Chapter 1: Running
the creatures outside look from pig to man
Erin had never been much of a runner. She’d much preferred tennis while at school. She was also certain that running in London’s streets was asking to be hit by a car. Besides, she was a fighter; running was foreign to her personality.
On the other hand, she’d also never been a fool. She knew when the deck was stacked against her and she was drifting all alone. For a time she’d convinced herself that this wasn’t the case and that there was some top secret information about John Luther that made everyone follow him into the dark. And she wanted, really wanted, to figure it out. She’d even thought she’d made an ally, a guide to all things Luther.
But she’d been horrendously wrong about that.
No, best not to go down that route, Erin thought, pushing herself a bit harder, pumping her legs faster on the final stretch home.
She’d taken up running the day she put in for a transfer.
It was supposed to be good for stress. Her sister said it would help her turn her brain off and focus on the steady rhythm of her breathing and the pounding of her pulse in her ears.
So she ran. The first time, her lungs constricted painfully barely a kilometer away from her flat. She’d had to hobble home painfully, sucking huge gulps of air into her shredded throat. She’d spent the rest of the day on her sofa, feeling bad for herself and listening to old records on her mother’s ancient record player.
But she kept at it, because that’s the kind of person she was. She didn’t give up. At least she never had before.
This transfer was the first time in her life she’d ever admitted defeat and that made her about as angry and embarrassed as the looks on Luther, Benny and Justin’s faces when she confronted them.
No, all but screamed in her head. Do not think about that. About him.
She could see her flat in the distance as she rounded the last corner. She focused her gaze on the front door to her building, willing these last few strides to come faster and take her home. But deep in the pit of her gut she felt the pangs of fear that had pushed her out of the front door into the cold wet early morning air for this run in the first place. Today she started her new assignment and she had no idea what she’d find when she walked in to meet her new boss. Would he have heard why she left S&S? Would he hold it against her? Would he be another Luther?
All of a sudden, Erin heard her mother’s voice in her head, reminding her that she could have gotten an office job or been a teacher and would probably be married by now.
“Yea to some wanker,” she said to herself, gliding past Mr. Brown, the creepy pensioner who lived two doors down and always managed to be outside as she came home from a run so that he could leer at her as she glided by. She pretended not to notice as usual and finally arrived home, slowing to an easy jog the last few steps.
She limped her way up the steps to the front door and shoved her key into the lock with a little more force than necessary, her skin crawling knowing that Mr. Brown was watching. Just inside the building, she leaned her back against the outer door, every muscle in her legs aching at the prospect of those last seven steps to home. Last time she’d gone for a run she’d had to sit for a few moments in the halfway to catch her breath and give her muscles a bit of a rest.
At least she was making progress.
She closed her eyes, listening to the quiet in the surrounding apartments for a moment, but she was pulled out of the emptiness when Mrs. Patel abruptly opened her front door and shot a dubious look in Erin’s direction. Erin put on the smile she used for robbery victims.
“Hi, Mrs. Patel,” she said in her softest voice. Mrs. Patel’s shoulders relaxed and Erin knew she’d get an invitation for dinner soon. A dinner with a surprise special guest: Mrs. Patel single son, Rajiv.
Erin shuddered. “He’s single for a reason,” she thought, while adding this to yet another reason why taking up running was her worst decision to date.
Same building different floor. Same building different floor.
She’d been muttering the same thing to herself ever since she’d left her flat. It was supposed to calm her down, but it hadn’t worked on the drive over. So here she was, sitting in her car, feeling all of six-years-old again; like the little girl entering school, with a too-thick Nigerian accent, terrified to talk and anxious about the day ahead. She smiled ruefully to herself. Four months in the Serious and Serial Unit had basically undone two decades of work to make herself feel as if she belonged.
No one likes a good girl, Erin. She could hear her older sister’s voice in her head and exhaled deeply, finally pushing her door open.
