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Between Love and Loathing: Chapter 39


One week.

I thought I could last a week. And at one point, she texted me that she was coming to get the cats, but I told her no. I got my whole damn week.

So, that solidified that I needed to hold out.

But I’d seen that woman endure an abusive mother and sister, a move, and many flare-ups caused by the stress she’d been under. I’d watched from afar as she powered through a crazy opening week with the bakery and somehow managed to push through the pain I knew she was feeling.

If I didn’t walk by her bakery to catch a glimpse of her stretching and flexing her hands every now and then, I watched the security cameras.

I wasn’t above it.

I called my sisters and brothers to handle Anastasia and Mrs. Milton because I knew they still owned some family shares of our spas, and I wanted them out on their asses in the meantime. I also made sure that our PR team handled releasing any sort of media about Clara.

The resort didn’t matter anymore.

“What do you mean the casino deal isn’t a go?” I growled into the phone when Dex called me.

“I don’t want Keelani anywhere near it. So, if you guys brought her in for a gig there, I’m pulling out.”

“You’re pulling out of a multibillion-dollar deal because you’re mad Keelani broke your heart when you were a fucking teenager? Man the hell up, Dex. She’s been a family friend for years.”

“Fuck you. You just told me to handle the press with Clara and that you didn’t care if the casino deal fell through either.”

“Clara is different. They can have the whole resort for all I care when it comes to her. I’m going to fucking marry her.”

“So now your precious baby doesn’t matter?” He sounded like he was in disbelief. Then he sighed.

“What about your precious casino deal?”

Dex’s security and tech industry was unmatched. It was why he’d been given the casino deal in the first place. With that partnership, we’d have his HEAT security systems in place at all the casinos in the country.

“I don’t want Keelani fucking near it—”

“Sign that deal, Dex.” My hand all but crushed the phone as he said it. Had he been in front of me, I would have punched him. “And quit being a baby. She got over you. You need to get over her.”

“How do you know she’s over me?” Now he sounded devastated.

“Jesus Christ. I’m not telling you her business—”

“Is she in Vegas now?” he demanded. When I didn’t answer fast enough, he growled, “I’ll check the cameras myself,” and hung up.

My brother had lost his mind to the girl he loved. I couldn’t blame him. I was losing mine too to Clara. I texted the family that Natya was backing off, but we needed to push out statements about the resort and that no media outlet was allowed to talk about Clara. I wanted everyone to make sure their PR teams knew that.

She didn’t need the stress. I wouldn’t allow for it.

Then I saw her with Valentino.

In his restaurant.

I’d just waved a red flag for my brother about the girl he loved, and now I was seeing the same thing with the one I loved.

She was smiling. She seemed happy. I should have been the one making her smile.

I glanced at my watch. It was Friday. That was a full workweek. Still counted as lasting a week in my book. My future wife was sitting with another man in his restaurant, though, and that man was going to pay a hefty price, no matter that he smiled at me as I approached them.

“Dom, I didn’t know you were still here tonight—”

“I’m where my future wife is, Valentino.” I cut him off as I stood at their table. I knew my anger was palpable, knew the stare that most shrank away from was drilling into Valentino.

He chuckled nervously and motioned for a server to bring a chair. “Please join us.”

“Do you think I need to be invited to a dinner within my own resort?” I asked him softly and then I tsked. “Get out of my chair.”

His eyes widened along with Clara’s but here was the lesson they needed to learn. When they’d met me, I’d been an asshole about the design of my resort. I was ruthless when it came to that. It benefited them all wildly. Now, they needed to learn I was also an asshole when it came to what was mine—and anything involving Clara was exactly that.

Even so, Valentino learned fast. He stood from the chair and offered me the seat. “I didn’t mean any— Why is everyone leaving?” His voice was high.

“Your restaurant is closing for the night. It may be closing for the future too,” I pointedly said. “Don’t ever give my girlfriend a gift again, Valentino. And if you invite her to a meal without me, know that I’ll ruin you. You may feed all these people, and you may be a world-renowned chef, but I feed you. Have you heard the saying? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. ”

“Yes … I—”

“There are millions of good chefs in the world, do you know that? Millions who could take your place. But there’s only one of her. You understand?” I lifted a brow, and the man nodded, his own brow sweating now. “Leave.”

He didn’t even say goodbye, just rushed out.

“You’ve got to be kidding me, Dominic,” I heard from across the table as I waved over the last waiter still there and told him to get me two fingers of whiskey. “That was the most ridiculous territorial display of—”

“Why are you still fucking wearing that necklace?” I cut her off. My eyes were on it. I couldn’t look away from it, couldn’t unsee her with another man she’d viewed as a potential beau when I knew all I wanted was for her to be with me.

