Finding Perseverance(102)

By: T. E. Black


“Rook,” I plead. “You can’t stay.”

I’m lying through my teeth again, but it’s with good reason. I have to stand my ground. I have to make him think my decisions are justified, otherwise he’ll lose all he’s worked for.

“Why?” His voice turns angry. “Why the hell are you trying to send me away, Leigh? Is it because you think you’re helping me—saving me? Is that what you think?”

He’s pulling on my heartstrings. I know he’s angry with me for shoving him out the door, but it’s for him. Why can’t he see that? Why can’t he see that I’m doing this because I love him? Why can’t he leave my heart alone and stop trying to shatter it more than it already is?

“I’m doing this for you, Rook!” I shout back as tears well in my eyes. “You can’t stay here because it isn’t where you belong. You belong in that cage with fans screaming your name. You belong on talk shows and fucking billboards, not hiding inside of a corner bar in Boston. I can’t be the reason you don’t have that. I can’t.” As hard as I try to keep my voice even, it cracks and then fades into a choked sob on the last word.

He doesn’t bother walking around the bar to get to me. He plants both hands on the polished surface and vaults over. “Come here, babe,” he says, but I don’t have to go anywhere. His arms are already around me, holding me as I sob against his chest.

“I don’t give a damn about billboards and fame. The only thing I give a damn about is you, Ryleigh O’Donnell. Since I was twelve, you have been the only thing that’s mattered. You’re the reason I wake up with a hard-on and the reason I go to bed with a smile—you. My sexy, gorgeous, strong-willed woman—I’m supposed to be wherever you are. Wherever I go, you’re meant to be by my side.” He pauses, and I fight to breathe. “I spent ten years without you, and it was torture. I can’t do it again. The last two months have been better than the last decade combined. I know you don’t want me to leave, Leigh. I don’t wanna leave either. So, I’m not. You can protest, fight me, hate me, but it doesn’t change the outcome. You won’t tell me that you don’t want me to go, so this is me telling you that I want to stay.”

“Okay.” I look up at Rook and nod as I cling to the front of him.

“Just okay?” He jokes, brushing his thumb over my cheek to wipe away my tears.

“Stay. Don’t leave,” I manage to say between sobs.

“Keep going,” he urges.

“I love you, Rook Wallace. I’m sorry I was so stubborn. I want you. I need you. Don’t go. I won’t let you walk out that door without a fight. We’re fighters.” He kisses me then, filling it with a single apology and a thousand promises of forever. I pour my heart right back into him, telling him all the words I was too scared to say.

Rook fought for me when I couldn’t fight for myself, and because of that, I will always be his fighter.





Epilogue





Ryleigh





Compromise—a nine letter word with one meaning but endless possibilities. A word I thought was stupid until Rook chose me over California. For my entire life, I assumed selfless love was the strongest kind. It turns out, it’s not love at all. Love is so, so much more, and at the center of it is compromise.

“Ry! Grab me another beer, would you?” Mac shouts from the end of the bar.

I nod in his direction and scan over my friends who sit with him, enjoying the night. Callie sits with her head resting on Mac’s shoulder. She rolls her eyes, listening to something Sierra is saying next to her.

Sierra giggles when Callie’s face turns bright red at whatever crude joke she just made. With his arm wrapped around Sierra’s shoulders, Evan sips from his beer bottle, watching the pre-fight antics on the big screen.

I smile to myself as I grab Mac another round and take it to him.

“Thanks.” He winks before taking the bottle. “Any calls yet?”

I pull out my phone to check but shake my head. “Not yet, but we still have a few minutes.”

I sit on the stool behind the bar and wait anxiously for the call. The bar is packed tonight, and everyone is yelling so they can hear each other. However, when I hear Rook’s name come from the group directly behind me, I lean back and pretend I’m not listening to them.