She was almost there. Just a few more slow, measured steps and she’d be safe within the confines of the Anti-Corruption Unit. She was so close, she could smell the stale, slightly burnt, coffee from last night’s shift. She wished she’d picked up a cup on her way and reminded herself not to make that mistake again.
Erin’s arm reached out to grasp the door handle when she heard his voice. It was like a great roar; no one would ever confuse DCI Luther’s voice for anyone else. But it wasn’t his voice that made her stop mid-step. It wasn’t Luther’s voice that made her smart black suit feel too heavy on her skin. It wasn’t the thought of seeing Luther that made beads of sweat appear over her top lip. And it wasn’t Luther’s phone calls and emails and text messages she’d been avoiding over the past month.
And it wasn’t Luther who called out to her.
But even if it had been Luther, she would still have pulled the door open a little too hard and rushed into her new unit just a bit too quick. Which means she would still have run directly into the scruffy wall-of-a-man that was her new Gov, DCI Sands. Ordinarily, she’d have apologized profusely, but this wasn’t normal circumstances. Instead she blurted out “toilet?” and all but ran into the women’s loo, leaning against the door wondering how she’d come to this place.
Wondering when she’d become such a good runner.
Chapter 2: Crashing
If he asks you to do something and you’re not sure, don’t butt heads with him. Just... come and see me.
A friend from the Academy warned him that he’d be ruined if he worked with John Luther.
But Justin was stubborn. People were usually fooled by his soft voice, Northern accent, and his sometimes sheepish grin.
But Justin was a fighter. He looked at working with Luther as a challenge. He wanted to learn from the best and there was no dispute; John Luther was the absolute best. He’d prepared himself for the personal sacrifices. One by one his friends in the Service slowly disappeared, but he was ok with that; usually too exhausted and raw from the things he saw for human interaction anyway. Which is also why he hadn’t been on a date in close to two years. If it hadn’t been for that quick shag in a train toilet six months ago when he was heading back to London from visiting his family, he’d not have had sex in just as long.
But that shag, like much of his life right now, only made him cringe when he thought about it too hard.
He hadn’t meant to shout and he’d definitely not meant to run after her. He wasn’t even sure what he planned to do when he caught up with her. But she’d taken off and he definitely hadn’t expected that.
Luther growled low, “Justin. Not here. Not now.”
Justin knew Luther was right, but he still opened his mouth ready to protest. This was his penance. But Justin had made understanding Luther’s non-verbal body language a key part of his job and knew that there wasn’t a point in trying. Luther would drag him out of here by the scruff of his neck if he had to.
Luther’s eyes ticked to the door through which Erin ran and Justin turned to look. He hadn’t realized that Anti-Corruption was on this floor. He also noticed the stocky detective just inside the door, hidden half in shadow, watching them.
“Who’s he,” Justin said under his breath. Luther put his hands on his hips and looked behind him down the hall, away from Anti-Corruption.
“I don’t know yet.”
“What’s she doing in there.”
“I don’t know that either. But we won’t figure any of that out standing her like a couple of stalkers. Let’s go.”
Luther put a little more emphasis on “go.” Justin gave one last look at the door, exhaled loudly and turned to follow Luther back to S&S.
She was lying on her sofa, contemplating the purple fuzzy slippers on her feet.
“Why in the bloody hell did you get me these horrid things,” Erin asked her sister, Rachel. They spoke on the phone at least every evening. Erin looked forward to these phone calls in the way a drowning man hopes for another gulp of air. She needed to the safety of her sister’s voice to stay sane.
She did not, however, need her sister’s increasingly ridiculous gifts meant to remind her that she needed to take care of herself.
First it was the juicer. “Isn’t it just easier to buy juice?”
Then the gym membership. “Running is free.”
Then it was a pair of running trainers, bright orange. “I should’ve got the gym membership.”
Now the slippers. “They look like furballs. On my feet.”
Rachel let out a long, annoyed breath. “This is why mum and dad never buy you presents.”
