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“I think we need to take a break,” he said.

“I thought that ‘break’ was on the list of words that I’m not allowed to use,” she teased. He half-heartedly chuckled and sat down on the bench.

“Right,” he said. “I think we can both use some time to figure our shit out.”

“Maybe you need to figure your shit out, Ryd, but I’ve pretty much got mine sorted. Why the change of heart?” she asked. Her voice cracked and he chanced a look at her. That was the first sign that she’d given that she was upset by his news. Was she happy to be rid of him?

“So much has happened in such a short amount of time,” he breathed. “I just think it would be best for us both to take a step back. You know, make sure that this thing that’s happening between us is something that we both want.”

Tatum threw the towel she had in her hands on his kitchen counter and nodded. “Take the time you need to figure out if I’m what you want, Ryder. As for me, I’ve already decided that you’re what I want. I’ve fallen in love with you and that’s not going to change, not even with time.” Tatum walked back to their bedroom and he heard her rustling around for about ten minutes. He didn’t move from his spot on the front entry bench. Ryder knew that if he went to her, he’d tell her that he made a huge mistake and beg her to forget everything he had just said. But he knew that would be the wrong thing to do.

Minutes later, she emerged from their bedroom, bags packed, and tears streaming down her beautiful face. He hated that he was the one making her cry but hopefully, she’d never cry another tear over him again. “I’ll be at my brother’s place,” she said, striding past him. She didn’t bother to stop or even give him a second look back. Tatum just walked to her little red sports car, tossed her bags in the trunk, and took off. He watched as she drove down his road and out of sight. She was gone and he’d made that happen. The hallow pain in the center of his chest was of his own doing and Ryder was sure it would never go away. He loved her, it was that simple, and letting her go was the right thing to do—no matter how much it hurt.