36 B A Week in Awkwardville

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A/N Just a quick THANK YOU to everyone who continues to wait and read me patiently. I'm so grateful for your amazing support and kindness especially while I struggle but adjust to my new roller coaster of a schedule.

Also I need to Thank all the new followers that have come on board. Some of you have managed to catch up with me already! I appreciate you and welcome you to my story. I look forward to hearing from you too!

aml,

Ryle Cate

Chapter 36 B

A Week in Awkward Ville

Dane tossed and turned all night long. He almost picked up the phone to call Berkley twice and the third time the thought crossed his mind, he followed through. He didn't expect her to answer but just hearing the sound of her voice in her voice mail made him feel a little better. At least she sounded happy when she recorded it. He didn't leave a message. He couldn't sort out the right way to express his agony to her and he also didn't want to upset her further. A message would have been pointless considering the circumstances. He just stared at the ceiling until he finally succumbed to the exhaustion brought on by his own doing.

Morning came and he checked on Ethan before going on with his morning routine. He stepped into his closet in search of his lucky shirt and as habit would have it he glanced across the room to his bed but there was no sleeping beauty curled beneath the sheets. No sun kissed leg stretched across to his side of the bed for his lips to travel before kissing her goodbye.

Nothing had ever felt more wrong than this. The thought of waking up alone everyday weighed heavily on him. Sure he could wake up next to a warm body but if it wasn't Berkley he would still be alone. He didn't want the life he had lived before. When his marriage to Laura had ended, it had seemed like the only logical choice. At first it offered relief, a pleasant distraction during the divorce but then there were problems at work. He had the mounting pressure to move the family business forward on a global scale and the task was a monumental one. At the height of all the changes taking place in his life, he found the only thing he had to look forward to most evenings was an empty house and a child who seemed to hate him. Laura was strung out on anti-depressants half the time and he wasn't comfortable leaving Ethan alone with her. Then the unthinkable happened. Ethan no longer had a mother and was left with a poor excuse of a father. Looking back on it now, Dane realized just how much of it had all blurred together and how numb had been until Berkley jolted him back to life.

The sound of the door closing brought him back to the present. He ran his fingers through his hair and made his way down the stairs.

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Berkley drove Dane's car to his home for what she planned to be the last time. She knew he would put up an argument but she couldn't keep the car he had purchased for her now that their situation had changed. She pulled onto the circle drive and recalled her first visit. Her smile was completely subconscious but Dane got the credit for it either way as she remembered how rowdy he and Ethan were when they came running up the stairs from the basement not expecting Alana to have his new employee standing in his living room. The jerk from the lobby the morning of her interview had surprised her. Ethan had been all giggles and Dane had seemed more like an overgrown brother than a father. He was good with Ethan but just needed a little help in the quiet time area. Ethan had come so far. He was behind on everything when she first met him. His speech wasn't clear, he wasn't potty trained fully and he had major behavioral issues. The latter being the reason why the job had come open in the first place. She smiled now, proud of all the progress he had made.

Her heart was heavy as she turned onto his street. She had been fascinated with Dane from the moment she saw him with Ethan. He was a loving father and his charming ways were just the icing on the cake. She never stood a chance. She had been kidding herself to think that she could come to live with a man like that and not develop feelings for him. She was so broken inside the more Dane got to know her, the more determined to protect her he had become. He might as well have rode in on white horse once he learned of her dark secret. He had shown her a tenderness that she had never experienced in her relationships before and once she had been given a taste of it, she craved more of it. It had been a recipe for more heartache. She should have been more professional. She should have kept what was left of her heart locked away. But it was too easy to love him. Nothing had ever felt better than loving him and by the same token, nothing had ever hurt more. The physical pain that she had endured in her past was nothing compared to the pain she felt now. As she parked the car her stomach turned a flip at the thought of how quickly things can change.

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