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Between Love and Loathing: Chapter 36

CLARA

“It was the last lie she told me that did us in.” He confessed as we watched the water wash up to shore. “I’d almost been ruined by her blaming Susie’s injury on me publicly but I didn’t care. That was my fault anyway.”

I stayed silent, not sure what to say.

“That baby though? The way I thought I was having a mini me. Do you know I bought the crib, the blankets, the little pacifiers? I researched what she should be eating, drinking—everything. I even got the car seat set up.” His voice cracked with pain. “Natya said she was only eight weeks along, but I didn’t care. I wanted that kid. I wanted that life. I wanted her.”

The tide was high, and the waves crashed close to our feet. In and out, cold water and cool air, over and over again as the city around us went to sleep.

“She lied about all of it.” I said it as a statement because she’d admitted it in front of me. Her words had been vicious, yet he hadn’t so much as flinched, like he was used to her in the way that I was probably used to my family’s twisted emotional abuse. He even told her to handle it, like he still trusted her to do so. I asked him, “Do you think she’ll actually tell the press what we want?”

“Yes, because she’ll save her reputation. She’s not stupid. She knows how far to push me.”

I didn’t know if there was respect in his words. “She knows all your buttons, it seems.”

“My weaknesses too.” He dragged a finger up my arm, and I shuddered. I hated that I didn’t pull away, not even when we were talking about her. “I wanted the perfect life with her. We’d mapped it out. I thought she wanted that too. Now, maybe she does.”

Could I be jealous of the idea of another woman? What he thought she was? Because I felt like disappearing into the sand as he said those words, burying myself under there so I didn’t have to hear how his heart broke for her.

I didn’t know what to say other than, “I’m sorry she hurt you.” I took a breath and held his hand in the silence, breathed in and out while the water rushed up and then back.

His silence was heavy with something, and I hated to think it was regret. He’d pushed her away this time with me, but maybe he really loved her. “She still wants you, Dominic. Maybe you could call her and work through it.”

I think a person must really love another when they’re willing to sacrifice their happiness for that person’s. They relinquish their heart, break it up into pieces, offer what they can to make the other person’s heart whole.

He didn’t say one way or the other if he wanted to make it work. He stared out at the lights flickering off near the resort. “I don’t think I can love a woman like I loved the idea of her,” His gaze turned to me, and I saw the desolate emptiness, the sorrow, and the pain. “I don’t want to love someone like I did her … not ever again. I risked my career, hurt people, hurt her, and lost the idea of something I wanted more than life itself.”

The words sliced through my heart and soul. The breath I took in was shaky as my eyes filled with tears I knew I couldn’t shed in front of him. He turned back to the water like he couldn’t bear to see me cry over him, but when I tried to pull my hand away, he held it. He didn’t let me stand up but instead pulled my body close to his. We sat with that heavy silence weighing us down for too long that night.

I knew Dominic had embraced the darkness as he gazed out at the ocean. His soul had waded out to sea and left the flickering light of the city behind. He didn’t want the light or the path back to salvation. He wanted to drown in his pain. I tried to understand it, but I’d left the darkness behind, and couldn’t drown in it with him if I wanted to survive.

I wouldn’t.

Sure, you could die of a disease, but I think people could also die from heartbreak.

Love and heartbreak. Those were two emotions you couldn’t hide. I felt them both at that moment. “I can’t stay with you like this, Dominic.” I forced myself to say those words.

“Like what?” His eyes suddenly sliced over to me.

“I don’t want to be a second thought or the girl who took only a piece of you. Not when I deserve all of you. And I know this is all for show—”

“What I feel for you isn’t all for show,” he ground out, but his confession was full of anger.

“Do you want to feel that way?”

“Hell no,” he bellowed and that was enough for me.

“Exactly,” I said, and I felt the stinging in my eyes that I didn’t want. “I’ve always been a second thought or around when someone doesn’t want me to be. But I won’t be anymore. Not here. I’m not willing to be the person you wished you didn’t like, Dominic. I want someone to enjoy liking me. Love liking me. Or love loving me. And just me. Not the idea of what we could be if you mold me into what you want.”

