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Because of Low (Chapter Twenty-Three)

Marcus

"Don't look now but Cage is headed this way," Dewayne muttered, jerking me back to the present. I'd gotten lost in my thoughts. Since Dad had informed me how incredibly wrong I'd been about Will ow, I'd done nothing but replay every awful word I'd said to her. I searched the crowd until I found Cage walking our way. He was alone.

"Sorry man, I didn't know he was going to be here tonight or I'd have given you a heads up," Preston whispered from across the table.

"Stop babying him. He's gonna have to deal with it eventually," Rock said with an unapologetic shrug. He was right of course.

"Didn't expect you out tonight," Preston said as Cage came to a stop at the table.

"I needed a night out. Low insisted I go do something."

"She didn't come out with you?" I surprised everyone including myself by asking.

Cage frowned at me then tilted his head as if he was studying me. I stared at him. Waiting on an answer while he decided if I deserved one or not.

"No. She had a bad experience the last time I talked her into getting out of the apartment and coming here with me," he replied slowly and evenly. The night I'd grabbed the girl and danced with her. Damn the list of marks against me were endless.

"Uh, well, it's good you got out tonight. You don't do that much anymore," Preston piped up in an attempt to break through the tension.

Cage continued to glare at me, "I've had other priorities." I wanted to hate him. Because he'd been there for her.

Because he'd been what I hadn't. But I couldn't hate him.

Instead, I was grateful someone had taken care of her.

"Is she okay?" I needed to know. Anything. Just something. I needed something.

Cage let out a hard laugh and shook his head like he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "No, Marcus she isn't. But one day she will be. It isn't like she hasn't been left before. She'll survive."

If he'd intended to slice me open, he'd succeeded. I needed air. Standing up I grabbed my water and turned around to leave.

"If it were me you'd fucked over, you'd be dead to me. But it wasn't me. It was Low. And she isn't like most people. If you've managed to put away enough of that sheltered little rich boy righteous fury and figured out what an enormous mistake you made then it isn't too late. Yet." Then Cage York turned and walked away. Through the crowd and out the front door. I stood there replaying his words in my head.

Then I broke into a run.

Cage's Mustang wasn't parked outside. I stood looking up at the window to the apartment and although the lights were off I could see the glow from the television. She was here.

Just like Cage had said. I took the stairs two at a time and halted at the door. I no longer had a key. She'd have to come to the door. And she might slam it in my face. I rubbed my palms across the tops of my jeans and took a few deep breaths. Did I even deserve this? If there was any chance she'd forgive me was I even worthy of her forgiveness? No. I wasn't. But I was selfish. I wanted Low.

That's all I cared about. Raising my hand I rapped on the door and waited while my heart tried to pound out of my chest. The dead bolt unlatched and the knob turned.

Waiting, I stood praying she'd listen.

Willow

"Marcus?" Had I fall en asleep on the couch? Was this a dream? It wouldn't be the first dream I'd had of Marcus over the past couple months. I blinked several times and stared.

It sure felt real.

"Low," he whispered almost reverently. This had to be a dream. This was my dream Marcus. The one who didn't hate me. The one who still loved me. I turned from the door not wanting to dream anymore. It hurt too much. I was tired of hurting.

"Low please, just listen to me, please," Marcus pleaded from behind me. Turning around, I saw that he had stepped inside the door.

"Am I asleep?" I asked him, confused. Because this dream was way too real.

"No," came his simple reply. I watched as he closed the door behind him.

"Why're you here?"

He took another step closer and I took one back. Sookie screamed on the television and I jumped, startled.

Reaching for the remote I pressed mute and then looked back up at Marcus.

"I wanted to talk to you. I don't deserve for you to listen to me but I'm willing to beg if it'll do any good." Frowning I sat down on the couch and pulled my legs underneath me.

"I'm listening," I replied and he visibly relaxed.

"I'm sorry," he started and closed his eyes tightly taking a deep breath before opening them and gazing at me with so many emotions. "That day. You came here to tell me. You'd just found out. But I didn't know that. I knew you were upset but then my sister called and my mother had taken a bottle full of prescription pain kill ers."

