- Meet The Girls
- Meet The Guys
- Chapter One
- Chapter Two
- Chapter Three
- Chapter Four
- Chapter Five
- Chapter Six
- Chapter Seven
- Chapter Eight
- Chapter Nine
- Chapter Ten
- Chapter Eleven
- Chapter Twelve
- Chapter Thirteen
This story is rated Mature for adult language, sexual content, references to graphic violence, drug, and substance abuse. This means that this is intended for audiences 18 and up.
Eli was splintering under the weight of her lies. Paranoia made it impossible to function. She could swear she saw something in Landyn’s gaze — a bemusement. It was impossible to shake the feeling that he knew.
She did her best to convince herself that it was all in her head, but with every fleeting glance, every lingering touch, she found herself growing more and more frantic.
It was late. A cursory look at her bedside clock told her that it was a quarter past three in the morning. She paced the floor, carving a path across the marble. It would be a miracle if she didn’t wear a hole where her feet tread.
Her attention was repeatedly stolen by the clock as she fretted her fingers. Twisting, pulling. She had popped them too many times; she had lost count. When they began to ache and protest her ministrations, she turned to her cell phone.
There were no missed calls. No text messages.
Yui had posted something on Instagram about twenty minutes before. Eli quickly opened the video. Yui’s smiling face greeted her, the clip repeatedly played, drowning out the debilitating silence with girlish giggles and thumping bass. It was a good distraction for the next five minutes, but not enough to still her rapidly beating heart.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, a knock came at her door.
She descended upon it like a predator would its prey. Her raptor claw closed around the door’s handle, wrenching it open.
Damien stared at her, wide-eyed. He quickly regained his composure, a comforting smile replacing his startled expression. “Are you going to invite me in?”
Her voice had escaped her. She was only capable of nodding as she stepped aside.
He brushed past her, his fingers trailing along the curve of her waist. The door closed with a click behind him. Even she was startled by how quickly the tension fled her. All but completely gone when he pulled her into his arms. Their lips met, his stealing the breath from her lungs. Her body molded to his, her fingers trailing adoringly through his curls. “I was worried,” she whispered.
“I can tell.” There was no amusement to be heard in his voice. They both knew there were many reasons to be concerned. Many reasons to dread the quiet time between their visits.
“Everything is planned,” he said, framing her face in his hands. He traced her cheeks with his thumbs, her nose brushing sweetly against his. “I arranged transportation. New IDs.”
“And the feds?”
He nodded. “I got the information to them.” A tic formed in his jaw. His eyes swept her apartment as if fearing that someone lingered in the shadows, listening to their every word.
Letting out a long breath, she nodded. Pressure bled from her shoulders, melting her rigid spine. “When?”
“Tomorrow,” he smiled, fingers combing through her hair. “Tomorrow night.”
“Yes,” he grinned. “I figured that it’s best to get out while everything is still….”
She nodded, her jaw working. A part of her – the fatalist in her – couldn’t help but wonder if things really were good. The doubt must have played on her features because Damien tilted his head down to catch her gaze. He frowned, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “Do you think they’re not?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head hurriedly from side to side. “No, I mean—” she growled in frustration. “I mean, now is as good a time as ever.”
“Good,” he replied, relieved. “I was worried that we were going to have to put it off.”
An idea neither of them liked. For obvious reasons.
“That’s why I’m late,” he said, smiling soothingly. “Getting that girl to shut up is—”
“Next to impossible.”
He laughed and nodded. “I was late coming back from my break. So I got my ass chewed out.”
“Kinky,” she smiled. “What excuse did you give them?”
“I said that I was with a girl.”
Eli’s face contorted in something ugly.
“Don’t tell me you’re jealous,” he grinned.
“Of course not!”
“Then what’s with the face?”
She grimaced, hating the way that his eyes locked on her.
“You’re jealous over a girl who doesn’t exist, aren’t you?” He teased.
