Finding Perseverance(101)

By: T. E. Black

And, I’ll be here. Surrounded by barflies who have nothing better to do. I’ll live and die in Max’s because I was too chicken shit to take the leap.

Trent told me not to drown my problems, and if he were here, he would be livid. He’s not here either. He’s with Shay—the love of his life—because he wasn’t scared to take what he wanted. So, I lift the bottle, congratulate myself on passing the halfway mark, and take another sip.

As horrible as the future will be for me, I still can’t justify taking away a part of him for my own, selfish reasons. I can’t justify asking him to give up his dreams only so I can have him.

“Hey, stranger. Looking sexy as always.”

And shit just keeps piling up.

“Brad.” My one and only attempt at a one-night stand stands five feet away from me. Obviously, my oh-so-very-warm welcome isn’t what he expects because he shoves his hands in his pockets and rocks back on his heels. There may be a bright side to his intrusion, though. After all, at one time he did spark a little heat in me. Running with it, I take a swig from the bottle before glancing over at Sarah, making sure she has the bar covered before I keep drinking. I try on a smile for him, but it’s fake as can be. He perks up a bit, stepping forward with a matching smile. I’m incredibly disappointed when nothing comes. Not one lick of a feeling fills me. I belt out a laugh. Lick. Fucking Brad and his dog bowl lapping. My laughter peels through the bar, and soon I’m laughing so damn hard I have tears streaming down my face.

When I finally stop, I look up, and the dumbass is still standing there.

“What do you want, Brad? You didn’t just come here to stare at me?”

“No.” He chuckles, still looking a little confused by my outburst and anger. “I came to ask you out.”

“Out? As in, on a date?” My brows shoot up in surprise.

Jesus Christ. What piss-poor timing for him to be a good guy. Unfortunately, I’m not on the market right now. Not after Rook.

“That’s kind of you.” I offer. “But, I can’t.”

“Can’t or won’t?” He takes another step forward.

“Can’t,” I answer honestly. “There’s someone else.”

Telling someone the truth for once feels amazing. For once, I didn’t have to lie and then cover my tracks as I walk away. Maybe, things will be all right after all.

“That fighter?” he asks, and I stare at him with weary eyes. “It was all over the news a couple of weeks ago. That’s who you’re hung up on?”

“His name’s Rook, and yes, he’s the guy I’m ‘hung up on’,” I snap, not liking the tone of voice or the truth in his words..

Brad shakes his head in disbelief. “Isn’t he leaving?”

“How the hell do you know he’s leaving?”

I didn’t think anyone knew about Rook going back to California since he only decided two days ago. Fuck me. Word travels fast around here.

“I heard some sportscasters talking about it on the news. They were talking about him getting back into the league and upping his ranks since he’s been suspended.”

Hearing someone else tell me he’s leaving—that hits my heart like a ton of bricks.

“Well, good riddance. Let him leave then. He can go back to California, and I can get on with my life.” I try to sound angry, but the words sound so very, very broken. There is no conviction behind them.

“I told you I wasn’t leaving.”

I swing my head in his direction, half-expecting him to not even be standing there, but he is.

“W-what?” I stutter, staring at him in shock.

The short distance between us feels more like miles in my mind. Every step he takes eating up the vast distance between us. I steal every emotion I can from his eyes and lock them deep inside myself.

Rook stops in front of me, but he’s on the other side of the bar—he’s too far away.

“I’m not leaving,” he repeats. “I can’t leave you, Leigh.”

The love expressed in his tone of voice makes my heart swell rapidly. These are words I’ve wanted to hear and believe since he got here. Yet, I can’t seem to accept them.