He knew it wasn’t real.
Real was the pain and bright lights and beeps and loud voices that had somehow vanished. In an instant. One minute, he was surrounded by all of it, the chaos, and filled with more pain than he knew how to handle, and then, the next, he stood here.
Here, in this perfect moment. The dock floated on the still surface of the water, and he couldn’t see where it began or where it ended. It was as if he was just drifting, drifting, drifting… He stared across the glassy waters, a warm breeze swirling around him. He cocked his head. It was odd, the warmth blowing past him—he felt it, surrounding him, cocooning him, making him feel safe—but there was barely a ripple in the water before him. It was as though the air was just for him alone and couldn’t touch anything else.
It shifted, wrapped around him more fully, and pulled him forward. He took a step forward, then another, every muscle relaxing as a peace—so at odds with what he’d just been pulled from—overcame him.
And he knew it wasn’t real.
He waited for the moment to come—the moment it all disappeared, faded from sight, and he’d be back in the too bright, too loud, agonizing reality. And he wanted to stay, to keep walking, farther and farther away. To have what he left be the dream and this be real—the warmth and quiet and peace—because how could he go back? Who would choose that over this?
He stopped, eyes closing as his name whispered past his ears.
Micah, please… I don’t want to lose you. Not now. Not after every—
The quiet, choking sob that followed, that swallowed the rest of the words, gutted him. Introduced a gripping pain that didn’t belong here, not in this place. He began to move again, and the words and crying faded. Instead finding comfort and moving faster to escape into the peace, he ground to a halt again, fighting the seductive pull and straining to hear the voice again.
I don’t want to do this without you. I know it’s selfish as hell, but I need you. I need you here with me. Micah, please, please come back to me.
He turned slowly, away from the quiet waters, the stillness and peace that called to him. That first step back was like moving through cement. He shook with the effort and bit back a cry as pain flooded back. But he put one foot in front of the other, again and again, until he was no longer on his feet. No dock beneath him, no water in front of him, no warm air blanketing him.
It was dark, and it took everything in him—every ounce of determination and strength—to open his eyes.
When she came into view—the pale, tear-damp cheeks, red-rimmed eyes, the riot of blonde curls framing her fucking gorgeous face—he had his answer. Who would choose pain and difficulty over what he’d just left? He would. If it was ever a choice, if he had anything to say about it, he would. Every time. For her.