Nora came to her feet, turned to look down at him. “Would you ever have told me?”
Eli met her narrowed gaze. The hurt staring back at him was like a kick to the gut. He’d never seen this side of Nora and he knew all the pain she was feeling could’ve somewhat been cushioned had he told her the truth in the beginning.
“No,” he answered honestly. “I didn’t want to cause you more pain.”
On a broken sigh, she closed her eyes and rested a hand on her stomach.
Eli came to his feet. “Are you hurting?”
She laughed as she looked up at him. “You lost all rights to worry about me and this baby when you opted to lie to me. We’re done, Eli.”
“Nora, please, if you’re in pain let me help. Think of the baby.”
She brushed a strand of hair off her face. “I am thinking of my baby. I’m thinking of how I’ll move forward and welcome this child into the world alone. I’m thinking of how we are done and it’s time I realized that there’s a reason we never worked out. I’m not in any more pain than I have been, and if I need help I’ll call my actual doctor.”
She’d shut him out, and he had no one to blame but himself. But he never would’ve told her. Ever. She didn’t need to have her final memories of Todd tainted knowing he’d cheated on her. He knew she was way angrier with Eli than Todd. Eli was alive, able to disclose the truth, and yet he’d chosen to keep it to himself.
Her whispered words combined with a fresh batch of tears forming in her eyes broke him. She’d erected a wall around herself and there was no way he would be able to scale it.
“No matter what you think of me,” he told her, fighting the urge to touch her, to hold her, “I do love you, Nora. I love your baby and I love us. I never once lied about my feelings. If you think this through, you’ll understand why I didn’t tell you about Todd.”
Tears spilled down her cheeks, and she didn’t even bother to swipe them away. Her chin quivered as she spoke.
“I assume it’s because you two were best friends,” she whispered. “Which only tells me that if you thought it was okay to keep the secret, then what’s to stop you from doing it yourself?”
A pain like he’d never known sliced right through him. He swallowed through the tears clogging his own throat.
“If that’s how you feel, then we don’t belong together. I would never, ever cause you more hurt or purposely ruin our relationship. Love means everything to me, Nora. Our love means everything to me.”
Without asking, he rested his hand on her stomach one last time before walking from the room and out of her life.
The ring in his pocket meant nothing now.
Thank God for the long weekend that spilled over into Christmas. The last thing Eli wanted was to come out of his apartment for Christmas dinner. He wasn’t feeling too festive.
His family always celebrated on Christmas Eve, but Eli was perfectly content cozying up to his beer. Not that he had taken the first sip. He’d been sitting on his couch, holding the bottle up on the arm and staring at the label.
There were a couple of times in the army when he’d wished he were one of those guys who lost themselves for a few hours in the bottom of a bottle, but he hadn’t been raised that way.
But right now, Eli would give anything to numb the pain, even if for a few minutes.
The condensation slid down the amber-colored glass and onto his fingers. Footsteps pounded up from the garage just before his apartment door flew open.
“What the hell is going on?”
Eli eyed his brother Drake across the room. Great, as if one pissy brother wasn’t enough, Cameron stood just over his shoulder, too.
“Come in if you’re coming in,” Eli told them. “If not, go away.”
“Well, you’re in a mood and Nora is not speaking.” Cameron stepped in, leaned against the small dinette table and crossed his arms over his chest. “What did you do?”
Eli snapped his gaze to his brother. “What makes you think I did anything?”
Drake took the time to take off his coat and toss it over the chair by the door. Cameron remained in his and shrugged, eyeing Eli.