Jensen walked up to stand beside Chessy, adding his silent support as he stared Tate down. There was open disgust in Jensen’s expression. Tate wouldn’t even meet Jensen’s gaze. Guilt was plastered all over Tate’s face and then resignation swamped his eyes and he stepped aside so Chessy could enter the front door.

Chessy walked by him, Kylie following behind. Jensen remained, however, and Chessy paused just inside the partially open door. Kylie looked questioningly at her, but Chessy held a finger to her lips and pointed at the door.


“What the f**k were you thinking, Tate?” Jensen demanded. “How could you have allowed your wife to get hurt while you were taking a f**king business call? Have you lost your goddamn mind?”

Chessy winced but Kylie looked as though she wanted to cheer.

“This is between me and Chessy,” Tate said in an icy tone. “I don’t need your input when it comes to my marriage.”

“Someone needs to knock some sense into your head. God only knows why she’s put up with you as long as she has. You had so many chances to make things right and you blew it big-time.”

“I love her,” Tate said. “I’ve made mistakes. I wish to hell I could undo them. But I won’t let her go. I’ll fight for her with my last breath. I’m not going to just stand back and let her walk out of my life, even if that’s what I deserve.”

Jensen made a sound of disgust. “You don’t act like a man who loves his wife. And you damn sure haven’t put her first when it comes to any part of your life.”

Chessy bowed her head, tears gathering in her eyes. She knew what Jensen was saying was true, but to hear that truth from a third party hurt. That the problems in her marriage were so obvious to others. It was humiliating.

“Come on, Chessy,” Kylie said in a low voice, taking her arm to guide her away from the doorway. “It does no good for you to stand and listen to this. It’ll only upset you even more. Let’s get your things together so we can go.”

Chessy allowed herself to be led to the bedroom and mechanically she began removing her clothing from the closet. She tossed everything onto the bed and then went through her drawers and collected all the shoe boxes from the shelves in the closet. Jensen had brought several suitcases that he would be bringing in and whatever didn’t fit would just have to be piled into the backseat.

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Other than clothing, what should she take? There were mementos all over the house. Things that held special meaning. And photos. Her wedding pictures. Honeymoon pictures. Though looking at them now only brought her crushing pain, would she feel differently as time passed? Would she want those things or should she leave them here, in the past where they belonged?

Oh God, should she be consulting an attorney? Was she truly going to go through with a divorce? Her heart seized and panic scuttled up her spine and rolled her stomach into one big vicious knot.

“What’s wrong, Chessy?”

Kylie’s concerned voice cut through her haze of dismay.

“I need a lawyer,” Chessy said faintly. “Or at least I think I do. Shouldn’t I file for divorce?”

Kylie’s arms came around her and she hugged Chessy fiercely. “Let’s not worry about that right now, sweetie. You have plenty of time to think of that. For now let’s just get your stuff packed and you settled into my house. You’re still in shock and you shouldn’t be making any life-altering decisions in your current emotional state.”

Chessy sighed. “I know, I know. You’re right. It’s just that I never thought I’d be standing in my bedroom thinking about hiring a divorce lawyer.”

The reality of the situation came crashing down and she completely lost it. She dissolved into heart-wrenching sobs.


Tate’s hoarse exclamation from the doorway made her flinch. And then suddenly he was there, his arms around her, holding her tightly as she heaved huge sobs.

His mouth was pressed against her hair and his arms were like iron around her, his strength radiating outward. For a moment she felt … safe. Like nothing bad had ever happened. Like she’d dreamed the entire thing and she wasn’t in her bedroom packing her things to walk out on her marriage.

“Please don’t cry, baby,” Tate murmured. “It will be okay. I swear it. You don’t have to do this. Please stay so we can work this out. I’m willing to do whatever it takes. I swear on my life. I love you.”

She shook her head, prying herself from his grasp. She took a step backward, still trying to get her emotions under control.

“I can’t stay,” she whispered. “You made your choice, Tate. And it wasn’t me. If the others hadn’t intervened when they did, I could have been seriously hurt. I was hurt,” she amended. “You’ve broken your promises time and time again. I won’t continue to allow myself to be a doormat. I owe myself that much at least.”

“I won’t let you walk out that door,” Tate said fiercely.

“That’s enough, Tate.”

Jensen’s voice was a warning, his tone openly hostile.

“You need to back off and back off now. Let her finish packing or I’ll call the police and have you forcibly removed so she can finish.”

Tate went white and then a flush of red crawled over his cheeks as anger replaced his earlier entreating words.

“You need to stay the f**k out of this,” he growled at Jensen.

“If you love her then you won’t make it so hard for her to do this,” Jensen persisted. “You say one thing but your actions don’t back up your words. If you want to win her back, this isn’t the way to go about it. Trying to manipulate her and then making threats won’t do anything but drive her farther away. Use your head, man. Now isn’t the time to push. She’s at her breaking point. Anyone with eyes can see that. Give her time. And then you need to start crawling and begging her forgiveness.”

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