The welts on my butt were sore, but it was the scars Cillian left on my soul that scorched painfully.
Sex with Kill wasn’t good. No.
It was mind-blowing. Earth-shattering. Like nothing I’d experienced before.
But the swiftness in which he pulled out of me and regained his composure made me so lightheaded I couldn’t breathe. Not because I expected hours of spooning and pillow talk, but the switch from responsive to harsh gave me whiplash. The ferocity of my feelings toward him frightened me, and the need to protect him from harm’s way made me seasick.
Not just seasick, deranged. Immoral.
I’d never sacrificed my morals for Pax.
I got it now. Why Cillian paid for sex. It wasn’t that his tastes ran so much on the unconventional side. He lost control when he was with a woman. He came alive, he cursed, he let go. The layers of inhibition he wrapped himself in shed like a snake’s skin, leaving him exposed and raw. He writhed, and trembled, and growled, his heart racing erratically against my back when he entered me.
I’d gathered my belongings and scurried out of his house before he had the chance to kick me out. I couldn’t risk another rejection. Couldn’t let him walk all over me like I was the Unwelcome rug outside his mansion’s door.
I just hoped the plan I weaved at the charity event was going to work.
“Surprise!” two familiar voices screeched from behind me, pulling me out of my reverie.
I turned around to find Belle and Ash at the door, holding bags of takeout food. I discarded the half-eaten enchilada on one of the round tables.
“What’re you doing here?” I flung my arms over their shoulders, gathering them into a group hug.
“Well, Madame Mayhem doesn’t open until this evening, and staring at the wall at home got old about, let’s see”—my sister checked her Tory Burch watch—“two and a half hours ago.” She strutted in wearing a leather mini dress and an oversized, puffy sweater. Taking a seat at a free table, she unpacked her takeout bags.
“And I had a break in-between classes, so I thought I’d check in on you. You missed our weekly hangout last week, and I got worried. I love my brother, but I also wouldn’t trust him with a plastic spoon.” Aisling laughed.
That’s fair, considering he’d probably try to shove it up my privates.
The scent of meatballs, pasta, fettuccini Alfredo, and garlic bread made my stomach grumble. They both sat down, staring at me expectantly. Right. Guess I needed to join them.
Heaving a sigh, I slid into a chair, hissing when my butt made contact with the plastic.
Cillian, you son of a gun. The minute I pop your heir out, I’m naming him Andrew. Andrea, if it’s a girl.
“So how’s life with Lucifer?” Belle stabbed a meatball with a plastic fork, tossing the whole thing into her mouth.
I spun spaghetti around, giving it some thought. My friends and sister knew Cillian and I lived in separate places, but chalked it up to my wanting to take things slow.
I was too embarrassed to admit the idea to live apart came from him.
Begrudgingly, I had to admit Kill ticked every box on the good husband list, even if on technicality. He spoiled me with a lavish wardrobe and state-of-the-art apartment, paid my debt, kept the bad guys at bay, and worshipped my body in ways I didn’t know were possible, introducing me to things I’d never done before.
He was only stingy with what I craved the most.
Passion. Emotion. Devotion.
Demanding those from Kill wasn’t only breaking our contract but it was also smashing it into minuscule pieces and throwing the dust in the air like confetti.
Not only was it foolish but it was futile, too. Cillian didn’t have the word emotion in his vocabulary, much less an idea of how to feel one. I’d yet to see him sad, hurt, or hopeless. The closest he’d ever gotten to feeling something was annoyance. I irritated him often. But even then, he gained control over his mood with record-breaking speed. Otherwise, my husband reduced his heart to nothing more than a functional organ. An empty, white elephant.
Chewing, I said, “It’s okay, I guess. Every couple has its ups and downs, right?”
Belle’s eyes zipped to my half-open shoulder bag hanging from my seat. A drawing one of my students, Whitley, had made for Greta Veitch peeked from it, with the elderly woman’s name on it, surrounded by flowers and hearts.
“Does he know you still see Pax’s grandmother every week?” Belle asked.
“He found out yesterday.” I sliced a meatball with my plastic fork.
“Snap.” My sister winced. “How did you break the news?”
“I didn’t. Someone else did.”
“Who?” Ash’s cornflower eyes widened.
I didn’t know for sure, but it didn’t take a genius to put two and two together. The Arrowsmiths.
I shrugged. “Not really sure. But it’s out in the open now. He demanded I stop visiting her.”
“Bastard has no right to demand you flush the toilet after taking a dump at his place.” Belle narrowed her eyes, clearly ignoring her vow to stop trash-talking my husband after losing a poker game. “Your marriage came with a hefty price tag, and every feminist bone in your body ain’t one of them.”
“I refused him,” I said calmly.
Ash reached to rub my arm. “At least you tried.”
“And succeeded.” I brought another forkful of spaghetti to my mouth. “He backed off.”
“What?” both Belle and Ash squealed.
“Are you sure?” Aisling looked between my sister and me, her mouth hanging open. “I’ve known Kill since the day I was born and can count his losses on one hand. One finger, actually. Maybe half a finger. A pinky.”
“Positive,” I said, leaning forward and dropping my voice to a whisper. “Can I ask you a few questions, Ash?”
“Goes without saying.”
“Does Cillian have a demon fountain in his garden?”
I’d thought about that fountain since the day Hunter had pointed it out during our time at the ranch but couldn’t find it. Yesterday, while Cillian took me from behind, my eyes searched every point in his garden. My only bet was the fountain was in the small courtyard behind the garden. There was an ivy-laced door with high timber walls that seemed out of style with the rest of the garden.
“He does,” she said. “At least, he did.”