There comes an inevitable time in every tale where my hero finds himself drawing his line in the sand without the slightest bit of hesitation. Of course my heroine reserves the right to pull away from that and slap him ugly but there a some men who just won’t be stopped…
“I don’t think we can be friends anymore,” Mackenzie told him softly. “I think the lines are blurring. And it’s my fault. Because I haven’t made them clear.”
Ashleigh’s knuckles tapped relentlessly now. “Stop shouldering things, Mac. Stop making excuses for others. Stop trying to tell me that we can’t be friends, that I can’t still have you because of that guy who isn’t even half of what you need.”
“And how would you know? Where have you been the last three years to tell me what I do and don’t need? Why is everyone trying to tell me what I should do and who I should be with? Why does it seem like what I want doesn’t matter?”
Good. She was angry. Anger he could work with. Impassive or cool Mackenzie was different. That Mackenzie was too composed, too rooted in logic to get a read on. But if she was upset—emotional—then that meant there was a conflict happening. One that he’d unknowingly stumbled upon.
“What you want matters to me more than you’ll ever know,” Ashleigh finally retorted soothingly. “But, plums I think you’re afraid to admit what that truly is.”
“Are you sleeping alone tonight?”
“Of course I am,” she whispered fiercely.
“Then I’m not wrong. I’m not wrong at all.”
“What does that even mean?”
“Did I ever let you sleep alone?” he prodded. “If I had any control over the circumstances, did either of us ever face a bed alone?”
“Michael Frost, as you insist on me calling him, isn’t there because you. Don’t. Want. Him. There. Not for a lacking of trying I’d assume. Any man with eyes and hands and a hetero perspective would try where it concerns you. He’s pushed. And you’ve dug your heels in, convincing the both of you that it’s due to concerns about what Arista does and doesn’t see happening in your home but Arista climbed between the two of us many a morning and there was never a concern then. We were no more married than you and Frost are now. And yet…”
She cleared her throat. “Are we finished here?”
The impassive Mackenzie was back. The one he hated. The one that he would never forgive for not warning him that he’d have the rug snatched up from under him.
“What is it, plums?” he tried again, taunting her. “Does it feel too much like cheating having him there?”
“Maybe it feels too right. Maybe I enjoy it too much.”
“Bullshit. Try again.”
“He can’t have you, Mac.” The warning vibrated down the line, hanging between them. “Because you can’t give away something that’s already been claimed. You tell Frost to pack up his essentials, collect what meager things he’s comfortably sat down on my land. My flag is there. It won’t be moved. And any attempts to do so will be met with war.”
“I don’t know who it is I’m talking to right now. I don’t know this person.”
One side of his mouth curved and Ashleigh responded with, “Oh, you don’t remember, baby?” Leaning forward in his chair, he placed a palm to his desk and pushed upwards into standing. “Allow me to remind you.” Ashleigh moved out of his office and down the hall, saying, “I’m the barbarian.”
Well this should be loads of fun, now shouldn’t it? “Beauty and The Barbarian” coming soon…