Home > Her Best Worst Mistake (Elizabeth and Violet #2)(14)

Her Best Worst Mistake (Elizabeth and Violet #2)(14)
Sarah Mayberry

Elizabeth’s words from three days ago echoed in his mind. At the time, he had denied them. Hadn’t wanted to hear what she’d been saying. He’d been driven by fear and pride, determined to bring her home with him. They were supposed to walk down the aisle barely six weeks from today. All their friends were invited to the wedding, along with the most important of his work colleagues. If—when—they called the wedding off, the fact that Elizabeth had jilted him would be common knowledge. People would talk and snicker behind their hands. There would be speculation. He would be a laughing stock. A man who couldn’t hold onto his woman.

Even as humiliation rose afresh within him, he knew that the blow he’d taken to his pride was the least of his problems. More important to him was the fact that Elizabeth had been frustrated and stifled by him and the life they’d planned together.

He’d made her unhappy, and he hadn’t seen it. She’d hidden it from him, toed the line, agreed to everything, and yet inside she had been suffocating.

Not my fault. She’s a grown woman. She could have spoken up. Told me what she wanted, how she felt. We were supposed to be equals, after all.

He pushed himself to his feet. Brushing dust off the seat of his pants, he strode for the front door.

He couldn’t leave his thoughts behind so easily. They caught up with him as he got into his car.

Because Elizabeth had tried to talk to him—and he’d ignored her. Not so many months ago, she’d waited until they were having a quiet night in and she’d told him in a nervous, self-conscious way that she’d like to experiment more in the bedroom. She’d told him that she wanted to spice things up between them, try something new.

And he’d been so uncomfortable with what she’d asked that he’d shut her down. Self-conscious heat burned through his body as he recalled the way he’d dismissed her suggestions. He’d all but patted her on the head and told her not to worry herself about such matters in his rush to end the conversation.

It wasn’t as though she’d asked for anything ridiculously kinky, either. Certainly nothing he hadn’t done with his other girlfriends. Her sexual fantasies had been very vanilla, very tame by modern standards—and yet the thought of throwing her on a bed and taking her from behind had felt as decadent and out of the question for him as if she’d asked him to beat her bloody and watch her sleep with ten different men.

At the time he hadn’t stopped to question why, but Elizabeth had, as she’d so eloquently demonstrated when she gently but firmly severed the ties that bound them three days ago.

Let’s call a spade a spade here. For better or for worse, I’m fixed in your mind as the granddaughter of the man you respect more than any other person in the world. You said it yourself—you owe him everything. When you look at me, you see the granddaughter of Edward Whittaker first and me second.

As much as he wanted to repudiate her view of their relationship, her words had resonated within him.

Twenty years ago, he’d made a vow to himself that he would not repeat his parents’ mistakes. He had been determined to make it out of the cycle of poverty and ignorance into which he’d been born. He’d stuck with school when his peers had dropped out. He’d ignored the lures of drugs and drink and girls, even though the council estate had been rife with distractions and temptations and even though his mother had been baffled by his determination to better himself.

He hadn’t been the brightest kid in his class, but he’d worked his ass off, studying and cramming until he’d aced his A Levels. When he’d first walked into Wren Library at Trinity College, he’d looked around and known without a doubt that he was the roughest, poorest kid in the building. He’d earned himself a partial scholarship to cover his tuition but missed out on a Government grant for living expenses, so he’d worked two jobs as well as doing everything in his power to make himself an attractive prospect for a future employer. He’d listened to the presenters on the BBC and practiced until he’d smoothed out his rough North London accent, and he’d watched where the more well-heeled of his peers shopped and parroted them. In short, he had reinvented himself—as much as a man could when he was on the outside looking in. It had taken a long-established insider like Edward Whittaker taking an interest in him to complete his transformation. Under Edward’s guidance he’d shed the last of his rough edges and gained the polish that allowed him to pass as someone born and bred to success. To this day he didn’t know why the older man had taken an interest in him—perhaps because he’d never had a son of his own, just as Martin had never had a father—but whatever his motivation, Edward had made his current life possible, and the prospect of becoming part of the old man’s family through marrying Elizabeth had held enormous appeal for him, as had Elizabeth herself.

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