“Chessy, baby, don’t say that. Nothing is unfixable. We can overcome this together, I swear it.”
She yanked her head so that her eyes were boring straight into his. “You dumped me for a prospective client on our anniversary. I sat there for an hour over cold food after you promised me you’d be there, that you’d only be twenty minutes late, and you lied,” she said accusingly.
Tate reared back with a frown. “What did I lie to you about?”
Her gaze was full of scorn and rising fury.
“You just don’t get it, do you?” she raged. “You call me from work and say you were detained and that you’d be there in twenty minutes. You never said a damn word about meeting a client—a gorgeous female client who was all over you—at the same restaurant where your wife was sitting alone, waiting for her husband. You lied to me. Lies of omission are still lies. You tried to hide from me that you were entertaining a potential client on my goddamn anniversary and you stood there in the bar with her, smiling and laughing, while I was just a few yards away realizing that I’d been stood up by my husband on our anniversary. A day that used to mean something to you. And now? I have no idea where I stand with you, Tate.”
“How long have you felt this way?” he asked softly, cutting to the heart of the matter.
He had to back up, before the debacle of tonight, and figure out where he’d gone wrong.
She sighed, a heavy sigh of weariness and defeat. “Forever? Or at least it seems that way. I can remember the way it used to be and I guess that’s what upsets me the most. I know what we’re capable of, but in the last two years, you’ve drifted further and further away from me, and while I used to be at the top of your list of priorities, I doubt I even rate in the top five at this point. You certainly don’t act as though I have any priority in your life.”
She turned to look at him, stark fear in her eyes. Dread, as though she were preparing herself for what she was going to say next.
She huffed out her breath and squared her shoulders before lifting her gaze to lock with his.
“Are you cheating on me, Tate? Is that what all the ‘business calls’ have been about? Is that where you’re spending your time instead of with me?”
He was so flabbergasted by her question that momentarily all he was able to do was stare openmouthed at her. Then, he’d had enough. This could go on no longer. Sitting there while she tortured herself was killing him inch by inch. He was dying on the inside at her pain and agony. The hell he’d let her suffer under such misapprehensions any longer.
And then her next words stopped him cold, panic hitting him like a freight train. She lifted her head, all the life gone from her eyes. They were dull, defeated, like she was through fighting a fight he hadn’t realized she was waging. Tears burned hot and jagged at the corners of his eyes, his jaw locked like iron, her words tiny darts right through his heart.
“I want out, Tate. I can’t take this anymore.”
CHESSY clamped her hand over her mouth in horror as she blurted out the damning words and registered the shock and devastation in Tate’s eyes as they hit him with the force of a punch in the face.
Damn it, she hadn’t meant it how it came out! It sounded like she was asking for a divorce. One minute she was focusing on how to fix things—Tate was focusing on how to fix the problem—and she’d jumped from simply laying out her frustration to telling him she wanted out.
“You want a divorce?” Tate asked hoarsely, his eyes shiny with moisture. “God, Chessy, are you so desperately unhappy that you won’t even give me a chance to fix what’s wrong between us? I f**ked up. I readily admit that. But you can’t just quit on us like that. Unless …”
He drifted off, pain intensifying in his expression as though whatever he was thinking was the absolute worst and that he couldn’t bear to put it into words.
He ran a hand raggedly through his hair and then down his face, wiping at his eyes.
“Unless you no longer love me, no longer want me,” he ended in a whisper.
“That wasn’t what I meant,” Chessy said in a desperate voice.
God, this was such a complete disaster. Nothing was going the way she’d planned. But then nothing in the last two years had gone according to her plan.
“Then what did you mean?” Tate asked cautiously as he stared directly at her.
Her hands fluttered in front of her as she lifted them and then let them fall uselessly into her lap. She bit into her bottom lip, closing her eyes as she tried to sort through her frayed emotions. Her nerves were shot. The alcohol was making her fuzzy. And all she wanted to do was go to bed and bury her head underneath her pillow.
She wanted to call a redo of the entire day. Hell, the entire last two years.
She opened her eyes, trying to hold back more tears. She refused to be accused of manipulating him with the one thing he hated most: her tears of upset.
“I just meant that I wanted out of our current situation. I hate it!”
Her hands trembled against her thighs and she pressed her fingertips into her flesh, against the material of the sexy dress she’d worn for her husband tonight. A dress that had decidedly gone unnoticed. It had been a monumental waste of money.
Tate gently reached into her lap and tugged at both her hands until he pulled her upright from her position on the couch and forced her into closer proximity to him. His gaze was serious, his eyes grave and earnest as he stared at her.