Simple Perfection (Perfection #2)(5) by Abbi Glines

I reached for her shirt and had started to lift it over her head when she cried out in pain. I froze. "What's wrong, baby?"

"My ribs," she said in a tight whisper.

Fuck. I forced myself to calm down. The anger rolling over me was getting worse. I was going to snap. The tank top she was wearing was ruined. Blood and grass stains had made it unsalvageable. I reached up and grabbed the neckline, then ripped it in one swift move. It fell to the ground behind her and my eyes found the bruised skin. It was too much. Seeing the dark bruise covering her side broke me. I had let this happen to her. I had left her alone and let this woman into our lives. This was my fault.

My knees gave out and I fell before her. Knowing that she was hurting was too much. The sob that filled the bathroom was mine.

"Woods, please don't," her sweet voice begged. Della's hands caressed my head in her attempt to comfort me. Me. I wasn't the one who had been attacked. She was the one with bruises and covered in blood but I was the one on his knees, crying. "It's okay, I'm okay," she tried to reassure me. She was in pain and she was worrying over me. I was a man, dammit. I couldn't break apart on her. It was my place to take care of her, not the other way around.

I forced myself to stand up and focus on undressing her. I needed to clean her. I had to fix her. Make the pain go away.

"Woods?" Her voice was soft and unsure. I knew the tears were still rolling down my face silently. I couldn't seem to make them stop. I was trying. They weren't going away.

"I need to clean you. Let me clean you," I said, finally lifting my eyes to look into hers. She wasn't about to leave me anymore. The glazed look that I'd seen in her eyes earlier was gone. I had her back with me.

"Okay," she said simply, and stepped into the shower.

I undressed and followed her inside. She wasn't standing under the warm water.

"I need to wash your hair," I told her, moving close to her body and running my hands down her arms.

"Be gentle with my head," she said.

Her head? What the f**k did Angelina do to her head? "What's wrong with your head, baby?"

She dropped her eyes from mine as she stared down at the marble floor. "She pulled a lot of my hair out. It burns," she said so softly I almost missed it.

My body trembled. Holy hell.

"I will be gentle. But we need to clean it. Do you trust me?" I asked as she stared warily back at the water. Then she nodded.

I moved her under the water and pressed kisses to her lips while whispering comforting words to her as she winced.

Gently, I washed her hair, then moved to clean her body. She flinched as I touched the tender spots. Each flinch from her body caused my chest to constrict. Once she was clean I wrapped a towel around her and carried her to bed. I needed to hold her but first I wanted her checked out.

"I'm going to call a friend of mine. He'll come here and check you out. I need to know you're okay. Your ribs could be broken."

She started to shake her head but I couldn't give her this. I had to know she was okay. "Della, I have to. I can't not make sure you're okay. Please, baby. He's a sports doctor. We use him at the club during tennis tournaments. He's a friend. It's okay."

She finally nodded. "Okay," she agreed.

I didn't want to leave her in there alone but I wanted to talk to Martin without her hearing me. I didn't want to scare her.

"Hello," Martin said after one ring. I had his private line for emergencies. The club had been using him for over twenty years.

"Martin, it's Woods. I need you to make a house call. My girlfriend was beaten up tonight by my crazy ex-fiancée. I'm worried her ribs could be broken or she could be internally bleeding. I don't think Angelina is strong enough to actually cause internal bleeding but I still need Della checked out. She won't go to the hospital."

Martin let out a low whistle. "Damn, Woods. That is some fucked-up shit," he replied.

"Yeah, it is. Can you come check her tonight?"

"I'm on my way. I'll be there in twenty minutes. Are y'all at your house?"

"Yeah, thanks, man. See you in a few."

Della hadn't been thrilled about Martin checking her out but I'd held her hand while he felt her ribs. She was bruised but that was it. He'd left her some pain pills. They had successfully knocked Della out within thirty minutes. I wasn't going to be able to sleep, though. I had something I needed to do.

Jace arrived ten minutes after I called him. He didn't ask questions. He just agreed to watch Della and call me if she woke up. He seemed to understand that I wasn't ready to talk about this. I started for the door.

"Don't do anything that could take you away from her. Be careful how you handle this. Don't kill a bitch; I don't want your ass in jail. I would want revenge too. Just . . . just be careful. Use your head."

Rush must have told him. I didn't look back at him. I only nodded, then opened the door and headed outside. I was going to make sure Angelina understood that this was her only warning. She had one hour to get her shit and get on a plane and not come back. I couldn't beat the hell out of a woman but I could make her wish she'd never been born. She'd crossed a line.

When I drove up to my mother's house, Angelina's car was missing. She was hiding or she wasn't home yet. I took the stairs to my mother's house two at a time and knocked once before pulling out my key and opening the door.

My mother was walking down the staircase in her robe. "Woods? What are you doing here so late? You scared me."

"Where is she?" I asked, trying to control the anger in my voice.

"She left. What did you do?"

I let out a hard laugh. "What did I do? I just stood over Della as a doctor checked her for internal bleeding and broken ribs because Angelina beat the shit out of her. If Blaire Finlay hadn't shown up and pulled a gun on her crazy ass she would have killed Della. So tell me now, where is she!"

Mother covered her mouth with both her hands as her eyes went round in surprise. "What? That's . . . that's ridiculous. Angelina is a sweet girl. She'd never do something so awful. Della has lied to you."