I knew this already but I let him continue.

"We almost lost her. But they pumped her stomach and I stood there with my sister waiting for her to come back to us. When she woke up she said Dad had brought her the divorce papers and he was moving in with another woman.

She tried to kill herself. I went to the dealership and demanded someone give me his new address. I was going to beat him to a bloody pulp for what he'd done to my mother. What he drove her too. The fear that had gripped me all afternoon as I watched my mother's life hang in the balance transferred to fury. Then when I walked in and saw you and your sister. I couldn't think straight, Low. I felt betrayed. Not by my dad but by you. I didn't see how there was any way you could not know. And then you being there at that house. I was positive you knew. I didn't trust you. I didn't listen to you. I just turned all that fear and fury and lashed out at you. And so help me God I'll regret it for the rest of my life."

Tears clung to my eyelashes as I watched the turmoil and regret in Marcus's face as he replayed the day he'd shattered me. My heart ached for him. I sniffed and reached up to wipe the tears away.

"I forgive you." I did. It didn't change much but I did forgive him. I took a deep breath and realized it was easier to breathe. Knowing he didn't believe I'd betrayed him took the heaviness away. Most of it at least.

Marcus stared at me. I'd surprised him. He didn't expect me to forgive him.

"You forgive me?" He asked hoarsely.

"Yes, I do. I understand what happened. The entire situation was a nightmare. But life sucks and you get over it and move on."

He swallowed so hard I could see his throat constrict.

"I love you Low."

I wanted to believe that and maybe he did. But I couldn't survive him again. I'd met my limit of heartbreak.

"Marcus, what we had, it was, it was incredible. It was amazing. I've never had anything like that before. I'll cherish it for the rest of my life"

"Don't, Low. Please," Marcus choked out.

I forced a smile through my tears. They were flowing freely now. This was our closure.

"I can't do that again. Once was all I can handle. I never thought I'd open up like that to anyone. To be free and trusting. But I did. And I don't regret it. I never will. But I've met my quota on abandonment in my life. I need to protect me."

Marcus let out a long rattled breath and stood up. I watched as he ran his hands through his hair. He was beautiful. And he had once been mine. I was thankful for that.

"Low I will love you until the day I die," he declared staring down at me with moisture glistening in his eyes. I'd love him too. But it wasn't enough.

"I'm sorry," I whispered.

We stared at each other as the heaviness of where we'd ended up settled on us. He took another deep breath then he nodded.

"I can't force you to trust me. I deserve this," his voice was shaky.

"You deserve to be happy," I assured him. Because he did.

"I'll never be happy without you," he replied. The anguish in his eyes was so hard to ignore.

"Yes you will."

"Low, God, I'm so sorry. Please, just can I prove to you that I'm not going anywhere? I'll spend the rest of my life proving to you I'll never hurt you again."

The conversation we had on the floor of his bathroom not too long ago came back to me. It was so similar. He'd been so sure he'd never hurt me again. He'd always be there.

Marcus had been too sheltered. He didn't handle bad things well. I needed someone who wouldn't leave me when the bad things came.

"I can't. I tried. It didn't work. I can't keep expecting Cage to pick up the pieces when my life falls apart. It's time I learned to fix my own problems. Deal with bad stuff on my own. And that means I can't trust my heart with anyone.

Because I'm weak there."

Marcus took two long strides and knelt down on the floor in front of me. I could smell him. So good. So clean. My Marcus.

"Low, I swear you can trust me, please. I miss you. I ache for you. I need you Low. Please baby please." A sob rattled my chest and I shook my head. "I can't." He dropped his head to my knees and we sat there while silent tears fell. I reached out and touched his hair.

Remembering the feel of him. I relished in the smell of him as it surrounded me. Finally he raised his head slowly and looked at me one last time before standing and walking away. When the door closed behind him, I curled up on the couch and cried until I didn't have any more tears to cry.

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