But I want him to ask for that forgiveness. I want him to … grovel a bit. Does my wanting him to grovel make me a bad person? Probably.

“He’s right,” Ryder says grimly. “She’s not worth you getting upset over, Rose. Let your father take care of this by taking away the thing she wants the most.”

“And what’s that?” Max asks as he turns to him.

Ryder smiles, the sight of it almost feral. “Her job.”

Chapter twenty-seven

Max

“I’M EXHAUSTED,” Lily says as she enters my apartment.

I flick on the switch near the door, illuminating the darkening living room. The sun’s almost down. We were at Violet’s place for hours and I have to agree with Lily—I’m exhausted, too.

I didn’t mind taking over for Lily and explaining everything Pilar did. I knew Lily wouldn’t be able to get it all out, and I had a feeling her father or her sisters would shut her down anyway. Not that they would mean to—well, her father might mean to, because that guy doesn’t have the best relationship with Lily—it’s all a part of family dynamics. Everyone has their roles.

Lily is the fucked-up, messy one.

“Want something to drink?” I ask once I lock the door and turn on another lamp.

“No, thanks. I’m all drunk out.” She smiles and I join her on the couch, not sitting too close, though I’m dying to.

Being close to her and not really touching her the way I want … is freaking torture, especially when she’s wearing that beautiful dress that fits her like a dream. She packed a bag at her place yesterday before I brought her to my apartment and when she came out of the bedroom after taking a shower, dressed and ready to go to Violet’s, I almost swallowed my tongue.

She’s so damn beautiful it hurts. Feisty, defiant Lily turns me on like no other woman I’ve ever met, but vulnerable, soft Lily is another thing entirely. She brings out all of my protective instincts. All I want to do is fight for her, take care of her, make her realize that she needs me.

She’s mad at me and she has every right to be. I wronged her and I hate myself for it. What’s done is done. I can only hope my actions from the last couple of days prove that I am here for her, no matter what.

“I wanted to thank you for helping me and my family,” she says, her voice soft as she stares at her clutched hands resting in her lap. “What you did today … it means a lot to me.”

“You’re welcome.” I pause. Should I tell her how I feel? Fuck it, I’m going all in. “I’d do anything for you, Lily. I hope you know that.”

A little smile curves her lips but she still won’t look at me. “I don’t get why. We barely know each other …”

I reach out and clasp her knee, my fingers tingling at first contact with her bare skin. “I know enough. I feel a connection to you that I’ve never experienced with another woman before.”

She’s quiet for a moment, but at least she doesn’t pull out of my reach. “I’m not big on relationships.”

“Me either.”

“As in, I’ve never really had one. Not for a long period of time, at least,” she admits, her teeth sinking into her lower lip.

“Same.” I squeeze her knee and move my hand upward so it’s resting on her lower thigh, on top of the skirt of her dress. She still doesn’t stop me and I swear, I’m not breathing, for fear she’ll tell me to fuck off and run away.

“My sisters have found love and most of the time, I think they’re crazy for tying themselves down. But Rose is so happy, married and about to have a baby, and she and Caden are madly in love.” She sighs. “Then there’s Violet and Ryder. I would’ve never picked him for my sister, but what do I know? She’s going to take over Fleur someday, and Ryder will be right by her side, running the company with her.”

“And what about you?” I ask. She sounds wistful, almost jealous, though I know that’s not the right word. More like envious. Like she wishes she could have even a piece of what her sisters do.

“I always believed something like that isn’t in the cards for me.” She lifts her head, her gaze meeting mine. “You know what my motto used to be?”

“What?” I’m almost afraid to hear it.

“Live fast, die young.” She pauses, gauging my reaction, and I try to keep my expression neutral but damn, that’s a shitty motto. “My mother was the most beautiful person I ever knew and she died young.”

Right, because she killed herself. That’s the sort of model she looks up to? I know she loves and misses her mom, but she shouldn’t want to emulate her in that way. “That’s a terrible motto to have.” More like fucking awful.

“I know, but I can’t live like this forever. I’m bound to fuck up. It’s like I want to fuck up and I can’t stop myself. My dad calls it a waste.” She looks away, as though she doesn’t want to see my reaction.

Anger fills me and I try to tamp it down. “Your dad called you a waste?” I thought I was the asshole. I wasn’t much impressed after meeting him, but at least he believed what we said about Pilar, not that he had any choice. He gave Lily a hug before he left and thanked her for telling him, then shook my hand and thanked me as well.

Despite the hug from her father, Lily looked sad. I didn’t ask her about it because I didn’t want to upset her further. That’s a relationship that’s still going to need some work before all the old resentments and anger are resolved.

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