“Lia!” he yells frantically. “What’s wrong?” He looks around the room, as if expecting to see someone else here with us. I’m still in a daze at the sight of the blood…the red against my hands is mesmerizing and it’s hard for me to look away. His voice has lowered considerably when he says, “Baby, fuck, what have you done to yourself?”

I’m so confused by his question that I look to him in inquiry before following his eyes back to my body. I sway on my feet as I really see what he’s looking at. The loofah has dug deep, breaking the skin in what looks like more than one place. My stomach seems to have gotten the worst of it with me possibly breaking open some of the healing cuts there. My thighs and breasts both look bright red and are starting to throb. The most alarming thing is that I don’t remember rubbing hard enough to do that kind of damage, nor did I feel the pain I should have felt. I don’t want him to see me like this. He’s going to know now that I’m not as okay as I’ve been pretending to be. There is no way to explain away what I’ve done to myself. For some reason, all I can do is apologize. “I’m sorry, Luc. I’m sorry,” I repeat again and again as he looks just as broken as I feel.

“Stop, baby,” he whispers shakily as he reaches one hand out to brace me and uses the other to turn the water off. The bathroom is filled with so much steam it’s hard to breathe. I drop the loofah from my hand, unable to bear the sight of my blood on it.

“I just wanted to get clean,” I try to explain. “I don’t know why I can never get it off me.”

He flinches at my words, looking like he’s taken a hit. Without commenting, he picks me up and lifts me from the shower. He manages to grab a towel from the closet and wrap it around me before walking into the bedroom. The air feels frigid after the heat of the bathroom making me shiver. With little regard for the expensive bedding, he lays me gently on the sheets before pulling the comforter over me. I want to protest because I know I’m not only getting water but blood, as well, all over the expensive linens. He drops a quick kiss on my forehead, looking just as shaky as I feel. “Hang tight, baby; I’m going to grab the first aid kit.” For some reason, I have the insane urge to laugh. Where would I possibly go right now? I’m a wreck in more ways than one. Thankfully, I’m able to control myself, because he would probably think me completely insane after what he just walked in on if I were to start laughing hysterically.

He returns with a white box, setting it on the nightstand before sitting next to me. When he pulls the comforter back, I freeze, not wanting him to see the ugliness that has become so much a part of me, both inside and out. Some of what I’m feeling must show on my face because he stops. “I hate for you to see me this way,” I whisper as I feel the tears rising to choke me once again. When will they ever stop? I don’t understand my sudden descent into this kind of despair. My stepfather has abused and touched me before. Yes, it was worse this time, but still, why can’t I get past it enough to function? I have someone who cares about me; someone who I know would kill to protect me. I’m alive, I wasn’t raped, and I’m home with the man I love. Why can’t I crawl out of this horrible shell of self-pity and take my life back?

Lucian drops the comforter back into place, moving to take my head between his hands. “Lia, you’re beautiful to me, no matter what. When I see the marks on your body, all I think of is how strong you are and how many battles you’ve fought in your life. Most people would have given in to their circumstances years ago, but you’ve persevered. I hurt when you hurt, baby, but I never, not for one moment, see anything but the woman who brings me to my knees with her courage.” His lips settle on mine in something more than a brief peck for the first time since my attack. He possesses my mouth in a way that leaves little question as to whether he still wants me. As our tongues tangle, I feel a flicker of life which I was afraid was lost forever. Somewhere deep inside, I was terrified he would never want me again as he had before. If this kiss is any indication, though, those fears are unfounded. When he finally pulls back, his eyes are heavily-lidded with desire and his breathing is rough.

Words of love are on the tip of my tongue. I love this man so much it’s a physical ache in my soul, but I can’t bear to have him pull away from me today, so I leave the words hanging between us once again. It needs to continue to be enough right now that he cares for me. Doesn’t he show me that every day? Never breaking eye contact, I pull the cover from my body, exposing my injuries to him. I see the distress he’s unable to hide as he looks at what I’ve done to myself. As he takes an alcohol wipe and starts cleaning my new injuries, I say quietly, “I didn’t mean to do it, Luc. Since…I haven’t been able to wash it all away. I keep trying, but I still feel his hands on me.”

Lucian inhales sharply, looking crushed at my admission. “Why haven’t you talked to me, baby? You’ve every right to feel what you’re feeling, but you keep saying you’re okay. I knew…with all of the showers, that something was going on. I’ve been standing outside the door until I hear you get out, but this time, I heard you crying. You don’t have to hide anything from me, Lia. I’m here. Let me help you deal with what you’re going through.”

“I want to,” I admit huskily. “But…I’m afraid you won’t want me anymore if you see how weak I am right now. You might think I’m strong, but I’m scared of my own shadow. I’m afraid that I’ll never be me again and we’ll never be us.”

His hands still as he gapes at me. “Oh, baby, I can’t believe the thought of me not wanting you would even enter your mind. I feel like a sick bastard because I want you so fucking much every time we’re together that it keeps me tied up in knots.” He takes my uninjured hand and puts it on his crotch. My eyes widen as I feel him hard and throbbing against my palm. With a rueful smile, he releases my hand. “Yeah, that’s how much I don’t want you. I know it’s fucked, but my cock wants you immediately when you’re near. As soon as you’re healed and ready, I’ll be inside you again where I belong.”

Lucian’s words help to relax me a little as he continues to tend to my old and new wounds. I want nothing more than to believe nothing has changed in that area of our relationship. From the moment we met, the air has literally crackled with the desire we feel for each other. I was too inexperienced to even realize and understand a lot of it at first, but I knew that I’d never felt anything even close to what I felt when he was near. After we had had sex, the feelings only strengthened. When we weren’t together, I was in a constant state of slow burn for him. Even with my thoughts and emotions all over the place now, I still feel the hum of electricity between us.

Tags: Sydney Landon Lucian & Lia Billionaire Romance
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