“You drive me crazy. I want you more than anything I’ve ever wanted, but you deserve better than a monster like me. What do I have to offer you—a lifetime of people cringing and running from me. You’re everything that’s good in the world and you deserve a man who’s worthy of your beauty. I’m nothing but a reformed thug. I don’t have an honorable job, or an honorable history.”
“Silas, it’s okay. I was the one who kissed you.”
“Olivia, I can’t stop myself and I don’t want to take advantage of you.”
Silas scrubbed his face in frustration and left the room leaving me standing there dazed. I touched my fingers to my mouth and could feel the lingering sensations his lips had left behind. My first kiss burned just as much as it sated my hunger for him.
I walked out on her. Left her standing alone in the den, bereft and confused, a sad look marring her beautiful face. I acted like an asshole, but I never claimed to be anything different. I had to make space between us before I lost my control and took her further than she was ready to go.
Her tender touch started chipping away at the walls I’d built around my heart to protect myself. I wanted to give her a damn sledgehammer so she could just knock them all down. If anyone could undo the vault I’d constructed around my heart, it was her—the only woman who’d ever managed to capture it. She had somehow penetrated all of my dark places allowing a flicker of light to get in, creating a warm glow where before, for so many years, there was nothing there but emptiness.
Whenever I was around Olivia, I couldn’t think straight and that was dangerous. She fogged up my brain so badly that I didn’t know if I was coming or going. All I knew was that she never had to fear me hurting her the way Paul and his goons had. I would treat her better than anyone ever had. I didn’t want her to think I expected restitution from her. I definitely wanted her desperately, but I didn’t trust myself with her yet. She made me irrational and impulsive, both very dangerous things for a man like me. It was important to me that she understood she owed me nothing.
The violence I unleashed on Paul was a perfect example of what I was capable of when my emotions got the best of me. After being raised on the streets and a lifetime of working with criminals, I was willing to jeopardize it all for her, willing to lose everything I’d built up if meant we could be together.
I paced my room, trying to clear my head, but it wasn’t working. The monsters were lurking in the back of my mind, never allowing me to be completely free. I knew survival, was fluent in good guy, bad guy exchanges, I had killer instinct when it came to tracking criminals, but the nuanced world of love and relationships was a foreign language to me. What I wanted with Olivia was within arm’s reach, but I was clueless as to how to proceed. The only time I ever felt any kind of peace was when I was near her. I fucking needed her more than she would ever need me.
Silas left the room as if I’d offended him. I felt the suffocation of embarrassment because I didn’t know what I’d done wrong. I was so inexperienced. The humiliation was unbearable and the bitter taste of it sat on my tongue without any sign of relief. I didn’t want to stand there anymore feeling like a naive fool. I ran to my new room, hoping maybe I could surrender to sleep and pretend it was all a bad dream I could soon wake up from and forget.
Light from the giant windows created shadows on the king size bed in the middle of the room. I flopped down on top of it making the luxurious decorative pillows jump with the impact. I let my hands feel the soft silk gliding them up and down the material. I sat there staring at the ceiling and felt dirty, unwanted, and completely empty. If Silas and I couldn’t get along, then I really was a prisoner in this impressive mansion. If the man didn’t care about me, he should have left me where I was to slowly wither and die in my pathetic surroundings. Perhaps the stone cold truth was that I was never meant to be more than a barmaid.
I wanted to just wash it all away. I wanted to rewind the clock and go back to having Silas as my friend from afar, my protector. Those days of him watching me from the shadows were some of the best days I ever had. He felt like my coconspirator, we spoke a secret language of glimpses and flashes of smiles. In person apparently, I didn’t please him so much. I probably couldn’t continue to stand for my stepfather’s debt if Silas no longer wanted me around. I walked into the massive bathroom adjoining my room. There was a double soaker tub and the largest shower I‘d ever seen. Here I was surrounded by riches such as I’d never seen, but I couldn’t enjoy any of it feeling so worthless and lonely.