Several tense minutes ticked by, her silence driving him insane. Why wouldn’t she just say something to him? Anything. And as if the universe had heard his innermost desires, he got his wish.
“I can’t—” Tressa’s voice cracked, but she soon continued, “I can’t be with you, Roth.”
Roth’s chest tightened and a sharp pain shot down his arm. He swore he was having a heart attack. Was Tressa ending things? He prayed he’d heard her incorrectly. Rearing back, his worried eyes searched hers.
Tressa continued, “Not if you can’t handle me talking to other men. I’m surrounded by men. All day, every day. You need to decide right now, before this goes any further, whether or not you can handle that. I want to be with you, Roth. But I won’t be in a relationship where I have to walk on eggshells.”
At the thought of losing Tressa, fear filled every cell in Roth’s body. He didn’t know what to do, what to say. He’d just got her. There was no damn way he would lose her over this, over his own insecurities. He cradled her face between his hands. “I don’t want to lose you. Tell me what I need to do.”
“You need to trust me. Trust that what we have is real and that I’d never do anything to hurt you, Roth. I get you’ve experienced a lot of heartbreak and disappointment in your past and it has lessened your faith in people. I can’t be one of those people. Not if this is going to work. For this to work, you have to believe in us. I’m crazy about you, Roth Lexington, but I didn’t like the man I saw tonight.” Her eyes clouded with tears. “He scared me.”
Jesus. What had he done? “I would never harm you. Never. Please tell me you know that.” Several seconds that felt like several eternities ticked by.
“I know,” she finally said.
Roth snatched Tressa into his arms and held her like he’d never held her before. He greedily claimed her energy. It gave him strength. “Be patient with me, baby.”
“I will.” A second later she pulled away. “You won’t always get to simply say I’m sorry and expect everything to be okay. I’m sorry won’t always be enough.”
He nodded his understanding. “Is it enough now?”
When she nodded, he pulled her back into his arms. He may have denied it before, but there was no way he could any longer. He was falling in love with this woman. And the thought of ever losing her scared the hell out of him.
Tressa checked her watch again. The third time since she’d occupied one of the tables inside Tender Hearts Memorial Hospital’s café. Cyrus had dodged this moment long enough. If he didn’t show up this time, she would take his things to the incinerator and burn them. The junk had cluttered her storage closet and life long enough—two and a half months to be exact. She’d been dead serious when she’d given him an ultimatum: either meet her to collect it today or it would be ashes.
He’d chosen the former.
He was officially twenty minutes late. No call. No text. No nothing. So typical.
Was he calling her bluff?
Well, he had ten more minutes to show, or she was out of there. If he missed this opportunity, he wouldn’t get another.
Choosing to meet in a public place had been a great idea. She was glad Vivian had suggested it. Vivian had also suggested bringing a Taser, but she didn’t feel that was warranted. Cyrus wouldn’t harm her. However, her mother used to say you just never knew what desperate folks were capable of, especially when pride and ego were involved.
Tressa scattered the troubling thoughts. Ugh. She just wanted to get this over and be done with Cyrus, so she could focus on better things. An image of Roth filled her head. Just the thought of that man calmed her. She couldn’t wait to see him tonight. Just like with the rodeo trip a month ago, he was being just as tight-lipped about where he was taking her on their date.
She ran her fingers through her shockingly short hair, still unsure how she felt about the new cut or going natural. Change, she reminded herself. The fact that Roth had loved it brought a smile to her face.
A crackle of lightning was followed by a deep rumble of thunder that shook the building and caused her to jolt. When she glanced up, Cyrus was strolling through the café doors. Had the ferocious weather been announcing his arrival?