He looked startled, taken aback. I think a little irritated, like I was being a buzz kill. But, hey, shit happens including the shit he brought down on my head when he filed that report on the factory.

“I cannot believe you can sit there, so self-satisfied, and say you don’t need to ask me to forgive you. I knew you were arrogant, but this is next level. I should have known. Instead, I chose to go to bed with you because I wanted to, because I believed what I wanted to. And you’re damn good at what you do. You were really convincing at playing someone who cares about me. You probably even believe it—I’m willing to bet you do. But I know what’s true. You wrecked me, and it’s because I invited you to. Ever since you walked into the B&B I’ve acted like a complete fool for you. It’s past time for that to be over. So, I’m done. You did exactly what I needed you to do which is prove that you were wasting my time.”

I started to drag on clothes.

“Maggie, hear me out.”

“I did,” I said.

“It’s a miscommunication. I do apologize for hurting you. I’m very sorry for that. But I’m also mad as hell that you think this of me, that I pretended to feel something for you just to get you in bed. I came back for you because it was killing me to think of you so hurt, and I wanted nothing more than to hold you and do whatever I can to help. Let me help you and be here for you. I want that more than anything. If you need me to ask forgiveness for doing my job, I will. Don’t leave. Stay and fight for what we have. You can scream and throw your shoes and call me names. Just don’t walk out,” he said.

I wanted to believe him, God help me, but I was so furious I wanted to rip the walls down on his head. I couldn’t look at him one more minute. My heart was hardened to him, bitterness cooling my blood.

“Go to hell, Jeremiah,” I said, and shouldered my purse.

I had a shower to take and a life to rebuild. I wasn’t wasting another minute on a man who wasn’t even sorry for trashing my life. He left half my community out of work. That wasn’t a small thing, a mistake that could be overlooked. He might as well have poured out kerosene and lit a match to the plant.

I sped home, showered in the hottest water I could stand and called Layla.

“Yeah, he’s a complete asshole. Coming back here with his bullshit feelings and his no apology. He isn’t sorry! Can you believe he isn’t fucking sorry for destroying the lives of hundreds of people?”

“Yeah, but I’m a counselor. I hear all kinds of stupid shit people say justify to themselves. It’s pretty common. Assholes are a dime a dozen. I’m sorry he turned out to be a prick. Get out a bottle of wine and your vibrator and—”

“I don’t need to. I slept with him. I’m so disgusted with myself.”

“Don’t be. No shame. If he’s the asshole, that’s on him. You’re in love. Don’t be so hard on yourself,” she said.

“I am not in love.”

“Yeah, and I’m a natural blonde, Mags. For real. You love the shit out of him whether you like it or not.”

“I do not. If I did, I’d just have to get over it, because he’s a heartless piece of crap and I hate him.”

“We’re back to hate now? Okay, call me when you’re in the weeping stage,” she said. “I’m going back to sleep.”

“There is no weeping stage. There is only rage and fury and rebuilding my life. I wish I could figure out how to keep the daycare open and like, employ more people. Some other business venture or, attract another factory… I don’t know.”

“Go to sleep. Save the world tomorrow. Right now, you’re a little hyper from the drama. Eat some sugar, get some rest,” she said. “Sugar’s good for panic.”

“I’m not panicked,” I said.

“I’m pretty sure you are. Love you, babe.”

She hung up. Shit. I was not in love with him. I refuse to be in love with him, selfish fucker. Expects me to let bygones be bygones while hundreds of people are gonna be out panhandling if they don’t move far away for a job. An entire way of life, gone. Because of him. Son of a bitch.

I rage cleaned my entire closet, made a donation pile of clothes and shoes I hardly ever wore, cussed to myself the entire time about Jeremiah Leeds. I finally fell asleep around five in the morning and slept till ten. I only woke up then because my mom called.


Tags: Natasha L. Black Romance
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