I stood under the shower spray and let Della wash me. She washed my hair and body so methodically and thoroughly. She never said a word. She didn’t ask me questions. She was just there beside me. I needed her to stay there. If she left me I was afraid the reality would set in and I couldn’t let it. It hurt too fucking much.
“You’re clean,” Della said softly, opening the shower door and stepping out. She picked up a towel and began to dry me. And I let her.
When she was finished she wrapped the towel around herself and pressed a kiss to my chest. “Go, get in bed. You need to sleep,” she told me.
She turned to walk away and I reached out and grabbed her hand. “Don’t leave me.” The words sounded more like pleading. They didn’t sound like me at all.
She shook her head. “I’m not. I just need to get dry. I’ll be in bed in a minute,” she assured me.
“I’ll wait,” I told her as I stood there. I was scared of my own nightmares now. I couldn’t lie down and face them without her with me.
“Okay. I’ll hurry,” she said. I saw the sadness and pain in her eyes.
She dried off her body and wrapped the towel around her hair, then went to the dresser. When she opened it and pulled out a pair of panties, I moved toward her.
“No. Don’t wear clothes.” I wanted her in my arms just like this. I wanted her warmth to reach my empty coldness inside. She was the only reason I was still alive. If it hadn’t been for her I wouldn’t have stopped until I’d drowned, too.
She reached for my hand and took me over to the bed. I lay down and she climbed in beside me, then pulled the covers up over us. If Rush hadn’t come back I wouldn’t be here now. I held on to her tighter.
She would’ve been here without me. I didn’t want to think about that. Not being there to protect her. To hold her. Not being there to spend forever with her.
“I came back for you.” My voice sounded hoarse.
She tilted back her head and looked up at me. “Thank you.”
I didn’t say anything else. I wasn’t sure what to say. Within minutes, my eyes were too heavy to hold open and the smooth heat of Della’s skin gave me the comfort I needed to fall asleep.
When I opened my eyes, I stared at the ceiling. It was late afternoon. I could tell by the sunlight through the windows. Della’s slow, even breathing told me she was still asleep. I hadn’t dreamed. Thank God.
I hadn’t wanted to dream. It all replayed over and over again in my head. Jace was going to propose to Bethy. He’d been ready to spend his life with her. We had been right there together and everything had been fine.
Then Bethy had changed all that. She’d turned a summer night we were all supposed to enjoy together into a nightmare. One that would never leave us. One that we would all relive over and over the rest of our lives. Remembering the helpless feeling of knowing he was gone and there was nothing we could do to bring him back.
I had lived on this beach my entire life. We had seen more than one death from the water but it had never been a death that impacted me. It had never been someone I loved. It had never been real.
It was real now.
Della moved in my arms and I held her tighter. She was my glue right now. Being able to touch her was keeping me together. Last night she’d sat right there on that beach, refusing to let go of my hand.
When they had found his body she had wrapped her arms around me and used every ounce of strength to hold me as they covered him and took him. I couldn’t have made it without her. Holding her reminded me that I was alive. I hadn’t drowned. When she walked away from me or left me for even a moment, I was under that wave again, being sucked away and unable to fight it.
“Woods?” Della’s concerned voice brought me out of my head and I blinked, then focused on her face. “I’m here,” she said simply, and brushed the hair from my forehead.
I reached up and touched her face. I didn’t have words just yet. I couldn’t talk about it. I just needed her near me.
She moved her body over mine until she was on top of me. She straddled my waist and pressed small kisses to my neck and shoulders. This was her way of easing my pain. I could feel it in each gentle brush of her lips. Her hips moved down until I could feel her wet heat slide over me. The contact was all I needed to be ready.
Della lifted her hips and I slid into her with ease. When I was completely inside she leaned forward and rested her head on my heart. We stayed there a few moments. Joined in a way that only she could achieve.
When her hips began to rock against me she didn’t seek my mouth or get frantic with her need for release. She just loved me. She used her body to love me and hold me in the most intimate way.
I wrapped my arms around her and held her against me. We moved with each other in a perfect rhythm that was selfless. Its purpose was to heal and comfort. When Della’s warmth began to tighten around me and her body started to tremble, I cried out her name and she followed me.
After I filled her with my release she didn’t move from me. She held me inside her as we stared into each other’s eyes. All the pain and devastation of last night was there. We didn’t need words.
“He would have wanted you to come back,” she finally said.
“I know,” I told her.
She pressed a kiss to my cheek. “He loved you.”