Jason Leer is a classmate, a friend, a steer wrestler, and Charlotte O'Brien's fellow lost soul. He's also the only person left who still calls her Annie, and the only reason she feels alive. Below is a deleted scene from Forgive Me.
Why are we turning?
We’re not home yet.
I lift my head off his chest and recognize the familiar lane. The truck dips into the holes and grooves of the unpaved road as a patch of overgrown branches scrape against the roof. I close my eyes as the memories of my last visit here try to seep in, but a dark bitterness staves off their return.
Jason pulls into the clearing and cuts the engine. It gasps as it stops and I sit up straight, staring out at the first place we made love. Was it love? It was savage…and desperate…and—I should be embarrassed. I blocked out so much of that day, but the sight of his bare chest flashes in my mind. And the clouds, the black dismal clouds, rolling in from the west. Their torrent of rain did nothing to wash away my grief.
I slide off the seat and take in the familiar view as Jason walks around the front of the truck. The cowboy hat on his head makes me smile. It’s absurd, and wholly Jason Leer, and the sexiest thing about him with his clothes on. How on God’s green earth did I fall in love with this cowboy?
“Why are we here?” I ask and turn to face him as he leans on the truck. He watches me with the tiniest grin touching his lips and his eyes darken, reminding me of our last time—the only time—Jason and I were together at this clearing. It was a thousand years ago. Until I close my eyes and try to sleep, then it’s that day all over again.
“We haven’t been…”
I can’t say the words, can’t relive the day. The moment when my whole life was buried six feet underground. Jason takes my hands and pulls me toward him, not allowing me to sink into my mind. I touch his belt buckle before slipping my hands under his shirt. They crawl up his chest and then wrap around his ribs. He’s so broad, my arms barely make it around him. When I lean into him the familiar chill shakes me. It’s startling, the depth to which I want him. I take a deep breath and let him settle me.
The sun bears down on us and the fields surrounding us. The blue sky a constant reminder that life will go on regardless of who is left to live it. I let my head fall back and examine the hideously perfect sight. Jason takes my hands from his back and kisses my palm. He drags his lips the length of my middle finger and bites down hard on the tip until I straighten and look at him. His stare is the exact look he had the first day he brought me here.
“Do you think God put us together?” I ask, and Jason scoffs. I’m used to him shutting me down at the mention of God. “Two lost souls,” I whisper, ignoring his dismissal and confirming to myself our new reality.
“I think you insist on figuring this out, and it doesn’t need to be explained.” His hands knot in my hair, pulling it and forcing me toward him. His lips on mine are harsh, pleading with me to abide, trying to make me forget…everything.
But that’s not how life works, not how agony inflicts its blows. For every minute of joy, there is a memory of injustice to dampen it. I pull back, denying us both.
“I’m not trying to explain why you and I are together. I’m trying to find something to restore…” My hands at my side I step back, my eyes fixed on the space between us.
“To restore what, Annie?” With a finger to my chin Jason lifts my face to his, never letting me hide, even in a conversation he wants no part of.
“My faith,” I say, and the words pour over us. My eyes well up as the enormity of what I’ve lost crashes down on me at the end of Stoners Lane. Without a word, he pulls me to him. I rest my head on his shoulder and choke him, not wanting him to ever let me go.
“Do you forgive me for taking you that day?” Jason changes the subject and loosens my grip on his neck. Taking me. He stole me from responsibility, and grief, and utter sadness. If I’m lucky he’ll never return me. I lean back and kiss him gently with the gratitude he already knows.
“I’d forgive you anything.” His face never changes, his eyes strip me bare. Jason’s hands are on my neck, holding my chin up for me. He looks at the flawless sky and then back at me, his playfulness returning.
“Do you forgive me for throwing you in the lake at Michelle Farrell’s graduation party?” Anger snaps me from my sadness. My gaze slips from his eyes to his lips as the chill flows through me again and the familiar urge to punch him returns.
“I thought you were going to kiss me that day,” I say, and his eyes light up confirming his corrupt intentions.
“I’ve never seen you so mad as when you climbed back up on that dock. I thought you were going to kill me.” He’s fearless as he speaks. “It was the scariest day of my life up to that point.”
“I wanted to kill you.” I can still feel my rage as I pulled myself out of the water. “I loved that dress.” I pull away from Jason, giving my anger some room to breathe. Before my foot touches the ground he is dragging me back to him. His instincts always faster than my own.
“You were beautiful.” Jason takes my hands and pins them behind my back the same way he trapped me on the dock. “That’s why I had to kiss you.” My breath falls heavy as his mouth grazes my neck. I drop my head back letting him have me.
“I had a boyfriend,” I force out, fighting for every breath. His lips behind my ear send a chill to both breasts before it invades my core.
“I didn’t care,” he says, and my anger surrenders to a familiar wanting. I try to touch him, but he tightens his grip on my wrists as his smile broadens to a wicked invitation.
“And he was there. Probably watching us.” Jason shifts my wrists to one hand and with the other pulls the straps of my tank top off my shoulders. He lowers it, releasing my breasts to the silence of Stoners Lane.
“Didn’t care about that either.” He shakes his head and I sigh, remembering the exact moment. I was torn. Without a thought of my boyfriend, I was torn between ripping Jason’s head off and ripping his clothes off. Jason takes my breast in his mouth and I inhale deeply the sense of escape.
He should have kissed me. While my boyfriend and the rest of our classmates watched, I head-butted him and gave him a bloody nose right there on the dock at Michelle’s graduation party.
“You weren’t so forgiving that day.”