“I much prefer gift cards anyway.”
“Oh shut up.” Rachel waited a few seconds before changing the subject. Erin’s back tensed knowing what she’d ask. “So... how was your first week.”
“It was fine.” It might have been a believable response if her voice hadn’t raised to a high-pitched squeal just at the end. Her cheeks warmed, because it actually had been a pretty good first week. DSU Stark was intense, which she found out was a blessing in interrogations, but terrifying otherwise.
“Best just do your job and do it damn well,” DCI Kirk told her after their first briefing.
No, it was a good beginning. So why did she feel as if she was lying to Rachel?
“What happened,” Rachel said softly, still managing to unnerve Erin with the ability to see her so completely.
But Erin knew that Rachel only had as much power as she gave her, so she attempted to deflect.
Or at least, she was going to deflect, when her intercom buzzed.
“Who’s that,” Rachel said.
“Well I don’t know, I’ve only just heard it. Look, I’ll call you ba-”
“Never. I’m staying on the phone.” Sometimes Rachel was such a big sister.
There was no point in arguing, so she pulled herself up from her seat and shuffled to the intercom by her front door.
“Ugh, these slippers are horrible. I can barely walk in them.”
“Funny that’s what you say about stilettos. And every other shoe you don’t want to wear.”
“Hmm, is that a pattern I hear?”
“Of course. You’re a big baby. Now answer the door.”
Now it was Erin’s turn to release an annoyed breath as she pushed the intercom button.
“Hello,” she said into the speaker. “Who is it?” She pressed the button to listen but there was no response. “Hello,” she said again. Still no answer.
“What’s going on,” Rachel’s voice wasn’t completely worried yet, but it did have a new edge that reminded Erin of their mother who worried every time the girls weren’t home exactly twenty minutes after school ended.
“I don’t know,” Erin said. She moved across her apartment, to look down on the front of the building from her window. She didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but she knew better than anyone that that didn’t mean things were okay.
“Look, I think I will have to call you back. I just want to check that everything’s alright,” Erin said, switching on her police voice.
“Well you can check that everything’s alright with me on the phone,” Rachel replied, using her “I’m older so you have to do what I say” voice.
Erin put her free hand on her hip and rolled her eyes. “You do realize that this is my job right?”
“Of course I do, darling.”
“Oh you’re so patronizing.”
“What are you going to do? Tell mum?”
Erin opened her mouth wide, ready to suck in a huge gulp of air so she wouldn’t have to interrupt her tirade with something so silly as breathing, feeling for a second very much like the twelve-year-old who would absolutely have told mum. But she didn’t get the chance to really lay into Rachel, her momentum interrupted by a loud banging on the door.
“Oh my god, what was that?” Rachel’s voice was worried and Erin’s heart was beating hard against her chest now.
She didn’t answer, but reached out to her phone sitting on the small side table next to the sofa. There was another round of loud banging on the door. She’d just dialed 9 and then another 9 when she heard his voice.
“Erin, I know you’re in there. I can stay out here all night.”
“I have to go,” Erin said automatically.
“It’s... don’t worry. It’s... He’s... a former colleague.”
Rachel was silent a moment, considering her options. “Fine. If he’s a former colleague. Give me his name, rank, and direct superior.”
Erin smiled to herself. Rachel had always been that kind of sister, who protected her with every ounce of energy and took no short cuts.
“His name’s Ripley. DS Justin Ripley. And if you don’t hear from me you’ll be wanting to talk to DCI John Luther.” She said their names slowly, giving Rachel time to jot them down but also in a bid to steel herself for whatever was about to happen.
“Ripley. Luther. Got it. I expect to hear from you in no more than thirty minutes. I will call you exactly twice and then I’ll call the police. Clear?”
“Maybe you should have been the copper,” Erin said, her voice much lighter than the ball of anxiety settling in her stomach.
“Thirty minutes, love,” was Rachel’s only reply before hanging up.
