Finding Perseverance(12)

By: T. E. Black

She giggles and tilts her head away playfully. “You’re too sweet, Rook. You’re also a liar.”

With arms still wrapped around her, I move us toward the living room.

“I’d never lie, babe. Especially not about how gorgeous you are.”

She tenses underneath my hold, and I freeze on the spot. “Is everything okay?”

I take a step away, and she looks to the side, keeping herself distant.

“Hey,” I soothe, taking her chin between my thumb and forefinger, “talk to me. Tell me what’s going on.”

“I’m a horrible person,” she confesses, looking away.

I feel for her when she thinks this way about herself. I’ve been there many times before.

When I started fighting, I got lost in the attention. Everyone wanted a piece of the young up-and-coming fighter on the circuit. That meant women wanted to be with me, people wanted to know me, and men wanted to be me.

It took a long time to filter out who had my best interest at heart and who wanted to use me for their own gain. Countless women in my bed and fake people made me learn the hard way after fucking me over time after time. It took me a long time to realize I wasn’t the problem.

“You’re not a horrible person, Lauren. Why would you say that? You didn’t do anything wrong.”

The minute she’s done with her divorce, she’s going to be mine fully. I’ll take her out, show her off to the world, and love her with everything I have.

Although, there has been a piece of my heart I’ve been withholding from her. It’s not her fault. She’s the perfect woman, but there’s also a lingering thought in the back of my mind that always compares her to Leigh.

No matter how high the pedestal is I put Lauren on, Ryleigh O’Donnell’s pedestal will forever tower over hers. It’s been like this with every woman I’ve thought to get involved with. Not a single one of them could compare to Leigh, so it’s something I’ve learned to live with. Leigh would always be the one that got away.

“I don’t feel like a good person. I feel like I’m being unfair to you. I’m still married. I have no idea how long it’s going to take for his lawyer to settle with mine. How long can a man like you wait? You’re amazing. It’s only a matter of time before you get sick of it.”

With each word she speaks, I smile a little more. Not because it’s funny, but because she’s so damn wrong. She’s not a bad person—she’s incredible. She’s not the least bit unfair—she’s the fairest. She may be legally married, but I know her heart's not invested.

“You’re wrong about every one of those things, and although we can’t change most of them, we can change one. Let’s tell him,” I propose.

The second the last syllable leaves my lips, her eyes go wide and the color drains from her cheeks. It’s not the reaction I wanted.

“I-I don’t think that’s an option.”

With both hands cupping her face, I pull her in closer until our noses are touching.

“Why? Why isn’t it an option? I know we could make this work. He’s the only thing standing in our way. Do you love him?”

“No,” she whispers without hesitation.

“Then let’s tell him. I promise I won’t let anything happen to you. I’ve been thinking about doing it for weeks. I’ve played through every possible consequence of telling him, and not a single one would hurt more than losing you. If you don’t love him, then give me a chance. Do you trust me, Lauren? Do you love me?” She gives me nod, this time, a single tear slips down her cheek.

“Yes,” she answers while I wipe away her tears with the pads of my fingers.

“I love you. We can do this.”

“Okay. Let’s do it. Let’s tell him,” she whispers.

“Shit, Rook!”

I wake up to pure chaos going on in my bedroom. My alarm clock blares like a foghorn, and my phone rings off the hook. Lauren is panicking, racing around the room while she attempts to find the rest of her clothes. It takes a moment to figure out what’s going on, and then I realize we overslept.

Shit! She slept here!

I fly out of bed and start tossing her clothes at her. As much as I want her to stay, she needs to get back before Mark realizes she’s gone. This isn’t the way he needs to find out. That dude’s insane, and it makes me worry how far he’d go to scare her.