Because I could make you be. I know I could, I—”

“Max, it’s over,” I manage thickly, unable to meet his gaze as I say the words out loud. “I…can’t. I can’t do that to him. I can’t leave him…I…” I mean to say I love him, but the words refuse to pass my lips.

Once again, he knows my thoughts without my having to express them and the sound that escapes his throat is one that will haunt me for the rest of my life. It’s a sound that no grown man should ever utter. In belated horror I realize it’s the sound of Max Evans crying.

“Are you really going to do this?” he asks huskily. “You don’t love me at all? I want to hear you say it, dammit! Tell me you love him. Tell me all you feel for me is friendship, Liz, and I’ll back off. I’ll back the fuck off…”

My back straightens and I can’t stop the tears tracking down my cheeks as I lie to the one person who has ever been completely honest with me. “I…I love him.”

He doesn’t answer for the longest moment, simply turns and stares out of the window. His shoulders are hunched and his head hangs low as barely perceptible shudders course through his body.

I feel cold, even though the night is unseasonably warm. I cross my arms over my chest, feeling much like I’m the one lying in the hospital bed, watching Max walk away from me, possibly forever.

When he turns to look at me again, there’s a guarded sense in his expression that I’ve never seen before. It breaks my heart even as he walks forward and takes my hands. He blinks rapidly three times before leaning forward and kissing me lightly on the lips. It can’t really constitute as a kiss, but it’s bittersweet and leaves me gasping with the need to tell him the truth.

I open my mouth, unsure what I mean to say. But he simply lays a finger against my lips and whispers, “Be happy, Liz. Whatever happens…promise me you’ll be happy.”

He’s gone before I can ever begin to answer.

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Post by Applebylicious » Mon Aug 30, 2004 5:37 pm

Thank you for all the AMAZING feedback! You guys make me so happy...I love each and every one of you. :love: I hope you all enjoy the ending to this little obsession of mine...

hugs,

Linds




<center>Part 3</center>


“Why don’t you hate me?”

I pause in the pursuit of transferring clothing from the washing machine to the dryer, turning to address the gruff statement. I meet Michael’s intense gaze, his lips pressed tightly together as he leans heavily against the door to the laundry room.

Even though it’s been a year since the accident, evidence of that horrific night remains in the scarred tissue covering my husband’s left cheek, his stiff gait as he hesitantly enters the room. I swallow, having to force my gaze away from him as overwhelming guilt consumes me.

It’s been a year since I chose my marriage, my husband over Max. A year since Max left town. And I still wake up every night, shaking beneath the covers as I recall that expression of heartbroken acceptance on his face as he left. It might sound ridiculous, but I’d never thought that would be the last time I ever saw him. A part of me that was buried beneath pain and responsibility had even acknowledged that I wasn’t ready to let go of Max. That all I needed was time to come to grips with the fact that my marriage was a sham, a farce that I’d taken too long in realizing.

Now it’s all I have.

“What did you say?” I ask quietly, turning back to finish tossing in the wet laundry, methodically adding a sheet of fabric softener and setting the timer before turning fully around to find him watching me.

Michael’s appearance wasn’t the only thing that was altered that night. He awoke from the weeklong coma with a completely different attitude. No longer the happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care ruffian that had so attracted me even as it turned out to be our downfall…he was now cold, blunt and oftentimes deliberately provoking.

We never mentioned where he’d been before attempting to drive home that night, nor have I ever admitted the truth about Max and I. Although sometimes when I catch him eyeing me with a strange gleam in his gaze, I have to wonder if he might already know. He’s never brought it up, probably for the same reason I’ve kept it from him.

And also, it seems trivial at this point. Because the frank evaluation we received at Michael’s last visit to the doctor confirmed what we’d both been expecting since he awoke. That my husband is dying. Not from the effects of a serious car accident, but from a liver that was slowly destroyed over years of abuse and neglect.