"No, Mother. Rush and Blaire Finlay found them and stopped Angelina. I have witnesses. She isn't sweet, she was using you to stay near me. She's a f**king psycho."

"Watch your mouth in my house. I won't listen to this. The poor girl left here in tears saying you'd hurt her too many times. She wanted to stay with me but she was going home to her parents and starting over."

She was going to refuse to believe me. I shouldn't have been surprised. She had always chosen my father over me. Now she was choosing Angelina because she was my father's choice for me. What mattered was that Angelina was gone. The bitch was gone. She had better never come back.

"If you speak to her, let her know that if she steps foot in Rosemary again I will have her arrested. I have witnesses and I will press charges. I don't give a f**k who her daddy is."

I didn't wait for my mother to respond. I turned and left the house, slamming the door behind me.

Della

I stared down at my phone after I hung up with Woods. He had called me four times today already to check on me. It had been this way all week. Since Angelina had attacked me he had been afraid to leave me. He had a country club to run but he kept calling me. I mentioned getting a job again and he panicked and begged me not to. He said he couldn't focus on work if he was worrying about me.

We were at a standstill. This wasn't healthy. He needed to be able to live without worrying over me. I needed to be able to live. His protective nature was starting to smother me and I loved him too much to hurt him by saying something about it. I was going to have bad moments. I was going to slip into my head sometimes and he couldn't always be there for me. I just didn't know how to get him to understand this and accept it. How could we make this work? This couldn't be forever.

I wanted this forever but Woods deserved so much more. I was holding him back. This relationship would destroy him. I would destroy him. I felt sick to my stomach. I did this. I let this happen. I let myself fall so helplessly in love with him. I let myself believe he could fix me. That we could fix me. But it isn't happening.

My phone rang and I looked down to see Tripp's number. He hadn't called in two weeks. I thought about telling Woods that Tripp checked in with me a couple times a month, but I hadn't found the right words to explain that. Woods seemed jealous of Tripp. He had no reason to be, but he was. I didn't want to give him something else to worry over.

"Hello," I said as I stretched my legs in front of me on the sandy beach.

"How are things?"

"Good, I guess," I replied.

"You guess? That don't sound good."

"Angelina beat me up and Blaire Finlay pulled a gun on her and scared her off. Woods is now more overprotective than ever and he's always worried about me."

Tripp was quiet for a moment. I let him digest my words.

"Holy shit. Blaire has a gun?"

I laughed. That was his response to what I'd just told him?

"Sorry. I don't think that was the point. But damn, I can't picture that hot little blonde with a gun."

"Yeah, it was a shock," I replied, smiling out at the water crashing against the shore.

"Jace said she was from Alabama. Maybe I've been looking for a woman in the wrong states. I need to try out good ole Alabama next."

Tripp always managed to make me laugh, and he made me forget for a moment that my chest was about to explode from pain.

"Thanks," I said.

"For what?"

"Making me laugh," I replied.

"Anytime."

We sat there again for a few moments in silence.

"Where are you at now?" I asked, knowing he was on a road trip.

"I'm in South Carolina at a place called Myrtle Beach. I like it here."

"You like those beaches, don't you?" I replied.

"Makes me feel like I'm home, in a way."

"Will you ever come back here to stay?"

He didn't respond right away. It made me wonder what kept him away. There were secrets that he wouldn't share with me.

"Doubt it," he finally said.

"I don't think I can stay," I said aloud for the first time.

"Why?"

"Because this isn't working. I'm holding him back. I'm not getting better. This isn't going away and he deserves more. He needs more. Someone strong to stand beside him."

"He wants you, Della."

"Sometimes what we want isn't what's best for us," I replied.

"Yeah . . . I know that," he said quietly. "But if you leave him it will break him."

It would shatter me. But I loved him too much to ruin his future. "He will heal and then the woman who can be all he needs will walk into his life one day and he'll be glad he didn't make the mistake of staying with me."

"Don't say that. You aren't a mistake. You underestimate your worth. You make him happy. Woods is happy with you."

"For now he is," I replied.

Tripp sighed. I was frustrating him, but he knew deep down that I was right. "When the time comes and you think you need to leave, just call me. Don't go by yourself."

"Okay," I replied. I would call him when I needed to. He wasn't tied to me. I didn't control his actions and thoughts. I could travel with Tripp and not destroy his future. At least until I was stable enough to live alone.

"I think you need to talk to Woods about this first. Don't blindside him."

I wasn't sure that was possible. He would never listen to me. "Okay," I replied.

I stepped out of my car and waved at Bethy as she drove by in a golf cart toward the fifteenth hole. She was a cart girl at the Kerrington Club. It was how she had met Jace. He was a member here and I had heard them arguing over her quitting more than once. He hated seeing the men on the course flirt with her. That had been him once. She refused to change just because she was dating him. I think, deep down, he respected her for that.

After hanging up the phone with Tripp, I'd sat and thought a long time. Woods needed help and all I seemed to be doing was whining over not having a job and being a burden on him. I was stronger than that. Why couldn't I help him? I could. He would have me close by and I would have a purpose. So, I'd gone back to the house and dressed up.

I was going to go apply for a job as his assistant. I could do the tasks that caused him extra headaches. I could handle the staff. I might have been dealing with some mental issues, but I wasn't helpless. If I could prove to myself that I could do this, then I could prove to Woods and the rest of the world that I was healing.

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