She stood for a minute, her hand resting on her door handle. She’d been about to pull it open and read into him. How dare he show up at her flat? They weren’t mates!
But then his voice changed. He kept calling out to her, “I know you’re in there. I heard you speaking. Just.... I just want to talk. You don’t have to let me in.... Please.”
It was the “please” that did it. He breathed the word, almost as if it were a sigh he hadn’t quite meant her to hear. There was a quiet thud on the door and he said her name in that same quiet plea. She might not have even heard him if she weren’t resting her own head on the door.
There are a lot of small, pathetic decisions that can lead a man to this place, Justin knew. He’d seen enough of it while in uniform.
You could be stuck in traffic and by the time you get home you’re itching for a fight and next thing you know your wife’s packed a bag and is heading to her sister’s because she needs “space.”
Or you might lose a big account and, fearing for you job, you have one too many at the pub and next thing you know you’re getting booked for drunk driving.
Or, in Justin’s case, you might get a break in an abduction case, only to end up at a dank basement flat, busting open a locked back bedroom, your lungs filling with the smell of stale urine and vomit and half a dozen children so emaciated they feel like nothing in your arms as you carry two of them into the fresh air.
And maybe if he’d worked for someone other than Luther this would have felt like a victory and he wouldn’t be standing outside Erin’s door. But Justin’s mind had begun to understand the way that Luther saw the world. He spied John in the front garden, leaning seemingly casually against a shabby wrought-iron fence. He wasn’t paying attention to any of the police milling about and didn’t seem to take any notice of the flashing lights on the emergency vehicles. Instead, he was looking at the park across the street, noting the small play area for children off to the right and open grassy area, and wondering.
And so Justin wondered as well: How many are buried there?
He must have done some paperwork and sat in on an interrogation or two, but honestly Justin couldn’t remember what had happened between realizing that they hadn’t come just in time at all and then he was banging on Erin Gray’s door. However, based on the slightly dry yeasty taste in his mouth, there’d been at least one pint, but probably more.
He didn’t know what coming here was supposed to fix, but he could think of a dozen things it would ruin. Or, more accurately, a dozen things it would make even worse.
But in that moment, none of those things mattered as much as he’d have expected.
Suddenly all that mattered was the glimpse of her face as she cracked the door open. It wasn’t big enough to let him in, but it was a start.
He found himself clinging to that tiny sliver of hope.
Chapter 3: Binding
...and from man to pig
He hadn’t meant to kiss her. Actually he hadn’t thought she’d actually let him into her flat, so kissing her was, for once, the last thing on his mind.
But then she’d given him a strong cup of coffee and that only made him feel slightly more pissed for a second. And then she was sitting so close and he could smell her perfume or lotion or whatever she was wearing that smelled faintly of flowers.
And next thing he knew his lips were pressed against hers.
He was waiting for her to push him away and thought of all the sexual harassment seminars he’d sat through. He’d paid attention, but after a few too many pints he couldn’t be sure if this was a sackable offense or just a reprimand since, technically, neither of them was on duty.
But then he realized that he didn’t give a shite right now if it cost him his job, because she’d parted her lips just a bit and he slipped his tongue inside her warm mouth and she spread them a bit more and then she was pressing herself against him.
And then she moaned.
Deep and low into his mouth and what little restraint Justin had managed to keep in reserve was spent. She didn’t protest when he pressed her down on the sofa and ground his hips between her legs.
Their hands were all over each other. He’d wondered for months what her skin would feel and taste like and now that he had the chance to find out he couldn’t stop himself.
One hand tangled in her hair while the other snaked under her t-shirt. The lacy fabric of her bra made his dick grow harder in his pants as he ground into her sex. He could feel her nipple harden under his touch as beads of sweat formed on his brow.