Strangely enough, I didn’t shed a tear at the news. It was as if every emotion I possessed had left along with my best friend, and all that was left was a dark void. I held my husband’s hand as he stoically received the doctor’s words.

I pretended not to hear his quiet sobbing in the bathroom late at night, my eyes squeezed tightly shut as I used a pillow to block out the disturbing sounds. I went about my day, shopping for groceries and cooking dinner as if I wouldn’t soon be left all alone in this world.

I had a few bad moments, one when I was cleaning the bedroom after a particularly exhausting day of doctor’s appointments only to find Max’s undershirt beneath the bed. I fell apart, holding the ribbed material to my face as everything came crashing down on top of me. Max’s departure, Michael’s illness, my own inability to fight for what I loved.

Somehow I managed to pull myself together before Michael returned home, but no longer did I bother to hide the unexplainable tears that lurked in my eyes. No longer did I pretend that everything was okay…that I was there out of a tender love for a husband I adored. I was trapped, just as much as Michael was. And we were both the victims.

That’s why a part of me is surprised that he’s finally sought me out. We’ve both been living in a state of avoidance, of merely co-existing. We’ve spoken maybe five sentences to each other in the past week, so the fact that he’s here and angling for a conversation is enough to capture my attention.

He frowns, licking his lips before repeating, “Why don’t you hate me?” Before I can feign ignorance, he adds, “Why did you come that night, Liz?”

“What night?” I ask, my heart beginning to race as he rakes a hand through his hair, a scowl on his face. He shifts, his expression contorting in pain as his bad knee threatens to buckle. I immediately step forward to offer my support, speaking in a flat tone, “Michael, you should sit down. You know you can’t put to much pressure on your leg—”

“I can stand by myself, all right?” he jerks away heatedly, nearly falling over in his attempt to avoid me. An angry, embarrassed flush colors his cheeks as he’s forced to lean on me in order to keep from falling to the ground. “I’m not fucking dead yet,” he whispers, and the words crack something inside of me.

We stand there together, breathing heavily as emotions roil the air around us. I stare up into his eyes, ignoring the scarred flesh and glimpsing the damaged pride in his gaze. I reach out a hand, hesitantly tracing the scar that splits his cheek, determined not to pull away as his jaw locks. “Is that what you want?” I answer his earlier question, slowly removing my hand. “For me to hate you?”

His eyes flare. “Why the hell don’t you?” he hisses. “I don’t fucking understand you, Liz. But then…I never have, have I?”

Before I can respond to this enlightening bit of information, he continues speaking in a hurried tone, stumbling over his words as if in a struggle to get them out. “I was always so jealous of you and Max…what you both had. I thought if I could just get you to feel that way about me…” He trails off with a curse, working his stiffening knee and completely unmindful of me standing there with a look of absolute shock on my face.

“W-what?” I manage a minute later, clearing my throat as he glances back up. “Michael…what?” I’m aware of the fact that my voice is shrill, my fingers clenched tightly into my palms as I stare at him.

When he glances back up, there’s an aura of weakness I’ve never associated with my husband, even when he was lying still in a hospital bed. “I wanted what Max had,” he admits in quiet defeat. “I…I wanted someone to look at me the way you looked at him.”

That’s enough to have me sputtering. “Me?” I blurt out, my mind whirling as I try to reconcile his words with reality. “I never…Max…” I can’t even finish the ridiculous sentence. I’m in love with Max now…but back then I was completely enamored of Michael. How he could have misconstrued my affection of Max for something more…

I glance back up to see him watching me with a bitterly amused expression. “Don’t you see, Liz?” he murmurs. “It’s always been the two of you. Max and Liz…then me as an afterthought.” An uncharacteristic expression of regret crosses his features before he adds, “You just never let yourself see it. You were looking for something that never existed…so much so that you lost the best thing that ever happened to you. And ended up with me.”

Hearing him throw back Max’s almost exact words is like a crushing blow to my chest. “So…why did did you want me?” I manage to ask through the burning hurt and anger that is springing forth like a tidal wave.

