Home > Breaking Her (Love is War #2)(14)

Breaking Her (Love is War #2)(14)
Author: R.K. Lilley

Neither parent so much as scolded her.  They were doting to a fault, which wasn't at all surprising, since they even doted on me.  

Mercy was the most beautiful child I'd ever seen. She just was.  It wasn't any one thing about her face that made her so, but the way each feature fell together like poetry.  To describe her was to do it no justice.  Masses of streaky, dark blonde hair with just the right thickness and wave to it that it fell in a perfectly arranged waterfall down her back. 

Big blue eyes, again something that sounded so plain, but made stunning on her.  Thick lashed, almond shaped, and heavy lidded.  They were bright and fathomless at once. 

Her cheekbones were high and colored as though someone had taken blush to them, though I knew her mother, of all people, would never do such a thing to a child.  Her lips were a perfect little rosebud, her nose small, straight, and shaped appealingly. 

"Scarlett!" she said excitedly, rushing at me.

Her mother caught her halfway, guiding her toward the powder room.  "Oh no you don't.  First, let's wash up for dinner.  Remember what we talked about?  That not everyone likes paint all over their clothing?"

"But it's purple!" the little girl returned.  "Purple is pwetty!"

Her parents both cracked up at that, and I tried my best to smile with them. 

Mercy rushed to hug me when she was paint free, throwing her little arms around my waist.  

I patted her on the head tentatively, letting her touch me but not knowing what the proper response was on my part. 

As I've said, I'm bad with children.  Luckily, I didn't know many people with kids, so it wasn't often a problem.

Eugene smiled at me fondly and threw a friendly arm around my shoulders, an embrace that never seemed to get less awkward, at least for me. 

"So how are you guys?" I asked him.  Gina had gone into the kitchen to ready dinner. 

"Wonderful," he replied with no hesitation.  "Just wonderful.  We're blessed.  So blessed."  He sent me a warm, fond smile.

This was his usual response, and I actually believed it.  They had a wonderful life and they felt it was all a blessing.  Even pessimistic me couldn't fault them for it.

"No one deserves it more," I returned sincerely, though the words came out stiffly.  "You're the best parents I know."  It wasn't saying much, most of my friends were single and childless, but it was still the truth. 

He stammered out a thank you at that, eyes misting over. 

Oh Jesus.  I had to look away.  He was such an emotional, open book that I didn't have a clue how to deal with him.  Mostly I just tried to pretend nothing was happening when we had 'a moment.'

Dinner was delicious, as always, and the conversation was pleasant.  It was so positive, in fact, that I didn't know how to contribute to it.  Sarcasm felt wrong in their presence.  Snark felt inappropriate, so I tried my best to be politely neutral without being fake.

It was a difficult line to balance.  Particularly so for me.

I wondered, not for the first time, why these perfect people wanted so earnestly to be friends with me, to have mean, negative, flawed me in their lives on a regular basis. 

Of course, I didn't voice the thought aloud.  I knew more than anyone did that, when it came to these two that would be the equivalent of fishing for compliments.    

I escaped them right after dinner, as soon as it was politely possible.

I had to pry Mercy, and then Gina, off me after hugging them.  They were an extremely affectionate family. 

"She has your smile," I told Gina as we said goodbye, and it was true.

Gina beamed at me, and it was a grownup version of the one Mercy had just bestowed on me.  "You think so?"

"I do."

"Oh, thank you.  What a sweet thing for you to say.  Her smile is so beautiful." 

"Just like yours." 

She flushed in pleasure. 

Normally I took their perfection with something approaching good grace, but lately I had been thin-skinned and emotional, and being around the three of them made me dwell on every bittersweet thing I'd ever lost.

I'd just fastened my seatbelt when my phone started ringing. 

I checked the screen.  It was Dante.  Typical. 

I ignored it, foul mood gone fouler. 

It stopped and started again almost immediately, and for some reason, I answered that time. 

"Does he know he doesn't have a chance?" his silky voice bled over the phone.  "That he never did?"

Hello, temper.  

That opening salvo had hit its target perfectly and even I could admit that he'd won the round.

But the bastard wasn't finished.

"You've never been soft for anyone else.   You've never been vulnerable.  Those things belong to me."  He launched each jab at me without pity, hesitation, or remorse.  The bastard.  "They always have.  They always will.  You've never given the you that's mine to anyone else, and you never will.  Even your lying lips can't convince me otherwise."

It was so callous, so profoundly cruel, even for him, that my breath caught at his words.  It held in my chest for a few chaotic beats before I could pull it together enough to breathe again. 

In, out.  In, out.  In, out. 

Of course every word he'd said was true.  That's why they hurt so much.

Finally, I found my voice to ask, "Why do you do this?  What do you want from me?" 

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