Her small fingers floated over it. “I honestly forgot with everything going on and haven’t thought about changing it—”

My hand snapped out to twist the gold chain around my fingers. Then, I yanked it fast. The motion was swift enough that the necklace gave way and broke so I could fist it. She gasped and grabbed at her neck, but it was too late. I dropped it into the champagne Valentino had been drinking. And when the waiter stopped by, I waved at the glass. “Pour it down the drain where it belongs.” I held her eyes as the waiter scurried away with the jewelry in the glass. “It should only ever be my necklace or fingers touching your neck. Nothing else.”

I saw how her breath hitched, how her pale skin blushed, and how her nipples hardened under that thin dress fabric. “Dominic, you know you haven’t given me a week—”

“A work week,” I corrected her.

She rolled her eyes. “That’s not a whole week.”

“Semantics.” I glanced down at the food.

“So, I get my kittens back today?”

I didn’t answer that. “How’s your flare-up doing? It’s gone down a bit.”

I studied the emotions flying over her face, how she touched her cheeks that I knew she covered up because of the rash but I also saw that it had faded. “You noticed?”

“I notice everything about you,” I told her and meant it. Every moment I caught with her was beautiful and I didn’t want to miss a single one. Clara Milton was stunning in her strength to overcome every obstacle that had been thrown her way.

“I’m not used to people noticing, I guess.” She picked at a linen napkin on the table before she cleared her throat. “Anyway, I’m okay. I’ll meet with doctors next week.”

“Good. I’ll come if you’ll let me.” My jaw ticked. I couldn’t command her here like I could within the resort and with her bakery. Her life was hers, but I wanted her to trust me enough to allow it.

Her eyes sliced to me then, studying me. “Since I’ve been here working with you, you’ve told me to own it, Dominic. So, I’m going to. I heard your conversation with Natya the night I left.” Her voice was shaky.

“Okay?” I dragged out the word, not sure why it mattered.

“You said you used me,” she whispered. “On the phone with her, you said I was the perfect girlfriend to her.”

“What?” I frowned. “What are you talking about?”

“I keep wondering if you just nurtured and pretended to like me so I would do all this perfectly?”

“You didn’t hear the whole conversation then, Clara.” She couldn’t have or she wouldn’t have looked so broken. “Of course I would have done anything for this resort, but we agreed to all this together, and then—”

I saw how her mind was racing as she frowned though. “You taught me how to hold myself confidently, to relax into your touch, to be the idea of what you thought was the perfect girlfriend. But I’m not just an idea, Dominic. I just got away from my mother and sister treating me just how they wanted.”

Her and this thing about ideas, I was starting to get it though. Clara had been a tool for her family for too long and she was feeling the same with me. “If I was only molding you into the perfect fake girlfriend or real one for that matter, Clara, I wouldn’t have had you change all the colors in my resort and put a bakery in the center of it that everyone is obsessed with. We agreed to start out like that, okay?” Didn’t she see that?

“No. That’s not fucking okay.” She blurted out and then looked shocked that she had. “I fell in love with you, Dominic. I fucking loved you.”

“You do love me. Don’t do that.” Her use of the past tense had my jaw tightening, my throat burning.

“How could I love a man who was using and molding me into some idea as I fell for him?” She replied and then she leaned back in the chair to look me over. “You know that Valentino asked me tonight what I saw in you? I saw the artist, the man that wouldn’t stop even when everyone told him something wouldn’t work. Having a resort taller than the tallest, one that jutted out into the ocean, or a completely transparent bridge. You proved everyone wrong, and I looked up to that, respected it. You know why? Because you defied logic, and you owned it. You told me to own it too. Over and over again.”

I didn’t say a word. Her lip trembled, and I knew there was more coming.

“I’ve felt undeserving my whole life. Not good enough. Too big, too small, hair too red, too many freckles, too much or little of something. And I wanted to defy that logic too. I started to believe I could with you. You’re a master at it, defying logic, constructing something beautiful from something not. But now, I think… I know, I don’t want to be anything but myself. And now I’m not sure if everything you want me for who I am or who you want me to be. Was all this a lie?”

“They weren’t lies, Clara.” My teeth clenched together. “We’re not a lie. Take it back.”

“I won’t,” she whispered. “Because I don’t know. You said you wanted to believe we were meant to be together on the beach that night. You didn’t say you did believe it, that you would fight for it, that you would fight for me.”

She tried to stand up in her anger, but I caught her wrist before she did, and she sat back down to listen to me. “You think I haven’t been falling too? Of course, everything was real, even when I didn’t want it to be. You’re the damn light in my world that I didn’t want. You. Nothing else. I told you that. I knew I was going to be that black hole that snuffed out your light, babe. I didn’t expect you to instead explode within me and fight off all the darkness.”

