Tessa didn’t know what was going on, but she knew it wasn’t good. When they saw her, Ava looked completely frozen, reaching for someone who wasn’t there. She had been trying to embrace Ian, they knew.
Someone touched her long hair. She jumped, but then relaxed, remembering it was only Alex. They had been doing this thing for months, just lying with each other, holding each other. They weren’t having a fling, it wasn’t like that. It was about comfort.
He understood what she was going through, more than anyone around Ridgewood knew. Tessa usually kept to herself, or that’s how it started. Then she met Alex. He was handsome, driven, kind, and brewed the best damn pot of coffee she had ever had in her life.
“Do you think she’ll be okay?” he asked.
“She’ll be fine,” Tessa said. She moved to place her head in the middle of his chest, as his arms tightened around her. “She’s strong.”
“But maybe Ian’s stronger,” Alex said.
“I don’t think so. I don’t think he pushed Bridget either. I think he’s playing with Ava.” She sighed and lifted her head. Warm hands cradled her face, reassuring.
“What else do you think is going on? Because whatever we saw in my office wasn’t normal.”
“Who around here is normal? Tessa asked, smirking.
“Good point,” Alex said. He released her and laid his head back down. “While we’re being honest about a patient, we should discuss other things.”
Tessa slipped under the blanket on the bed and took a breath. Then another, and another, until she couldn’t take any more. She felt Alex’s hands in her hair, his lips against her neck, body pressed into hers. She closed her eyes. They had promised they were just going to comfort each other.
“I can’t,” she said. “I’m sorry. I can’t break my promise.”
He sighed against her jaw, sending shivers through her body.
Tessa threw the blanket off and stared at the ceiling. Alex didn’t touch her again. He didn’t ask why she recoiled, because he knew, and it was okay.
“I’m sorry,” Tessa whispered into the dark.
It was hours later when she woke again, her own scream piercing her ears. Alex gripped her, trying to bring her back, telling her it was going to be alright.
But it wouldn’t.