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Between Love and Loathing: Chapter 10


“I’m not going to talk with her,” I ground out into the dumb FaceTime chat my siblings had me on.

My brother Declan sighed as he bounced a baby in his arms while making a protein shake. He’d really gone all in with Evie, and I couldn’t even knock him for it. “You have to do something.”

“Shut up and show me my nephew. I don’t want to see your face anyway.”

Atticus yawned and there was a collective aw over the FaceTime. All six of us were wrapped around the next generation’s fingers, and we weren’t too proud to deny it.

“Dom, you’re changing the subject. She’s making waves in the press. You can’t just stay silent,” Evie said behind him.

“The hell I can’t,” I grumbled.

“Don’t talk to my wife that way,” Declan snapped at me, and then both my younger brothers, Dex and Dimitri, snickered.

“Fuck all of you, okay? Evie doesn’t care how I talk to her.”

“That’s right. I can lay you out next time and make you say sorry over and over if you want to mumble under your breath like a twelve-year-old.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose. I’d barely gotten any sleep after carrying Clara to the penthouse, and I had a fucking headache from last night—not because I’d drank too much or got home too late, either. Instead, it was simply because I kept imagining how sweet she tasted, how I wanted to eat her and her cupcakes about a hundred more times to get my fix.

It was supposed to be a one and done.

“I don’t have time for this.”

“No, you’re not hanging up,” my sister Lilah said. She was the logical one of the six of us, and when she asked for something, we all listened. “You need to handle this, Dom. She broke your heart once before, don’t let her break your business too. This resort is important to you.”

I tried to cut her off, because Natya wasn’t going to ruin anything with my resort. She knew better.

“No. Let me finish.” She held up a hand and then pushed her dark wavy hair back. “You need to think about what would push her away enough that she’ll leave you alone, that she’ll understand you’re done.”

“I told her we were done three years ago.” Natya was the most lethal ex of the century. She was an international entrepreneur of a woman. She graduated top of the same class as me, where I met her. When we’d started dating, she worked just as hard as me on those new building designs and I’d fallen hard. She’d been impressive in the business and so I let her infect my engineering firm with extravagant ideas, let her push limits within the business and outside of it.

She started to enjoy the attention our contracts got us and partied hard night after night. Then, she came to work tired day after day. I shouldn’t have ever given her a team to manage. When I got the call about a work injury I’d given her permission to handle, the failure hit me like a freight train.

I pulled back hard and still remembered the headlines reading “Promising Young Architect Dominic Hardy Loses Billion Dollar Contract.”

I rubbed at my heart, still feeling the pain of it. We tried to work through it until I found her in bed with someone else not much later. I told her I was done.

She’d told me she was pregnant.

God, that woman put on a good show, crying and pleading, and talking about a happy family. I was the eldest of the six kids of immigrant parents. They’d worked so hard to put me through college, to show I was worth something and I wanted to make them proud so badly. I wanted to prove to them and my younger siblings that we could all have the American dream.

The pain she inflicted the next time though, the way she lied again … that was enough for me to walk away forever. Now, I wasn’t stupid enough to fall for any of her breadcrumbs—or for any other women for that matter. I usually didn’t indulge unless it was worth it, and I made my intentions pretty clear.

Except with Clara. I wasn’t really sure what the hell my intentions were.

“Natya’s not going away,” Dex grumbled. He was just as jaded as me when it came to his exes.

“How do you know? Keelani went away.”

“Man, fuck you for bringing her up.”

Dimitri laughed. “Low blow, Dom. He’s still not over her after, what? Like ten years?”

“I’ve been over her since the second we broke up. And it’s not about me and her. It’s about Natya and Dom, because I got a casino partnering with us in Vegas and they want nothing to do with Natya. She screwed them out of a contract years ago.”

“Which casino? Tell them I’ve blocked her on all forms of communication. She knows we’re done.”

“Actually, she just said in the news that she’s excited about the Pacific Coast Resort opening and that everyone should know you two will never ever be truly over.” Izzy held up her laptop, pointing at Natya on the screen.

And Natya might have been right in a way. I’d never look at another woman as openly. She’d broken something in me enough to realize I was better on my own.

On Izzy’s laptop, she stood tall, white dress pressed to perfection, with a small smile playing on her lips. She fiddled with a ring on her hand, and my heart dropped when I saw it was the one I’d given her years ago. Bile curdled in my gut at the audacity she possessed to wear it, to talk about the resort she knew would mean so much to me, to say we weren’t over.