I closed my eyes for a second, trying to wrap my mind around how I felt for her and explain it. I heard her sigh and start, “Dominic, maybe we—”

I cut her off. “I said I wanted to believe we were meant to be that night only because I don’t believe anyone is good enough for you, Clara. But I’m going to try every day to be good enough. Don’t you see? Every idea I thought I wanted out of my life was obliterated when you stepped into it. You changed the trajectory of everything, and I fought to keep my sanity, to not fall victim to what I had before because loving you is much more fatal than loving anybody else. Any idea or person. If you leave, I’ll lose the life you gave me back.”

She stared at me for moments. Maybe minutes. Her mouth opened then closed. Then she asked softly, “You want me to apologize for being lovable?”

“Yes,” I bellowed. “I want you to apologize for making this resort something I don’t even give a damn about. The papers could write that the resort was my baby for days and I wouldn’t give a shit now. They could rip me and the resort apart and if they left you out of it, I’d be happy. I’m obsessed with only your well-being. With being with you. And you’ve done that. You can apologize for being irresistible. Being you. Being everything I wanted but don’t deserve.”

“You don’t deserve me if you were trying so hard not to fall for me,” she whispered, and that shit broke my heart because she was right. I couldn’t even correct her.

“No one deserves you. But I tried not to fall for you, Clara, because of the fear I feel now at losing you.” I told her and then looked at the table between us, at the restaurant another man had invited her to. “But I’ll be damned if anyone tries to have you over me. I’m yours and you’re mine.”

“You don’t get to make that decision alone, Dominic.”

“I know, but I’m going to show you that over time.” There was a brilliance to Clara Milton, and I was sure no one could compete with it. They’d have been stupid to try. But I could show her that.

Words never showed anyone anything. I knew that. I built structures that inspired the masses because they wouldn’t believe it if I just drew it on paper.

They needed to see it. To witness it.

So did she.

I wouldn’t say more. Not now.

Not yet.

I cracked my neck before I looked down at the food. “Was your meal good?”

“Before I was so rudely interrupted?” Her foot under the table nudged my leg in irritation but it also seemed to be a sort of truce. We’d discussed enough tonight. Plus, any touch from her was wanted, and I smiled at it.

“If my girlfriend goes on a date with someone else, I’m going to interrupt.”

Fake girlfriend. And now ex.”

“You really think you’re breaking up with me?” Fuck, it hurt even when it shouldn’t have. This had been the plan before. We’d break up and Valentino would swoop in. I’d predicted and pushed for it at one time.

Now, I’d die before I let that shit happen.

She didn’t answer as she glanced around. “Was there a reason the restaurant closed?” She lifted a brow.

“Other than because you were sitting here with a man who’s trying to fuck you? No. I own the restaurant. And I’ll close it any time another man glances in your direction the wrong way.”

“Possessive with all your exes?” I saw the sparkle back in her eyes.

“Just one ex … because she’s not going to be an ex for long.”

“What’s she going to be?” Her voice came out a breathy whisper.

“My fucking wife,” I growled, no hesitation at all. I wasn’t letting her go, and I knew I was gaining ground because her breath caught at my words.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” She finally said softly.

I let it go for now. “Plus, I figure I’m saving them from a fight, cupcake. Protecting the public, actually.”

She smirked and then glanced around. “The restaurant is beautiful.”

“Have you seen the chef’s kitchen?”

She shook her head and I stood, holding a hand out. I needed her to take it, to accept who I was here as much as who I’d be in the future. This was the first gesture of many I would make, but I was establishing a boundary too. She needed to know she was mine or that she was at least learning to be mine.

When she set her soft hand in my palm, my whole body relaxed. I pulled her close and walked her back through the steel doors. With only a few of the staff left, I commanded that everyone leave, and the kitchen emptied quickly.

Clara’s eyes twinkled as she took in the stainless steel, bright lights, big stoves, and the large metal island top in the middle. She let go of me to drag her hand across it. “The setup is perfect. He’s got everything he needs in here.” She turned her eyes on me. “He’s an amazing chef, Dominic. I really do like his food.”

“So, are you saying I shouldn’t fire him?”

“You’re not going to fire him,” she said as I placed two hands on the table behind her so that I’d caged her in.

“Is that so?”

“Yes, because it’s his restaurant and if you do, I’m going to be furious.”

“Hm. You know I love when you fight me, cupcake. Go ahead, be furious,” I murmured as my lips touched the soft skin of her neck and she shuddered. Then, my hand went to the back of her neck, and I grabbed a fistful of her hair, pulling it to expose the column of her neck to me.

I sucked the skin there as soon as she did and then bit hard. I wanted it to be painful, to show her the pain she’d inflicted on me over the past week, to show her this skin was mine, even if she kept it from me.