This wasn’t quite how he’d imagined their first time when he was stroking himself, alone, in his dark bedroom, hating himself for wanting her the way he did. For thinking of her as anything other than his colleague. But in those forbidden dreams where he was only Justin and she was just Erin, he’d imagined that they’d had a few too many at the local pub after closing a big case and she’d invited him up for a nightcap. Sometimes he made the first move, sometimes she did, sometimes it was mutual. But in all those scenarios he hadn’t made her look a fool and trashed her reputation and she hadn’t looked at him, the anger and hurt and disbelief warring in her dark eyes, accusing him but still hoping she was wrong.
It was a minor plot point in his fantasies, but that moment, and his decisions had meant everything.
He forced himself to forget the past, just for now, as their tongues rubbed together and she arched her pelvis against his.
He pried her right breast from it’s lacy cup and rolled it between his thumb and forefinger. Erin arched her back with a sharp intake of breath. He pulled back slightly, watching her intently as her eyes closed to slits and she breathed a soft “ahh.”
She’d never looked more beautiful to him.
He settled between her legs and pulled her other breast from her bra. He wasn’t sure how long he stayed like that, running his thumbs over her sensitive nipples and he didn’t care. He wanted to take in everything, to remember every moment of this just in case.
But eventually she decided she’d had enough, or more accurately, wanted more, and started grinding her hips in an upward motion, pressing herself against him.
He tried to pull back, wanting this to last for as long as possible, but Erin wouldn’t be put off for too long. Eventually she pressed against his chest, forcing him to his knees above her.
His eyes flew to hers; hurt and confused all at the same time. Her eyes matched his in intensity, as usual, but were softer. She brushed his hands from her breasts and he grunted in frustration, long past coherent speech.
She pressed her hands against his chest and then began unbuttoning his shirt, slowly, painfully, her gaze locked to his.
He held his breath at first, afraid that she would realize what they were about to do and stop. She noticed the stillness in his chest and lowered her gaze. She slipped her hand into his shirt to press her right hand against his bare chest, over his heart, to feel the soft pounding of his heartbeat against the flesh.
After a few beats he let himself inhale, her perfume, her scent, the mixture of their breaths together. She raised her eyes to look at him as her hand slowly grazed over the hair on his chest, following the trail of feathery, curly hair down his abdomen to his waist. She stopped there for a second, silently asking if this was ok, if he wanted to stop. He ground himself into her sex in impatience.
He could have sworn there was a smile on her face as her hand undid the button to his trousers with one hand. But before he could process her response he took a sharp intake of air as her soft, warm hand slipped into his boxers and touched his member.
She was tentative at first, trailing her fingertips along his shaft. He fought the urge to grind into her once again, needing to be closer, to feel her completely, to be inside her.
She had the reins; they went at her pace or not at all.
Erin stroked him slow and deliberately from base to tip, her hands warm and, after a while, slick with his precum. He closed his eyes at the pleasure, which was creeping towards pain, as she was pumped him so slowly, but still her face burned bright against the darkness behind his eyes.
He was close, but he didn’t want it, her, like this. Her hand, while softer and more gentle than his own, still wasn’t her.
He wanted to stop her, to pull away, to coax her to her bedroom, but he couldn’t bring himself to pull away from her. What if this was some elaborate drunken fantasy? What if he opened his eyes and she wasn’t there and he was just some sad, prematurely washed up copper alone in his messy flat dreaming of the one who got away?
What if he was becoming Luther?
When they were teenagers, Rachel used to say that Erin could take the happiest moment in her life and make it the worst in a few minutes of over-thinking.
She wasn’t sure yet if this was the best, worst, or most complicated moment of her life, but either way she could feel her brain working to stop it; she was minutes away from a great wash of shame rolling over body.
And then his brow had knit in that adorable way she loved. When she would bring it up to him, his skin would grow red with discomfort. But right now his eyes were shut tight, his lips parted slightly while his hips rocked rhythmically against her touch. Some wall inside her crumbled, some barrier that had always kept him at arm’s length, that only grew in thickness after his betrayal, but predated him by a good margin.
