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Between Commitment and Betrayal: Chapter 35


AFTER A WHOLE WEEK OF NICETIES, I was falling into a good enough routine that I only wanted to vomit once or twice a day when I saw them together. No one asked, but everyone caught on. With the news articles featuring photos of Anastasia in his car now and online outlets broadcasting videos of them walking into HEAT Health and Fitness together, it was pretty obvious what had happened. And yet, no article was printed about me ever.

I guess Declan was making sure of that.

I didn’t ask him though. I tried to avoid him completely instead. Yet every night that week, he’d still come to me to have his wrist rehabbed.

“Your wrist has nearly one hundred percent mobility back,” I murmured that specific night in the private studio we reserved for one-on-ones sometimes.

“I don’t think so,” he countered and winced when he bent it this time. It was fake. The man could have probably lifted me up with that wrist and felt no pain whatsoever.

“If you want to keep rehabbing it, you can, but I only have another week left working here, Declan.” I shrugged and did an arm stretch on the floor to release some of the tension I was starting to feel.

His brow furrowed in question.

“I’m quitting, remember?”

“No.” He said it casually as he rewrapped some of the tape across his tendons to help stabilize mobility while he continued weight training on his forearm. “You never turned in a letter of resignation.”

I stuttered out. “But I told you. You knew I was quitting. I’m happy to help find a replacement in the next week—”

“You’re required to give a month’s written notice or you’re liable to be sued. It’s in the employment contract for everyone here at HEAT Health and Fitness.”

“Well, I’m sure you can make an exception—”

“There’s no exceptions when it comes to you,” he ground out. “HR has already been made aware if anyone lets you out of your contract early, they’ll lose their job.”

“Why are you doing this?” I stood from where I had been sitting with him and glared at him.

He took a deep breath. I noted he had dark circles under his eyes like I had under mine, and his gaze looked tortured. “I’m supposed to take care of you. I’m your …”

“You’re not anything to me anymore,” I corrected. “Your rehab with me is hereby over. I won’t be doing your sessions anymore.” My voice shook as I said it, but I knew I had to stop this. I couldn’t be around him, not when my heart felt love even though my mind didn’t want to. And I felt it.

I felt it when I looked at the ring I couldn’t bring myself to remove. I felt it when Anastasia constantly idled around him. I felt it as I saw him make a conscious effort to avoid where I would be in an attempt to not hurt me more.

He couldn’t have me and her. It wasn’t possible. I spun on my heel and left him in that studio as I murmured, “I’ll find my own ride home tonight. Please don’t wait for me.” I’d said that very thing each night, and each night he took Anastasia instead. She’d found a way to spend most of her day at the hotel spa and her sister’s bakery, waiting for him anyway.

He catered to her now, not me.

Still, neither of us had acknowledged the divorce papers. I’d called Mrs. Johnson at the beginning of the week to file the petition. I knew he’d been served the papers because I’d asked Mrs. Johnson to arrange a “casual” visit to Declan’s office with a process server that everyone in the gym would assume was on the legal team. There need not be any drama, but I wanted this to happen as quickly as possible. Still, it had been days and he hadn’t delivered a signed copy to my door yet.

Maybe he’d been busy. Maybe he was figuring out the logistics. Maybe he needed to have Anastasia sign on the dotted line before he had me sign on a much different one.

Thankfully, Dom was at the ring when I walked out of the studio, and he smiled soft at me like he knew everything that was going on. “Want to spar, Evie?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe.” I grabbed equipment to throw on, took a deep breath, and got in the ring with him.

Here I could count on a different type of pain. And I intended to experience it to the fullest extent.

We worked around and around in there for twenty minutes at least. My head wasn’t in the game, and I took Dom’s slap to my headpiece without even a grunt. I was seeking pain that evening and he knew it.

It was my right as a human to do that. The more I thought about Declan and Anastasia, the more my frustration twisted up further and further. He acted like he was doing me a favor, like breaking my heart was worth this type of pain, and like him being my friend was best too.

“Evie, you’re not even trying,” Dom bellowed as his muscled arms fell to his sides, beads of sweat rolling over his bronzed skin. A few heads whipped our way in the boxing ring of the gym.

“Don’t get all worked up.” I shrugged, and then cracked my neck and rubbed my jaw. The sting was there, tingling through my face with the reminder that I could feel but also recover from the pain, that it would drive me if I needed it to. “Let’s go again.”

“Are you kidding? I held back on that one.” He shook his head and started ripping off his hand gear. “Your head’s not in it. I’m not knocking you out because you want to keep going when you shouldn’t. What’s gotten into you?”

“One more.” I licked my lips and squared up to him. “You woke me up.”

He had. I remembered the feeling, the shock of being hit for the first time, how it ricocheted around in my head like a damn ping-pong of a nightmare. Andy had been good at not doing it often. We’d been together two years and he’d only hit me four times. Yet, each time was like the first time, and that fourth time in that room was the last time I let it happen ever again.

Self-defense taught me I had control, that I could control the pain even if I couldn’t control the other person’s actions. I could use their actions against them though. And I could control my own reaction.

He growled before he pulled the gear back into place. “This is against my better judgment, Evie. I have a feeling my brother’s going to kill me.”

This time when he rushed me, I smiled. My body lunged for him instead of backing away. Pain woke me up, made me feel alive, reminded me that I was strong in my emotions, that I was fueled by adrenaline. When he came for my throat, I used his forearm as leverage, and with a quick twist, carried my momentum to jump on his back and put him in a choke hold. He fell back on me, and I wheezed.

Damn, Dom was trying to show me today that my head wasn’t in it.

How could it be after seeing him?

Even with the wind knocked out of me, though, I held tight as he lifted his body and dropped it again, letting his weight crush me. My grip slipped just enough that he took it as an opportunity. Within seconds, he was back on top of me, hand on my neck, body between my legs, me struggling like I wanted no girl to ever struggle.

I knew how to get out of this. I knew what to do and how to prove I’d gotten faster and stronger, that I could take care of myself.

I’d done it before.

Yet, I wasn’t given the chance.

Suddenly, Dom was ripped off of me, his grip slipping from my neck so fast, I’d probably get rug burn.

“What the fuck are you doing?” The voice was deep with fury and laced with menace. I could place that voice anywhere. My body instantly reacted to it every time I heard it and even as I wheezed for oxygen.

I wheezed only because it was a body’s initial reaction to gaining oxygen after being choked, not because I couldn’t handle it. I was fine.

Just fine.

“We’re sparing, Dec.” Dom threw his hands, but he was smiling and shaking his head like Declan was insane.

The smile died when Declan charged him and threw him on his back. They must have done this before because Dom put up an extremely good fight. They flipped one another over again and again before Declan pinned him down and had his fist cocked to punch his brother square in the face.

“Declan!” I screamed and grabbed his arm before he could. “Are you crazy? We’re in the ring. There’s a bunch of people around. It’s a standard self-defense practice and—”

“No more!” he bellowed at me, releasing his brother to come to standing. “You’re done with the self-defense instruction.”

“Declan, I’ve been—”

“Everyone hear me?” He walked around the ring and eyed every man in the gym. “You touch my wife you answer to me. And I’ll break every bone in your body before I let you leave my gym. Do you understand?”

No one answered directly. I think they were all as shocked as I was. Before I could say anything, he bent under the rope and hopped out of the ring. “Everly Hardy, get your ass in my office, now.”



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