Page 87 of I Promise You

“You already did that,” I say, shaking my head. “You promised you’d be good to me. If that was true, then you should have told Sawyer and Troy how you really felt about me. But you didn’t, obviously. You lied to me. You hurt me.” My voice breaks.

His head dips. “You’re right. I should have told them. I just…don’t talk to them about feelings—”

“You let this challenge idea linger, and I became a contest for your friends. Neil had to drop hints and then I find out at the dance—with Ashley standing there.” My hands clench. “Can’t you see how all this looks to me? How it makes me feel?”

He groans and rakes a hand through his hair. “I do, and I’m sorry for all of that, Serena. I tried to tell you about it at the airport after the hotel. Then Vane called and things went haywire between us. After we got back together, I didn’t want to rock the boat.” He pauses, his voice rough as he leans toward me. “Please believe me when I say you were never a challenge to me.”

Seconds tick by as his eyes hold mine. I see the sincerity in the depths, the emotion he’s baring. Do I believe he dated me just for laughs? No. Now that the initial shock is over, I know Dillon wouldn’t set me up as a challenge, not on purpose. I can see him agreeing with Sawyer to placate him. He was scared of my reaction, and I get that, I do. I tend to react and avoid emotional confrontations. I divorced Vane without ever seeing his face.

I swallow thickly. “I believe you didn’t set out to win me for a challenge.”

Relief floods his face. “Thank God.”

I fell in love with you over a kiss.

Maybe Dillon does love me, maybe he does, but Vane loved me in his own way. I said I was ready to take a chance on Dillon, but my trust is like bits of torn paper on the floor.

“But, I’m not sure”—my heart squeezes—“where this leaves us now.” I pause, the words like jagged rocks in my throat. “Over, I guess. I can’t see you again.”

“What’s going on?” comes Julian’s voice. He’s wearing his police uniform as he shoulders past Dillon, pushing him to the side as he comes in and stands next to me. “Romy texted me. Are you okay?” His eyes search my face.

No. My hands clench. I’m barely holding it together.

I look at Dillon, pushing the words out. “You need to go.”

There’s silence, the air thickening with tension.

“No,” he says, eyes glued to my face. “Let’s talk this out. I can’t accept that we’re over.”

“She asked you to leave,” Julian says with a frown, his body tensing.

I grab my brother’s arm. The last thing I want is for my brother to tangle with Dillon. “He’s leaving.”

Dillon shakes his head and looks at me, desperation there. “Please, Serena. I fucked up, I did, okay, I fucked up, but I can’t leave you—”

His words are a fist to my gut. “Stop. You sound like Vane,” I gasp and shake my head.

Julian stiffens and puts an arm around me then turns to Dillon. “I don’t know what you’ve done, but she can’t handle your bullshit right now. You two need space.”

“Don’t run away from this, Serena,” Dillon says, his chest heaving as he holds my eyes.

Oh, Dillon. Running is the only way I know how to survive a broken heart.

I turn away from the door, and Julian slams it closed.My brother leaves an hour later. He attempts to get me to tell him what happened, but my brain won’t go there. I’m despondent, the tears falling. I want to pack Dillon away, stuff him in a box, and set it in the darkest part of my closet. Like I did with Vane.

How is it possible that the thought of never seeing Dillon again hurts more than Vane cheating on me?

I crawl in bed and try to sleep. My head replays the meadow when Dillon asked to make love to me, and I weep again. I fell for him that night, only realizing it today.

In a bid to distract myself at one in the morning, I get out of bed and pop open my laptop. There’s an email from Warren asking for the article on Dillon. He wanted it midseason and here we are. I grab a bottle of the champagne in the fridge, pop the cork, and turn it up for a long drink. My heart aches as I grab the notes I’ve been taking over these past weeks with him.* * *In the words of Dillon McQueen, “My team is my family.” This quarterback arrived on the scene at Waylon and bided his time to start for the Tigers. Under the tutelage of Ryker Voss, he dedicated himself to football, playing running back with stats to rival anyone in the SEC. Year by year, he waited for his chance to lead. Amidst the excitement of new recruits, his leadership and talent have been up for debate. This writer sees the heart of a fighter, fueled by hard work and loyalty to the team…

Tags: Ilsa Madden-Mills Romance