well, we made it! this is the last chapter. thank you to every one of you that favorited, followed, and reviewed this story! it means the world to me that you guys enjoy what i put out. and a special thank you to QueenOfHeartbreak for taking the time to give me ideas and inspiring me to keep on writing. check her out if you haven't already!
i promise that i'm gonna be posting a new story really soon! if there's something in particular that you would like to see from me, don't hesitate to leave it in the reviews. i'm always down for some prompts!
anyway, enjoy this final installation. i hope i did it justice.
Just like John B. said, JJ was surfing.
Watching him was absolutely mesmerizing. It was almost like he was a part of the ocean, like he was connected to the waves. This was where he was most free, where he could release all his control and use it to perform the most beautiful tricks and stunts Kiara had ever seen in her life. He was breathtaking.
Even when he was just waiting for a wave, he was addictive to watch. There was something about the way he carried himself out there that made him seem like a completely different person. Sitting on his board and staring out into the endless sea before him, JJ seemed to have no worries. His father had never ruined his childhood, he'd never had to struggle and fight just to survive, he'd never had to question his own self worth. Surfing let him forget about it all and become someone that … wasn't JJ.
And that saddened Kiara. Because as much as she wished that could be the case, it wasn't. When all was said and done, poor JJ was just a troubled teenager that had been through way too much in his short, pain-filled life.
The minute he saw her standing on the shore, looking at him with so much love in her eyes he could see all the way from where he was, he caught one more wave before making his way over to her. He wasn't walking with his usual happy stride, Kiara immediately noticed. "What are you doing here, Kie?" he asked softly, water dripping down his beautiful, well-toned body. There were faint bruises mottling his chest and torso, some from Luke, some from Rafe.
"You just left," Kiara replied, arms wrapped around herself. "I … I got worried."
"You can't be around me, Kiara," the young man mumbled, sounding absolutely defeated. "I make everything worse for you."
"No, you don't, JJ. Please, just listen to me. Come back home. We'll talk to my parents, everything will be okay." Kiara couldn't prevent her voice from breaking. She found herself wishing to hug him, but she didn't. Not yet, she kept telling herself. Let me get through to him first.
"God, Kie, why don't you get it?" JJ suddenly exclaimed as he dropped his board on the ground. An irritated scowl crossed his face when he realized that the bandages on his injured arm were starting to slip off. With an annoyed sigh, he took them off and threw them aside, revealing his partially healed burn. "I only hurt you, or get you in trouble. Or both. I don't want to do that anymore. You're better off without me."
"Stop it," Kiara said roughly. "Stop saying that. It's not true." She could see the self-hatred in JJ's beautiful eyes, and she hated it. She needed to make him see. "JJ, you keep me sane. You protect me. You do so much for me without even knowing it, yet you're saying that you're not good enough. You are. You're everything to me. And I'm so lucky to be loved by you. I don't want this to end."
Letting out a strangled sob, JJ looked up at Kiara through blurry eyes, every part of him starting to tremble. "I don't want to keep hurting you," he whispered, feeling his legs slowly giving out on him.
That was when they both collapsed on the soft sand, sobbing.
Kiara threw herself into JJ and pulled him close while his familiar, strong arms desperately wrapped around her, holding on as tightly as he dared. Similar to the night in the hot tub, they held onto one another for what seemed like hours. In an attempt to calm them both down, Kiara kept whispering words of assurances into his ear, though she didn't know if they were helping or not.
"You're not hurting me, JJ," she said at one point, running her fingers through his unruly, wet locks. Tears were streaming down her cheeks from the stress she'd felt about losing the love of her life. From almost being assaulted by Rafe. From having parents that refused to understand her. All of it was caving in on her, and being in JJ's embrace was the only thing strong enough to keep everything from crumbling down. "You never have, and I know that you never will." She paused to pull away so she could cup JJ's face in both hands, then continued, "I love you so much. I don't want to lose you. Just … let's go home. Okay? Please."
"Please, JJ. Don't push yourself away just because you don't think you're worthy. You're more worthy than anyone."
As they stared at one another, JJ felt the world around him spinning. He had left to protect Kiara from himself, to make sure that she never had to suffer because of him ever again. His plan had been to catch one last break and then leave Outer Banks, never to be seen again. But Kiara had found him, and now she was begging him to come back. JJ still didn't understand what it was that she saw in him, but he was slowly starting to realize that he couldn't leave her. He couldn't just abandon the person he loved most in this harsh, cruel world. She was his beacon, his light in the dark. If he left … he would be losing the one thing that really made a difference in his life. And he didn't want that, no matter how much he tried to convince himself that he did.
"I love you too, Kie," he finally said in submission, almost gasping in pure relief when Kiara smiled brightly and hugged him again. He felt himself slump against her, the exhaustion - both physical and mental - taking a toll on him. "I'm so sorry."
"You have nothing to be sorry for," Kiara assured him through a watery grin, one that melted his heart. "I'm just happy that you're here." Pulling away one more time, the girl placed her fingers on his cheek so she could wipe away his tears before leaning forward to kiss him gently, laughing weakly when he reciprocated.
She'd gotten through to him.
About an hour later, the couple found themselves back at Kiara's house, sitting in front of her mother and father.
JJ couldn't stop his leg from bouncing up and down with anxiety, even though his girlfriend was right there with him and had a hand resting on his knee.
"First off, I think we owe JJ an apology," Anna announced, the first one to break the ice, though Kiara had been a second away from doing it herself. She smiled knowingly when JJ's head perked up and his eyes widened in shock, having definitely not expected that. "You kept Kiara safe," she continued. "And while your methods weren't … the best, we appreciate what you did. It's clear that you love her very much."
"I do, Mrs. Carrera," JJ said as he looked to the beautiful young woman sitting next to him. "A lot."
"Well that's good to hear."
"We've thought about it," Mike said, and for the first time, his voice wasn't as cold as it usually was when he addressed the blond, "and we've decided to still let you stay here until you're eighteen. The same rules will apply, and we ask you not to pick any more fights with our guests, but you're welcome in our home. Does that work?"
Kiara almost squealed with joy. She had expected to have to put up more of a fight to let JJ stay with them. However, she was wrong. Locking gazes with JJ, she grinned and interlocked their fingers together. "Yeah, that works," she replied, knowing that he was too shocked to answer himself. "Thank you!"
Before they left the house to catch up with their friends so they could explain everything, she made sure to give her parents the biggest of hugs to make them see how grateful she was. She also promised to help out at the Wreck more as another show of appreciation. JJ also agreed to work some shifts at the family restaurant so he could really start to earn his keep in the house.
On their way to the Chateau, both of them were on Cloud Nine. It was hard to believe that this was actually happening. They even decided to walk there instead of taking the car, wanting to enjoy every moment they had together for as long as possible.
"I told you I wasn't going to lose you," Kiara said as they walked, arms looped.
With a chuckle, JJ stopped so he could look at her, so much love conveyed behind his eyes. "I should've known that when you're dead set on something, you always get your way," he teased, then bent down to capture her mouth in his own. "I love you so damn much, Kie."
"I love you more."