“Uhuh,” he teased, his fingers finding the curve of her waist, squeezing slightly to tickle her. She nearly jumped out of her skin, her hands slapping down on his to pry them away.
“How could I be jealous? It’s not like we’re monogamous.”
She felt the breath rush out of her lungs as she searched his face. “You are?”
“Mhm,” he pulled her close, his hand splayed over the small of her back.
His brow pinched in amusement, a light sound escaping him. “What do you mean ‘why?'”
“I just… I mean, I’m not monogamous, so….”
“And that means I can’t be? If I want to be?”
“I just don’t know why you would.”
He clicked his tongue, his head shaking from side to side. He began to move her backward, step by step. Damien’s hands never left her waist, not even when the backs of her legs hit the pillow-top mattress. “Do you want me to count the ways?”
“Hm,” she hummed in thought, her arm looped around his shoulders to hold herself flush to him, even as he bent to lower her to the bed. “Yes. I think I do.”
“Well,” he purred, gently setting her down. “You’re incredibly intelligent,” he said, kissing her pulse. “You’re driven, you’re strong as hell,” his fingers teasing the tie to her housecoat. “You’re stunning. And frankly, the best lay I’ve ever had in my life.”
“Don’t you forget it,” she rumbled, her protests stolen when he pressed a sweet, lingering kiss to her lips.
“And I love you.”
Her breath lodged in her lungs, frozen in place like a vice. She stared at him with wide, panicked eyes, a tremor of fear racing down her spine. Love wasn’t meant for people like her. Love was a tool. Something to manipulate. A way to bend her until she broke.
And break she did. She was not the woman he deserved. Nor the woman he would want if he knew the depths in which Landyn’s cancer had spread. Everything good in her had been choked out – blackened, charred. It wasn’t until she felt the first brush of something sincere that she realized how close she was to crumbling.
What he wanted to give her, she knew she could never return. Not for lack of want. Every part of her wanted to repay his kindness. She wanted to make him feel as valued and as cared for as he made her feel. But everything she touched would carry Landyn’s rot with it. The Devil spoiled everything he was near.
Damien stilled, pushing himself back on his hands. His head shook from side to side. “I didn’t mean to tell you like that, I—”
“No, it’s,” she swallowed hard, fighting past the lump in her throat. “I don’t know if you know the kind of love I give.”
“I know how I feel when I’m with you.”
She wasn’t sure what her face did in response, but it was enough to earn a small, sad smile from him. “I don’t expect you to say it back.”
Good. Because I can’t.
She reached up to trace his cheek, his jaw, his neck. “I’m not going to be your happily ever after, Damien,” she promised, her eyes searching his. “I’m too broken.”
“Now.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead, lingering. She could feel his heart beat against her breast. And she could swear she felt it shatter. “But neither of us know the future.”
“I’m not worried about what you can give me back. I’m not worried about whether you’re going to fall in love with me. Being with you, loving you,” he framed her face in his hands, his lips barely a hairsbreadth from hers, “that’s enough for me.”
She searched his face for any sign of deceit but saw none. “It doesn’t bother you that there are others?”
“Women?” He shook his head from side to side. “No. Men, yes.”
Eli opened her mouth to protest but was quickly silenced by his bright smile. “Before you get on your high horse, it’s only because I know that you feel safer with women. And I know that they can do things for you physically that I cannot.”
“And it has nothing to do with it being hot?”
He laughed, lowering himself fully onto her, pinning her to the bed. “That’s just a bonus.”
“Ah, there it is,” she smirked.
He stole it from her lips with another kiss. He cradled the back of her head, holding him to her as their tongues tangled and their hearts began to beat in time. When they came apart, he wore a loving smile. She had been a fool to not notice it before – so easily see, plain as day, written into the fine lines of his smile.
“Tomorrow night,” he said, stealing one last kiss. “Our future starts.”
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