“How will you have money?” he asked.
She shrugged her shoulders. “I’ll work.”
“What about school?”
She made a face, as if something nasty was in her mouth. “I’m not worried about school. You don’t need an education to take your clothes off.”
Phillip’s fist clenched as he tried to take in calming breaths. What was he supposed to do? This girl did not want his help, she didn’t want anything from him, and he didn’t know how much more he could take.
“Why do you say things like that? I know damn well you don’t want to be like your mom.”
“It doesn’t matter what I want, it’s who I am,” she said and, for the first time, it wasn’t with an attitude. She really believed that she was destined to be what her mother was.
Over his dead body.
“If you’d let me, I could help you change that. I’m giving you all the options, Claire. I want you to do more; I want you to be happy.”
She shook her head, the hostile attitude back.
“I’m not happy unless I’m f**king.”
He let out a defeated breath as his shoulders fell.
“Claire, why are you doing this to me?” he asked, holding her angry gaze. “I am trying to do right by you, trying to make sure you are taken care of, but you keep pushing me away. I want to help you. Don’t you understand that I love you, and want more for you?”
“Whatever,” she muttered, turning around to get back in her bed. “If you loved me, you wouldn’t have left me.”
Here we go again, he thought as he let out an aggravated sigh. They always seemed to have this argument, and he didn’t even know why he continued to do so. Maybe, he hoped that she would believe him this time.
“I was eighteen!”
“You could have come back. Instead, I was left behind like an old rag and never saw you again,” she spat, pulling her long, red hair up into a bun.
“That was your mother’s doing. I wanted to see you, but there was nothing I could do.”
Claire pinned him with a glare before saying, “You could have tried harder, but whatever, it’s over with.”
“Then let it be over with… let’s move on from it. I’m here now, let me help you, Claire,” he stressed, but she was already shaking her head.
“I don’t need help, Phillip. I just need a place to crash until I’m eighteen because I know if I run right now, you’ll get the cops on me, or you’ll chase me down yourself. I’m not trying to do all that.”
He wanted to scream; this girl was so f**king frustrating. He tried to be calm and caring with her, but most of the time, he just wanted to cuss and shake the shit out of her. He felt sorry for the guys he played against. He was slamming people into walls left and right on the ice, out of frustration.
“You are damn right I would, but Claire, I am giving you everything you want and need. I am trying to make your life happy with me, but you won’t let me.”
“Well, I’m not happy here. I’m bored.”
“So you’ve said,” he replied, moving to his closet to grab his nightclothes. His days of sleeping naked were gone now that Claire shared a room with him.
“Quit hockey, so we can go home.”
He laughed. “Yeah right, I worked too hard to get where I am today. I am a first-line player, I am loved by everyone, and my contract is spectacular with the Assassins.”
“Well, you need to work harder on making me happy because I am not happy.”
He wanted to laugh again, but he knew that wouldn’t help the situation.
“Why should I do that when you do nothing but make my life hell?” he asked, leaning against the bathroom door with his arms crossed over his chest. She shrugged her shoulders before bringing her knees up under her chin. It reminded him of when she was a child, and his heart jumped into his throat. Why didn’t he fight harder for her?
“I don’t want to travel, Phillip. I’ve done it for like ever, and I just want to have a home.”
He shook her head, letting his arms fall. “Claire, I have a home but, during the season, I’m not there that much. I’m sorry, but this is my life.”
“But I don’t want it as mine. Can’t I stay at the house without you?”
He laughed out loud at that. “Did you really think that was going to work?”
She shook her head. “No, but I thought I’d try.” Looking away, she softy said, “I just hate traveling all the time. We never had a place to call home. Mom never had the money to keep us in one place, and I just want a home.”
She was pulling at his heartstrings, and soon he couldn’t take it anymore. Nodding his head, he said, “Let me see what I can do.”
She looked up at him, her eyes filling with tears as she asked, “You won’t send me back to the crazy cat lady though, right?”
Phillip shook his head. “No, but I’ll figure something out.”
Entering the bathroom, he shut the door and slid down it until his butt hit the ground. Once there, he crossed his arms over his legs, and leaned his head against them. He had no clue what he was going to do. He had no family, except Alice, but she couldn’t help him. She had made it perfectly clear when they left that Claire wasn’t welcomed back, so that left no one. He couldn’t quit. He loved hockey and the Assassins, so what else could he do? He knew he had to do something though. Claire wasn’t happy, and he swore he would do anything to make her happy—to make the last sixteen years vanish from her mind. He wanted to help her see that she could be more than a two-bit whore. She was smart, she was beautiful, and he had no doubts that she could be something amazing. He just needed help to get her there. He couldn’t do it all on his own.