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Between Love and Loathing: Chapter 40

CLARA

He said he had something to show me after we’d made a complete mess of ourselves in Valentino’s restaurant, that we deserved a weekend away to figure everything out.

I wasn’t so sure. Could you figure out love and heartbreak at the same time?

I was only sure that suddenly I was strong enough to endure them both. I’d confronted him. I’d lost myself to him again. And I’d picked myself back up.

That week, I’d also stood up to my family, opened my bakery, taken what I wanted finally, and managed to get through it. I wasn’t just surviving, I was thriving here, and I wanted to thrive with or without him.

I owed that to myself. Everyone did. Our hearts and souls deserve for us to be our number one advocate. If you don’t fight for yourself, who will?

I agreed to go with him under one condition. “You bring Sugar and Spice over after if we don’t work all this out, no fight.”

“Clara,” he warned, but I was ready.

“They’re mine, and they need their mother.”

“When do I get to see them if you’re not happy after this weekend?” He looked so desperate in his pursuit of me suddenly and my heart yearned to just give in, but I had to be sure.

“Well, I can bring them to the bakery, I guess.” I tried not to laugh because I knew he would totally disagree with cats in his resort.

His jaw ticked, once, twice, three times before he ground out, “Fine. At least two days a week.”

I think my eyes bugged completely out of their sockets, but I tried to hide it by blinking over and over again at the tears that were filling my eyes. “Fine. I’ll go with you this weekend.”

“There was unexpected weather there so I’d like to see it now if possible. Two days. Make sure your staff can manage without you this weekend.”

I had to clarify. “I’m not staying with you.”

He narrowed his eyes. “We’ll see.”

That’s how I ended up in the SUV with Callihan driving us up the side of a mountain that weekend. When I got in, I started, “It’s probably best to clear the air.”

He just shook his head, laptop already open as he typed away. “Wait until we get to the resort I want to show you. I’m working on something.”

“Working?” I questioned and he just nodded. “Didn’t you invite me so we could talk?”

“No. I invited you to show you something at the resort.”

I huffed but figured I would just ignore him until then. So, we didn’t talk for the two hours it took to weave out of the city and up through forests and mountain terrain. Until I was so awestruck, I couldn’t contain it anymore. “Dominic, there’s snow.” I squealed.

He looked at me confused. “I said there was snow.”

“You said ‘unexpected weather.’”

He shrugged. “Well, right. We’re going to see if we can get the HEAT brand established somewhere in Big Bear. I’m thinking a boutique ski resort. There are three mountains, apparently, so we need to assess which area would be best.”

“It’s so pretty.” I was literally bouncing in my seat.

He closed his laptop and took off his eyeglasses. I still hated those things because every time he wore them, I wanted to literally climb on his lap and ask him to study me instead of his computer. That’s not where my focus should have been at all. “California has very diverse terrain. I’ve got to finish this email, so anything else?”

“I’m so excited! My mother hates snow. We never learned to ski or snowboard. I’ve never even been sledding. Did you sled as a kid?”

He pointedly looked at his laptop and then nodded. “Sure. I also got buried by my brothers and sisters in an igloo once. They did it on purpose, claimed I was being an annoying big brother. When I held my breath under there for about thirty seconds, they’d all dug me up, and my sisters were crying.”

“That’s sort of mean and terrifying.”

“Well, they learned that day to not only own their actions but the consequences of them too.”

“Are you always trying to teach everyone to own it?” I asked.

“Maybe.” He thought about it. “I think I tried to teach lessons until I had to learn them myself.”

We let the silence linger a little, and he grabbed his glasses and reopened the laptop but I was now considering the attire I’d brought. “How cold do you think it’s going to be over the weekend?”

He groaned and snapped the laptop shut again. “I’m not going to get done what I’m working on, am I?”

“Probably not.” I shrugged. He’d invited me. “Do I need to get a winter jacket?”

“You didn’t bring a jacket?”

“No. I just thought it would be like LA.”

He lowered the partition and told Callihan we needed to stop at a store.

I wrinkled my nose. “Is it going to be expensive?”

“I swear to all that’s fucking holy, Clara, it doesn’t matter. Do you know how much money you have now? How much money I have? I have one more email to write and then—”

“For someone who invited me along, you’re really not making this at all enjoyable.” I crossed my arms. Then I unbuckled my seat belt to move over one seat, distancing myself.

Two minutes later, he snapped his laptop shut again, and unbuckled my seat belt—even when I batted at his hand and said, “What are you doing?”

“Moving you back where you’re supposed to be, little fighter.”

“Where’s that?” I said, but it came out breathy in a way it probably shouldn’t have. We hadn’t discussed where this was going, but somehow, it felt like we were back to dating and back to me being concerned about what he needed in life.

“Right next to me, baby. Always.” He reached across me to grab my hip closest to the window and pulled me toward him.

Right then, though, we passed another patch of soft snow that sparkled across a sloping hill. “Can we stop?” I whispered.

He stared at me for a second and then nodded before he told the driver to stop. I jumped out of the car. There’s something about seeing a landscape painted all white, the sun shining brightly on it. I felt the breeze on my skin, the cool air filling my lungs, and took in how quiet it all was.

“That white I love sometimes can blanket things beautifully, right?” Dominic said, his voice close.

When I turned back to look at him, he was smirking at me with a twinkle in his eye.

“And sometimes, there needs to be a little something to mess up all the perfection right?” Before he could answer, I ran fast into the snow and moved through it, spinning around and around. I dropped to scoop up a pile of it and threw it over my head giggling at how cold and light it was.

Dominic shook his head the whole time at me, but I just yelled at him, “Come run with me, fake boyfriend.”

He rolled his eyes and chuckled as he walked out into the field, his black suit a stark opposite of how I must have looked in my maxi dress blowing in the wind. “I’m not your fake boyfriend anymore, Clara.”

“Right. What are you then?”

“The real one.”

I looked down at my hands as my vision blurred, and it seemed like they were turning gray. I flexed my fingers, but color only came back to two of them. Everything turned gray and faded away. “I don’t feel right, Dominic,” I murmured, and then I passed out.


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