Chapter Thirty Eight


I held Zander tight to me. I didn't want to let him go. "Za…" I mumbled, "I have to tell you something," I couldn't see what he did, but the other two obviously got the hint and left the room, closing the door softly behind them, though they were probably listening through the door. He was holding me to his warm chest, and I was enjoying it until he inquired as to what I needed to talk about. It was now or never.

"I think…" I started. How do you tell someone who you love that you still love someone else who hurts you? "Uhm…" He had the questioning look on his face. I almost wanted to smack it off of him. He was making it harder and harder to say when he just looked at me with those beautiful emerald eyes. "…I don't know."

"Zoe, baby…" he smiled. "Tell me. You know you can tell me anything," he pushed back a bit of my hair that had fallen in my face, "I love you. And you love me. What could possibly be wrong?" He knew exactly what could possibly be wrong. I had just been… raped. What was so right about that? But he didn't want to admit to himself that he hadn't been able to protect me. He didn't want for me to see that he couldn't protect me. But it hadn't been Zander's fault. Not at all. I had let Jason. Up until the very last second. I knew better, and I had still let him touch me.

Why? Because I loved Jason. For some weird, idiotic reason, I loved him. And I wasn't going to let Zander get hurt by me if I could help it. "Zander. Don't." I released the bit of hair from in between his fingers. I couldn't keep doing this to him. He was going to get hurt. I was going to hurt him. Hurt Zander Nichols. Like that was even physically possible. I could hear the voice in the back of my head, muttering.

You can hurt him. No one else. You. And you know that you can hurt him. You can hurt him so bad and make him not ever want to come back to you. Is that what you are trying to accomplish?

Maybe I was. Maybe I didn't want Zander to love me, anymore. If he loved me, he could get hurt. If he didn't, then he couldn't. I could sacrifice myself so that he wouldn't get hurt. Couldn't I? I wasn't that selfish. I could do it. "Zoe…" he mumbled. It was barely audible, "baby… what's wrong? Are you okay?"

"No." It sounded more like a question than a statement, but I repeated it so that I sounded more confident. "No. I'm not okay."

"Can I help?" he was concerned. It pained me to see him like that, so I turned, not looking at him, avoiding looking at him as much as possible. "Zo?"

I shook my head hard. "You can't help," I said. I wanted it to sound bold and strong, but it came out with a slight squeak at the end. No crying, Zoe. You're stronger than that. "I want you to go back to your family, Zander." I grabbed my make-up and started reapplying it in my dresser-mirror, trying to avoid Zander's eyes in the reflection. I don't think I could have managed to see the amount of hurt in them. "I love you, but you have to go back."

"Zoe, I came here so that I can protect you. My mom—" I cut him off. I didn't want to hear about her. I was just so sure she was even more opposed, now, to his being my Prince. To her, I was Cinderella, but not the kind at the ball, the kind that is still stuck at the house cleaning the floors. She wanted Zander to see me as that.

"There's no more protecting me, Zander." Another layer of eyeliner. It was dark, now, probably darker than I had ever worn it. Could I even make out the next sentence? I knew it would hurt him more than anything else I could say, would. "You already failed at that." One tear fell, leaving a small streak that I wiped away before he could see it. I glanced at him in the reflection. He was crying, too, but worse than I was. I looked away. I had to do this, and I had to do this without tears in my eyes. "Go home, Zander."

"Zoe…" he was so quiet. I could almost hear the tears dropping from his chin and nose onto my carpet. He wasn't even attempting to stop them, now. I guess he didn't know what to say because he just leaned against the doorframe. He didn't try to walk over to me and comfort me. He could see that there was no comforting required on my end. It was supposed to be my turn to go and comfort him; to go and say that I didn't mean a single word and that I was sorry to be putting him through all of this.

But I couldn't. I thought of Jason. Why did I still have feelings for him after all that he had done to me? "It's him, isn't it?" I turned, not caring if my slightly red eyes gave me away. How could he know what I was thinking. "Zo. It's him. You don't want to tell me that it's him. It's okay. I already knew he did it."

He knew?

"You don't know anything." I said.

Zander looked down to the floor, and pulled a simple chain out of his pocket. He was gripping it tight. Tighter and tighter. So tightly that I thought his knuckles might break if he continued. But he stopped, and his grip loosened. The chain fell to the floor. "I know that he was the one who did it. Please, just tell me I'm right. I won't be mad at you."

Yes he will. Come on. You let Jason do that to you because you still have feelings for him. Zander won't understand that. All that Zander will see is that you let some other guy all over you. He won't understand.

I know he won't understand. I know he'll be mad. "You're wrong. You don't know anything." My voice was shakier than I had intended for it to be, but it still wasn't bad, so I kept talking. "I don't want you here. Go. You hurt me. Not him."

He started to walk toward me. I couldn't let him. I knew that if Zander touched me, I would lose it. I would screw up everything. I was only trying to protect him from me and he was making it so hard. "Zoe, please. Baby." He was still crying. I tried to look away from him, but he held onto my arm. Not hard, but enough to keep me from going anywhere. I closed my eyes as he turned my head to face him. I could feel his lips against mine. They were warm and inviting, and I never wanted the feeling to stop, it was so soft and loving, and… nothing at all like how Jason's kisses had been. Hard. And violent. Like he was taking them from me, instead of sharing them with me. "Zoe." I hadn't even noticed he had stopped kissing me. "Just tell me that it was him."

I shook my head. "He'll kill me. Get out of here. Please." My mind suddenly turned back to the job at hand. I needed Zander out of him. What if Jason came back? I knew he was going to. Hadn't he said something about coming back? If he found Zander here, he would kill him. I had to protect him.


"Stop it. Please just go." I love you. Please forgive me.

His look was hard when I opened my eyes to look at him. He was still crying, not a lot, but enough for me to see. Enough for me to tell that I had hurt him. "Is that what you really want?" his Adam's apple was bobbing up and down uncontrollably. "Zoe. You don't know what you want. I know it was Jason. Why won't you just admit it to me?" He was yelling.

I told you that he wouldn't understand. I started crying. "You don't know anything! Get out of my room!"

I didn't have to tell him twice.

Well, I am so sorry for not updating in forever and a day. I've been so stuck on this story, but I finally got a computer in my room, so guess what? I sat in there until I thought of something. I HAVE THE STORY'S END IN MIND. So… most of you won't like me for that (especially all the stuff in between) but yeah. Please review. I know it's been forever, but the next update will be sooner, I promise. :)

Much love and ink.