Erin Gray, the smart studious sister, found herself throwing caution to the wind, for the first time in her life.
Her lips reached up, pressing against his softly. She squeezed his penis gently, but still firm, before letting him go and snaking her arm out of the tangle of his pants. His eyes flew open, meeting hers, pleading.
She smiled, maybe sadly, before responding to his unspoken question: bed.
The sex was similar to their early working relationship: tentative but inexplicably trusting. They tested each other’s boundaries almost immediately.
He nipped at her skin, reveling in the shivers that raked her body.
She flipped him onto his back, where he stayed until she was finished with him, her body spent and humming. He gripped her waist and offered soft encouragements to her, wanting her to be in control. Knowing that they both needed this.
When he entered her, it was forceful even as his eyes bore into hers, silently asking if this was okay, if he’d hurt her.
Once fully sheathed, he kept his hips still, one hand ground into her hip holding her to him, letting her adjust to his size, while he trailed his right thumb against her cheek.
After a while it was just too much for her. She batted his hand from her face and ground her pelvis against his, while clenching his shaft inside her.
“Ahhh” he breathed, his fingers digging into her skin. She smiled at the shock and pleasure on his face, riding him steadily, incrementally faster, stroking herself to orgasm twice before slowing down to allow him to follow her.
They stayed together, limbs entwined, for hours. They didn’t speak. What was there really to stay? Every now and then one would enjoy ripping a scream from the other, but mostly Erin’s dark bedroom was filled with the heavy sounds of their panting and virtually inaudible prayers to some distant deity.
Until eventually, Erin fell from atop him, their legs still entangled, his softening cock resting wetly against her inner thigh, her head on his shoulder, his finger stroking her neck and face.
The sound of Justin’s phone ringing pulled him from his dream-less sleep slowly. He moaned softly as Erin turned her back to him, but nestled her ass against his groin. He pressed himself against her ass instinctively.
He opened his eyes, the room blurry at first. He waited for his vision to clear. He looked around her room curiously, surprised at the soft pastels everywhere. He wondered if she’d decorated herself. It didn’t seem like her. But maybe he really didn’t know her at all.
His phone had stopped ringing. He had the sudden urge to pee and, reluctantly, pulled himself from the bed, from her.
He found her toilet on the first try. The stream of piss felt like a gift.
After he washed his hands and made his way back to the bed he couldn’t stop himself from watching her.
Justin was privileged. He came from a good family, a loving family, some coppers, lots of teachers, a lot of civil servants. But he’d never led a particularly eventful life unit he met DCI Luther.
At the time it had all seemed worth it; Luther offered him something he’d never had before. But in this moment, with Erin asleep before him, her features soft and, for once, not suspicious of him, he wondered if it was worth it.
Not for the first time Justin wondered it having Luther in his life hadn’t robbed him in ways he couldn’t fully understand yet.
His phone rang again and he lunged for his trousers, thrown haphazardly, halfway over the nightstand. It was Luther, which meant it was another case.
He flipped his phone open while hurrying, still naked, into her living room.
“Yea, Boss,” he whispered into his phone.
“Justin! We’ve got a fresh one.”
He hesitated only for a second, throwing a glance back towards the bedroom, the pit of regret already churning in his gut. “Alright. Should I come get you or-”
“No, no. I’m on my way there now. I’ll text you the address.”
“Why are you whispering?” Luther’s voice had that edge that let Justin know he’d have to explain himself. Eventually.
“I’m getting dressed now, boss. Text me the address.” Justin hung up abruptly, not giving Luther the chance to interrogate him, needing time to construct a believable lie, not wanting to spoil what had passed between him and Erin.
He waited until he’d tracked down all of his clothes before he kneeled on the bed to wake her. His hand gripped her shoulder and he called her name softly.
Eventually she brought her hand to rest onto his before pushing it away.
“You should have just gone,” she said flatly.
