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Between Love and Loathing: Chapter 37


She was right. It wasn’t good enough. She deserved everything.

I couldn’t believe we belonged together when she deserved a man who could give her everything, who could give her less baggage than I could.

Yet, damn, I wanted to believe.

Still, when Clara tried to get off my lap, I gripped her hips. “Give me one more minute of you, cupcake. Please.”

I knew I was broken, knew this might end, and knew I wouldn’t survive it if it did. So, I begged for more of her, and she sighed into my arms, wrapped hers around my neck and snuggled in.

She gave. I took. She shined light on my darkness and I swallowed it up.

I laid back with her there on that beach for longer than I should have, listening to those waves, wondering how to make this right. How to survive without her, because I was too scared to admit I was vulnerable again. More vulnerable than I’d been before.

Nothing mattered anymore but her. Not the hotel. Not my career. Nothing was more important than giving her everything.

And maybe that’s when it clicked for me. I’d never be good enough but no man would ever try the way I would for her. I wasn’t letting her go.

I didn’t just want to believe that. I knew it.

When her breathing slowed and I saw her eyes were closed, peaceful and calm without tears in them now, I didn’t even contemplate getting her a hotel to stay in. We were going to our home where she belonged.

With me.

I righted our clothing and carried her to the car where Callihan stood stoic and quiet as he opened the door for me to fold us into.

He was older and didn’t say much but when he got into the car he murmured, “She gave me a cupcake the other day and I decided she’s the only girl of yours I’ll drive now.”

I chuckled and stared down at her. She trusted me to take care of her after being this fatigued and I hoped she’d trust me with even more very soon. I pulled her closer to my chest and smoothed away her hair. “She’s the only girl I’ll allow you to drive now.”

“So, she really your future wife?”

“If she’ll have me. And even if she won’t, I’m going to try forever to change her mind.”

Once, I was seated in the car, she didn’t hear me whisper against her hair that I loved her, that I hated loving her the way I did, and that I wouldn’t let her go.

When I laid her down in her own bed that night, I stood at her doorway for far too long. It was fucking ironic that I’d avoided sleeping with her, and now all I wanted to do was lay behind her and pull her as close to me as possible.

We both needed space, because I knew that all the things Clara had said to me were right. She deserved to have a man without a past that would dim her light. She deserved the whole world of color, and I needed to find a way to avoid infusing my darkness into it.

I’d been a perfectionist for so long that I wanted to give her that too. The need to do so rattled through my bones. I knew she was mine and I was hers. I just had to pave the way accordingly. My heart beat for and belonged to her, even if it was barely beating from how cold it’d gotten over the years. Natya may have frozen it, but Clara thawed it out, had brought it back to life.

I backed out of the room on a new mission. I called my brother-in-law and Izzy. I told him I wanted everything pulled on Natya. I told them I was done fucking around.

“Finally. Do I get to leak it to the press tomorrow?” Izzy squealed into the phone.

“Hold it.”

“But she’s fucked us over enough,” Izzy whined. “And I can see right here she’s laundering money.”

Her husband interjected. “If he needs to show mercy, let him. It’s not our problem. We’re going to bed, Dom.” He clicked off the phone before I could say anything else.

It was the only arsenal I needed, one I hadn’t used before because getting my hands dirty hadn’t been worth it.

Clara, though. I’d go to hell and back for her. She was worth it.

I called Natya, and she purred into the phone, “Well, you got the resort, Dom, and got to fool around. You happy? Because I know you used her to push the narrative in the press for your reopening. It’s obvious,” she hissed.

I sat down in my study and poured myself a finger of whiskey, knowing I’d need it for the last conversation I’d ever have with my ex. I was ready to dig myself out of this hole of darkness so I could find the light with Clara.

“Of course I used her. She was a perfect girlfriend for the press. Wouldn’t you say so?”

“She did the job, but she’s not going to stick around when she figures that out.”

“She agreed to it, Natya. Agreed to move in with me too. She agreed to everything.”

Natya scoffed. “Did she think you’d fall for her? You can’t love her like you loved me, Dom. What we have is—”

“Nothing.” I cut her off. “I told you I’d never love like that again. And I don’t, nor would I ever want to. With you, I enjoyed it and pursued it. With her, I hate it and have tried to avoid it.”

“Why?” she whispered, almost like she was scared to hear it.

“Because I know the love I feel for her won’t simply hurt me like yours did. It will destroy me. And even still, it’s the only love I want for the rest of my life.”

I waited a beat to hear if Natya would respond, if she would finally realize now was the time to apologize and try to let me go. All I heard was silence though.

“People thought I was joking when I said she was my future wife. Natya, I’m not. You so much as look at my future wife wrong after this, I’m coming for you. I will tear apart your career, go to the feds about your laundering, and hang you out to dry for the lying piece of shit that you are. You get me?”

“Dom, I would never—”

“We have evidence of everything you’ve done, Natya. Don’t fuck with her or me. Ever. Again.”

I hung up.

There was nothing left to say to the woman. I didn’t care about her enough to listen to anything else she wanted to tell me.

I had to plan how I was going to make Clara my wife, and that meant I was going to have to grovel and make her believe she was it for me. I started with emails first and stayed up late into the night before I gave her the space she requested and went to my own bed.

But when I woke in the morning, Clara was gone.


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