“Ignore her. She’ll learn,” I ground out. The woman wanted attention, negative or positive, and it’s what we couldn’t give her.

“You could tell that woman a lot of things,” Izzy said, her husband’s tattooed arm slung around her neck. Her fingers danced over his bicep as she shrugged at the screen. “Cade could have told me he was done with me, and I would have come for him anyway, Dom.”

“Well, you two are a different breed.”

She smiled like she was happy about it.

“You need to think of something,” Dex repeated. “Figure out a way to make her stop talking about you and the resort. I need to solidify this contract. If they think you two are still a thing …”

“If we just leave it alone—”

“Last time you did that, she almost ended your engineering career and your life, man,” Dex threw back. “Find a girl or something. She thinks you still love her.”

“I’ve found a lot of women,” I growled. “Do you guys not know who you’re talking to? I’m your big brother. I—”

“You set an example for all of us. Blah blah blah,” Dex said without even making eye contact through the screen. I knew he was working while talking, probably like most of us wanted to be doing. “Set an example by getting rid of your obsessive ex-girlfriend. She used to just be bad for you. Now she’s becoming bad for the HEAT empire. And that’s bad for the family business. We don’t need association with her if we intend to go public with our stock in the next couple years and solidify this casino deal.”

“I’m not—”

“He’s right. Listen to Dex,” Izzy said before Cade pulled her back while she giggled and clicked off her screen.

“What Izzy said,” Dante, Lilah’s husband, growled before he disconnected also.

Declan and Dimitri didn’t even attempt to wait for me to say anything, they just hung up too, leaving Dex as the lone caller.

“No one fucking listens to me.”

“Everyone in that resort listens to you,” my brother countered. “You got a whole team listening to you all the time and have a bunch of yes guys. Your family, though, will always give it to you straight. Find a girl for a while so she knows you’ve moved on, okay? What’s the harm in that? You know Natya never wants to look like a fool. She won’t bother you if you’re not single.”

I didn’t respond to that because it actually made some sense.

“Even if it’s only until the opening of the resort. Just figure something out, Dom. Your dumbass heart can’t take another beating from that woman.”

Then he was gone, too, leaving me to face my own thoughts.

That’s when the worst sort of darkness could overtake a soul. I swore and ripped my sheets off, ready to get the day started and put Natya out of my mind.

I escaped to my personal gym and lifted weights before running harder than necessary. I wasn’t running from the thought of Natya this time, though. I was running to get Clara out of my mind … the way she’d moaned my name, the way she’d pushed back with her bakery, the way she’d stripped down in the penthouse and tried to pull me to the bed.

That moment—her standing in the city view and moonlight in front of an open window, nipples puckered for me, pink pussy on display—would replay in my mind forever. So would her saying, “If there’s ever going to be a night between us, it’s going to be this one, Dominic, because I don’t hate a lot of people, but I sort of despise you.”

She’d meant it too. The words had fallen easily from her lips. I’d thought I’d felt the same, but my heart lurched at her words, and then I found myself doing something I normally wouldn’t. I kissed her forehead, “Save your begging for another night, baby. I intend to fuck you so good, you’ll beg for rest.”

She gripped my shirt with her small hands, her eyes already languid. “Why not now?”

I shook my head and smoothed a hand over her cheek. “Go to bed, cupcake. Please.”

Her eyes drifted shut, and I set up water and ibuprofen next to the bed before I left her last night. Now, I stood in a scalding hot shower trying to burn away the memory. My cock throbbed at the thought of her and even as I turned the water freezing cold, I still hardened while I imagined her begging. I thrust into my hand, squeezing my length just as she had the night before.

Why hadn’t I just fucked her and gotten her out of my system?

I knew the answer.

I wouldn’t be able to get her out of my system. I imagined her pouty lips wrapping around my cock, how they felt so soft and warm as she looked up at me with her forest-green eyes, determined but just a bit hesitant. She’d take my length all the way back, gag on me because she wanted to prove herself. I saw that little fighter in her, and it turned me on the more I thought about it. I pumped my cock harder, squeezed it tighter, brushed my thumb roughly over the head, and came more violently than I had in a long damn time.

Not once did I think of anyone else.

After I’d dried off and decided the only way I was going to get my mind out of the gutter was to work, I sighed at the black suit in the closet. We’d done most of the construction work, which meant that as the CEO of the resort, I had to look the part. I pulled the suit from the hanger, got dressed before calling my driver to take me to the resort. When a text came through, though, I caught myself smiling at seeing her name on my phone.

I rerouted my driver.

I had a stop to make first.


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