He sighs heavily, rubbing one hand across his eyes. “Because I knew I could have you.” I gasp tearfully at his blunt admission, when he adds, “And I stupidly thought I could make you fall in love with me and forget about Max. It never happened.” His mouth twists in representation of a smile.

“That’s not true,” I return heatedly, my voice catching as painful memories surface. “I loved you, goddammit! And you…you cheated on me, you treated me like I was invisible to your fucking eyes—” I have to force myself to stop, shaking uncontrollably as he stares at me with eyes bright with tears.

“You wanted me to be him…and I could never be him,” he answers thickly. “Yes, I did all those things…and I’m paying for them now, I’m paying big. I’m paying for stealing from my best friend, for twisting your emotions to my benefit…and making three people miserable. Oh, I’m paying for it, Liz…”

At that unlikely moment, I realize everything he’s said is true. Everything I ever thought I felt for Michael was always shadowed by the presence of the real person in my life who counted.

I said once before that Max was my comfort zone, the person who was there for me without a single question asked. The fact that he was might have very well been our downfall. I never had to wonder about his feelings for me, they were always there on display…so obvious, yet so easily overlooked by someone such as me who needed to fight for their ability to be loved. Unable to accept what was already there.

Taking my silence as understanding, he lets out a ragged sigh before saying, “I don’t want to die and leave things like this, Liz. I want…to at least try to make amends. I know I can’t take back the damage I’ve already caused, but I…I just…” he trails off, staring down where his knee is shaking. Frustrated tears gleam in his eyes before he looks back up at me and whispers words that I’ve never heard from him. Words that I expected to hear many times before…but were never uttered. “I’m sorry.”

It’s on the tip of my tongue to say, “So am I.” I’m angry, hurt, confused, betrayed. And not just by Michael. If Max had really loved me as much as he claimed, wouldn’t he have fought for me, proven his feelings? Why had he let me marry Michael? Why the hell had been too afraid to let me know how he felt?

His words drift back through my mind, “I want you to be happy…” and a choked sob rises in my throat as I half-turn away, tears pooling at the corners of my eyes. I raise a trembling hand to my mouth, my lids falling closed as a new wave of loss washes over me. Because it wasn’t Max who had been afraid…it was me. It had always been me.

When I meet Michael’s gaze again, I realize that we’re far more similar than I ever thought possible. We both looked for the wrong things in the wrong people, and like he said…we’re all paying for it now. I don’t know what will happen between Max and I, or if I’ll ever see him again. But I do know that I can manage to right at least one wrong, close one chapter of my life. So I open my mouth and answer in the only way I know how.

“I forgive you.”



<center>***</center>



“Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we commend thy servant Michael Guerin. Receive him into the arms of thy mercy…”

As I watch the priest face the casket where my husband now lies, I wrap my arms tighter around my body, desperately trying to block out the eyes I can feel studying me from all sides. Some pitying, some calculating…others merely curious, as if they expect me to suddenly start screaming and fling myself across the casket and begged to be buried along with Michael.

In truth, I don’t think I could manage to make it past the pallbearers before I collapsed. The past few days of preparations after Michael’s death have left me completely and utterly emotionally drained. It’s a wonder I managed to make it here at all, having nearly made myself sick the night before crying over old home movies.

As the casket is slowly lowered into the freshly dug earth, I happen to glance up and across the small crowd. My eyes lock on a warm amber gaze, filled with the same abject misery that seals my own battered heart.

I go completely still, staring in shock as Max gazes back, his eyes never leaving mine even as someone quietly touches his shoulder. His expression is hard to read, but his eyes speak his thoughts as easily as they always have. Pain, regret, and hunger all lurk in those tawny depths…and for the first time in over a year my soul takes a deep breath.

He looks…different. While physically the same, I can see the subtle changes that have taken place in the man who I once knew better than I knew myself. Then again…I never knew the truth of his feelings for me, so maybe I never really knew him at all.

