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When You Were Mine by Aria Grace

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Book 4 of the Mile High Romance series. 

Kyle has stayed in an abusive relationship because he doesn't believe he deserves anything better. He hands over his paycheck and his dignity for the sake of keeping the peace. 

Jonathan lives an orderly life of routine and processes. When Seb asks him to look into a case against his ex, he hesitates. Not because he doesn't want to help, but because he's afraid this gentle and broken man might sully the tidy world he needs to function. 

For mature readers.



Excerpt:

The only family I have is my strung out mother and she’s a thousand miles away in some trailer park. I wouldn’t call her for help if my life depended on it. And, right now, it does.
My head is down and my hands are tucked into my pockets when I hear someone call my name. At first, I don’t see anyone but then I realize Seb is waving to me from across the street.
“Hey, Kyle. Wait up.”
Oh god. Of all the people to run into today, this is probably worst-case scenario. Seb is the one who got away. The one I drove away with my stupid comments and nagging about his drinking. I’ve never gotten over him but he left one day without a backward glance. He probably forgot about me the moment he walked away.
We see each other all the time around town but he’s never stopped me to talk.
There’s only one thing he could want to talk about. A few months ago, Bruce and I ran into Seb in a restaurant. He was on a date with some hot blond guy who was clearly important to him. More important to him than I ever was.
Bruce and I had been arguing, and I know Seb overheard some of the hateful things Bruce said. Everyone in that damn restaurant overheard him. He gets loud when he starts drinking and we were several drinks into that evening.
I stand awkwardly on the sidewalk and wait for Seb to make it to me.
“Hey, Kyle. Thanks for waiting.” Seb points to the juice shop behind us. “Do you have a minute to talk?”
“Um, sure.” It’s not like I’ve got anywhere else to be.
Seb opens the door for me and I walk to an open table by the window.
Please let this be about the weather…
Once we’re seated, Seb rolls his shoulders then clasps his hands on the table. “I’ve been meaning to get in touch with you for a while.”
“Why?” Just looking at him brings back all the pain of when he left me. I thought he was it for me. He said as much to me and then he left.
“I owe you an apology and explanation. I left and I assumed you knew why, but I need to know you’re okay.”
“You don’t owe me anything. I’m fine, Seb.” Damn. I can even lie better than I ever have before.
“Are you?” He leans forward and those green eyes pierce right through me. He could always see right into me. “Last time I saw you… Well, that guy you were with was kind of a dick.”
“Well, thanks for your concern, but that’s over.”
“Since when?” He reaches toward me and I flinch at the movement. Seb’s eyes go wide and he pulls his hand back but motions with his fingers for me to turn to the side. “Cuz that cut on your cheek looks pretty fresh.”
I reach up and feel the small scab I didn’t even realize was there. “Oh, I guess that’s from the…”
I catch myself before going into details about last night.
“From what?” Seb has a naturally friendly and open expression but he looks anything but friendly right now. “What happened?”
“It doesn’t matter. What did you want to talk about?” I cross my arms over my chest, hoping to change the subject back to whatever he was so eager to discuss.
“I want to apologize for how I left. I was pissed at myself for losing my temper and hitting you. You didn’t deserve that and it shouldn’t have happened.” He slowly reaches out and puts his hand over mine. “I’m sorry for that. I lost it and I didn’t trust myself to never hurt you again. That’s why I left.”
“You didn’t have to leave,” I whisper. “I didn’t want you to. I never wanted you to leave.”
“I did, Ky.” His hand squeezes mine. “You deserve better than the man I was. That’s why it pissed me off so much when I saw you with that asshole. Please tell me he doesn’t hurt you.”
I turn away, unable to look him in the eye. This is not a conversation I ever expected to have with Seb. Truthfully, I didn’t think he’d ever speak to me again. But here we are, discussing how the best man I ever met left me because he hit me one time when he was drunk.
Now that he’s opened up to me, I can’t hold back the tears. The past day has been one of the most emotional of my life. I’ve managed to hold it all together until now, but I can’t keep everything inside anymore. I might have lasted a few more hours, until I found some privacy at least, if Seb wasn’t so damn sweet.
Now that it’s open, I can’t do anything to close the flood gate of my heart as everything comes gushing out. With a deep sob, I drop my forehead onto our joined hands and have a good cry.
“Fuck, Ky.” Seb slides his chair around the table and holds me against his chest. “What the hell is going on with you?”
It takes several minutes for me to pull myself together enough to even speak. And as much as I want to make up a lie, I can’t. Seb will see right through any story I make up. So I lay it all out, telling him about Bruce and my current situation of being broke and homeless.
“Fuck, Kyle.” Seb slides away from me and runs his hand through his short brown hair. “What happened to you? When you were mine, you weren’t like—”
Seb’s eyes go wide and all color drains from his face. The sudden realization of what he thinks happened to me hits him like a two by four. Gasping, he physically pulls away from me. “I did this to you. It’s my fault you’ve allowed—”
“No, Seb.” I sniffle and wipe my face with a napkin. “Don’t. Don’t blame yourself. This is all me. I just make bad decisions…”
“Starting with me.” His voice is a rough whisper that breaks my heart all over again. He doesn’t deserve any of the blame for my fucked-up choices.
“Seb, listen to me.” I wait for him to finally meet my gaze again. “You were the best thing that ever happened to me. Even though it didn’t last as long as I wanted it to, I wouldn’t give up one minute of the time we had together.”
“Except those last few minutes.” He shakes his head, self-loathing evident in his entire demeanor. “The ones that broke your spirit and made you think you deserved to be treated like shit. Fuck, Kyle, I’m so sorry.”
“Stop it, Seb. Don’t apologize. I wanted to be with Bruce. I guess deep down I knew he wouldn’t ever change but I wanted to try. I wanted him to love me someday. So much so that he’d eventually change who he was. That’s not your doing. I learned that from my mother a long time ago. She brought home loser after loser, letting men smack us around because she thought they loved her. I swore I wouldn’t be like that, but clearly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
“Please don’t say that, Kyle. Don’t accept this as your fate.” He leans forward with both elbows on his thighs. “You’re a good man and you deserve so much better than what you’ve had. Please don’t give up on yourself.”
I fake a smile and try to look confident. “Don’t worry, Seb. I’m not giving up anything.”
I’ve got nothing left to give up on.


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