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“You left before I had a chance to choose.”

“I didn’t want you to have to make that choice. I didn’t want you to break up with me,” she said, another tear leaving her eye.

“Why were you so sure I would?”

Liz shook her head softly in his grasp. “You wouldn’t let me love you. It was like walking into a brick wall over and over again. I was the liability that you couldn’t figure out how to deal with.”

“Liz . . .”

“And in the end, Brady . . . I let you have the campaign and Congress. I couldn’t let you jeopardize any of that for me.”

Brady released a stifled laugh. “You thought I was happy?”

“I . . .”

“Heather basically talked me off of a ledge for the next three months.”

Liz stood there as solid as stone. She couldn’t believe what he had just said. No way had it affected him that much. No way. She just couldn’t see that being the case. He was dating Erin . . . and had been so happy . . . and . . . Shit!

No. She couldn’t have walked away for nothing. He hadn’t come after her. He hadn’t tried to follow her. She couldn’t think about those months. She couldn’t think . . .

“I wish I’d had someone to talk me off of the ledge,” she whispered. She didn’t even know where it came from. But she’d had no one. She had been all alone with her misery.

Brady’s eyes darkened when she said that. “You mean you didn’t have the boring fill-in to keep you company?”

“We didn’t start dating until the election was over.”

Brady cursed under his breath. “How could you date him?”

“Me? How could you date her?”

“You left me, remember?”

“And you pushed me away,” she snapped.

“Well, I’m not pushing you away now.” He grabbed her by her shoulders and pulled her body against his. Her hands jerked up against his chest just as his lips dropped down to cover hers.

The world stopped. There was only Brady. Nothing else existed. Nothing else ever had. When their lips touched, it was like the fireworks on Fourth of July mixed with the ball dropping on New Year’s. She could feel her body wake up from head to toe. Her mind cleared until everything seemed perfectly crystallized. It was as if she had been wading through mud in a dense fog, and suddenly she walked onto solid ground and the sun was shining.

Chapter 17


She was kissing Brady.

Her hands were gripping his suit coat. His were tangled in her hair. Their bodies were flush together. Somehow they had moved to where he was pressed back into the footboard of the bed. Their mouths were moving in time and tongues volleying for position. She could feel her heart practically leaping out of her throat and her chest rising and falling as the adrenaline coursed through her body.

It had been months . . . over a year since they had last been together. The built-up tension superheated the room until she felt as if she couldn’t breathe. It was too much all at once. And still she needed more. She wanted more. She could never get enough.

“Liz,” he groaned against her mouth. He moved his hands down her sides and clutched her hips tightly, jerking her into him.

And then her world came crashing down all around her.

“Oh, no,” she whispered, shaking her head.

“No. Don’t do that.” He brought her face back up to stare at him.

“No. Brady, no,” she said, pushing his chest and walking across the room. “Oh, no. No. No. No.”

“Liz,” he said breathlessly.

“Stop.” She put her hand up hoping to keep him from saying anything.

“Why are you pushing me away?”

“I walked away for a reason Brady, and you didn’t come after me. That door closed a year ago,” she whispered. Her chest ached just speaking the words.

“Are you serious? What did you expect me to do, run after a woman who didn’t want me? Who left me?”

“I don’t know what I would have wanted you to do, but the fact of the matter is, neither of us did anything. Anything at all. The ifs, ands, or buts don’t matter, because I left and you didn’t follow me. And we did nothing for the next year.”

Brady visibly straightened across the room. “So, I’m standing here a year later for nothing.”

“Just like you were a year before this,” she whispered.

She swallowed heavily and waited for him to contradict her, but he didn’t. How could he? They’d been at a standstill then, and they were driving backward currently. This was a terrible, terrible mistake. One that she had not intended to make. One that she had not considered the consequences of when she had called him in her bout of anger.

They stood there in the silence, each waiting for the other to make them stop slipping down this slope. But neither did.

Brady’s phone vibrated in his pocket and he broke eye contact with Liz. He pulled it out of his coat, checked the name, and then silenced it and replaced it.

“Not important?” she asked, even though she knew that she shouldn’t.

His eyes found hers again. “No.”

Liz hadn’t checked her phone since she had gotten into the car with Brady. She wondered how many messages she had from Hayden. She knew she shouldn’t ignore him. He was probably flipping out, and not responding wasn’t exactly the mature way to handle the situation. But she certainly wasn’t calling him back right now. Not while she was with Brady.

She hated the distance that stretched between them. She hated that she had to force the distance and that they couldn’t just fall into their easy rhythm. But a lot had happened in the time they had been apart. She had spent a year moving on.

“I think you’re just being stubborn,” he finally said, breaking the silence.

Liz tilted her head forward and looked at him incredulously. “I’m being stubborn? You, of all people, are telling me that I’m stubborn? Pot. Meet kettle,” she said, gesturing toward him.

“Your sarcasm is a good defense mechanism,” he said casually. “It probably works on someone else.”

“Your politician confidence is a good defense mechanism,” she threw back. “It probably works on someone else.”

“It worked on you.”

Liz laughed and rolled her eyes to the ceiling. “You think I was taken in by your cocky ass**le attitude? I’m pretty sure I saw through that a mile off. I didn’t even use your number that you gave to me at the club that first night we met.”