“I would never have slept with him!” Rain shouted. “I’m not a whore! Unlike some people I know!”

He jerked back, feeling like she’d hit him. “And what the hell does that mean?”

“You know exactly what it means,” she hissed, stepping toward him, her whole body bristling. “I am a complete idiot!”

“What are you talking about?”

“I had to sit there in that bar tonight and watch you with those women.” Her voice cracked as she spoke.

Craig suddenly felt something unpleasant and uneasy settle in his gut at the pain he heard in her voice, the hurt he saw in her eyes. Pain and hurt he’d apparently caused. “The customers?”

“Your customers.” She smiled bitterly. “The one whose hair you touched, the one who touched your chest, and all the others you wink and smile at and call beautiful. Just like you call me beautiful.”

“Rain, it’s not the same.” He shook his head, dumbfounded that she could even think it was the same thing. “It’s work.”

“No.” She shook her head wearily. “You said you’re with me, which means that flirting with women for whatever reason is out of the window. You shouldn’t want to or need to, and you should certainly be mindful of me when I’m in the same fucking room!”


“You know, Joss and Braden can’t take their eyes off each other,” she suddenly said, confusing him momentarily. “I watched them. Their eyes always finding each other throughout the night. And of course I was watching you. But you rarely looked for me. It would seem you either forgot I was there or you just didn’t care if I saw you flirt. So which was it? Because I don’t know what’s worse.”


“It’s not like that.” He stepped toward her, trying to find the words to explain, to calm her down.

“You punched Angus for touching me,” she said, frowning in what appeared to be confusion. “You stake your claim on me in pubs and eyeball men who look at me. I’m yours. For now. But you’re not mine. You can flirt with other women, and do it front of me, and I’m supposed to be okay with that.”

More uneasiness washed over him because he was starting to see her point. He would have been furious, too, if he’d had to watch her flirt with a bunch of men . . . and more to the point that she’d done it in front of him.

“I’m sorry.” He nodded, taking one final step toward her. He itched to pull her to him, but her body language and expression screamed at him not to touch her just yet. “You’re right. It was thoughtless. But it also didn’t mean anything. I flirt with the customers to get good tips.”

“Well I don’t like it. You hurt me.”

Remorse filled him. “Darlin’, I am so sorry I hurt you. I never meant to do that. I promise.”

Her expression softened a little. “It was just for tips?”

“Of course,” he said emphatically. “I don’t want anyone else but you.”

“So you won’t do it again?”

It was his turn to be confused. “What?”

“You won’t flirt with the customers or any other women for that matter? Out of deference to me.”

“Rain, I need the tips.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And what about me? Do you need me?”

Renewed anger swept over him. “I won’t be told by anyone what to do. This is my job we’re talking about. This has nothing to do with our relationship.”

Rain flinched as though he’d hit her, and he might as well have for all the guilt that kicked him in the gut. She looked away and he glanced down to see her curling her hands into fists. When he looked back at her profile he saw her jaw was taut and tears trembled on her eyelashes. She was fighting the tears. And losing.

Tears he’d caused. “Rain,” he pleaded. “It’s just for my job. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“But it should!” she cried, turning to face him now as the tears slipped down her cheeks. “It should matter to you that it makes me feel badly.”

“Darlin’, you’re putting whatever issues you had before you met me on to our relationship,” he said as gently as possible. “That’s not fair.”

She glared at him like he was the lowliest scum on the earth. “You’re right,” she said, the bitterness he hated so much back in her voice. “I lost my whole world when I was little and I was left to an alcoholic aunt who knew better how to slap me than hug me, to verbally cut me than praise me. That’s what Darraign is.” She pointed to the tattoo on her arm. “That’s what my company is. It’s vindication. She told me I was worthless, desperate to make me believe it. She told me I would never make anything of myself. That I was unworthy of greatness.

“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.”

Most Popular