Page 40 of Rule (Marked Men 1)

“So let me guess, instead of having a rational, reasonable conversation with her about it where you laid out your concerns you probably just shut her out and refused to talk to her while you seethed and festered in your own anger.”

I shrugged a shoulder.

“Rule, Shaw has known you for a long time. Can you imagine what she’s thinking you’re out doing while you’re ignoring her? Come on brother use your head for one bloody second. Is it worth it to ruin it all before you even get it started? That girl sees you, I mean really sees you and I think she has since the very beginning when everyone was always looking around you to see Remy. You need to stop being stubborn and make things right with her.”

“She went with her ex, Rome.”

“Yeah and you went out last night and let some skank shove her tongue down your throat. Not everyone operates off the same script Rule. Most people want to make their parents happy, want to have them approve with what they are doing with their lives, not everyone can burn every bridge the way you do. Most people want a way back home.”

I cringed a little because he words hit right at the center of me. Had I been just a little drunker, just a little stupider I probably would have made a mistake last night that there was no going back from. Luckily the redhead had tasted like sticky sweet lip gloss and smelled like cheap floral perfume and had none of the softness or perfectness of how it felt being lip locked with Shaw so I had sent her on her way and felt like shit for the rest of the night. I knew I was going to have to talk to Shaw. I couldn’t keep going on like this or I was going to purposely end up sabotaging everything that was building between us.

“It freaks me out Rome.”


“You know why. Once someone is in it kills when they leave.”

“Come on Rule, the people that care enough to get in normally don’t want to leave. Just look around you, I’m still here, Nash hasn’t gone anywhere, Jet and Rowdy would kill for you and if you took a minute to think about it Shaw has been there just as long. You might have thought she was there for Remy because he always watched out for you and protected her, but I think you’re smart enough to realize now that maybe she was trying to take care of you for another reason all together.”

He let the weights clatter to the rack with a thud and turned to look at me out of cool eyes.

“Grow up Rule, stop acting like a spoiled brat that can’t live outside his brother’s shadow. You have an amazing, successful career, a solid group of friends, a family that might be broken but loves you none the less and you have a pretty spectacular girl just waiting for you to realize she’s yours for the taking.”

“Man when you go big brother you go all out.”

He rolled his eyes at me as we made our way to the locker room. I shrugged back into my street clothes and shot a quick glance at my phone. My heart constricted in my chest when I saw the message she had sent. I could practically hear how sad she was in the words. I really was an ass**le; I could have talked to her instead of sending her off with that jackass without a word. I was trying to think of something to write her back when Rome thunked me on the back of the head with his palm.

“Let’s go.”

“I have to be to work at noon anyways. Hey Rome,” I waited until he turned and looked me in the eye. “What about mom and dad?”

“What about them?”

“Me and Shaw. If I get it figured out, if I manage not to screw it up royally what am I supposed to do about them? They would never understand.”

“Who cares? You deserve to be happy and so does Shaw. Remy is gone and that’s just the way it is.”

I cleared my throat and ran my hand across the back of my neck. “Yeah well Shaw was never with Remy that way.”

His eyes got big and his mouth sort of dropped open. “Do I want to know how you know that?”

“Probably not, but let’s just say I know for a fact she and Remy didn’t have a relationship like that.”

“Well regardless it isn’t any of mom and dad’s business.”

I sighed again. “Yeah I guess.”

We parted ways and I made my way to the shop. I had a busy day with clients back to back and I was still committed to going to the show with the guys that night, plus Brent the lead singer of the band was a good client and I got a lot of good press out of having my work on him since Artifice had blown up over the last few years. I went home and changed and got ready to roll out with the boys but my mind was still on Shaw and the text she sent me this morning. She had hurt me and while I was too hardheaded to admit it that was the reason I had pulled away. I didn’t want her around the ex because logically he was a better match for her and I didn’t want to come up short. By shoving her away and not giving her a chance to talk about it, or a chance for us to work it through I was cutting off any chance at rejection or being found lacking before it could start. I was an idiot, of all the people in my life Shaw had never been one to make me feel like I was less than anything. Yeah she could be judgmental and chilly when she was feeling pressured and cornered, but she never made me feel like I wasn’t enough.

The show was awesome; we got treated like rock stars because we were backstage and knew the band. The girls that were around were tempting and alluring but when it came time for the after party I dipped out early and went home by myself. I took a shower and crawled into bed still staring at my phone. Not able to contain it anymore I finally sent her a text back.

- I kissed some chick last night.

I held my breath because I didn’t know what she was going to write back. I was fully prepared for her to tell me it was over, that I had gone too far but nothing came. I stared at the screen for a good twenty minutes, my heart racing and still nothing came through.

- I’m sorry, I didn’t do it to hurt you I’m just an idiot and this is harder than I thought.

There still wasn’t a response and I felt that weird slither in my chest that was tied to Shaw start to shatter. All I knew was I had to fix this, that I wasn’t ready to let her go just yet. Rome was right I needed to grow up. I hadn’t even given this a fair shot, as usual my hot head was writing checks the rest of me wasn’t prepared to cash. I tossed and turned all night, she never called or texted me back and I began to panic. I heard Nash stumble in at some point after four and I hoped Rome slept through it. I got up the next morning and started moving around the apartment at a frantic pace. I brushed my teeth and shoved a bagel in my mouth. I tore through my closet to find the one shirt I owned that had buttons on it and found the single pair of black Dickie pants I had that weren’t jeans. I put a black hoodie on and a pin-striped blazer over it and bounded out the door all while my brother and roommate looked at me like I had lost my mind.