The Insiders

Page 90

I knew what words he’d just read, and my throat was feeling raw.

I could only get a whisper out. “I mean it, every word of it.”

He was shaking his head even as he stepped toward me. “You have no idea.”

I countered with, “I might, actually.”

Another head shake, but another step. “No, you don’t. You don’t know how you looked in that van.”

I wet my lips. “So tell me. You have other things to tell me, too.”

I didn’t even care what he said. I just needed him to talk. And after a moment of silence, I thought he would ignore me. I thought it was like all the other times. He would reach for me, distract me, shut me out. But he didn’t.

He started slow at first, but he talked.

He talked about others. About me. About the event. About the aftermath. About what I should expect. But not about him. He never said a word.

“I can’t.” He looked away, his hands forming fists.

“Yes! You told me you had things to say to me, but you never did. You have to tell me. You have to let me in, too.”

I’d been aching for those words. He had no idea. There was a wall around him. He kept it in place between him and everyone, the world. I needed a peek behind it. I was desperate for it. If he lifted it up, or curled back a corner, I could do the rest. I would do the rest. I’d get in there, be my own Cyclone, and tear the rest of that wall down. I just needed an inch.

So I was going to force an inch now.

Stepping to him, closing the distance, my hand came to his chest. “Let me in, Kash.”

His chest shook under my touch, his breath sucking in, holding, then coming out in a sudden rush. Then he shoved away, turning, giving me his back.

He spoke, but he wouldn’t look at me.

“You want to know how I feel?” he bit out.

Why would he spit those words?

He started, harsh. “I fell in love with you before you even knew me. When your father asked me to watch you. After we found out Arcane was targeting you. It was then, during all of that time that you became mine. You just didn’t know.”

Those words should’ve been said beautifully. They weren’t.

He kept on, “I thought about walking away. I did.” His shoulders bunched under his shirt, stretching the material out. “It’s why I left, once you got to my villa. I had you somewhere safe—or I thought you were safe. I knew that what we were about to head into was going to be bad. It would be bad and there would be nothing I could do to shield you from it. Nothing.” He spun. His face was rigid. His hands in fists. His jaw was clenching. “You want to know what’s been eating me up every fucking night I’m inside of you, every morning when I see you sleeping, every time you send me a text that makes me laugh? Me. I am. I am leading you into a storm, and I will be lucky if you come out even half alive.”

He stepped toward me, his eyes burning and fierce.

“Because I won’t be. Because my grandfather is coming and he will kill me. Maybe not my body, but he will do what he did to my mother. And if you stay with me, stay here, then all that dark shit will come on you, too. I will destroy you. You might not know it. I might not even catch it, not at first. It might be slow, but it’ll be there. It’ll be gradual, until one day you wake up hating me.” His nostrils flared. “That’s what’s going on inside of me, every fucking time I want to tell you that I am completely in love with you.”

He spat it out. “Death. Darkness. Hatred. You stay with me, that’s what will happen to you.”

He stopped, looking down at me. His eyes were black, clouded over.

I reached up without thinking.

I cupped the side of his face.

“The world is already fascinated with you.” Those were my words. More came out. “And whatever comes our way, I will handle it. I’m here. I’m with you. And, my God, Kash. If you try to leave me, I won’t have it. You got that?”

I could speak just as harshly.

He didn’t say anything. Neither did I.

We were glaring at each other.

The room was shrinking in on us, and then the doorbell rang.

Kash cursed, his eyes closing. His head tipped back, but it rang again. And again.

Stalking over, he pressed the button, then went stock-still.

Blood drained from his face.

Every hair on my body stood straight up.

I was standing at the end of the hall, and I stepped toward him, out of instinct. “Kash?”

He didn’t answer. He didn’t look at me.

Whoever it was, they’d gotten past the front desk. They were on our floor, just on the other side of our door.

Cursing, he wrenched open the door and faced off against whoever was on the other side.

“Get. Gone!”

Their response was quieter, calmer. “Hello, Kash.” A man. An older man.

Ice ran down my spine. I was moving faster, hurrying to be at his side, because this time Kash needed me. Then Kash was moving. He blocked me, holding me back. He slammed the door shut, engaging all of the locks. He flicked off the security camera feed so I couldn’t see, then hit the buzzer. “Call the police. Now.”

He held me back until we heard the elevator open, close, and travel down.

I stepped away from him, getting a glimpse of what a cornered feral animal might look like. Unease traced through me. They were whispering at me, in the back of my mind, riding down my spine.

I asked, “Who was that?”

He didn’t look me in the eye, but his hand tightened over mine.

“My grandfather.”


Bailey’s Letter to Kash

I told you before that I wanted more nights with you.

I demand more nights with you. I demand longer nights with you.

I see the outside you. I demand to know the inside you.

I want the words, the actions, the secrets. I want the you and me that no one else will ever know.

I want to hold your hand. I want to feel your hugs.

I want to get cards from you. I want dinners and roses and chardonnay. I want champagne, but I want the other good stuff. I want the sunset hand-holding. I want the sunrise coffee together. I want the laughter in the day, flirty texts, dirty sexts.

I want it all, and I want them with you.

I want to know your haunts. I want to tremble from them, alongside you.

I want the full picture of how you became you, from your first memory to your last memory, and when a new day starts and when that memory refreshes, I want those too.

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