Silas grabbed my face in his hands cupping the back of my skull, he grazed my cheeks with his thumbs as he forced me to make eye contact with him. His eyes searched mine with an intensity that made my heart speed.
“Olivia. You have me. You will never be alone as long as this heart beats.” He pulled my hand to his chest and I could feel the courageous muscle pounding under my fingertips. Silas’s smelled of fresh cut roses and smoky whiskey. I molded my body to his never wanting to let go. It was true, I’d lost my only remaining parent, but in this intimidating, yet gentle man, I’d found an unexpected home.
I stepped back from her and lightly touched her shoulders. When she turned away and saw my collection of roses, I watched her profile carefully. She was as radiant as sunshine, and when I looked at her, her brilliance was almost blinding. I wanted to grab her, kiss her senseless, and have her know, without a doubt, that she meant everything to me. But I would have to explain it all to her, the abuse, the abandonment, my issues with trust and even more so, my aversion to intimacy. I’d have to leave it all on the table so she would know exactly what she was getting into—allow her to walk away if that’s what she chose. She needed to truly understand the beast to be able to love the man inside, and more than anything I wanted her love.
Instead of an escape, the last few days had brought us nothing but turmoil. I prayed that my love alone could be enough of a refuge for her because my money couldn’t fix her heartache or bring back her family.
“Olivia, I want you to stay here. I want to try to make you happy if you’ll give me the honor. I know it’s not home yet, I know we’re not family, but if you give me a chance, I’ll do my damnedest to be everything you need.”
I felt like dropping to a knee or signing my name in blood. Never had I been this ready for a challenge or determined to conquer.
“If you’ll have me,” I told her. My heart beat like a jackrabbit. Sure I was certain I was up to the task, but what if she wouldn’t have me? What if Olivia had other plans for her future that didn’t include me? Before, when I’d watched over Olivia from afar, I’d imagined that Paul was our only obstacle that we’d crash into one another’s arms once he was out of the picture. But now, with reality staring us in the face, I realized that it was much more complicated than my fantasy. Olivia was an independent woman who probably had plans of her own. Maybe she didn’t want to be strapped down in a relationship with a recluse bounty hunter covered in grotesque scars.
I ran my fingers up and down her arms from shoulder to wrist.
“You are welcome here for as long as you like. I don’t mean to pressure you into making a decision today. Everything I have is yours. We consider you family.”
His touch made my whole body shudder with desire. I felt a rush of relief flow through me. He started to rub my arm. I wasn’t sure if it was intentional, or if he just did it automatically, but it felt unbelievable and his touch was a welcome balm to my frayed nerves. I didn’t want to think about Paul or my future, I only wanted more of his touch. His fingertips on my skin ignited a hunger inside me I hadn’t even realized was there. I needed more. Silas’s touch felt like my salvation.
“If you’re up for it, let’s talk. The sooner the better,” he said. Again, he offered me his hand, which I took without the slightest bit of hesitation. He stood there silently, stoically staring at our joined hands. His eyes were filled with turmoil and all I wanted was to take it away.
“Livia, I want you. I want you more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life, but I have a past. A dark past with a lot of pain and suffering in it, and that comes with me.”
Each word he uttered measuredly between moments of silence. I could see how hard this was for him, how unnatural because of the way he’d chosen to live his life. I wanted to tell him he didn’t need to tell me, that everything would be fine, but the truth was I needed to know his secrets so that they wouldn’t continue to cast shadows on our present or on our future. I wanted to be with Silas, so I needed to see everything he was made of.
I touched his hand to encourage him, to try to tell him I wanted to be there with him. There weren’t any words I could say to make this easier for him so I sat in silence hoping he would continue. We were both broken and scarred so we needed to come clean; it was our only chance for a fresh start.