She finally turns around, her eyes narrow and glossy. “Guess that backfired, huh?” It’s obvious she’s been crying, and I hate that I’m the reason for it. I put those doubts in her mind, and now I’ll do anything to fix that. “Were you ever going to tell me?”

I exhale, feeling defeated already. “Of course, I was. The last thing I want is Mia getting between us. I truly thought it was you when I woke up because I only saw her hair. The moment I saw her face, I pushed her off me. You have to believe me. I would’ve never let her touch me had I known it was her.”

“Is that why she dyed her hair blonde?” she asks, her eyes drilling into mine.

I shrug. “I don’t know. I mean, I assume so. I was half asleep, and I didn’t even see her next to me because she hid under the covers as soon as I woke up.”

“Why wouldn’t you tell me that when we talked about filing the report and telling the police? Did you even tell them that part?”

I hang my head and nod. “I did. I had to be honest with them if I wanted to file the report and not get caught in a lie down the road or something.”

“But you couldn’t be honest with me?” she fires back, her bottom lip trembling.

I step toward her, closing the gap between us and wrapping my hand around her arm to pull her into my chest. She doesn’t fight it, but she doesn’t fall into me either.

“Courtney, I love you. I was trying to protect your feelings while you were processing it all. You were so upset, I didn’t want to add to it.”

She backs up slightly and looks up at me. “When were you going to tell me then? When she showed up here claiming she was pregnant with your baby?”

“Courtney, be reasonable,” I beg. “I just wanted us to move forward from it all.”

“Well, communication and honesty would probably be necessary for that to happen then, don’t you think?” she retorts.

“Yes,” I agree. “And I’m sorry for keeping it from you. I’m truly sorry. I should’ve told you.”

She nods her head but doesn’t look up at me. Turning back around, she continues grabbing her clothes off the bed and stuffing them into her bag again.

“Don’t leave,” I say. “Please. If you leave then how are we going to talk this out?”

She spins around quickly, making me step back at her sudden closeness. “Because I need some space right now. I love you, Drew, I really do. But every time I think about Mia, I’m going to see you and her together in my head. She’s not going to stop until she gets what she wants, and who knows how far she’ll go to make that happen? I don’t know that I can just stand here and watch her come between us.”

“Then don’t let her,” I urge. “You walk away from us, she wins. She wants to put a wedge between us, but baby, please don’t let her.”

“I don’t know that I’m strong enough anymore. She’s worn me down and taken so much from me. Every sound I hear, I worry it’s her breaking in. Every time Buddy barks, I peek out the window, wondering if it’s her driving by. Every night after I get home from work, I open all the closet doors and look in the shower just to put my mind at ease that she’s not hiding in here waiting for me. I can’t do that anymore, Drew. She’s put this fear in me that feels uncontrollable, and I hate it. I hate her.”

“Sweetheart,” my voice breaks as I speak. Her words are gutting me, and I hate that I’ve put her in this position. “I will do whatever it takes to make this better for you—for us. The last thing I want is for you to feel that way and I hate her for it, too. But please believe me when I tell you she has no chance in hell of ever getting me back. I’m deeply, madly, insanely in love with you and the future I see for us. There’s no her. It’s only you and me. There’ll only ever be a me and you.”

Her face softens, and I see her eyes watering. I rub the pad of my thumb over her cheek and she sinks her face into my palm. My shoulders drop and I wrap my arms around her, chancing that she’d actually let me this time. She falls against my chest, and I tighten my hold.

“Losing you would destroy me. Don’t let anything she says or does get between us. She’s not worth it. Not worth what we have together.”

She nods her head against my chest and wraps her arms around my waist. I bury my face in her hair and kiss her. I need Courtney in my life more than I need to breathe, and if I lose her, it’ll be like losing everything.

Tags: Kennedy Fox The Checkmate Duet Erotic