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

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

"Why else don't you like kids?" 

"Because they're selfish and mean," just sort of slipped out. 

Her eyes widened, watered a bit, and I saw that I'd taken the teasing too far. 

"You think I'm selfish and mean?" she asked, voice tremulous, like the very idea might make her cry.   

Dammit.  "No."  I actually meant it.  "Not you.  I can just remember . . . other kids . . . that were," I finished lamely. 

"If you don't like kids, how come you bake me something nummy every time I come over?"

I mulled that one over.  I did.  I literally baked every time she came over, no exceptions.  What the hell was up with that?

"It's a coincidence," I told her.  "I bake all the time."  That was a lie, but she was eight. 

If you couldn't lie to an eight-year-old, who could you lie to?

She beamed at me.  "You like me.  I knew it."

I curled my lip at her and she giggled.  "You're alright," I allowed. 

"I like you," she offered.  "You're really pretty, and you smell nice." 

Dammit.  Damn Demi and her incorrigible, likable niece.  "You're really pretty, too," I begrudgingly returned.

She acted like I'd made her day with that, doing an enthusiastic happy dance that involved a lot of twirling and hand waving.

Was she trying to win me over, or was she really this freaking adorable? 

I didn't know, but in spite of myself, I was charmed. 

Still, I'd never let her close, never let myself get attached to a kid like that.  Even the thought of it spun my mind into dark, fathomless places that I knew well to steer clear of. 

Luckily, they all left for a day at the zoo soon after that, and I was spared much more of Olivia's infectious charm.

And dammit, she almost convinced me to come with them.  If I had been about two shots more sober or three more drunk, she'd have had me.   

Nearly as bad, I packed them a cute little care package full of brownies like I was Betty fucking Crocker.

Of course Anton gave me shit for it.  I couldn't blame him.   

I shut his teasing up with another shot.  It was a sore spot, but in all fairness, lately every damn spot on me was sore. 

It was some time later that my phone rang.  I was at functioning, non-slurring levels, my day drink game strong.  Anton was putting up a good fight, the only signs of how messed up he was, was that he was over-enunciating, and his comeback time was slowing from whip-fast to slightly below average. 

I glanced at my lit phone face and grinned wickedly. 

It was bloodthirsty, so much so, Anton, even slowed Anton, caught on fast. 

"It's him, isn't it?"

I chewed my lip and nodded. 

He meant Dante.  Of course.  Since the funeral and the disaster that followed, he called often, and sometimes I'd answer.  It was a toss-up with me whether I'd chew him out or just hang up. 

Sometimes he called to discuss what Gram had left me in her will, but I'd have none of it.  "I told you, give it to one of her charities.  I don't want anything.  I won't take anything."  I'd never once let him finish his sentence when he brought this up.  I'd been called a Durant charity case my whole life, but I'd be damned before I'd become one.

Sometimes he just asked me how I was.  Like he just wanted to talk, to check up on me.  As if he had that right.  The bastard. 

Those calls ended nearly as quickly as the first kind. 

The worst shame of all this was the angry five minutes I spent getting myself off afterwards. 

I wasn't sure if it was a comfort or a curse that I was absolutely sure the bastard was doing exactly the same. 

Sometimes he didn't even speak.  Sometimes he just listened on the other end.  This call started as one of those.   

"If it isn't my heavy breather again," I said lightly into the phone.  "Is there some particular word you're looking for, to get off faster?" 

It was a joke, at his expense, but he seemed to take it seriously. 

"Say Dante," he told me gruffly. 

"Dante," I said gamely.  Because tequila.  "You're the bane of my existence.  Stop calling me." 

There was nothing but his disturbed breath on the other end. 

"Even that did it for you, huh?" I took the dig at him with relish.  "You dirty, old pervert." 

"You're in a mood," he finally noted.  He sounded rough.  Rough as in terrible.  I wasn't the only one drowning my sorrows with a bottle.   

But he was right.  I was in a mood.  And it didn't bode well for him.  "Why are you doing this?" I asked him, keeping my tone level.  Mellow, even.   

There was a long pause on the other end, but he surprised me by finally answering, "You keep answering.  If there's a chance you'll answer, I'll never stop calling."

He was right.  I'd stopped taking his calls years before our last disastrous reunion.  Why couldn't I seem to do that now? 

My self-destructive meter was running at full, and I hadn't found a way to bring it down since the funeral.

Maybe a bit of revenge would help. 

One thing was for sure.  It couldn't hurt.     

I didn't really need to, we'd plotted it out several times prior, but just to be safe, I mouthed at Anton, "You ready?"

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