The realization snaps something inside me. I wrench myself from Lucian’s arms and completely lose it. My anger bubbles like molten lava flowing through my veins as I begin throwing everything in my path. I’m like a whirlwind of destruction as I smash a glass vase against the wall. The lack of clutter in Lucian’s apartment means there isn’t much readily available on tabletops, so I move on to the bar area and start grabbing the crystal glasses and decanters there. I see Debra, out of the corner of my eye, starting to approach me before Lucian pulls her back. “She needs this; just let her go.”

You’re fucking right I need it, I think to myself as I continue to destroy the bar area. I’m vaguely aware of Debra leaving before I lose all meaning of time and place. My throat begins to throb and I wonder idly why when I realize I’m screaming and my voice has gone unusually husky. Have I been doing that this entire time? My movements slow almost as if having to think about something so mundane has brought me back to the present. I look down in surprise at the bottle of whiskey I’m holding. As I move to sit it on the bar behind me, something crunches beneath my feet. I glance down in disbelief to see broken glass everywhere. The room looks like it has been ransacked. A wave of relief washes over me when I notice Lucian standing off to the side, almost as if waiting for my next move. “Luc?” I ask uncertainly. “I…oh, my God, I did this!” The words tumble from my lips as I stare at him in horror.

He reaches me just as I would have fallen to my knees in the jagged glass graveyard below my feet. He doesn’t say anything as he effortlessly swings me into his arms and leaves the carnage behind. He carries me straight to the bathroom before setting me on my feet. His eyes move over my face as if searching for something as he strips my clothing from my body. I stand, waiting obediently as he makes quick work of his own before dropping his hands to my hips. He leads me into the steaming shower and under the hot spray of water.

He washes me thoroughly and then himself. When I turn to step out, he pulls me back, enfolding me in his arms. He joins our lips in a kiss that is devoid of anything other than comfort. He is connecting with me in the fastest way he knows. This kiss is all about helping me find my center, grounding me with him in the moment, and I need it. I put my arms tightly around his neck, and he hoists me up so I can wrap my legs around his waist. He rocks from side to side, comforting me like a child. “Are you okay?” he asks against my lips as he rains soft kisses across my exposed skin.

“I’m sorry about what I did,” I say, ashamed to have lost control and wrecked his beautiful apartment. “I’ll clean it all up right now.” I begin unwrapping my legs from around him, but he stops my downward descent by refusing to release my ass. He carries me from the shower before putting me back on my feet.

“The cleaning service is on their way over now, so please stay away from all of the glass in the living room. They’ll have it taken care of in no time.” He continues to ignore my objections while we dry ourselves off. I am walking toward the closet to dress when he captures my hand before dropping to the bed and pulling me into his lap. He is wearing a pair of form-fitting, black boxer briefs and I’m in a light blue bra and panty set. “I need to tell you something else, but first I need to know that you’re okay. I’d pour you a drink first, but we seem to be fresh out of glasses.”

Maybe we both have a sick sense of humor, but the laugh that his joke brings forth from both of us is a much-needed tension-breaker. “I don’t know what happened to me. First, I couldn’t accept that he was actually dead after tormenting me all of these years, then I got so angry at myself and at him when I realized that I’ve still continued to let him run my life. Almost every decision I’ve made since that monster came into my life has been influenced by him.” I find myself choking up again, as I admit, “I never got away. Don’t you see? I was living on borrowed time and deep down I knew it. I just didn’t want to accept it. He was always going to come for me, just as he said.”

I take his face in my hands, looking into the eyes of the man who has put his own pain on the back burner to help me deal with mine. “Loving you is the first real thing I’ve done just for me. Everything else has just been out of necessity. You are a dream I never dared to dream because my mother, then my stepfather, took that ability from me. That was another reason why I was so angry. He took everything from me, and I didn’t even understand that until today.”

Lucian wipes the tears, which are once again falling from my face with his thumbs, before kissing first my mouth, then my nose and finally my forehead. “No matter what he took, he never broke you. You are the wonderfully talented, intelligent, driven, and loving woman you are despite him, not because of him. I’m in no way worthy of you, but I lay my heart at your feet because you own me, baby.” My heart skips a beat at his words. He is saying he loves me. Maybe not in the standard way, but there is no mistaking his meaning. If my life thus far was what I had to endure to find this man, then I would go through Hell again and again just to end up where I am now…in his arms.

“I love you, too,” I say softly, wanting him to know I recognize and return the feelings he is trying to express. We kiss again, both getting lost in the moment before he pulls back with a frown.

“I almost forgot what I needed to talk to you about…That seems to happen a lot when we’re together.” He looks nervous, which in turn makes me anxious. “The police want to question both you and me this evening about your stepfather’s death.”

I jump to my feet and immediately begin pacing. Can he not just be gone? “What? Why? I don’t want to relive what happened to me with them again!”

He comes to his feet, taking my shoulders between his hands. “Honey, it’s not that. It’s just that you’re the only remaining family, other than your mother, and I’m your boyfriend. According to Max, it’s just a formality and the police need to go through the motions for their paperwork. You don’t have to worry; I won’t let them upset you.”

What is wrong with me today? I seem to be going off the deep- end over everything. It is a lot to take in, though, and I had mistakenly assumed that his death meant everything to do with him was over. Apparently, not quite yet. I need to get a grip and calm down. If Lucian isn’t worried, and he doesn’t appear to be, then it’s fine. After it’s all over tonight, I can regroup and truly move forward for the first time in my life. “Oh, my God,” I gasp, “poor Debra! I need to call her. She is probably completely beside herself over my earlier freak-out.”

Tags: Sydney Landon Lucian & Lia Billionaire Romance