“My daughter has been with you for weeks,” she flared at him angrily, “and you told her it wasn’t enough for her to fall in love with you. Now you’re telling me that you’ve had a change of heart in a matter of hours?” Catherine’s lip curled as she watched the truth hit him like a punch to the guts, and a sickened expression fell on his face.

“I was wrong.” Slade’s voice was taut. “And she was right.”

“And that’s it?”

“And now,” he said forcefully, “I’m here to beg for her forgiveness.”

“Because you love her?”

“Yes.” The admission was swift and hard, the gaze that met Catherine’s unflinching. “I love her. I probably even loved her before she fell in love with me. And even if…” A muscle ticked in his jaw. “Even if she doesn’t take me back, I doubt it would make me stop loving her. I’ve always been an all-or-nothing kind of guy, and Kady…” He breathed deeply, the mere sound of her name driving a terrifying point home, now that he had accepted she was everything to him.

Maybe, maybe one day Kady might be able to find someone else to love. It could happen. Because she had loved Slade with all she had, and that kind of love was what made people tough and enabled her to move on.

But it wouldn’t be the same for him.

Because he had been the one to fuck up.

And people who fucked up…

The way he had fucked up with her…

If she never came back, then he was lost. Fucking lost without her, and he would never find his way back.

Kady heard the door open. “Mom?”

“Who else?” Catherine’s voice was its usual tart tone, but there was something a little off, like a faint tremor in the end, and Kady bit her lip, remembering how she had caught her mother crying in the bathroom, thinking that Kady wouldn’t see her.

“The room service we ordered still isn’t here, so I’m going to speak with reception.”

The words startled her into turning on the couch, and she was confused to see her mother hurriedly zipping her purse shut. “You could just call reception—”

“But I don’t want to.” Catherine’s tone was weirdly petulant, and even weirder was how her mother couldn’t quite meet her eyes. “So will you please just stop asking me these things?”

Alarm bells started ringing inside her head when she saw Catherine practically run towards the door. She jumped to her feet. “Mother—” But this only made her mother pick up her speed, and her suspicions grew. Laramie might not be the nation’s most dangerous city, but what if someone had managed to sneak inside the hotel and threaten her mother at gunpoint?

The door slammed shut behind Catherine, the sound making Kady jump. Oh no. She broke into a run and threw the door open—

Slade.

Kady stumbled back a step.

“Your mother says she’ll be at the lounge downstairs,” he said quietly.

Just seeing him, just hearing him…oh God, just knowing that he was under the same roof as she was…

She backed up another step.

Anything to place more distance and stop her heart from breaking.

But then he followed her inside and closed the door behind him, and she realized there was just no escaping this.

“What are you here?” she whispered.

“I thought you’d appreciate the chance to throw all my words back at my face.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I was wrong. You were right.”

Kady only stared at him.

“You were – are – everything you said you were. Different. Special. The whole nine yards and then some.” He was hoping it would make her lips crack with even the slightest smile, but Kady only kept staring at him, and his chest constricted.

Please. God. Please.

Don’t let me be fucking late.

He tried moving forward to close the distance between them but had to stop when she tripped and nearly cracked her head against the edge of a table.

Shit.

“Kady.” His voice was hoarse and uneven. “I’m in love with you.”

But she just kept goddamn staring.

“And I know now…you’re in love with me.”

Like he could never reach her again.

“Kady. Please. Say something. Please.”

He saw her jerk, pain flashing her face, and a moment later he saw her swallowing convulsively, and he realized that she would rather hurt herself – would rather force herself to speak – than see him beg.

“I’m sorry, Slade.”

She saw his face whiten, and she tried, oh God, she tried so hard not to cry, but she just couldn’t.

“There’s something you should know about me,” she heard him say.

Kady shook her head. “Please, Slade, it’s just not—”

“I’m not…I’m not someone who manages a cafe.”

She watched in confusion as he typed something on his phone before giving it to her.

“Please.”

She bit back a sob. He was begging again. And it hurt.

Her fingers shook as she took the phone, and her tears fell faster at the painstaking care he took to prevent their fingers from touching, almost as if he felt that his touch would sicken her.


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