Chapter 6 – Part One

Edge of Defiance

Derrick woke up in the best possible way—warm, dry and in a soft bed with an even softer woman in his arms. He smiled and didn’t open his eyes. This was fucking heaven on Earth. He drew in a deep lungful of air and smelled Cass’s distinct vanilla and spice scent, mixed with a layer of sex that had him turning toward her.

What a night they’d had. And now he planned on having a morning with her too.

He gazed around the bare walls of her room. It was obvious she was moving, but she’d mentioned her lease was coming due. Maybe she’d found a place closer to the base. Excitement stirred in him and not the lustful kind. What if she was closer to the base?

Hell, what if she lived on the base?

Woah. Where had that thought come from? A sane part of him asked. Hadn’t he planned on breaking up with her? She wanted to be a reporter for fuck’s sake.

She murmured something in her sleep and nestled closer to him. He stroked a piece of hair back from her face and kissed her forehead, wanting nothing more than to keep her safe and see her smile.

Fuck, he had it bad.

He swallowed. Maybe it would work. Maybe she was in as deep as he was. What would it be like to wake up with her like this every morning? Whether or not she moved on base, if she lived closer he could spend more time with her. And once he started spending more time with her then he wouldn’t be as distracted by her. Their relationship wouldn’t affect his work. He could have both his career and Cass, he told himself. It could work.

He pulled her closer and her eyes fluttered. She was waking. He kissed her lips and then moved to her neck licking at her soft skin by her ear, smelling the scent that was her. He let his hand trail over her warm skin under the blankets, moving slowly to cup one perfect breast. His thumb rubbed so slowly over the nipple, satisfaction curling through him when it peaked.

“Good morning,” Cassie said, her voice husky with sleep, her eyes half lidded. She looked like a fucking siren or some mythical creature that seduced men with only a look.

“Morning,” he said, his hand now roving lower.

“Again?” she asked with a low laugh.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of you,” he said.

They hadn’t spoken much last night. Every time one of them started it led to sex. He’d never had such an amazing night with a woman.

Or morning.

A long time later, he brushed the hair back from Cassie’s face. She watched him with a languid expression. Time to talk about her moving closer to the base.

“I think we should move in together,” he said. Shit. He wasn’t supposed to have said that, but he barreled on anyway. “I mean, I know you’ve got a new lease somewhere,” he said glancing around at her bare walls. “But maybe you could break it and we could try…”

Her breath came faster and with her wide eyes, he’d think she was almost scared.

Okay…not quite the reaction he’d hoped for.

He smiled and backed off. “It’s okay. It’s too soon. I’m just not thinking straight. At least tell me your new place is somewhere closer to the base.”

Her eyes grew guarded. His stomach dropped when she didn’t say anything right away.

“Cass?” he asked. “Where’s your new place?”

“Toronto,” she whispered.

He blinked. “What?”

Her throat bobbed as she swallowed. “I’m moving to Toronto for that intern job I told you about. I…I got it.”

He pulled away from her and sat up. She was moving to Toronto. A good four hour drive away. Not impossible for people with ordinary jobs, but with his job? It was hard enough to see each other when they were in the same city.

“I can drive back on the weekends,” she said, her hand reaching for him.

He shifted away. He had to think and he couldn’t do that with her touching him. Her face reflected hurt and part of him wanted to hug her, to tell her it was okay, that they were going to be okay, but…he no longer believed that.

She’d already chosen to leave.

He started pulling on his boxers and jeans.

And really, why would she choose to stay when he couldn’t even tell her when he’d be around? Her dream job was in Toronto. Why would she stay here?

“It’s probably for the best,” he said in an even tone, trying to believe his own words. He didn’t look at her as he found his t-shirt and socks. “We’re both just starting our careers. We need to focus on them.” Something tightened around his chest like a vice grip. He had to move, to get rid of the tension in him somehow. He needed to get out.

“We could try, Derrick.”

He looked back at her, the sheet pooled around her waist, her long dark hair falling over her shoulders and breasts. Fuck, she was gorgeous.

He shook his head breaking her spell over him. “We either break it off now, or we begin to slowly resent each other when our jobs pull us away.”

She opened her mouth and he held up his hand. This was the best solution. “You know I’m right.”

“Damn you, Derrick,” she whispered. “Damn you for making me want something I can’t have.”

Her words twisted something inside him. He wanted one last kiss, but if he stepped closer to her, they’d end up back in bed.

“It’s for the best,” he said again, whether to himself or to her he didn’t know. He walked out and didn’t look back.

* * *

Cassie stared after Derrick, her mind stuck on a repeating loop. He’d left. He’d actually left her. She stood up and went into the hall just as the front door of her apartment whisked closed behind his tall form. He hadn’t even looked back.

Her eyes pricked and her vision blurred. She sucked in a gasping breath. After all the time she’d spent waiting for him, wondering if he was alive or not. He’d left without even talking about it. Without even trying to work things out.

She blinked away the wetness in her eyes and a simmering started in her gut. She’d had her heart slowly carved from her chest as she’d waited for word that he’d made it home, that he was safe. It had been hell. He’d put her through it for two fucking months and then he decided what’s best for the both of them?

“Arrogant asshole,” she yelled at the closed door.

She picked up a shoe and threw it at the door. “Condescending Prick!”

Another shoe. “Lying Bastard!”

Maybe he hadn’t lied to her but it felt like he had. He’d withheld parts of himself from her and that was like lying. Her inner voice argued he’d never pretended to be anything but himself, but she wasn’t having any of it.

A boot this time. “Fucking asswipe!”

She threw shoes and yelled names like a deranged woman until her breath caught in her throat, her chest constricted and she fell to her knees. A sob escaped and she hugged herself trying to stop the next.

She didn’t want to cry for him. He’d already taken too many of her tears. She hugged herself tighter and rocked. She wouldn’t cry.

Her breathing had calmed by the time she’d stopped rocking. Nail marks decorated her arms and hands where she’d hung on, but she hadn’t let any more tears slip. She wouldn’t cry for him again. He was gone from her life and she would accept it.

She stood on shaky legs. Time to shower and pack the last of her things. She had a train to catch.

 

* * *