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Breaking love broken lov.., p.22
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       Breaking Love (Broken Love #4), p.22

           B. B. Reid
 
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  “You thought your father would make you marry him, so you ran, and you came to say goodbye, didn’t you?”

  “Yes,” she cried, finally admitting the truth. I should have felt victorious, but I didn’t. Like I’d said… I was dead inside.

  I looked into her eyes and held them. I needed her to know what she did to me. “Well, then I guess this is it.”

  I saw the shift in her eyes. The fear that was in them was painful to watch, but I couldn’t bring myself to console her. “What are you saying?”

  “I’m saying I can’t survive you walking away for a second time. This time it could be for ten years or twenty.” It could be forever.

  “What are you saying?”

  “I’m saying that I’m choosing myself this time. I’m saying that I’m the one walking away.”

  “Dash—”

  “Goodbye, Willow.” Her name tasted bitter on my tongue, but I couldn’t bring myself to call her Angel anymore.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

  TWO MONTHS LATER

  WILLOW

  I STARED DOWN at the little white stick and shook it as if that would really change the result.

  This could not be happening.

  Positive.

  Pregnant.

  I was positively pregnant.

  There was no doubt about it.

  I had effectively ruined my life and that of my baby. I could just add it to the list of things I had ruined in the last four years, including my only true chance at love.

  When I decided to drop out of school, I had no direction. I figured if I couldn’t pursue my dreams there was no point in trying at all so I packed up my things while, in the back of my mind, I knew there was nowhere for me to go. I couldn’t show up to my mother’s home a college dropout. She would be even less accepting of my failure to finish school than she was of my dream. So I did what I had never been brave enough to do before. I found my father.

  He wasn’t particularly hard to find. My mother had never bothered to hide exactly who he was or where he lived. She’d even gone so far as to give me a paternity test she illegally managed to have taken without his consent. It’s almost as if she needed me to hate him as much as she did.

  Ironically, the only person I hated in the end was her.

  I resented her.

  I mourned the loss of a real mother-daughter relationship.

  Six months later, I accepted for what it was and always will be only to realize I was too late.

  When my mother couldn’t get her way with me, she did the unforgivable and gave Pepé away to an animal shelter three towns away. I didn’t find out until three months after arriving in Seattle when Buddy finally came home and grilled her about him.

  I hated her for what she did but not as much as I did for leaving him behind. I still had no idea what became of him. He was six years old and reaching the end of his life span and I would never get to say goodbye.

  My father had done all he could to break me out of the depression the loss of Pepe caused but to no avail. Sadly, my father and I had no real connection. I could tell he cared for me as I did him but a part of me felt as if it were too late to cultivate a bond expected between a father and daughter. After nearly four years of trying, we’d failed but I couldn’t deny he’d been supportive ever since I showed up on his doorstep uninvited.

  The only hiccup had been when he attempted to marry me off to a business associate’s son. He felt it was his right and duty since I wasn’t enrolled in school. After his attempt to play matchmaker, I convinced him to find me a position and so he did as an assistant at my fake father in law’s firm. There I met Thomas, my enforced intended, and we became good friends. However, that solution lasted only about three years when my father’s insistence became a demand. Everyone had been on board except me.

  I knew I had to do something and so I ran.

  I just wish I could have brought myself to run without saying goodbye.

  I didn’t hear the knock on the door at first, but when my name was called, I snapped out of my daze, washed my hands, and left the bathroom. I opened the door and found Thomas waiting on the other side.

  After Dash had kicked me out of his life, I returned to my mother’s house and spent the next week wallowing in self-pity and shame until I couldn’t take my mother’s constant nagging and attempts to make me feel worse about myself.

  Luckily, my father accepted me with open arms… and a stipulation.

  I had to give a relationship with Thomas a try.

  A real relationship.

  I agreed knowing my heart would never be at risk again. I had left it back in Nevada, discarded on the kitchen floor where Dash had crushed it.

  I couldn’t say I blamed him. He had been right about everything, including me. He gave me no less than what I expected after what I’d done.

  So here I stood, starting over again without ever having moved forward. When I showed up on my father’s doorstep, once again he demanded what he failed to four years ago. He wanted answers, starting with Dash Chambers.

  “So?” he asked excitedly. “What does it say?”

  “Well,” I cleared my throat. “There’s going to be a baby.”

  Thomas gave a shout and then picked me up, twirling me around. It took everything in me not to push him away. After all, he was only being a good… boyfriend. I told myself it could be worse. I could have been stuck in a town watching the person my heart beat for ride off into the sunset and marry a viperous bitch.

  There wasn’t much to Thomas, which made him good for me. He wasn’t bossy, athletic, powerful, or manipulative. He was your typical former college frat who now worked in his father’s law firm and probably made love with the lights off and under the covers.

  I bet there wasn’t anything dirty about the way he fucked…

  God, what is wrong with me? I stifled a groan and plastered on a smile meant to hide my true feelings

  He finally set me down and I took a step back, fighting queasiness. “I take it you’re excited then?”