It was his own fault, Justin knew. Erin was a copper. She understood him better than he’d thought and had probably been awake for a while.
He wanted to shed all his clothes, climb back under the sheets, and press himself against her, skin-to-skin. But she’d never allow it now. And Luther was waiting for him.
“Go,” she said. “Just... Go away.”
Chapter 4: Breaking
There’s also a difference between getting your hands dirty and being dirty.
... and still it was impossible to tell which was which.
Six Months Later.
Erin pumped her legs faster, ignoring the shaking in her left thigh.
She could make it.
She rounded the last corner and felt her muscles give way. She aimed her body towards the nearest tree, slamming her shoulder into the hard trunk.
The pain barely even registered.
She could hear his voice in her head. It was all the motivation she needed.
She pushed off from the tree, her shoulder settling into a mild ache, but she’d be home soon.
She pushed herself to take one leap and then another, before she was practically sprinting home.
This was all temporary, she reminded herself.
This is all temporary. Death is permanent.
The water was almost too hot.
It beat onto the skin on her back painfully.
It was the only time she let herself cry.
Technically she was on administrative leave.
But it was only a matter of time before she left the Service all together. Either they fired her or she quit, but she wasn’t going back. It would never be the same. She knew that the minute she’d heard.
It wasn’t even a proper notification because she wasn’t... They weren’t...
“Did you hear?” She overheard the desk sergeant while booking in a junkie who might, possibly, have been one of Luther’s informants. Erin was only kind of paying attention at first.
“Hear what,” said a detective she knew by face but could not, for the life of her, remember his name.
Erin’s hands stilled. She was filling out intake paperwork and was only a few lines from being free. But the sound of his name. There was, coincidentally, only one Ripley in the entire Met. Her heart started pounding hard against her chest.
“DOA. Shot, persuing the vigilante.”
Erin’s breath caught in her throat and she doubled over in shock. She was wheezing and on the verge of tears.
Maybe it wasn’t him, she hoped, maybe there was another Ripley.
There was a moment where everything went quiet, where the entire world ceased to exist and all Erin could hear was her pulse pounding in her ear.
“I always thought this was how it would end,” the desk clerk said. “Luther’s...” He left the rest unsaid.
Erin’s throat began to ache, there didn’t seem to be enough air, she couldn’t breathe.
She didn’t recognize the voice calling out to her. She didn’t know who it belonged to.
But it wasn’t Justin’s. He’d never have called her that.
“Erin ,” he used to say, his voice always full of emotion; sometimes confusion, sometimes frustration, and, for one night, full of so much passion that it made her skin warm to remember.
Erin didn’t believe in fate, or karma, or destiny. She wasn’t even sure that God had a plan.
And yet, she felt certain that she’d been cheated. That they’d missed out on something they hadn’t even realized was their’s to claim.
She sat down at her kitchen table with a cup of black coffee. Her phone rang, it was Rachel. Erin let It go to voicemail as usual.
She tried to remember the hard weight of his chest against her back. His breath warm on her neck. She wondered when this would be over. When she’d be able to wake up without the scent of him fresh in her nostrils.
She’d wanted to tell him to stay that morning, all those months ago. To push the sheet from her body, spread her legs and remind him of all that he’d be leaving.
But she was too proud. He’d chosen Luther over her once before, she didn’t doubt at the time who he’d choose again.
But now she wondered.
Her phone rang again. She didn’t look at first, sure it was Rachel calling again. Erin knew that there was nothing more to say, that she’d never be able to explain her relationship with Justin to someone who hadn’t know him. Who didn’t know Luther. So why bother?
Erin took a small sip of her cooling coffee and tried to focus her mind on his face, to remember the small frown he always wore and the warmth of his eyes.
A tear slipped from her eye when she remembered their last meeting and all the things they’d left unsaid.
And she wondered, not for the first time how, she might have answered his question.
What were you hoping for, in your heart of hearts?
If only they’d had more time.