Reckless Love Page 35

I shook my head and blew out a breath, noting the waitress was headed back to our table with my fresh beer. Thank God.

“Ian?” Cade said.

I accepted my beer from the waitress. “Thanks. Keep ’em coming.” I chugged another half beer and put the glass down on the table a little too hard, making Cade jump. “If I give you the basics of the Kenzie situation, you have to shut the fuck up about it when I’m done so that we can move on to more pleasant conversations such as how to rip the limbs off my next opponent.”

Cade nodded, looking pleased with himself. “Done.”

“I didn’t mean to take your advice, but it happened. I just couldn’t push her away anymore, and we fell into each other’s arms during one of the self-defense lessons.”

Sophia giggled. “You were giving a girl one-on-one self-defense lessons and didn’t think it would lead anywhere?” She turned to Cade. “My brother’s an idiot.”

I kicked her under the table.

“Ouch,” she cried, even though it was only a tap.

“She’s dating Chris. I was giving her lessons because she lives in a bad part of town. The only reason I let it go as far as it did was because I thought she wasn’t really into Chris. I thought she would leave him. But she didn’t, she stayed with him. So now I feel like the biggest prick in the world. Having pushed myself on her when she didn’t want to be with me, and trying to move in on Chris’s girlfriend.”

I finished my beer, hoping that the waitress would hurry with my next one. I couldn’t be drunk enough to have this stupid fucking conversation.

“Huh,” Cade said. He looked at his beer as if he was digesting what I’d just said. But then his brow wrinkled. “Promise you won’t punch me?”

“No, I’m not promising anything. Out with it.”

“Alexa was sure the two of you were together. She told me yesterday that she’s been waiting for you two to get on with it for over a month. Said MacKenzie was driving her nuts, and she was so stoked that you had finally gotten there.”

“Dude.” My stomach was tightening, and it wasn’t just because Cade was wearing on my last nerve. “It doesn’t matter what Alexa thought. The only thing that matters is that MacKenzie made her choice.”

Sophia snorted. “No way that chick likes someone else. She was giving you the sickest love-me eyes I’ve ever seen, and the way her body moved with yours? It was like a dance.” She leaned toward Cade. “And the look on his face was something.” She nodded her head toward me. “I’ve never seen him like that with any woman before. He was so pussy-whipped, I almost wanted to slap him out of it. That was some disgusting shit to witness.”

“Sophia—” I started, but stopped short.

I wanted to call her out on the fact that she’d been high, and there was no way she could trust whatever it was what she thought she saw. But that was a shitty thing to say, and I was trying to be nice to Sophia, no matter how bitchy she was. I wasn’t going to take her bait. Besides, if I had to be honest, she’d been right on at least one count. For the sixteen hours that MacKenzie and I had been together, for the time I thought she was mine, I’d been totally whipped.

But I had to respect MacKenzie’s choice. “She wants to be with Chris, she said so to my face. It’s time for me to realize I missed my chance and move on.”

At that moment, I realized I wasn’t just telling Sophia and Cade, I was telling myself. It really was time for me to get over it and move on.

Fuck.

Twenty-Nine

MacKenzie

There was one important thing I learned as a kid going through foster care. Anytime I made friends at school, I’d have to leave them. Anytime I bonded with the other kids in one of the homes, something would happen and we’d all have to be moved, be separated. The lesson I learned was that if you got too emotionally attached to something, you would lose it. So as a rule I kept my emotions at a distance.

Until Ian. This whole time, I knew he was a threat to my carefully crafted way of life. Because being around him felt so good, I knew I was in danger of losing him. For some stupid reason, I thought I could keep the emotional demons at bay, but I’d gotten too comfortable with him, and he’d snuck past my defenses somehow. Sneaky bastard.

Rather than succumb to the pain of losing Ian, I switched to my other fantastic defense mechanism. I shut down my emotions and allowed myself to become comfortably numb. It had been a while since I’d had to shut off my emotions entirely, but I didn’t see any other way of keeping Ian—and my feelings for him—in check.

I clenched my jaw, marched over to the weights, and pointed at the forty-five pounder. It was day two of us working together at the gym.

“It’s time to start upping your game,” I said.

I’d been going easy on Ian. Too easy. I was afraid he’d get hurt if I pushed him too hard during our previous sessions. It was because of that, because of my poor judgment, that he was in this mess now. I was going to make sure he got through it. I would make it right, even if that meant being hard on him. Whatever it took.

Just last week I wouldn’t have had the strength to push him, but now that I had switched off my emotions, being a hard-ass was easy.

He looked at me as if he wanted to protest.

I rolled my eyes and grabbed the weight with both hands, heaving it off the weight stand.

Ian rushed over to me. “Don’t do that. Let me get it.” He tried to take it from me with his good arm, and I turned away.

Prev Next