“Darraign proves her wrong. But worse, the only affection I received as a child was from Darcy, who was just a baby herself. My aunt not only refused to love me but she told me nearly every day that no one else could love me. It didn’t make me cold, though, it didn’t make me build defenses against being hurt again . . . Instead I’m the stupid one. It made me want affection all the more, it made me want to find someone who loved me so much it would prove her wrong.” She sobbed and he couldn’t help but reach for her. Rain struggled out of his grasp, though, as if she couldn’t bear his touch, and he felt gutted by her rejection. “Maybe it makes me naïve and silly but I want it all. I want for once in this god-awful lonely existence to have one person love me so entirely that it consumes him. I want that. I want him to hurt when I hurt. I want him to do anything in his power to never be the one who hurts me.” She took two more steps away from him. “You’re not that man. And I won’t settle for less.”
Instead of fearing the enormity of what she was asking, Craig was enraged that she was dismissing him as the man who she was looking to love. Wasn’t his heart pounding so hard in his chest he thought it might shatter? Wasn’t his chest aching because he’d hurt her and he fucking hated that he hurt her? Wasn’t that enough?
“I am that man,” he promised hoarsely. “I hate that I hurt you tonight. I hate it. And I want to be all that you want, and all that you deserve. But, darlin’, you’ve got to compromise here. You’ve got to step into reality, too, and realize that no man is perfect.”
“I’m not asking for perfect,” she snapped. “I’m asking for monogamy in every way. I’m not daft, Craig, I know that men and women are always going to notice if a member of the opposite sex is attractive. I’m not asking for the impossible. I’m just asking you not to do anything about that attraction. I’m asking for a man who wouldn’t want to because he loves me.”
“I don’t want to!” he yelled in frustration. “It’s for my fucking job. It’s tip money!”
“Do you really need tips that badly?”
“I really need you to trust me!”
“How can I when you’re not willing to see this from my perspective?” She wiped at her cheeks. “How dare you?” she whispered brokenly. “How dare you make me feel crazy for asking this? For making me feel like shit.”
Panic started to take hold. He felt gutted that he’d hurt her, and he wanted to comfort her, but at the same time he needed to stand up for what he believed. He couldn’t let his love for her make him a weak pushover. “I didn’t mean to. But now you know for damn sure that it doesn’t mean anything. You have to accept that. Accept it, Rain, please. I don’t want any woman to dictate how I do my job or how I live my life. Not even you. That’s not what a relationship is about.”
Just like that a wave of coldness seemed to seep through Rain. She shivered before him and her words came out like shards of ice. “Get out of my flat and out of my life. Don’t come back.”
Three shitty, goddamn awful days.
That’s how long it had been since Rain threw him out of her flat.
Craig still couldn’t wrap his head around it . . . how much it hurt that she didn’t trust him.
He’d picked up his phone so many times over the last seventy-two hours, wanting to call her, to hear her voice, to sort this mess out. But his pride and hurt stopped him.
He was the walking wounded and it turned out he was a bit of a grumpy bastard when he was crossed in love.
“Just call her already,” Joss had snapped at him at the bar when he’d been short with her.
“Mind your own business,” he’d snapped back.
“I’m letting your attitude go since I remember being a bit of bitch when Braden and I were going through some stuff. But I’ll only take so much crap, Craig. Sort your shit out or leave it at home.”
Leave it at home.
Those words led him exactly to that—to his mum, whose phone calls he’d been ignoring for the past few days too.
“I’ve been worried¸” she said as soon as he stepped through her door.
“I’m sorry.” He pulled her in for a hug, and she seemed startled before hugging him back.
“I’m worried,” she repeated softly. “What’s going on?”
He released his hold on her and sighed wearily. “Coffee first?”
Sitting in his mum’s kitchen, Craig watched as she made them coffee, her gaze darting to him in concern. Finally she sat down at the table beside him.
“Did something happen between you and Rain?”
The question brought on a sudden but familiar panic. Every time he let himself think he’d never see Rain again, he felt like his chest was caving in. “We broke up.” He somehow managed to say the words.
His mum covered his hand with hers. “What happened?”
And so he told her everything, needing her comfort and consolation.
To his surprise that’s not what he got.
She scowled at him instead. “You stubborn, stubborn boy.”
Anger shot through him. “What?”
His mum pulled away from the table to stand up and pace, like she always did when she was agitated. “Relationships are about compromise, Craig! I can’t believe you find someone, you’re the absolute happiest I’ve ever seen you, Mags said Rain was wonderful, and you go and blow it by being an arrogant idiot!”