Day Two. You don’t have to respond. I know you want me to spend this time being objective, and I want this to be done, so fuck me if I don’t do it the right way, and you make me start over. Thought about you all weekend. Yesterday was the first Sunday I’ve had off in three weeks, and it fucking sucks that I spent it here without you. I’m half-missing you, half-pissed at you. Mostly, I’m wondering how you could think anything would be more important to me than you. Kids are important, and yes, our relationship is new. But if it means choosing, I choose you.

True to his word, Taylor had thought about my proposal all week, sending me one text every night.

Day Three. It’s only Tuesday. I feel like I’m going to go out of my fucking mind. You don’t have to respond, but I miss you like hell. It’s hard to think about anything else, but I am, and I still feel the same. This is the longest fucking week ever, and I’m worried you’re just going to tell me to kick rocks anyway. Are you? Don’t answer that. I’m going to go stay with Tommy for a couple of days to clear my head.

On the fourth day, Taylor didn’t text. I lay in bed, worrying until I thought I might puke. Feeling something heavy on my chest, my emotions were all over the place. I didn’t want to lose him, but if he wanted more, I owed it to him to let him go. That kind of selfishness would slowly poison any relationship.

Tears fell from the outer corners of my eyes, down my temples, dripping to my pillowcase with a tiny thud. With my arm resting on my forehead, my eyes closed, I tried to push it from my mind, but the fear tore a hole, and it just kept getting bigger.

I looked over at my alarm clock, the red numbers glowing 4:15 a.m. Just as I reached for my phone, it pinged several times in a row. I scrambled to grab it from the nightstand.

It’s the fifth day of this bullshit im in San Diego and maaybe you’re right.

Maybe a hundred ducking years from now I’ll feel fucked out of having a family and wish i had a sun to play ball with and maybe ill want grandkids maybe I don’t deserve you anyway

Fuck it. Fuck all of this. I love you and ive done everything I’m supposed to until now and I’m further from you than ive been since we met. That’s isnt my fault.

I typed out a dozen different responses, but I knew he’d been drinking, and he was upset. Trying to reason with him or even apologize wouldn’t get me very far, and it might even make things worse. Putting down the phone was the hardest thing I’d done in six years.

For the second time that week, I cursed myself, “I fucking hate you.” I covered my eyes.

Just a few hours later, I rolled out of bed, washed my face, brushed my teeth. Then I got dressed before descending the stairs eleven minutes later. I pulled my hair into a messy bun, only to walk back up to get my apron.

I dragged ass all morning, as expected. I was mostly exhausted but also devastated that my intent was lost in the misery we were both in. Still, I had started this mess, and I wasn’t about to waffle until Taylor could make the decision for himself.

Just after the breakfast rush, my phone buzzed in my apron. I rushed around the bar to check it, knowing it was Taylor.

Day Five. Please respond. I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry about last night. I guess technically it was this morning. I’m sitting here in the airport. Just got off the phone with Dad. He made a lot of good points that I need to talk to you about. I’ll be in Eakins by tonight. Please go to St. Thomas. I’ll sleep on the floor if you want. My head is pounding, and I feel like shit, but I wish I felt worse even though I couldn’t feel much worse. I want to see you and hold you so bad I’m going nuts. All I can think about is seeing you. No, don’t respond. I’m afraid of what you’ll say. Just please be there.

I ran my index finger along the edges of the phone case, wondering which of his instructions I should follow. Guilt bled from his message, making my guts wrench.

Why did trying to do the right thing end up being so god-awful for us both?

It was just a break, just a week to think about our future, and we were both torn to pieces.

The air was so thick when I stepped off the airplane that it felt as if I were wearing it, choking on it, and walking through it. A layer of sweat instantly formed on my skin even though I was wearing shorts and a light blouse.

I readjusted my bag over my shoulder, descended the stairs set outside the plane’s front exit, and paused once my feet hit the tarmac. St. Thomas was breathtaking for more reasons than its palpable air. The landscape was full of lush forests with mountains in the distance and palm trees just beyond the concrete.

I pulled out my phone, shooting Taylor a quick text that I’d landed.

He sent a ♥ in reply but nothing else.

The passengers strode in a single-file line to the terminal where we meshed with other travelers until reconvening at baggage claim. I noticed a man standing near the exit, holding a sign with my name on it.

That hadn’t happened since I lived with my parents.

The man’s mouth broke into a bright white grin, a steep contrast with his ebony skin. “Yes! Come with me! Just the one bag?” he asked in a heavy accent, holding out his hand for my bag.

“Uh”—he looked down at a paper in his other hand—“Taylor Mad Dox.”

“Taylor Maddox?” I said, my surprise making me unintentionally correct him by emphasizing the ix pronunciation at the end.

Shock quickly evolved into suspicion. Taylor was either trying very hard to get me back—or for some reason, he was in full groveling mode.

I handed the man my bag, silently scolding myself. Taylor had secured me transportation to the hotel, and I was thinking the worst. He just wanted to make sure I was safe because he couldn’t make it to the airport himself.

The driver’s steering wheel was on the left side, but we drove on the left side of the road. It took me a while not to panic every time he turned onto a road with oncoming traffic, thinking he was in the wrong lane.

After hills and many, many curvy roads, we finally reached the security gate of The Ritz-Carlton hotel. The driver parked under the covered lobby entrance, and he quickly hopped out to open my door. I stepped out and swallowed hard. The days when I’d stayed in hotels like the Ritz seemed like a lifetime ago.

The light stucco and Spanish-tiled roof as well as the vegetation were impeccably maintained. I returned the smile and wave of a man high in a palm tree, removing coconuts.

The driver handed me my bag, and I opened my purse.

“No, no. It’s all been taken care of.”

He waved me away with a smile. “Taken care of, madam. Enjoy your stay.”

He drove away, and I wandered inside, overwhelmed by the spectacular lobby. I spotted Taylor right away. He was sitting in a chair with his elbows on his thighs, clasping his hands together, while his knee nervously bobbed up and down.

Before I could take another step, he looked up, and a dozen emotions scrolled across his face. He popped up out of his chair and jogged over to me, nearly knocking me over before enveloping me into a hug. I’d never felt so loved and wanted in my life.

“You’re here. Thank Christ,” he said, overwhelmed with relief. He tugged at me with gentle small squeezes, burying his face into my hair.