“It’s a lot to take in,” I admit, feeling overwhelmed.

“It is for me as well,” he agrees. “If you get to a point where you want to meet with Lee, then I will be happy to accompany you. On the other hand, if you don’t want to see him again, I will support that as well. I don’t think it’s anything you have to decide today. Just give yourself time to think about it. I won’t let him pressure you. It’s your decision whether or not he ever has a place in your life. He has to accept that.”

“I’m still angry with you, Luc,” I find myself saying. The fact I’m snuggled in his arms makes a mockery out of that statement, but my feelings of hurt and betrayal are still very raw. It’s ironic that he’s the one to wound me but also the only one able to soothe me.

“I know you are, baby. You were right when you said that my secrets are tearing us apart. I will tell you whatever you want to know, but can I ask for one concession from you first?” I agree warily, hoping he doesn’t ask for more time. That’s the one thing I’m not prepared to grant. Turning beseeching eyes to me, he asks quietly, “Can we go home to talk?” As if thinking I’m going to reject his request, he quickly adds, “I’ve never told anyone what happened that last day with Cassie, and it’s…hard to fathom talking about something so private in someone else’s living room. I promise that if you want to leave me afterward, I’ll bring you back here. Just…please?”

“All right,” I acquiesce, without protest. Truthfully, I’d rather be at his apartment while we talk. It’s not that I believe Rose is standing at her door listening—although she probably is. I feel more comfortable in the apartment I’ve called home for weeks now. Those walls sheltered me while I clawed my way back to sanity—and Lucian—after my assault. The one place in my life that has felt safe to me.

As if afraid that I’ll change my mind, Lucian stands, still holding me in his arms. “Is there anything that you need to take with you?” He looks distracted and I honestly believe he isn’t even aware he’s still holding me. I cherish his instinctive need to care for me. To be nurtured after so many years of neglect is something I will never take for granted.

“My bags are still at the door. We can get them on the way out.” I wiggle and he tightens his hold. “You can put me down now. I’m perfectly able to walk.”

My heart stutters as he gives me a look filled with anguish. “I’m afraid you’ll run from me again.”

“Luc,” I begin gently, “I’ve agreed to go with you. I’m not going to run. I told you where I was going earlier so it’s not as if you didn’t know. No matter how angry I get, I wouldn’t do that to you.”

He drops a kiss on my lips before saying, “I wish I could believe that.”

“Luc…” He doesn’t give me a chance to finish my sentence. He slowly lowers me to my feet before taking my hand.

“Ready, baby?” His tone is lighter, but he is far from relaxed. The tension emanating from him is palpable. My leaving earlier has had a profound effect on him. He’s shaken and clearly afraid of my reaction when he shares his past with me. He fears I’ll leave him, but I can’t imagine anything he’ll say that will make that happen. I’ve asked for his disclosure—I’ve given him no alternative. If he wants me, then he has to come clean. It’s not that I believe he shouldn’t have had a past before we met. He admits to casual sexual relationships and I’m sure there were many. He’s a rich, drop-dead handsome man who would have never lacked for willing women. Do I like to think of him with someone else? Hell no, what woman would? I don’t even want to know those types of details.

Cassie is different, though. His relationship with her has shaped him into the man he is. Even all these years later, she owns his nights and haunts his dreams. He wakes gasping for air, filled with an agony that only cocaine can ease. He has told me that she aborted their baby, but there is more there—much more. Something like that, while traumatic, shouldn’t be causing the type of dreams he has. In order for Lucian and me to be together, I have to know about her. It’s vital to the survival of Lucian and our relationship. I hope that in talking to me about her, he can finally be free of whatever demons haunt him.

I leave him briefly in the foyer to let Rose know. I knock on her closed door and she calls out for me to come in. She’s lying on her disheveled bed holding her phone. The grin on her face tells me that she has likely made good on her threat to call Max. She puts the phone against her chest and looks at me questioningly. “I’m going back to the apartment so Lucian and I can talk for a while.” She doesn’t try to talk me out of leaving; she simply gives me a smile that says she’d never expected I would stay.

“All righty then. You two kids behave.” I thank her and promise to call if I need to come back. As I’m closing the door behind me, I hear her say, “Max, I understand, but I don’t think I can help myself. When I’m alone, I’m just overcome with the need to make him pay.” I turn quickly, thinking I need to stay if she’s that close to the edge. When she gives me a smile and a thumbs-up, it hits me. She is pushing Max’s buttons. I think she couldn’t care less about Jake now. He is just a means to get to the man who has her complete attention. Poor Max. I’ve never met a more determined and goal-oriented person than Rose. If she wants him, then he should go ahead and wave the white flag now—he’s going down. I predict by the time their conversation is over, Max will be on his way over to talk her out of whatever she is threatening to do.

Tags: Sydney Landon Lucian & Lia Billionaire Romance
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