I avoided looking at him directly. The hornet-sting that came with laying my eyes on his magnificence was too much on a normal day, and completely unmanageable when we were estranged.
A stranger or an ally, Cillian always had the talent to make my heart sing and my soul weep.
For a long beat, he just stood there, drinking me in.
He took a step forward, putting a hand on my arm.
I wanted to break down and cry.
To tell him what I saw Andrew do.
To confess I couldn’t eat or sleep well.
“I told Sam to pull the surveillance,” he said.
I looked up at him, through a curtain of unshed tears.
“And I haven’t touched anyone since I put a ring on your goddamn finger.” His lips barely moved, his jaw was so tight.
“And?” I arched an eyebrow.
Give me an emotion.
“And I shouldn’t have broken the contract,” he said gruffly, looking away from me. “I trust you.”
“Bullshit,” I choked on a dry laugh.
He said nothing.
I was beginning to see nothing I could say or do was going to change his mind about people. About me. He was incapable of feelings and pushing him to love me would achieve nothing other than to make him resent me. Even now, he didn’t want me because he liked me.
Only because I was a comfortable arrangement. A means to an end.
“You’re not leaving,” he said simply.
I pulled the bag, hoisting it over my shoulder and turning to face him.
He stepped toward me, snarling.
“Sorry for what?”
“For changing the rules on you. For breaking the contract. For asking for more. I realize that I was out of line. I want you to marry someone who gives you what you want. Who is happy with what you’re willing to give back. And I’m not that person. I meant what I said. As soon as your legal/PR issues are over and everything quiets down, we can get a divorce.”
I sidestepped him, but he matched my step, getting in my face again.
“All this because of one mistake?” He scowled. “I already told you I haven’t touched anyone else. You were watched exactly one week, Persephone.”
I threw my head back, laughing. “You think that’s the only problem? One mistake? Get real, Kill. You never treated me as your wife. Never spent the entire night in my bed. Never took me on one date that wasn’t a fancy event. No honeymoon. No meaningful conversation. I was never your equal. The only thing that’s changed is that now, I finally realize I never will be.”
His eyes thundered. I bet his precious pulse was skyrocketing. I didn’t think he realized I even knew about it. How he put his fingers to his wrist discreetly to keep himself in check.
How he cracked his knuckles every time he got ruffled.
“I dined with you every evening. I fucked you every night. I took you to balls. To family dinners. I bought you jewelry. What more do you want from me, Persephone?”
“A relationship.” I hurled the duffel bag on the floor, growling.
“I don’t know how to have one!” he screamed back in my face.
Kill began to pace, shaking his head.
“I don’t know what that even means. I never had a relationship. You request something, and I make it happen. Is that not what a relationship is about?”
How could I even answer that question without sounding like a complete bitch?
“How did you know I was here?” I asked.
“This house is wired more than a police informant in a bad cop show.” He rolled his eyes, stopping to examine me.
“So you left everything and came here?”
He parked a hand on his waist. “You talk like I don’t give a damn.”
“Well, newsflash.” He took a step forward, plastering me to the wall, his hand coming to the back of my neck, grabbing it as he tilted his head down. “I do. I’m not fucking happy about it, to be sure, but that doesn’t make it any less true.”
It was everything I’d wanted to hear since the day I met Cillian Fitzpatrick, yet at that moment, it was too late.
If life taught me anything, it was that giving your all to someone who only agreed to return a fraction of themselves to you was a bad idea.
“Come home, Flower Girl.” His eyes fluttered shut, his mouth moving over mine. The sensation was like a roller coaster, when you tip over the edge and your stomach dips. The rush of warmth flaring in my chest made my body buzz. Kill’s words drifted through my clouded brain. “Let me fuck you. Be the wife I need. You just need a bit more training. A few more months and we can fuck each other out of our system.”
We had an expiration date.
We would always have an expiration date.
I ripped my mouth from his.
He didn’t get it, and I was tired of explaining.
“Give me one reason to stay, Cillian. I’m not asking for many. Just the one. Something to hold onto.”
“Because I want you to.”
“No. Something else. Something that’s not completely selfish.”
“I can’t be anything other than selfish,” he said brusquely.
I picked up my duffel bag, pushing at his chest.
“As soon as the lawsuit is over, we’re getting a divorce.”
This time I didn’t look back.
I pushed through the pain.
Numb, prideful, and only half-alive.
I finally knew what it meant to have your heart broken.
Understanding—finally—that Paxton didn’t as much as put a dent in mine.
I got back to my apartment, threw myself into the shower, and shoved a few dry rice cakes down my throat. My improvised version of dinner.
I hadn’t even unpacked the bag I retrieved from Cillian’s house. Just fell on my sofa in my living room and flipped through channels, battling a headache.
All the local news headlined the same story, about Cillian and Andrew going head-to-head in the trial that would take place soon. The news anchor cut to a video of the oil rig in the Arctic, an ugly black thing sticking out like a sore thumb in the middle of the infinite blue. Crushed shards of ice scattered around it like broken glass. My heart bled for the piece of nature that fell victim to Cillian’s cruelty.
You and me both, Arctic.