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Wildcat: Chapter 37




I’ve never been so happy to be home. Jack stops the car in the driveway and gives me that captain look that says I’m about to get a pep talk. I’m too tired to fight it.

“Did you hurt your hand?” he asks.

My right hand cradles the busted knuckles of my left. I extend my fingers and then make a fist. “No. I’m good.”

“You’re sure?”

“I’m fucking sure,” I snap, then apologize. “Sorry. It’s been a long fucking night. I’m good. Thank you for being there, but I just want to go in and see my girl.”

He nods. I can tell he wants to say more, but he doesn’t.

I open the car door. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

Light from the TV streams into the living room. Ash is in the recliner, and Scarlett is curled up on the couch. He sees me first and stands.

“Finally.” He comes forward and hugs me, squeezing all the air out of my lungs. “All good? Did you get the charges dropped? Have you talked to Daria or Coach?”

“Everything is fine. Let’s talk in the morning, yeah?” I ask as he pulls back. Scarlett sits up but doesn’t move toward me.

“Of course.” He looks between my girl and me. “Call me when you get up.”

“I’ll meet you out front for our run at five,” I tell him.

“Oh. Okay. Yeah. See you then.” He gives me a two-finger salute.

Only when he’s out the door does Scarlett stand. I kick off my shoes and pull off my T-shirt. I feel dirty from spending the past two hours at the police station, stewing in disappointment and potential battery charges.

She nuzzles into my chest, and I close my arms around her and breathe her in. Damn, it feels good to be home and with her.

“I’m so sorry,” I murmur into the top of her head. I shouldn’t have lost my shit. I don’t regret hitting the fucker, but I wish it’d been in a dark alley, and she hadn’t seen it.

“Don’t be. It’s all my fault.” Her voice is a whisper spoken into the nape of my neck. “Are you in a lot of trouble?”

“Nah. He didn’t press charges.”

She looks up at me. “Why?”

I’m silent, and she adds, “You paid him.”

I swallow down the anger of that fuck getting a dime out of me. “I agreed to pay for his medical bills.” And his silence.

“Leo.” It’s the first time my name has come out of her lips that I haven’t liked the tone. It’s filled with exhaustion and a hint of disappointment.

I kiss her to stop whatever she’s about to say. “It’s fine. It was my fault.”

“No, it wasn’t.” She takes a step back. “None of this would have happened if I hadn’t been there.”

“If we’re going down that line of thinking, it never would have happened if I hadn’t forced you to come out to some bullshit event to appease Daria. It happened, babe.” I frame her face with my hands. “But I’m here now, and everything is okay.”

“It doesn’t feel okay.” She cinches her hold around my waist. “I did a lot of thinking while you were gone. About us and the drama I’ve brought into your life. It isn’t fair to you.”

“Shhh, baby. No more talking tonight. I need you.” I kiss her again. Slowly, she melts in my arms and gives back everything I need to forget about tonight. I pick her up and start toward my room.

In the dark, I undress her slowly, kissing every inch of skin as I do it. Our movements are unhurried, drinking each other in and soaking in every moment. She runs her hands over my shoulders and down my back, drawing our bodies closer.

If I were a painter, I could use color and brushstrokes to bring her form to life with my eyes closed. If I were a rockstar, I’d sing the fuck out of some heartfelt lyrics that I wrote just for her. If I could take photos like her, I could show her just how beautiful she is. The twinkle in her eye when she’s feeling sassy, the color in her cheeks when she’s turned on, and that look of pure bliss as she lies naked beneath me.

Scarlett makes me wish I had all sorts of artistic skills. She deserves all that. I can’t show her what she means to me in any way other than loving every inch of her.

That’s exactly what I do. I make love to her for hours. We don’t say a lot, even as we shower afterward and climb into bed together. Sometimes there’s nothing to say.

Nah, I’m not an artist, but loving Scarlett feels like my masterpiece and I’m just getting started.

When my alarm goes off for my run, only a few hours later, I groan and roll over to silence it before it wakes Scarlett, but when I open my eyes, she’s sitting up beside me, watching me sleep.

“Morning, gorgeous.”

“Hey,” she says softly.

I sit up and wrap my arms around her, placing a kiss on her shoulder. “What are you doing up already?”

“I need to get home.”

“At four forty-five in the morning?”

She gives me a sad smile that makes my heart hammer in my chest without warning. I hold her tighter and glance around. Her bag is already packed and sitting in the doorway.

“Don’t hurry off. Let’s shower, and I’ll make you some coffee.” I take her hand and hold it up, interlacing our fingers and placing a kiss on her thumb.

“No, that’s okay. Go on your run. I don’t want to mess with your routine. I just wanted to say bye before I left.”

“I can’t send you out into the world without coffee.” I stand and pull on a pair of shorts. “It isn’t safe for the other people.”

She laughs lightly and grabs her bag. “No, really. I have to go.”

“Okay. I’ll call you after practice. Do you want to grab lunch later?”

She hesitates to respond, and I can see the uncertainty on her face.


“I don’t think it’s such a great idea for us to be seen together for a while.”

“We can stay in.” God, I can’t even imagine how she must feel having the media twist her every move. They’ve been brutal and fucking Rhyse is staying silent.

“Leo, my life is a mess right now and it isn’t fair of me to bring you into it. I don’t want my drama to make things worse for you.”

“If this is because of last night—”

She closes her eyes and shakes her head, sending her brown hair swaying around her shoulders. “It isn’t just that. Why didn’t you tell me about the fight in Seattle? Or that my dad took your A?”

I clench my left hand. The sting of my broken knuckles makes me want to hit something all over again. “That’s on me.”

“You didn’t tell me because you knew I’d feel guilty. You wanted to protect me. That’s all I’m trying to do for you.” She takes a deep breath. “I couldn’t sleep. I keep going over everything that has happened the past few weeks, trying to make sense of it all and figure out how we get through this.”

“We get through it together.”

She makes a strangled sound. “You know that is just going to cause more headlines. I won’t let them use me to get a rise out of you. I think it’s best if we get a little space.”

“Space?” I shake my head. “No, that’s the opposite of what would be best for me.”

“Not forever, just for a little while.” She comes closer and places a hand on my chest. “You are the best boyfriend a girl could ask for.”

Yeah, so good she doesn’t want to be with me anymore. I step back. Rejection stings. It’s been so long since I put so much of myself out there like I have with Scarlett. I know things are tough right now, but damn.

“How long? A day? A week? A month?”

“I don’t know.”

I can see how much she’s hurting, and it’s the only thing that keeps me from begging her not to go. Maybe she’s right in ending things. She deserves more than being raked over the coals for being with me. It’s easy for me to shake off the nasty press, but she’s the one getting the worst of it. Try as I might, I can’t seem to protect her any other way. Some fucking boyfriend.

“Fine. If that’s what you want.”

She lingers for a moment, like she’s not sure what to do now that I’ve agreed, or maybe just not sure how to say goodbye. Numb, I turn to the counter and make my protein drink.

Eventually, her footsteps move toward the door. “Bye, Leo Lohan.”

I stay turned away, and the door closes her on the other side.

Bye, dream girl.


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