He frowned. “Clara…”

“No. Let me just say this. I’ll never be the person who’ll live up to the idea of what you thought you could have. I’m me. That’s what you get. And, honestly, I’ve built this palace that I’m finally alive in, Dominic. I was so proud of myself today in that bakery, and I loved it, loved me for doing it. I want someone to just love me too. I can’t sit by you, worried I’m not enough or worried you’re holding back because of an idea you wanted in your head. I want to just be enough for someone. I deserve to be.”

He nodded solemnly. “If I hurt you or you hurt me, Clara…” He sighed. “No one enjoys feeling like someone could rip apart your damn life at any second. It’s happened once before and—”

“And it won’t happen with me again,” I summarized for him, cutting him off so I didn’t have to hear the rest of what he said. I didn’t want to. “You’ll drain my happiness, Dominic. I can’t play second fiddle to all this nor can I live up to it. I won’t.” My voice shook as I said the words. Standing up for myself after so many years of standing idly by was terrifying but liberating too. I’d learned that with him, fell in love with it because of him, knew I needed it in order to be happy now.

Never again would I tie myself to the weight of someone else and let them drag me down. I’d tied myself to too many anchors, had gone down with the ship too often, hadn’t been willing to throw myself onto a life raft to find an island on my own.

I stood from the sand and brushed myself off. When he tried to stand, I held his shoulder. “Don’t. Let me go.”

I felt his whole body tensing against it. “You can walk away so easily from me?” he whispered, and his words were tortured.

I stared down at him, and before I knew what I was doing, I raised my skirt and lifted one foot to swing over onto the other side of him. I stood over him, looking down at the man I loved as he looked up at me.

“Do you know I love you, Dominic Hardy?” I said softly into the wind, but he caught the words.

“Clara—”

“No. Don’t say anything.” I shook my head and then slowly lowered myself so I could straddle him. “I love you so much that I’m not walking away easily. I’m leaving my heart here in the sand with you, don’t you see? I’m going to walk away and let it wash into the ocean where it can drown with you and your fear and your sorrow.”

He hummed that hum I loved so much, and when I felt the tears streaming down my cheeks, I didn’t stop them. I pulled him close instead by the collar of his shirt and kissed the mouth I knew I wanted but wouldn’t be able to have after this night.

His big, rough hands skirted up my dress, desperate as they gripped at my thighs. When he found nothing underneath, he didn’t laugh this time or call me a good girl. He shook his head and swore. “I’ve become obsessed with how you listen to me, cupcake. Obsessed with how you don’t. Obsessed with how you feel, how you sound, how you smell. Obsessed with you.”

“But you hate that you’re obsessing over me.” I summarized. Our relationship wasn’t a good thing to him.

He didn’t answer the question. “I don’t want to lose you. I’ll fucking hate it.”

Yet, he didn’t say he’d try to keep me either. Didn’t say he wasn’t going to let me go. I didn’t know why either, maybe it’s what he thought I wanted. Maybe we were both doing what we thought the other needed in that moment.

Love. It makes you do what you hate.

I cried in his arms as I scooted back to unbutton his trousers. I pulled his thick length from them and pumped my hand over him once, watching his eyes darken in the night. If I didn’t own him anywhere else, I owned him here under the moonlight with the sea breeze blowing between us.

I leaned closer even as his hand brushed over my sex, rubbing back and forth to work me up to spiraling down into oblivion. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get over losing you,” I admitted.

“You won’t, little fighter. We’re not made to be apart.” He ground out and then he lifted my hips and jerked them forward onto his cock. “Feel that? It’s me with you.”

I nodded as I cried and rode him. My sex ached for him, my body curled around him, and my soul felt whole there in the sand with him. Then, I shook my head no, not able to believe it, not wanting to believe it and then crumble when it wasn’t true. “Do you actually believe that, Dominic?”

I rocked back and forth on him faster now, gripping his shoulders tight, the sounds of our bodies colliding growing stronger and stronger. His eyes looked wild, his muscles tensing as my pussy squeezed against his cock and even though my orgasm hit, the sound of his whisper hit harder. “I want to believe it, cupcake. I really want to believe.”

One last thrust, so hard, I felt him hit every sensitive spot within me, before I cried out his name.

He let out a string of swears as he bowed his head, and his forehead touched mine as he kept murmuring that he wanted to believe.

I nodded with one last tear streaming down my face and said, “That’s not good enough.”


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