“Me, either,” I admit, not really knowing if he expected an answer, but helpless to deny it. We sit still joined for a while before he gently pulls my body off his. I groan, feeling my swollen tissue clinging to his semi-hard length. No part of me ever wants to be apart from him, it seems.

He turns the shower on, causing us both to gasp before the water turns from cold to hot. Shivering, he laughs. “I think we both needed that blast.” I hold my arm with the cast to the side as he washes me quickly and helps me from the shower before turning to wash himself. I remove my soaked bandages and dry off. The tape holding the splint on my nose is wet as well, but I just pat it dry knowing the doctor will be removing it today. When he steps out, he makes quick work of reapplying fresh bandages before walking once again toward the closet. I wrap a towel around myself before following him.

“Luc,” I call to him, knowing I’m going to have a battle on my hands. When he steps out holding jeans and a button-down shirt, I prepare to present my case. “I want you to go to the office today after my appointment.”

He looks at me as if I’m speaking a foreign language. “Pardon?”

I walk past him to select a loose-fitting T-shirt and jeans from my side of the closet and then return to his side to select one of his expensive power suits. When I hand it to him, he takes it, still looking puzzled. “I want you to get back to your normal routine. You’ve been away from your office for weeks now.”

He is already shaking his head before I finish my last sentence. “No, I’ve got things under control. Aidan is in the office, and we talk several times a day. I can handle things from here fine.”

When he turns with the obvious intention of hanging the suit back up, I grab his arm. “I need for you to do this. I have to try to get my life back, and that’s not going to happen as long as I cower in this apartment.”

“Then we’ll spend the day doing something. What would you like to do?” His handsome face is so eager and sincere that I feel horrible for trying to push him away for a few hours. Not only do I need to attempt to stand on my own two feet again, but Lucian needs it, as well. If I continue to stay behind the safety of these walls with him every day, then I’ll never want to leave his side. He has already given me more security than I’ve ever had before, and I can’t continue to depend on him for my wellbeing. I need to return to a few weeks ago, when he was one of the best parts of my life but not my entire world. We both need to have our own independence again.

I take the jeans and shirt from his hand, leaving him only the suit. Looking up at him, I implore him to understand. “I love you, Luc, but I have to try to shake off the fear and self-pity that have taken over since my attack. If I can’t be alone for a few hours, then how will I ever be able to leave this apartment again by myself? My last semester of school starts soon, and I have to be able to return to my life by then.” He looks so torn by my words. He’s no more ready to leave me than I am for him to go, but I can also see that he understands what I’m trying to say. I know I’ve won, and he’ll leave me for the first time this afternoon. I also know it’ll tear him apart to do so, which makes me love him even more—if that is possible. If I’m being completely honest with myself, I’ll also admit that my bid for freedom today is about helping Lucian return to level ground, as well. Being trapped in this apartment can’t be good for him mentally; he has too much time to think about the past.

He pulls me close, dropping his forehead onto mine. “I don’t want to do this.”

“I know, but thank you. I promise I’ll be fine.”

He curses once under his breath before sighing. “You promise to call me if you need anything at all? Even if you’re just lonely.” I nod, blinking back tears.

“Fuck, Lia, I mean it. I want to hear the words.”

“I promise,” I manage to say, even as I’m choking back the urge to beg him to stay with me. At this point, it seems to be a toss-up as to who will have a panic attack first when we part. I know one thing: if we’re both this emotional already, I need to make our actual goodbye very quick or I’ll break down and he won’t consider leaving me again anytime soon. In an attempt at self-preservation, I pull away and dress before drying my hair and securing it in one of the ponytail holders Lucian has provided. I need to cut up another pair of his underwear and use the waistband as a holder again; I bet that would bring a smile to his face. Maybe tonight, if I’m still holding it together by the time he gets home.


I stand next to Lia patiently waiting for her to finish the hug marathon she seems to have going with Sam. This is the first time they’ve seen each other since he drove us home from the hospital. Of course, he has called to check on her daily, as have Cindy, Aidan, and my aunt. “It’s so good to see you, Miss Lia,” he says, clearly doting on her. “You look just beautiful.”

“Thank you, Sam,” she says in that shy way she has. Lia always has a tough time accepting compliments, probably because her bitch of a mother never did anything but tear her down. She has finally gotten somewhat used to my compliments, even though I wonder sometimes if she believes them or just tries to humor me and accept them gracefully now. “I’ve really missed you,” she adds, making Sam literally crumble at her feet. There is little doubt that my driver, and longtime family friend, is completely enamored with her. Her mixture of sweetness and innocence, especially considering what she has survived in her life, is hard to resist. She draws people like a moth to a flame, especially my friends, it seems. I am quite aware that some of them, or maybe all, like her more than me right now.

He opens the door, ushering her in before turning finally to me. “Good morning, Luc. It’s good to see you, as well.”

Giving him a sarcastic smile, I say, “Yeah, I’m sure.” He grins in return, seeming completely unrepentant. He’s been with me long enough to know when I’m kidding. Truthfully, I love the fact that my inner circle is so taken with her. I would never tolerate them being less than courteous to her, so it makes things easier for all concerned. He and I had discussed the agenda for the day earlier. I thought he was going to throw a fit when he found out that he would be dropping me at the office and returning Lia to the apartment…alone. I’m certain he thought I was an insensitive bastard before I assured him that I was only honoring her wishes and didn’t like it any more than he did. I’ve also arranged for a couple of security guards from Quinn Software to screen any visitors to our home. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Sam sits on the street in front of our building until he picks me up later.

Tags: Sydney Landon Lucian & Lia Billionaire Romance
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