  “I’m ecstatic. We’re going to be a family.”

  I swallowed hard at that. I didn’t want a family with him.

  I wanted Dash, but he didn’t want me… not anymore. I had succeeded in blowing it with him.

  “There is only one thing that could make this more perfect,” he grinned.

  “What?” I couldn’t keep the wariness out of my voice.

  Nausea returned when he lowered to one knee and pulled out a ring from his pocket. “Willow Waters, will you do me the honor of being my wife?”

  CHAPTER THIRTY

  DASH

  I STARED DOWN at the papers in disbelief. When my brain wouldn’t register what my eyes were seeing I sat back in my chair only to shoot up once again and clutch the paper in my fist.

  I fucking did it and I couldn’t even remember how.

  Simon had surrendered his company to me. Completely. There wouldn’t be a merger or strategic alliance. He was selling to me.

  The only condition he had was that the company remains operating so long as it returns a profit and I make Willow a silent board member and shareholder.

  Seeing Willow’s name brought the long lost feeling back into my body. My heart was pounding and the blood coursing through my veins no longer flowed but rushed, heating every inch of me.

  I ignored my reaction and continued to read through the papers. When I got to the last, I noticed it was a hand written letter addressed to me. I stared down at the bold handwriting while fingering the edge of the paper.

  Just as I read through the first line, my office door burst open. “You look beautiful in the morning. I just love how that suit outlines your many manly muscles.” Keenan version of a woman’s voice filled my office, pushing out the tension and silence. Keiran was right behind him, holding onto a smiling Kennedy.

  “What are you guys doing here?”

  “It’s spa day. We’re babysitting.”

  “You mean I’m babysitting,
Keiran snapped. He set Kennedy down along with her favorite ninja turtle backpack. Ken unsurprisingly, ignored her backpack likely full of toys and ran full speed around my desk. I leaned down just in time to catch her and lift her into the air. Her squeals of delight proved infectious when I felt my own smile awaken.

  “Dude, I’m her father. It’s implied that I’m watching her.”

  “Uncle Dash, higher!” Ken demanded.

  “You are, huh? Then how did she manage to get that frog into the car?”

  “I don’t know. Weren’t you watching her?”

  “Children,” I interjected and set Ken on her feet when the vein in Keiran’s forehead made its appearance. I was happy to see some of their former relationship mending itself. With each day, their brotherly bond was returning but today was not one for me to be high on patience. When I had their identical glares, I continued. “What is the reason for this visit?”

  “We told you. We’re babysitting. Shelly and Lake abandoned us with Ken for girl time,” Keenan pouted.

  “And?”

  “This includes you.”

  I gritted my teeth. “What includes me?”

  “Babysitting. We think it’s only fair you share your load.”

  “My load? It’s one three year old girl.”

  They each looked at me as if I was in denial and I had to agree. Kennedy could be a handful pretty much all of the time but I didn’t have time to pacify them.

  “That’s not all,” Keiran huffed. “Her b-i-r-t-h-d-a-y is in two weeks and their making us plan it.”

  I couldn’t help it. I had to laugh at his helpless expression. Four years ago, I never would have imagined anyone would ever have Keiran Masters by the balls, much less Lake Monroe, but as it turned out the girl he spent his entire childhood and young adult life torturing, had them clenched in her iron fist.

  Karma is a bitch you should never fuck raw.

  “I don’t know why you’re laughing. The last thing they said was to make sure you helped.”

  “Fuck, I’m really busy here. I’m sure you’ll manage without me.”

  “Too late. We already promised her we’re all going to the park.”

  “Yay! Park!” Kennedy looked up from digging in her backpack and screamed. “Uncle Dash come, too?”

  I could have killed the snickering idiots. How do you turn down an adorable three-year-old as cute as her?

  You didn’t.

  And the assholes knew it.

  Rather than answer her because I couldn’t trust myself to keep the anger and aggravation out of my voice, I turned my glare full on to my best friends. “The park is back home. You did this on purpose,” I said, stating the obvious.

  “Of course we did,” Keenan shrugged. “Now leave behind whatever shoved that stick up you a-s-s and come on.”

  * * *

  I watched Ken take another ride on the slide. No matter how many times she slid, it never seemed to get old. To be that innocent and without burdens was now foreign and out of reach to me. I lived with it and was just grateful that Ken would have a good life. I looked at Keiran and Keenan, who watched her with the same wonder as I did, and knew that she had more than enough people guarding her to ensure it.

  “We need to do something about Esmerelda and find whoever the fuck killed John.”

  “Your father,” I blurted, earning their confused stares.

  “Come again?”

  “John was your father.” I looked at Keiran to let him know it was meant for him too. “He fucked up. He knew it and he died hoping you two would forgive him for your own sake. Respect his memory by accepting him for who he failed to be for you, no matter how imperfect he was at it.” I shook my head and thought about my own father. Our relationship was nearly nonexistent. He had finally stopped interfering but with that came the end to our relationship as father and son. The worst part was that I didn’t mourn the loss. “We only get one.”