Her hands were on my shirt as I did, and she moaned into the fabric, “Dominic, this isn’t us giving each other space or working out the problem.”

“I never wanted fucking space. I thought that was clear when I texted you and then came to stay with you that day. I’ll give you it but I don’t want it,” I ground out, my hands at her hips as I lifted her onto the table, “Instead, I want you every single day, and I’ll want you every day for the rest of your life.”

She stared at me like she was trying to believe it, like she was working through if she could. “Are you sure you won’t just want the idea you created?”

Clara had been used her whole life and molded into what she didn’t want from her family. I vowed right then to break her of the concept.

“Don’t you see the idea I created would have never been you, love? It would have been easier, it would have been smoother, it wouldn’t have been me worrying about you and craving you and missing you every day. It would have been a woman never fighting me, but you do at every turn.”

She whimpered when my hand went up her skirt; I felt nothing there, as always.

“Damn, it would have been you wearing underwear when you’re at dinner with another fucking man, Clara. Did you go without them for him or me this time, little fighter?”

Her eyes narrowed. “I didn’t even know I was going to dinner with him tonight but if you think this was for him”—she spread her legs wide so I could feel how wet she was and then a sly smile crossed her face—“then it definitely was.”


She rolled her pussy into my hand and yanked me close to her mouth. “I’m still mad and I’m still not sure about us. So, make me forget, Dominic. If only for a second.”

“You won’t ever forget anything between us.” The words came out rough as I pinched her clit and she gasped. I kissed her then, devoured her lips. Our tongues warred against one another, our hands rough, our movements fierce as we sought out pleasure from the other body.

“I’m going to fuck you on this table, little fighter, so every time you step into Valentino’s restaurant you know who owns you. Who’s never been your fake boyfriend but only the real one. Who actually owns this pussy of yours. You won’t forget that.”

I think we’d both been lost without one another over the week, both wanted the fight, wanted to feel one another, even if it was painful. “Or maybe Valentino will own it,” she countered.

I lost it then, growling as I stepped back to turn her to face the table and bend her over it. Then, I grunted in her ear, “I’m going to fuck you rough for that, cupcake.”

She put her hands on the table and looked over her shoulder with fire in her eyes to goad me, “Do it.”

I smoothed my hand over her ass before I lifted her skirt and took in her perfect ass, such smooth round globes. Then, I dragged a finger over her sex. “Look at you. So wet that you’re dripping down your thighs, Clara. You think Valentino could own you like this?”

She just shook her head.


At least she knew. “This pussy is practically weeping for me to give you exactly what you need.” I undid my pants to pull out my length. “You know what that is, baby?”

I pinched her clit when she didn’t answer. “You. I need you, Dominic.”

“Yeah, me. Only me. No one else.” I let her feel the tip of me at her entrance, sliding my cock in her slickness. “I’m going to fuck you so rough. This pussy will be feeling me for days after. It’ll be sore, baby, but wet too. Want to know why? Because I belong here.”

I thrust into her swiftly, all the way in. I buried my cock as far as it would go because I wanted her to feel me everywhere in her. In her pussy but also her mind and her heart. “You’re mine. Only mine. Do you understand?”

She shook her head. “It was fake and it’s over.”

Fake. I hated that word.

I fucked her harder, smacking her ass and gripping her hips before I pulled completely out and dragged my cock between the cheeks of her backside. She shuddered at the new sensation. “You want it, Clara?”

She whispered yes but I wanted more from her.

I smacked one ass cheek again hard enough that I felt the reverberation on the other and on my length.

“Louder. Say you understand this was never fake. Say it, Clara.”

I felt her arching for my cock, but she wouldn’t say it. She wouldn’t admit what we were. And, fuck, she was stronger than me because I growled and slid inside her again without hearing her say the words. Her pussy clenched around me, and I heard her moan my name, but it wasn’t enough.

“Don’t you understand that only my cock belongs inside you, baby?” She didn’t respond. “That you fit around me perfectly?”

“Please just make me forget,” she said instead.

Her begging for that just made me fuck her more desperately.

And she cried out, “Harder, Dominic. Harder.”

I was gripping her hips so tightly, I knew there would be bruises but she met each thrust of mine with her body, like she couldn’t get enough. “You feel that? Your pussy feels who owns it for real, little fighter. You can’t fight this. Tell me you understand.”

Again, she didn’t respond.

“So, I guess you’re going to make me prove I own it.”

She nodded right as her sex clamped down on me like a vice.

I thrust in twice more as I ground out, “That’s it, Clara. Take my dick, baby. Just how you like it. Just how it’s meant for you. You do it so well.”

I emptied all of me into her.

It’s the only place I would do it from this point forward anyway.

And I was going to prove it.


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