I spent the next week wasting afternoons in cafes, writing more, thinking, researching job possibilities. Dreaming. I walked everywhere. Unhurried, cold, and sobering walks that took me to places in the city I’d never bothered going before. Everything was open and possible. I only had to choose my path.
Dermott finally sent the agreement with the glowiest recommendations I’d ever read, which gave me no small amount of satisfaction. I’d signed it, more grateful than ever that I’d never grace that office again. I didn’t rule out the possibility of crossing paths with them in the future, but I hoped that enough time would go by first to fade some of the resentment I now harbored.
Eli was out with his new boyfriend most nights. I mostly read and slept in the evenings. Cameron and I talked once a day. I even popped into the gym a few times to help him get his taxes sorted. His lack of organization was staggering, and being handed the task of straightening it all out was unexpectedly fulfilling. I was enjoying the reprieve from work, but I desperately needed an occupation. That much was becoming clear.
Much to Cameron’s surprise, I worked out of my own volition. I did my yoga and pretended that Raina wasn’t teaching it. In a further attempt to keep things on an even keel, I reassured myself that my recent absence wasn’t providing an opening for her to make a renewed try for Cameron’s affections.
We were taking time, but nothing had lessened the strength of my feelings for him. I saw the asking in his eyes. He invited me to dinner, but I turned him down as politely as I could. I wanted nothing more than to spend time with him, but he clouded everything with the addictive pull he had over me, the drug that was loving him. At least for now, I clung to the clarity this break was giving me, determined to find and solidify the person I needed to be before rushing back into his arms.
CAMERON. Olivia brought the last of the dishes to the table. Darren dug in without ceremony, piling her homemade pasta onto his plate like a starved man. Olivia smiled.
“Looks great, Liv. Thanks.”
“No problem. We haven’t had a family dinner in awhile.” Her smile faded a second later, her gaze flashing to me. “I mean…”
“It’s okay. This is what I consider a family dinner anyway.”
The next few moments passed in awkward silence as we ate. I contemplated that night with our parents, warring with who to blame for how it all turned out. At first I’d blamed Olivia for raising concern to begin with, prompting the second of two visits I’d considered entirely unnecessary. I even considered blaming Darren for not being there to run interference, but even his easy charm wouldn’t have distracted Diane from saying what she had.
I blamed Maya’s boss for ruining her day and possibly her career, pushing her to the emotional edge. Over the past couple days I’d seriously considered paying the a*****e a visit and giving him the sound beating I should have given him the night he’d propositioned Maya. If she ever learned of it though, I’m sure it wouldn’t earn me points with getting her back.
Her job drama aside, I blamed myself for making the mistake of bringing her to see them, for rushing into the marriage conversation when she obviously wasn’t ready for it. I’d been selfish, wanting to bind her to me. Now all I wanted was to simply be with her. I could point the finger all I wanted, but ultimately the blame fell squarely on my shoulders. Married or not, I just had to have her with me. I refused to accept that I could lose her again. I’d even considered returning the ring, as if that symbolic step backwards could undo this separation. If only it could be that easy.
The events of that night had ultimately pushed Maya back out of my life. Not forever, but enough that I deeply regretted the distance between us. I ached for her. I slept like hell, if at all. I’d been withdrawn and growly at work, which is likely why Olivia arranged this dinner. A peace offering, maybe. She’d taken the brunt of my mood. We were a unit, albeit a small one, but we had to be strong for each other.
“How’s work, Darren?” she asked.
“Good. You know, it’s fire season. Plenty of people trying to heat their apartments with toaster ovens. Makes for interesting days.”
“Any new recruits?”
He twisted his lips up. “Nah.”
I cocked an eyebrow. “What about the blonde? She seems like she’s all over you. Easy pickings, right? Isn’t that what you always say?”
He ran his teeth across his bottom lip and glanced to the side. “I don’t know. Not my type.”
I laughed loudly. “You’re joking, right?”
He smirked, finally meeting my gaze. “F**k you, man. What’s up with Maya anyway? Hate to shine a light on the elephant in the room, but you’ve been impossible to be around lately. Is it over with you two, or what?”