The thought brings a sharp pain to my chest as my gaze roams eagerly over his every feature. He still wears the earring, still has that edge that sets him apart from every other man wearing a suit and tie here today. But there’s something missing from him…some vibrancy that’s lacking in his spirit. I recognize it, because I’ve lost it as well.

The moment is broken as he turns slightly away, glancing down at the hand that rests on his arm. I follow his gaze to see a petite blonde woman staring up at him with concerned eyes. He smiles softly at her, placing his hand over hers before turning back to meet my gaze.

Shortly after I’m pulled away by mourners who feel it’s their place to offer me their condolences, even though many had never deigned to learn my first name. By the time I find a moment of silence, Max has disappeared.

I find myself alone in the cemetery, the new grave of my husband at my feet. Fresh flowers lie across the ground, filling the air with a sweet scent as the wind blows softly. Heedless of the loose soil, I slip off my shoes, flexing my toes as I drop to my knees.

Picking a cut lily from the pile, I bring it to my nose, staring down at the markings on the plaque that depict Michael’s name and statistics. My eyes begin to burn and I release a ragged breath before placing a gentle kiss against one soft petal, then lying it across the tombstone.

I brush my skirt where a few loose grains of dirt have flown, clearing my throat before whispering softly, “I hope you’ve found some happiness, Michael. I…I hope you…” my voice catches and I take another breath before whispering, “Be happy, Michael.”

Wiping my eye, I slowly stand to my feet. Even before I turn around, I already know he’s there. When our eyes meet, I can’t keep my lips from quivering, the tears from spiking my lashes. “You…you came,” I manage thickly after a long moment of silence. “Thank you,” I add softly, not knowing what else to say as he continues to stand there…unmoving.

His gaze drops to the ground and he blinks before taking a step closer. I don’t move as he comes up beside me. I have to close my eyes against the overwhelming urge to throw myself in his arms. As it is, the scent of him nearly undoes me. I sink my teeth into my lower lip, praying for him to say…something.

When he does, the sound of his voice is such a balm that more tears threaten to escape my lids. “I loved him, too,” he says quietly. I open my lids to find him staring down at the plaque, his eyes wet and filled with pain. “How…how was he?”

I swallow, wishing to comfort him…but not knowing how it would be received. I settle for clasping my hands together and telling him the truth. “He was in a lot of pain…right before…the worst only lasted a few days or so…”

He nods quickly, glancing up. “Are you all right?” he says in a low, intense voice. A gust of wind tosses a strand of hair across my lips and he half-raises his hand, as if he means to brush it away, but then thinks better of it.

“I…” I mean to say that I’ll be fine, but the words choke in my throat and I end up saying, “I missed you, Max.” The moment the words are out, we both freeze. Then it’s all pouring out of me. “I missed you so much,” I whisper fiercely, reaching out to wrap my arms around him.

He doesn’t attempt to stop me, in fact embraces me fully. I’m so grateful that I nearly collapse at his feet as the scent of him fills my notrils. I take deep, greedy breaths…my fingers grabbing handfuls of his jacket as I bury my nose in his chest.

“Liz…” he sighs, rubbing his cheek against the top of my head. “Baby…” He trails off, his hands framing my face and forcing me to meet his gaze. His eyes search mine, and he lets out a soft groan before placing a kiss against my lips.

The second he does, we both jerk away and stare at each other for a split second before our mouths fuse back together in a torrent of desire. His lips taste salty, and it takes me a moment to realize its due to the tears flowing down my cheeks.

“Liz…Liz…” he groans, nipping my lips roughly as his hands run down my back and bottom, settling on my hips and dragging me closer. His piercing slides erotically against my tongue, making me moan before he pulls away again, breathing harshly as he stares at me through heavy lids. “We…we can’t,” he says huskily, swallowing as he begins to back away from me.

