“I love you, Chessy. I don’t know how much you believe that right now, but I love you. I always have. That hasn’t changed. It never will. But I need to know if you still love me, if I’ve killed your love for me with my neglect.”

She closed her eyes again. Shouldn’t she feel relieved by his impassioned declaration? Isn’t this what she wanted? Affirmation that he did love her? Still wanted her?

But he’d neatly dodged the question of his fidelity, perhaps because there had been so much else addressed in her hysteria. She’d seen the shock in his eyes when she’d blurted that she wanted out, that she couldn’t take it anymore.

Perhaps it had been swept aside in everything else that had been said, and she was too afraid to push him for an answer.

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“I’ve always loved you,” she said wearily. “But loving someone isn’t enough when you aren’t getting one hundred percent from them any longer. I feel as though I’ve been doing all the giving, making all the concessions, and that may sound selfish, but it’s the way I feel. It may not be fair, but it’s how I feel so there’s nothing to be done about it.”

“Baby,” he said gently. “I can fix this. You just have to give me the chance. I never want to be without you. I’m sorry if I haven’t made you feel that way lately.”

“I’m too tired and strung out to have this discussion tonight,” she said, her shoulders sagging. “I just want to go to bed. We can’t have this conversation when I’m not on equal footing, and anything I say right now is likely to be all twisted up because I’m so upset, and that does neither of us any good.”

She saw the frustration, the beginnings of a raw edge of temper, but he held it back, not reacting to her firm dictate. Or perhaps he saw how truly close to the edge she was and didn’t want to push her right over.

He dropped his hands from hers and turned halfway from her, his gaze directed forward so his profile was presented.

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“If that’s what you want,” he said in a low voice. “But we’re going to talk tomorrow, Chessy. No more putting this off. It’s been put off long enough and I realize that’s my fault.”

She got up from the couch before he could do or say anything to change her mind and headed for their bedroom to collect her things.

Tate watched his wife exit the living room in the direction of their bedroom. He breathed a sigh of relief. At least he could hold her tonight if nothing else. But damn it, he wasn’t ready to call it quits for the night. There was so much left unsaid, unresolved. He wasn’t the type to delay anything. And spending an entire night with his future hanging precariously on the edge of destruction? Not ideal.

But he couldn’t afford to push Chessy. She was clearly at her wits end. His f**k-up on their anniversary had pushed her too far. Finally too far. He was damn lucky she hadn’t left his dumb ass already.

He hauled himself off the couch, mentally preparing for the night ahead. He hoped like hell that Chessy didn’t close herself off to him, lie rigidly in bed or, even worse, cry herself to sleep. His heart would be cut to ribbons.

When he got to their bedroom door, he nearly bumped into her as she came out holding a pair of pajamas and her toiletries. He frowned, dread creeping up his spine.

“Where are you going?” he demanded.

She lifted her chin, forcing her gaze to meet his, a defiant look in her eyes. At least she wasn’t crying. A small victory at best.

“I’m sleeping in the guest room tonight,” she said quietly. “I need some time alone. To get my thoughts together before we get into this tomorrow.”

It was like a fist to his gut. As she shoved past him and walked toward the guest room at the far end of the hallway, his breath left him and he couldn’t squeeze air back into his lungs to save his life.

He stood there staring helplessly at her, knowing he should go after her and at the same time recognizing she’d given him an ultimatum of sorts. Hands off. Give her space.

Numbly, he walked into their bedroom, knowing he’d never sleep tonight. How could he when Chessy was sleeping down the hall from him and their marriage was in serious jeopardy?

They’d never slept apart. Not when they were in the same house. He’d gone on very few out-of-town business trips, most of them in the last couple of years, and that was the only time they’d damn well slept apart. Even then he’d always called her and they had talked on the phone way beyond bedtime. Because he’d missed her, missed having her in his bed, and he’d given up precious hours of sleep when he needed to be alert and aware the following morning for important meetings. Didn’t that count for something?

A small part of him registered that he should be angry. That he’d made countless sacrifices to ensure that the woman he loved more than life had the world at her feet. And yet he couldn’t bring himself to be anything but remorseful when he took in the extent of Chessy’s unhappiness.

Chessy who usually lit up a room when she walked in. Chessy who had a smile that could knock a man to his knees a mile away. Chessy who’d always been nothing but sweet and understanding, smiling, eyes bright and supportive. Had he given her the same support she’d given him? The same understanding?

The answer to those questions bleakly registered a resounding “no” with him. He knew he’d f**ked up and there was no way he could turn this back on her because she’d been nothing but loving and supportive of him even amid his neglect of her needs and wants.

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