“You’re leaving Royal? Again? What the hell?”
Alex stared at the still-busy street, her eyes clear of tears. She was too hurt to cry, too empty to fight. She was in survival mode, simply doing what she could to emotionally survive.
“You’re leaving because I missed one damn appointment?” Daniel’s loud words reverberated through the interior of her car. “Are you completely insane?”
“No, I’m leaving because you can’t keep your word! I’m leaving because I’m not a priority in your life and I can’t trust you to be there for me!”
Daniel scrubbed his hand over his face. Looking up, he frowned at her, his dark eyes as cold as wind-battered boulders on an Arctic beach. “Jesus, Slade.”
Alex gritted her teeth, leaned across him and opened his door. “Get out!”
Daniel pulled the door shut, leaned against the door and looked at her, his face now expressionless. She hated that blank look, the shutters in his eyes. Alex wanted to squirm under his penetrating gaze and forced herself to stay still, to lock stares with him. Daniel broke the heavy anger-charged silence. “You were just looking for a reason to run, weren’t you?”
That wasn’t fair. He was the one who’d let her down, who hadn’t stuck to his word. Alex tapped the picture of the peanut. “Funny, I didn’t see you there when I listened to our child’s heartbeat. I didn’t hear you asking questions.”
“If I made it today, then something else, soon, would’ve made you run,” Daniel gritted out.
“That’s not fair.”
“Oh, it so is. When you get scared, you run as fast and as hard as you can.”
His words were as sharp and as bitter as the tip of a poison dart.
“I’m not scared,” Alex protested.
“You acted out of fear when, ten years ago, you ran instead of trying to find a way to still go to school and see me. We started sleeping together last year and as soon as we started laughing together, talking, you broke it off.”
Daniel leaned forward, his face harsh. “Don’t! Don’t you dare blame this on them! This is about you and me and the fact that whenever you find yourself in deep water, emotionally speaking, you swim back to shore!”
That was because she didn’t want to drown. She knew what it felt like to lose air, to feel like you were dying without the people you loved in your life.
Daniel shoved both hands into his hair and tugged his curls in frustration. “We could have such an amazing life, Lex, but you value protecting yourself above loving me, loving us.” Daniel dropped his hands and, in his eyes, Alex saw the devastation she’d put there.
“I can’t keep trying to prove my worth to you, Alexis. I did that constantly as a child and I refuse to do it as an adult. You either want us—me—or you don’t. I’m not going to continuously try to prove myself to you.” Daniel picked up the photograph of their baby and looked at it for a long time. “I’m tired of fighting for us on my own, Lex. I want you. I want my family, but I need you to want it, too. And I’m not going to sit here and beg you for that chance. Go back to Houston, live in your safe cave.”
She heard the words, thought that was what she wanted, so why did it feel like he was ripping her soul in two? Daniel opened the door, swung his long legs out of her small car and looked at her over his shoulder. “I’ll contact you in a few weeks to check up on my kid.”
Daniel left those parting words behind as he exited her vehicle. To check up on his child, not her. She’d pushed him, and she’d got what she wanted. A Daniel-free life. Alex ran the tips of her fingers over her forehead, utterly confused. She felt like she’d placed the last piece into a giant puzzle only to find that the focal piece of the picture was missing. What had she missed?
Acting on instinct, she flew out of the car and saw him walking away, his shoulders hunched and his head bent. “Daniel!”
He stopped at her shout, hesitated and finally turned to face her, lifting a dark eyebrow. “What?”
Hold me. Take me in your arms and soothe my fears. Tell me that you’ll never let me down. Never leave me. Love me, please.