“Shay!” Jack’s tail receded and the stripes on his face faded. He jumped from the bed.
Lacey’s deer-in-headlights eyes stared at her, sparkling as they filled with tears. Her chest heaved as she laid paralyzed on the bed.
“Shay . . .”
“I—I’m sorry. I should have knocked,” Shay said, because it was the first thing she could think of. She started to close the door.
Shay pushed the door open another fraction of an inch. She could feel tears squeezing their way into her eyes. Her mind was still trying to make sense of the situation, but the only scenario that could be true—well, it couldn’t be. It just couldn’t.
“Oh, my God. Oh, my God,” Lacey sobbed from the bed. “I’m so sorry. Oh, God. I’m so sorry.”
“I don’t . . . understand,” Shay said.
“I just—we just—” Jack struggled for the right words. “We have instincts. I know there’s no excuse, but I would never intentionally hurt you.”
“It’s my fault. Oh, God. I’m so sorry!” Lacey bolted up and tore out of the room. Her shoulder bumped Shay’s as she pushed past her.
“Lacey!” they both called after her.
Jack started after her, but fell short when he reached Shay. She could see by the uncertainty in his face that he was torn between going after Lacey and staying there with her.
His one hand was stretched out to touch Shay’s shoulder, and she thought that if he did, she would surely shock him. She was hurting, while he was so carefree and blissful. It wasn’t fair.
Then he turned back to Shay, and distress also showed in his eyes. Not for her, but for Lacey. And Shay felt . . . relieved. Like a weight had finally been lifted from her shoulders.
It was at that moment Shay knew she didn’t love Jack.
At least, not in the way she had loved Matt. She loved Jack the way a sister loved a brother. She’d just mistaken it for something else before. And because of that, she was relieved.
She wouldn’t have to try at something she knew would never work.
And of all the people he could have fallen in love with instead of her, she was glad it was Lacey. Lacey needed someone liked Jack to look after her.
She realized why she’d been so hurt and angry. Because he was able to be with Lacey. He was able to touch and kiss her, while she was left only with memories. Just because she had ruined her one chance at love didn’t mean that she had to ruin his, too. She’d ruined too much of everything else already.
“Jack,” she said, and a gentle smile found its way onto her face. “I want you to be happy. You deserve it.”
“I don’t love you, and I don’t think I ever will. I want you to be with Lacey. Go after her. It’s alright.”
He hugged her, and she stood frozen in the embrace for a moment in shock. Then she slowly lifted her arms to hug him back.
“Thank you, Shay.” His smile was warm and genuine.
He ran after Lacey and as Shay watched his retreating figure, she murmured, “Blessed be.”
She had no way of knowing if she’d see him again, but either way, she wished him the best.
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