Chapter Twenty-Nine Part One ~Maddie~

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My heart beats wildly, my breaths erratic.

My hands tremble at my sides as I force myself to take a deep, calming breath.

It doesn't work. Not at all.

Slowly, I lift a shaking hand in the air, curling it into a fist, and hold it there, inches away from his door...

"Well shit, Maddie," Aiden spoke up once we were alone, seeing that I was visibly upset. "I was only messing with you earlier...Okay, okay, I might have been trying to ruffle some feathers too. But it was only in fun. I can't let him have you that easy," he finished.

I kept my head down, staring at my hands. "I...I just..." I trailed off, not knowing what to say really. How could I make things right? How could I tell him how I was feeling without hurting him?

"Hey. Hey," he said, lifting my chin, forcing me to look up and into his eyes. "I get it Maddie. You've been honest with me. I know how you feel about him. And I'm man enough to back off where I'm not wanted."

"It's not that I don't care about you," I finally said.

He nodded, taking his bottom lip between his teeth. "I know."

"And I do love you. And Alex too. And everything you guys did for me, all that time we ran together? It means the world to me."

He cleared his throat. "Me too, Maddie. This doesn't change any of that. We're still here for you. I'm still here for you, for anything. Okay?"

I nodded, "Thank you."

"Now go," he quickly said, standing from his spot on the couch beside me. "We both know what you want to do." And then he walked away, joining Alex in her room, leaving me to stare down the hall at the door Travis had disappeared through earlier.

...It's not just what I want to do, it's what I desperately need to do.

That doesn't make this any easier though.

I swallow thickly and close my eyes, trying to muster up the courage for everything I need to tell him.

All of it.

A throat clears down the hall, and I open my eyes to find Sanders watching me, an amused smile stretched across his face.

"What the hell you waiting for girl? Go!" he whisper-yells, waving me towards the door with his hands.

I nod, pulling my focus back to the door.

Deep breath in, deep breath out.

I can do this.

And I knock softly against the wood, finally closing the distance between my shaking fist and Travis's door.

"Come in," he says.

I twist the knob and enter his room, closing the door quietly behind me. Originally, I had planned to come right on out with it, but the words get stuck in my throat when I spot Travis on the bed. He's shirtless, the small lantern beside him casting a light glow across his torso, across every muscle, and each tattoo drawn on his skin.

"Everything okay?" he asks, breaking my stare, and my cheeks immediately flame.

Wringing my hands in front of me, I nod quickly. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. I just— earlier... when you said we could talk later? Can we— I mean, I was hoping it would be okay to finish that conversation now. There's so much I need to say, so much I want to tell you and I don't..." I'm pacing now, treading a path back and forth across the room. "I can't wait. There's no way I could lay down and fall asleep knowing you're right down the hall. And I mean, it's crazy right? This is crazy. You're here. And I'm here, and it's been so long." I ramble on nervously.

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