The Sweetest Fix

Page 44

“Leo, stop,” she implored, running after him. “I’m the idiot. I never imagined you’d find out like that. It was supposed to come from me. You have every right to hate me, but…”

He was only walking faster and she couldn’t keep up. Not in her heels. And not with the weight of disappointment and failure and shame pressing down on her shoulders. She tripped to a stop in the middle of the sidewalk, laughing revelers passing her on both sides, their joy the antithesis to her heartbreak. This searing pain in her middle was nothing short of what she deserved. Having to live with his hurt and Leo’s parting words ringing in her ears was the price she paid for deceiving him. She’d let it go way too far without coming clean. She was at fault. He had every right to walk away without a backward glance.

And with nothing left keeping her in the city, with shame biting at her heels, Reese could only stumble blindly downtown toward her building, her fingers fumbling on the screen of her phone to book a bus ticket back to Wisconsin. As soon as possible.

Chapter 19

Leo pounded his fist into the dough, leaving dents in the shape of his knuckles.

He’d come straight to the Cookie Jar after walking away from Reese, losing himself in the routine of pastry making. Seeing the color drain from her face over and over again when she realized she’d been caught. Hearing her voice implore him to stop—that got to him most of all. What the hell did she care? Why ask him to come back? Wasn’t it obvious she wasn’t going to get what she wanted? He’d been right to be wary of dancers. They were all the goddam same. Always looking for a way ahead, ready to step on necks to get there.

He left the dough to prove and moved on to the next task, refusing to pause, jumping from one job to the other. If he stopped, he would have to acknowledge the gaping hole in the center of his chest. The place where his fucking heart had been ripped out. Hours and hours he’d spent with Reese, falling in love, even becoming a better person, a better business owner. How the hell could she have been misleading him?

And after all of this, how could he still miss her so much? Want her like his body was going to crumble without the sensation of her face pressing into his neck?

With a hard swallow, Leo lifted his head, finding himself standing in the supply room with no memory of walking there. Right in front of him on the shelf sat the small sack of French cocoa powder. His throat burned at the sight of it. Clear as day, he could see Reese walking into the bakery with it as a peace offering after the second time she’d blown him off.

Leo’s hand paused on its way to picking up the French powder.

The last week of his life had been so perfect, he’d forgotten about the struggle at the beginning with Reese. Getting her to agree to a date had been almost impossible. That first evening, she’d run out the bakery without even leaving her number.

After he’d made his distrust of dancers blatantly obvious…she’d left.

He’d been the one to go find her days later. Ask her out. And she’d said no. He could still see her standing outside the theater, flushed from dancing, hair blowing across her mouth.

I-I’m trying to channel all of my energy into my reason for being in the city, you know? I have to eat sleep and breathe dancing to be competitive.

As much as I like you, I just…I can’t say yes.

In the end, she’d never used him, had she? Did she really spend the last two weeks doing open calls to avoid that very thing?

Leo’s gut started to burn.

He backed out of the supply room without getting what he came for, stopping in front of his work table and propping himself up on two fists.

Every second with Reese came back to him in a colorful, endless ribbon of film, beginning and ending with her dancing in Bryant Park, so achingly beautiful she’d slayed him where he stood. She’d been good enough to get an audition with his father. A good showing would have guaranteed her career. Missing it would have been devastating. More than enough to make her consider doing something out of character. And still she’d changed her mind, trying to make it on her own. Did she succeed? He never even asked. Only accused her of lying.

Which she had.

He had to remember that. But…

I had two weeks, Leo. It’s all I could afford.

His pulse rapped against his temples. At the very least, he should have stayed outside the fucking restaurant and heard her out. He’d put her in the same category as Tate Dillinger and that…the more he chewed over the situation, the more that didn’t feel right. Not at all.

Leo took off his apron and tossed it away, finding his keys and leaving through the side exit, surprised to find the sun already coming up. Jesus. How much time had passed since he’d left Reese? Left those shitty words hanging in the air between them?

He jogged to the corner and waved down a yellow, not wanting to lose time walking, even though it was a short distance to her building. He didn’t remember the exact address, only the avenue and cross street, so he relayed that information to the driver, falling back against the seat, his jugular squeezed in an invisible fist. Dread was trying to edge its way into his bones, but he wouldn’t let it. They’d talk about this. He’d listen to her side of the story.

There’s always someone better. I’m just…I can barely keep up. That’s the truth.

Reese’s confession from over a week ago echoed in his head.

Her side of the story was important. That much was obvious. And he wanted to know it. He wanted to go back to last night and fucking listen, instead of storming off. What was the matter with him? She’d been on the verge of tears, yet so accepting of his anger. Like she knew she deserved it. Why did that make him want to tear out his hair?

The cab pulled to a stop at the corner and Leo swiped his credit card through the payment terminal, his fingers numb as he punched the buttons. Barely sunrise, there was no one on the sidewalk when he left the cab, striding quickly to her building and entering the vestibule, caught in the chin by memories of the last time he was there. How she’d wanted to avoid him coming upstairs. Was there more to the story that he was missing? He was going to find out. He needed to know everything.

Right after he apologized for walking away. For saying such hurtful things.

Every second that passed with that last encounter between them was painful.


He scanned the buzzers for the name of her landlord, the French woman she’d mentioned the day she gifted him the cocoa powder—and there it was. Sixth floor. He was probably going to catch hell for buzzing the door so early, but there wasn’t a chance in hell he could wait for a decent hour. He needed to see Reese now. Immediately. Nothing felt right. Nothing.

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