I blink, following after him. “Max…” I whimper. “No…please…” I lick my swollen lips, shaking as I reach for him. “I love you…I love you so much, I’m so sorry…”

“We can’t…” he repeats, looking as if he’s seconds from crying himself. I don’t understand his reaction, still blinded by the shaky desire and love pulsing through my body. Until he says something that brings me back to the cold, hard earth. “Liz…I’m engaged. I’m marrying someone else. We…we can’t.”

For a minute, I feel as if he has to be playing a joke on me. Surely Fate wouldn’t be this cruel. But the anguish glimmering in his eyes proves that this moment is all too real…and I begin backing away in horror and humiliation. Memories of the attractive blonde fill my mind and a sick feeling rises in my stomach. “Oh my God…” I press both hands to my mouth, choking back a screaming sob before turning to run. I stumble and fall back to the ground, twisting my ankle in a rut in the ground.

“Liz!” I can hear him calling after me, his voice thick with pain and emotion, but I can’t look back. Tears are blinding my vision and I hear a distinctly animal howl rising in the air. Chills run down my spine when I realize it’s coming from my throat.

I make it to my car, glancing over to see him sitting on the ground by Michael’s grave, head in his hands. Quickly looking away, I shove my key into the ignition.

Once back at my empty apartment, I don’t bother undressing before collapsing onto the bed in soul-racking sobs. My legs curl to my chest as I stuff a fist in my mouth, biting down so hard I draw blood. I can’t seem to stop the shaking. I eventually fall asleep, to be awakened hours later by a thunderstorm. The house is eerily quiet, made all the more so by the fact that I officially buried my husband today. And that the love of my life is forever lost to me.

As the last vestiges of slumber disappear, leaving me with the brutal truth of reality, I just lie there for a long moment. My eyes feel grainy and puffy, my entire body swollen. Finally I force myself to get up and eat something, knowing it’s been days since I had a truly decent meal. I catch sight of myself in the mirror on the way out, and pause as I stare in disbelief at the miserable, raggedy woman gazing back at me.

With newfound determination, I backtrack and head for the shower to cleanse myself of the dirt and tears, as well as the numbing pain. Afterwards, I manage to choke down a bowl of chicken soup while blankly watching a rerun of a popular primetime drama. As I stand to take my bowl to the kitchen, the doorbell rings. I freeze in mid-step, my heart beating with wild hope even as the sensible part of my brain tells me it can’t be true.

With trembling fingers I set the bowl down, not even noticing as it slides off to shatter against the hardwood floor. Dazedly, I walk towards the door. I take a deep breath, my hand falling on the knob at the same instant a loud pounding erupts from the other side.

“Liz!”

Tears fill my eyes and I jerk the door open to find myself face to face with a completely soaked Max Evans, still wearing the suit and jacket from the funeral…his face a wild expression of emotion. I blink rapidly as he drips in the hallway, his hair matted down, yet still appearing as the most gorgeous vision I’ve ever seen in my life. “Max…?” I ask tentatively, so many questions filling my mind that I don’t know where to start.

He swallows, running a hand through his hair as he steps forward, causing me to back up one. He truly looks intimidating in this state, dark and forbidding as he pierces me with a heavy-lidded gaze. “Did you mean it?” he demands hoarsely, his eyes burning and intense. “Did you?”

“Mean what?” I ask shakily, hearing the distinct sound of thunder rolling in the distance. “Max…are you all right?”

He ignores my second question in favor for the first. “When you told me you loved me…did you mean it?” he repeats, and to my complete and utter shock, he lifts trembling fingers and begins to unbutton his drenched dress shirt.

“Y-yes…I meant it,” I manage, staring as he flicks open another button, revealing the hollow of his neck and the beginning of his hard chest. “Max…?”

His eyes light at my response, and a subtle calm comes over him as he moves forward, slowly forcing me back through the door. Once fully inside, he shuts the door without looking away from me. “Liz…come here,” he says huskily, pulling his shirt open and yanking the tails from his pants, letting it fall to the floor.

