I leveled a glare at him at the mention of her name. I’d made it pretty clear I didn’t want to discuss it. Olivia stared at her plate toying with her food, her lips pressed together.
“We’re taking some time, that’s all.”
“She’s still coming by the gym though. Are you cool with that?”
“I’m fine. I lived without her for five years. What’s another few weeks or months? I should be a pro at this by now.” I worked my jaw. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I wished I had somewhere far away to be right now. It was a dark thought, to want to be someplace shadowed in memories that kept me up at night. Anything to be free of this brand of agony.
When she’d come to the gym, I had to keep myself from hauling her into my arms and kissing her breathless. Instead I’d watched myself pull away a little more every time I saw her. The less we interacted, the easier it seemed. Having to see her and not be able to touch her or tell her how I felt was a slow torture. She’d asked for space, and God knew I’d pushed her hard enough already. She hadn’t said no, and as much as I hated the idea of giving her time—spending any unnecessary time apart—I didn’t get that sinking feeling that we were over.
Impossible as it seemed, I would try like hell to give her the time she needed. I just worried how long I could survive it.
Darren took a swig of his beer. “What about you, Liv? Anyone catching your eye?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. You’d think in a city this big, I’d be dating someone by now.”
“Plenty of beefy guys at the gym.” Darren gave her a silly smile.
“Right.” She rolled her eyes. “Like you two wouldn’t be pulling your usual overprotective routine the second one of those guys asked me out.”
“Hey, that’s what big brothers are for, you know.” Darren reached over and mussed her hair.
She swatted him away, unsuccessfully hiding a grin.
We finished eating and she rose to clear the table when Darren stopped her.
“I’ll get it, Liv. You cooked. Let me clean up.”
She settled back down, fidgeting with her napkin as he disappeared into the kitchen with our plates. The silence was heavy. We’d barely spoken since New Year’s and the more time went by, the harder it’d become to breach the tension that had come between us.
“Cameron, I’m sorry. A part of me feels like this is all my fault.”
I resisted the urge to tell her she was completely right. I wanted her to feel a fraction of the devastation that I did. The regret in her eyes softened that urge. Instead of the meddling spitfire who’d taken charge of the finer details of my life the past couple months, all I could see was my baby sister. I’d seen her through enough that I knew what genuine regret looked like on her.
“Water under the bridge, okay? Let’s get past it. Just promise me you’ll never pull that s**t on me again, all right?”
Her shoulders relaxed with evident relief. “Thank you. I’m going to talk to Maya sometime too. Maybe when things are more settled between you two. But I owe her an apology. I realize that. I’ve been a complete b***h. I know it’s not an excuse, but I hope you understand that I was only trying to protect you.”
“I get it. I’m protective of you too. That’ll never change. Hopefully I don’t inadvertently end up scaring off your reason for living though.”
The regret was back. The corners of her lips turned down a fraction.
I reached for her hand, giving it a small squeeze. “Enough of this heavy stuff though. Want to watch a movie?”
She brightened a little. “Sure.”
“Go pick something out. No chick flicks.”
She laughed and rose. “Right. Wouldn’t want to see you two tough guys getting all weepy on me.”
MAYA. Vanessa rushed into the cafe, stress written all over her face. I didn’t miss that look. For a second I thought I could actually see the shackles on her ankles as she joined me at the table. I’d never been so happy to be a free bird.
I rose and she gave me a firm hug.
“How are you doing?” The question was rhetorical. I knew Reilly was definitely still making her daily life pure hell.
She sighed and dropped into the chair. “I miss you like crazy, Maya. I’m so happy you’ve moved on, but I also kind of hate you, you know?”
I laughed. “Sorry. I’ll try to get down here more often for lunch.”
“Are you job hunting?”