Chasing Serenity (River Rain #1) by Kristen Ashley



Needless to say, Meg did not share this opinion.

Judge ran an outreach program for a massive outdoor store that had over seventy locations in the US. A program aimed to get urban kids out into nature.

He hiked with the kids…a lot.

He also hiked by himself and did other things outside…a lot.

But most of his job was about raising money, ditto awareness of the issue, and the profile of the program, as well as managing the logistics that included hundreds of volunteers in dozens of cities doing hundreds of hikes a year.

He wasn’t paid enough to afford a BMW. But even if he was, he wouldn’t buy one.

He also wasn’t homeless.

But they were here, at a bar, and Meg was ending things with him, when they’d committed to each other over a year ago. They regularly, if not all the time, slept at each other’s sides. They’d gone on vacations together. And they’d met each other’s families.

Or, she’d had dinner with his dad.

His mom?

Absolutely not.

“Though, a lot of men and women would want to hike for a living,” he went on. “Around fifty million people in the US alone regularly hike.”

“Judge—”

He wasn’t done.

“You’re not an outdoors person. That’s cool. I don’t care because you’re smart as hell and goal oriented. You’re interesting. You’re funny. You’re sweet. And you’re beautiful. I want you to have what you want. I want to support you in your goals. I want you to be happy. What I don’t want is for you to mold me into who you think I’m supposed to be to fit into your life.”

Right.

The real honesty?

This had been an issue.

It being one right then, he wasn’t blindsided by it.

She’d said some things. There had been more than a few looks when he’d been with her and shared with others what he did. She’d done some suggesting, urging and downright pushing.

He just thought she’d get over it when he didn’t bend and definitely didn’t break.

Her expression had softened when he’d told her all the things he found attractive in her, because Meg liked compliments. She told him her love language was words.

So he gave her words, because that was what she needed and she was upfront about it, even if he wasn’t a flowery speeches kind of guy.

She also thought what he said opened a door for her, and even if it didn’t, she tried to stroll through.

“You can get involved down here. In Phoenix,” she said. “There are a lot of charities you can work for. On the whole, there are just tons more opportunities down here. And truly, Judge, you’re wasted up there. You’re whip smart, and when you talk, people listen to you. You’re a natural leader. You should be with a bigger program. You should be seeking new challenges. You should be reaching for something higher.”

“Organizations that pay more, have advancement opportunities and don’t require me to travel,” he filled in what she left unsaid.

She opened her mouth.

But this shit from Megan wasn’t the only pressure Judge had about this same subject.

And if he didn’t put up with it from the other source, he was not going to put up with it from his girlfriend.

“Meg, no,” he cut her off before she could use it. “I love my job. I love what I do. I love it. I’ve told you that. More than once. Does that mean nothing to you?”

“Do I mean nothing to you?” she retorted.

Uh.

No.

“I could ask you the same thing,” he returned. “And your answer would be rougher, babe, because it isn’t me breaking it off with you because you’re not what I want, and you won’t adjust your life to make yourself into that. So the only answer you could give me is, not much. I don’t mean much to you. You’re seeing the wrong man. And now, it’s over because you’ve either figured that out, or you’re cutting your losses before you invest any more time with me.”

She appeared insulted. “Judge, I love you.”

Okay.

That totally pissed him off.

“And you’re ending things not because I’m a dick to you. Not because I lie or cheat or steal. Not because I flirt with other women in front of you. Not because we fight. Not because we have differing opinions we believe in strongly and we can’t get around those differences. But instead, because you think I have no direction or ambition when I do have direction and ambition.”