The Wrong Decision

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I swallow hard

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I swallow hard. "What can I say? I want both. But I have to think of something other than my own needs."

And yet, the pain on Rafa's face tells me that I'm making the wrong decision. Again. Is there a way for me to start this conversation over? I chew on my bottom lip.

"Christ, Justine, we could have the best life here together. Every woman in the world would jump at the chance to be here with me. I'll take care of you. I'll buy you anything you want. I'll give you a fairytale life."

I cradle his face, and his cheeks are fever-hot. He's literally on his knees for me, and it kills me to utter my thoughts aloud. "I'm not just any woman, Rafa. And what would my fairytale be like if it didn't have a happy ending for the paper? Or for the people who work there? Think about Diana. And everyone else who has worked there for thirty-plus years. I can't be that selfish. I won't."

Rafa squirms out of my hands and stands to pace the room. His voice takes on an edge and rises in volume. He punctuates each sentence with sharp gestures with his hands. "Do you know that I have thought of you every day, every night, every fucking morning since you left eleven years ago? Every morning, I have reached for you in bed, and until a month ago, you weren't there. And now that I finally have you in my life, you're going to walk away? Again? Do you know how that makes me feel?"

I stare at the floor and try to stay calm. "I'm not walking away from you. I have an obligation to my business. I want us, but not here in Miami. I've never stopped loving you. Not for a minute. And none of this would be happening if you had told me you loved all those years ago and asked me to marry you."

Rafa's back is to me as he stares out the window.

"You're the only woman who has ever said no to me. And you're the only woman—hell, the only person—that I can be myself around. Do you understand that? I can't be real with anyone but you."

I try, and fail, to choke back tears. "And I feel the same way about you. My defenses are down when I'm with you. All I'm asking is for you to compromise. If I have to compromise for the paper and sell the building or take it all-digital in order for it not to close, you should have to compromise, too."

He spins around with blazing eyes, stabbing his finger through the air. "Open that nightstand drawer near you. The top one."

As if moving through thick liquid, I reach over to slide open the drawer of the boxy, modern nightstand. One thing is inside: a lone, black, leather-bound book.

"Take it out," he commands. I do and set it on my lap.

"Look inside."

I open it slowly. It's a photo album, my photo album, one I'd compiled for him so long ago. I shut the cover.

"I know what this is. I don't need to look."

He walks over and flips the cover open. He pushes words out between gritted teeth.

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