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“Can’t do this, Gwen,” he stated.

“Do…” That word came out strangled so I cleared my throat and finished, “What?”

“This shit, can’t do it.”

“This…” I paused this time because it was difficult to bring myself to say it, then I said it, “Shit?”

“Yeah, this shit,” he replied, not having trouble saying it at all.

I moved to the side where luckily a big, iron column stood and I wrapped my hand around it, leaning my body into it to hold myself up.

“What do you mean?” I asked, finding it difficult to breathe mainly because my heart was lodged in my throat.

“You and me, I was wrong. I thought I could do it but I can’t do this shit.”

“Are you…” That sounded strangled again so I swallowed and continued, “Ending things?”

“Yeah.” His answer was instant and unwavering.

“You’re ending things,” I repeated just to confirm.

“Yeah,” he repeated, again instant and unwavering.

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I felt the tears hit my sinuses.

Boy, Troy was right. It hurt a lot more when a man walked all over you wearing combat boots.

“You promised,” I whispered and he did. He promised. Not even twenty-four hours ago, he f**king swore he’d handle me with care.

He stood and I released the column and stepped back.

“This is me keepin’ that promise, Gwen.”

“You are so full of shit.” I continued whispering.

“Better now than when you’re tied tighter to me, babe.”

“You… are…” I leaned forward, lost it in the middle of a sentence and shrieked, “So full of shit!”

“Sweet Pea –” he started but I cut him off, still shrieking.

“Don’t call me that you f**king ass**le!”

Then I whirled on my foot and raced to and up the stairs.

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Hawk followed and he didn’t do it slowly but by the time he made it to the bed platform, I was pulling up my jeans.

“Gwen, listen to me,” he demanded.

“Fuck you,” I spat, zipping my jeans.

His fingers wrapped around my upper arm and he gently turned me to him but I twisted my arm out of grip, put both hands to his chest and pushed.

He caught my forearms and shook them between us.

“Gwen, look at me.”

I looked at him and hissed, “You orchestrated this. You worked for it. Then I gave you me and you didn’t have it a day before you threw it away.”

“Listen to me, babe, and you’ll –”

I yanked at my forearms and snapped, “Go to hell, Hawk.”

“Babe, listen,” he growled, shaking my arms again, I yanked again, one of his hands slid down to the bruises and cuts on my wrist, a small, sharp, involuntary cry of pain escaped me and he released me instantly.

I took advantage and dashed around him toward my suitcases. I bent over them but was pulled up and in with an arm around my waist, my back hitting Hawk’s front, his other arm wrapped around me and his mouth came to my ear.

“Baby, listen to me,” he whispered.

Something about that shredded me, everything inside me, all that was me instantly in tatters. I tore violently from his arms, whirled and advanced into his space, finger out, up and pointed in his face.

“Don’t call me baby. In the five minutes we have left together, Cabe Delgado, don’t even f**king think about calling me baby.”

And I knew what it was. I knew why that destroyed me. I knew I loved that. I knew the first time he called me baby in my kitchen the hope I wasn’t allowing myself to feel for a year and a half was not only real but what I hoped for was possible.

And just like with Scott, exactly like with Scott, I was wrong, way, way, way, way wrong.

He opened his mouth to say something then he stopped, his tense body went statue-still then he muttered an enraged, “Fuck.”

That was when I heard it. Pipes. The roar of Harley pipes. And it wasn’t one bike. It wasn’t two. It was a lot of them.

Hawk turned, bent and tagged his tee off the floor. He’d yanked it over his head and was pulling it down his abs when he lifted one finger toward me and ordered, “Stay here.”

I didn’t respond but there was no way I was staying there. As far as I was concerned, the cavalry had arrived and I was getting the f**k out of Dodge.

I bent to my suitcase pulled on socks, my boots then grabbed panties, a bra, a tee and then raced to the bathroom, snatching up shit I needed then I raced down the stairs, shoved it all in my purse, I hitched it over my shoulder and I raced out.

When I got outside I saw that Hawk, being Hawk, was standing in cargoes and a tee and bare feet in what appeared to be a standoff with Tack in front of a shitload of Harleys, their headlamps illuminating the scene. Some boys were standing by their bikes, some were astride them. Only Tack was facing off against Hawk.

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I located Dog and ran straight to him not even looking at Hawk and Tack as I raced by.

Dog looked down at me. “Babe, maybe you should go inside.”

“Take me with you,” I begged, his body jolted and he asked, “What?”

“Take me with you,” I repeated, reaching up to grab his arm in an effort to convey my seriousness.

He stared at me half a beat before his head lifted and he whistled sharply. I didn’t look behind me. I was trembling and holding onto his arm for dear life. I was also holding back tears by the skin of my teeth.

I watched him jerk his chin up then he moved, swinging his leg over the bike. I guessed this meant he was taking me with him and I didn’t waste time or squander the opportunity. I jumped on behind him, wrapped my arms around him tight, put my cheek to his shoulder and closed my eyes hard.

I felt the Harley roar and then I felt us move, he did a wide arc in the massive, cracked cement area beside Hawk’s warehouse, an area that once housed semis and employee parking and now housed nothing. He straightened out of the curve and we roared away.

I didn’t open my eyes once and with the wind whipping around me and a body that had gone totally numb in an effort to keep the pain at bay, it took awhile for me to realize I was crying.

Suddenly he pulled over and Dog’s hands gently pried mine from his belly.

His torso twisted, my head came up and my eyes finally opened.

“Babe, switch bikes,” he ordered.

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