  Kennedy ran over, interrupting the tension that followed. “Daddy, I go swing now.” She slid her tiny hand into Keenan’s and I watched as he gripped it as if searching for strength. I wasn’t prepared for the emotion in his eyes when he swung his gaze to me.

  “Of course, Princess.”

  Keenan led her to the swings, leaving Keiran and me on the bench. I fixed my gaze ahead even though I could feel his on me.

  “Whatever you’re thinking I know you’ll say so what are you waiting for?”

  Another few seconds of tense silence passed.

  “Why did you let her go?’

  Fuck.

  I wasn’t expecting that.

  It took me longer than necessary to answer though it wasn’t much of one. “Does it matter? She’s gone.”

  “She’ll never be gone. She’ll haunt you forever, bro.”

  “She’s not dead. I let her go and she left.”

  I still hadn’t looked at him but I heard him inhale and let it all out a second later. “And that pisses you off, doesn’t it?” I shrugged and stopped my nails from digging into my thigh. “When I realized I loved Lake, I knew,” he continued. “She’s everything for me. She’s my light and my air and I’m nothing without it. She stopped me from dying and when she stopped me from dying, she became my existence… Just like Willow became yours.”

  I shook my head, denying the truth. “I can live without her, man.”

  “And I could live without Lake…if I really had to… but I choose not to.”

  “Lake could do better.” I finally faced him to gauge his reaction and was surprised to find acceptance.

  “I’d never let her. I said I was in love. I never said I wasn’t selfish.” He looked away and for the first time I saw the tension in his shoulders. “I’ll probably never be good enough for her.” He fixed his cold grey stare on me once again. “But that doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop trying. I’ll do whatever I can to never let her feel it. I want her happy. I just need that to be with me.”

  His prying only reminded me of the emptiness I felt since I let her walk away again and with it came my frustration in full force. “What do you want me to do?” I felt my growl more than I heard it. “You want me to fucking chase after her and beg her to be with me for the third time?”

  Keiran’s answering laugh was void of humor. It was dark and threatening. “No, man. I want you to do what you already want to do. She’s already yours.” His eyes darkened to black pools. “Take what’s yours.”

  I thought back to the letter Willow’s father sent with the sale agreement. I stuck it into my pocket and managed to block everything else out long enough to read it. His letter turned out to be more of a note.

  Chambers,

  I hope you’re smarter than you think you are. You made me realize pride shouldn’t stand in the way of common sense. This is me returning the favor.

  Richard Simon

  CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

  THREE MONTHS LATER

  WILLOW

  IT WAS THE day of my wedding to Thomas. Two months after Dash walked away, I found that I was left with a piece of him. When Thomas proposed, I couldn’t answer right away. Instead, I convinced him to give me a month to consider what it would truly mean to accept. But in that month, I couldn’t bring myself to think… but I did a lot of waiting.

  I waited and I waited but the answer never came so I made my sanest choice and accepted his proposal.

  Thomas was the son of one of my father’s business acquaintances and therefore, a preferred choice for me in my father’s eyes. He was all too willing to accept the baby of another, and at that moment, I was convinced he felt more for me than friendship. He was in love with me yet I didn’t share his feelings.

  Three years ago, we had become fast friends and he made being away bearable. I liked him a lot so when he proposed after finding out I was pregnant something inside convinced me to accept.

  It could have been because I was emotional, alone, and pregnant with the child of a man who hated me.

  Or… it could have been
because I convinced myself I could be happy with him.

  Ten years from now, when I’m celebrating my tenth wedding anniversary, it wouldn’t matter.

  I had only just accepted my decision three months later only to find out on my wedding day that the officiator had fallen ill with a stomach virus. My thoughts were flying every which way, and with all the mindless chatter that surrounded me, I couldn’t think straight.

  So I sent everyone away.

  Once I was alone, I dropped in the ivory chair that matched my dress and placed my head on the dressing table. Was this a sign that I was making the worst kind of mistake?

  The sound of the door opening behind me interrupted my internal battle.

  “I’m sorry, but I need a moment,” I directed to the intruder without looking. “Please, tell everyone I will be out in a few moments.”

  “You look beautiful, Angel.”

  My entire body came alive at the sound of the voice I remembered all too well. I whirled around to see Dash standing in the doorway wearing a black suit and clutching purple flowers in his hand.

  “Wh—what? How?”

  “I have my sources,” he stated smugly.

  God, I love his cockiness.

  What am I saying?

  “I just wanted to come and wish you well.” He moved closer and I fought the urge to back away. Something about the way he stalked me was predatory. “I hated how we left things.”

  “I don’t think it’s a good idea that you are here. It’s not right.”

  “Relax. I didn’t come to steal the bride.” He laughed. My eyes narrowed. His presence made me wary.

  “Don’t even joke. I don’t know how this day can get any worse.” I clutched my protruding stomach and took a deep breath unknowingly drawing Dash’s attention to my stomach. He rushed forward and placed his hand over mine and my heart skipped a beat.

 
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