I wake up in the morning still nestled into James' side, only we have ended up in his bedroom, fully clothed. The idea flashes through my mind that he must have carried me here, and the image of me swept up in his strong arms as he takes me to bed makes me inordinately pleased.
I squint up at him as best as I can without disturbing the arm around my shoulders. He's awake, his eyes wide open and glued to the ceiling, a deep frown crinkling his brow and turning his lips dark. I inhale deeply the beautiful scent of James' cologne that he sprayed to cover up his regular smells and shift onto my elbow. He moves his eyes slightly, from the ceiling down to me.
"You're up early," he murmurs, then returns to staring at the white stucco.
"You're up late," I reply, touching dark circles under his eyes with my little finger. He doesn't protest against my touch, and I allow myself a small, content smile.
"Couldn't sleep. But I guess I better get used to that."
I lift an eyebrow. "Why?"
"Withdrawal tends to give me insomnia."
A grin bursts across my cheeks, my eyes softening. I bite my lip to stop from kissing him repeatedly, and instead take a breath before asking. "Do you really want to this time?"
A small smile takes over his frown. "I get the feeling I don't have much of a choice."
He hesitates, then turns on his side to face me, our thighs touching comfortably. "Because it's either getting high every night or being with you. And if those are my options, I choose you any day."
I stare at him for a moment, scanning his face for any signs that he's joking or incredibly high. Then I give in, attacking his lips ferociously, aching for his touch all over me, for the man who said he wants me more than any drug to confirm that I am exactly who he wants. Every touch, every little instance of contact between our lips, takes me closer and closer to believing that he can do this, that he can want me more than he can want an addiction.
"I do love you," I say afterwards as I trace my finger across his sturdy chest.
I can see a smile fighting its way to his lips but he keeps it away and looks down at me. "Tess-" he grimaces. "I don't-"
I stop him. "Don't. Please don't say that." I don't think I could stand to hear him actually articulate that he doesn't love me, even though I know he doesn't. I rest my head against his shoulder.
"I'm sorry," he says, regret hanging in his voice, and he wraps his arm around my shoulder to pull me half an inch closer.
"It's okay. I didn't expect you to." He removes his arm from me for a minute to light a cigarette, then replaces it as he exhales a thin stream of smoke.
"I wish I could." I glance up at him, expecting Mia to have returned to taint everything, to make his eyes hazy with the memory of the girl he loves. Instead, he returns my gaze with clear, sad eyes, sad only because he can't love me the way he thinks he should.
"It's okay, James." I kiss him gently, then settle into his side.
He falls asleep after he's finished his cigarette, his arms wrapped around me possessively. I can't keep my eyes closed, not with his constant touch making my insides go haywire, and I lay beside him with a contented smile on my lips.
No, I don't have a job. No, James might not stay sober longer than a day or two. And no, James doesn't love me. James may never love me, and he certainly won't love me the same way that I love him. But I have enough love for the both of us, enough to overshadow Mia's ghost, enough to replace cocaine and marijuana and ecstasy. Enough to have a constant supply of the drug I need to fuel the addiction to James that never dwindled over the months like I thought it would.
Enough to wait forever to hear him tell me he loves me too.
I cover his hand with mine just in time to feel it clench across my stomach, in time to feel the nightmares coming back. I roll out of his vice grip and sit up when he does, watching him worriedly from as close as I think he can handle. I watch his hands shake as he runs them through his hair and sinks his head between his knees. I slide off the bed and step around to his side where his cigarettes are and hold one out to him. He looks at me in surprise, but immediately puts it between his lips and lets me light it for him. He closes his eyes tightly as he inhales that first breath of smoke, and I can see in the still-present lines of tension on his face that it's not enough. Regular cigarettes don't help with the nightmares. Nothing does.
I don't even have to ask the question that is, selfishly, burning in my mind before he answers it with another puff of smoke escaping his lips.
"It was you, Tess. You. Bleeding and-" He meets my eyes, and I can see the desperation in them. "Don't go. Please, Tess, please don't go."
I squeeze one of his hands reassuringly. "I'm not going anywhere."
The tense crinkles around his eyes relax instantly and an exhausted smile flits across his lips. And I, like the addict that I am, feel the rush of James flood my body until I fall in love with him all over again.
A/N: Thank you so much to all you lovely people who have followed this story and especially to those who left reviews. I didn't expect so many people to like this, the positive response really surprised me! Thank you all so much for sticking with me!