I have no idea why Max Evans is standing in my living room, shirtless and looking at me like he could devour me whole when he has a fiance…and whole other life that has nothing to do with me. But I don’t give a damn, either. “Yes, I meant it,” I answer thickly, honestly. “Max…I’ve done a lot of thinking about why…why I did what I did. Before…” I swallow as he continues to stare at me, his fingers now working the button on his pants.

Determined to get through my spiel before losing track of my thoughts, I turn away so as not to be affected by his evergrowing nakedness. In a shaky voice I continue, “I had to stay with Michael, Max. He needed me…he needed someone and I…I made a decision. But I never stopped loving you. You have to know that, I—”

“I know,” he rumbles into my ear, pressing up behind me as I freeze at the feel of his heat seeping into my thin robe. His arms wrap around me, his nose nuzzling against my ear as I breathe shallowly. “I know…don’t say anything else, baby. God, I understand…”

“What are you doing?” I cry in desperation, my lips trembling from his kindness, his easy seduction. “You have a fiance…you aren’t staying…why are you doing this to me?”

He pauses, then turns me around to face him. The look on his face nearly takes my breath away. The sheer desire and adoration shining in his eyes burns straight through me. “I can’t let you go,” he whispers fiercely. “I…I knew coming here, I knew if I saw you…and I couldn’t stop myself, Liz.”

“Stop what?” I ask, blinking through tears of hope as he runs the back of his hand across my cheek. The feel of the roughness of his palm drags forth a shaky gasp from my lips, to which he smiles.

“I love you,” he murmurs, first softly then louder. Fiercely. “I love you…I’ll always love you, Liz.” He pulls me to my toes, his hands sliding under the neck of my robe to settle on my bare shoulders as his lips near mine.

“Wait,” I whisper. “What about…”

“I broke it off with Tess,” he answers in a low rumble. “I don’t think I ever intended to really marry her. I just…I needed something to wake you up. Maybe I needed something to wake us both up.”

I know I should feel sorry for the poor girl who probably had her heart broken tonight, but all I can feel is a slow, unadulterated joy that spreads through my body like a warm glow. “You…you’re not…?” I have to hear him say it again. And again. I still feel like I might be dreaming.

“I’m in love with you, Liz,” he answers fervently. “I’ve loved you for so long that the two words have become synonymous. I need you, so much. I’ve tried being without you, giving you your space…I can’t do it, Liz. I can’t.” His voice catches slightly, and he inhales sharply before continuing with, “Don’t ask me to, baby. Please…”

In answer, I clasp my arms around his neck and pull him into a kiss filled with tears, and promise. I know that it might be a long time before either of us fully heal from the tragedy of Michael’s death, and the problems before it. But together…we’re on a quicker route.

As he carries me back to my bedroom, I place teasing kisses along his collarbone. He groans, setting me on the bed and crawling on top of me. The feel of him is so blissfully perfect that I can’t keep the tears from filling my eyes.

“What’s wrong?” he whispers fretfully, catching my look as he stops his sensuous journey. Misunderstanding, he adds, “We don’t have to do anything, baby…if you’re not ready. I know it’s still…soon…”

He leaves the words unsaid, but I know exactly what’s going through his mind and I know that even if I can’t erase the things I’ve done, I can at least set his mind at ease about one thing. I slide one leg along his, linking my fingers with his and bringing them to my lips to place a tender kiss in the center of his palm. “I haven’t been with anyone that way…since you, Max.”

He closes his eyes tightly, then lets out a harsh sigh. “Neither have I, baby, I love you so much…” His voice husky, he keeps repeating the words over and over as we both lose ourselves. The moment he arches in climax, he groans, “You’re mine now…forever…”

As he collapses against me, I blink back tears and kiss his forehead before softly saying the words that I’ve said before, but never truly understood until this moment. “Till death do we part…”

The End.

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Applebylicious
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Post by Applebylicious » Wed Dec 08, 2004 9:39 pm

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