I never took it off. Even when I knew I should.
Paxton jumped up to his feet, hurrying over to me. Maybe it was because he wasn’t built like Cillian—not quite as tall, as broad, as commanding—or maybe it was because he simply wasn’t Cillian, but his very presence annoyed me.
“I get it, babe. You’re angry. You’re hurt. You have every right to be. But you’re not fooling anyone. Your marriage isn’t real.” He stood before me now, grabbing my arms, itching to shake me.
“Ours wasn’t, either. In the spirit of being candid, I, too, have a confession to make.” I broke out of his grip, taking a step forward, my breath fanning his face. “You were always nothing more than a distraction. It was always Kill. You were on borrowed time. But Cillian? Cillian is my forever.”
The words settled between us, an invisible barbed-wire barrier.
By the way Paxton stared at me, I knew he wanted to rip it apart.
The hunger in his eyes alarmed me, even if I knew it wasn’t for me, but for all the things I represented now: wealth, power, and connections.
“All right,” he rustled. “You win. I’ll be the side piece. But it’s gonna cost ya.”
“I don’t want a side piece. Even if I did, you would be the last person on the planet I’d consider. You are mean and selfish, Paxton. Get out of my apartment before I speed-dial Sam Brennan and throw you out myself.”
“Babe,” he groaned, seizing me by the jaw, walking me backward until my back hit the door. “I know you’re pissed, but we were good together.”
His lips spoke over mine. He was kissing me. Half-kissing me, anyway. His breath and heat and body pressed against mine. His tongue rolled over my lower lip.
“I don’t want good,” I spat into his mouth. He tripped backward, his eyes wide.
A slow, vicious smile spread on my face. I didn’t recognize myself in my behavior, and for the first time, I was fine with it. “I want divine, and I found it. Get the hell out, Veitch.”
“You’re crazy if you think I’m letting you go.”
It was promise, a warning, and a declaration. He stepped away, giving me a once-over, assessing me before he made his next move. “I’ll change your mind. I won you once, and I can do it again. Whether it’s the easy way or the hard way, you’ll be writhing beneath me in no time, and when you are, I promise you, Persephone, I will make sure your husband knows it.”
He shouldered past me with his tail tucked between his legs.
I closed the door, locked, and bolted it, then pressed my back against it, letting out a ragged breath, feeling rather than thinking a word that’d been pulsating against my skin from the moment I said “I do” to my new husband.
“You dumb piece of cock-sucking shit.” I raised a fist to Sam Brennan’s face the minute he walked through my door, slamming it against his thrice-broken nose.
I’d texted Brennan at five in the morning to let him know if he didn’t show up at my doorstep in fifteen minutes, I was going to buy every building in Southie—federal and private—and bulldoze through each childhood memory in his neighborhood just to shit all over his day.
He made it to my house in nine minutes and didn’t even look ruffled.
I, on the other hand, moved from no profanity to nothing but profanity.
“Good morning to you, too,” he said calmly, readjusting his nose back to its place without as much as a wince as blood spurted out of his nostrils. The crack the bone made alone would make anyone but the two of us gag. “To what do I owe this greeting?”
“To being a bullshit private investigator and a terrible fucking friend. You slacked off. Guess how my wife spent her night yesterday?” I plastered him against my front door, swinging my fist again.
I jabbed his ribs, feeling and hearing at least two of them crack.
“With your dick in her ass?” he asked flatly, tapping the pocket of his leather jacket, taking out a pack of cigarettes and lighting one up. He really was immune to pain. “I suggest you try other holes if you’re interested in knocking her up.”
“You’re a sick human.”
“Thank you.” He dropped his Zippo into his front pocket.
“It wasn’t a compliment.”
“To me, it was. Most people don’t consider me human at all. So what was your wife up to yesterday?”
I stepped back from him, realizing his lack of fear and pain made it pointless to beat him up. I walked over to the bar cart. It was five o’clock. Sure, it was in the morning, but I never let semantics get in my way.
“Paxton Veitch paid her a visit.” I poured a finger of cognac into a goblet, training my eyes on the golden liquid.
Sam limped in my direction, his expression unfathomable. “He’s in town?”
“You should’ve known that.”
“You told me not to check on him. You were fucking specific about it, too.” He leaned against the wall, watching me.
He had a point. I’d rejected the idea Paxton Veitch posed a threat to my marriage for so long, being proved differently wasn’t on my radar.
“You need to tail him,” I instructed. “Find out why he’s here. What he wants.”
“I can tell you right now why he’s here—he’s here because his ex-wife just married into one of the wealthiest families in the country, and because he is a money-grabbing scumbag. Do you need me to deal-deal with him?” He raised his eyebrows.
My instincts told me to say yes.
Have Sam off him, chop him up, and throw him into the ocean.
Not necessarily the Atlantic. That was too close. The Indian Ocean sounded good.
I’d never made such a request before, but in Veitch’s case, I was ready to make an exception. I’d refused to give my wife the only thing she’d ever asked from me—love—and sent her right into the arms of her ex-husband, who was probably waxing poetic at her all night.
I pretty much wrapped her up in a bow and handed her over to him.
Yet I couldn’t, for the life of me, do this to her.
Have her idiotic ex-husband killed.
No matter how much I wanted him out of the picture.
I shook my head, clutching the goblet so hard, it dented out of shape, the liquid raining down to the floor. Sam’s face remained unmoved, as if I hadn’t just bent a gold chalice with my own fist. I dumped it to the floor, turning to the bar and plucking a napkin. I patted my palm clean of alcohol and blood.