“I’m not lying—”
“But you are. I know you are.”
And she couldn’t afford to let herself believe anything else.
Because self-respect was all she had left.
“Morning, mitria. Breakfast is served.”
Rubbing still-groggy eyes as she sat up, Bee saw Danny coming in with a fully loaded tray in his hands. “Oh, Danny. You don’t have—” The tray was now on her lap. “Err, thank you, I guess.”
“You’re welcome,” the eighteen-year-old said cheerfully as he settled himself in the floral stuffed armchair next to the window. Raising the veggie shake in his hand in a toast, he said with a smile, “Bon appétit, mitria.”
It had been almost a month since the attack happened, which meant she only had three days of recuperation left. Three days, and then she would be out of his control, and she could move on and figure out the next chapter in her life.
“You’re stressing yourself unnecessarily again,” Daniel guessed with a sigh, having seen the familiar faraway look in his stepmother’s eyes.
Bee immediately felt defensive. “No, I’m not.” And then she started shoving slices of pancake into her mouth, one after another, just to have an excuse not to get into another conversation with Danny about his father.
The boy thought the world of Nicholas, and that was understandable. Many cowboy fathers might’ve tried to lasso the homosexuality out of their sons or something, but Nicholas had done the opposite.
So yes, she got why Danny was so keen on convincing her to feel the same about his dad, but what her soon-to-be former stepson didn’t understand that had never been the issue. She thought the world of Nicholas Sutherland, too. Had since so from the start and still did.
It was the memories of all the things she had done as the so-called Mrs. Sutherland that she couldn’t bear to think about – and it was those same tortuous memories that made her unable to stay in his presence for long.
“Mitria…” The mattress dipped under Daniel’s weight as he sat on the edge of the bed, his heart heavy at the way tears had started rolled down silently his stepmother’s cheeks. “Is being here with us really that bad?”
“I just can’t stand it,” she whispered. “Being with him and…” Remembering how foolishly forward she had once been, flirting with him, seducing him, even giving him a blowjob as a monthsary gift—
A choked sob escaped her, and the sound made Daniel swallow hard. He had been hoping his dad would find a way to patch things up with Bee, and that they could still be a family, but seeing her so miserable all this time made him realize just how selfish he was being.
“Are you really not in love with him anymore?”
That’s not the issue here. It was what she wanted to say, but because she was just too tired and emotional, her pregnancy making her hormones crazy moody, she could only shake her head, not knowing that Nicholas himself stood outside her bedroom. The door, which Daniel had left half open, allowed him to see and hear everything.
Daniel saw his father’s face whiten at seeing his wife shake her head in response to his question. He started to speak, but his father had already walked away.
Wiping her tears from her cheeks, Bee took several deep breaths and used the time to calm herself. Just three days, she reminded herself. Three days, and then she could leave the ranch for good, and just love him from afar.
She was no longer in love with him. The realization echoed over and over in his mind, and he found himself doing something completely out of character as he drove to the nearest bar and started drinking in broad daylight.
Anything to get rid of the memory of seeing Tabitha shake her head when his son asked her if she still had any feelings left for him.
But it didn’t work, the pain seemingly too much that the memories just kept hurting.
He had fucking tried. God, how he had fucking tried, ever since he had practically blackmailed her into convalescing at the ranch, to make her see that marriage to him wouldn’t be so bad.
He had bought her gifts every day. Flowers. Jewelries. Whatever food her pregnancy hormones had her craving. But while she always smiled and thanked him politely, none of it had worked in breaking down the walls that she seemed to put up every time he was around.
He had tried asking her out on dates, but she always had one excuse or another to say no.
And yet she always said yes whenever Harry, Isla, or his own damn son invited her out, was always ready to pitch in or lend a helping hand every time a non-profit org, small or big, came knocking on their door.
And what he hated most of all was how she was getting a little too damn close to the bodyguard he had hired to look after her until Horace’s trial reached its destined end, and the man was locked up for good.