The ghosts will still be there, waiting in the dark.

Every time she presses the sheets to the wound, a renewed sense of pain spreads through my body, but I refuse to make a sound. My hands turn to fists and I pull against the cuffs, feeling the metal dig into my wrists.

“I’m so sorry. I don’t… I didn’t mean…” she says, choking on her words.

“I told you I would tell you,” I remind her, flexing my wrists and breathing through the pain. I’ve had worse shit done to me. “When I know who it was, I will tell you and I will make them pay.”

Besides, I fucking deserve this.

“I’m not going to give you a name without knowing for sure,” I confess to her, letting her believe that’s the only thing I’ve withheld, the only lie I’ve spoken. “I promise you.”

Her beautiful hazel eyes lock onto mine, begging and pleading for forgiveness but more than that, an out. A way out of the nightmare she’s in.

There’s no way out of this shit though. This is what life is. It’s what mourning is. A waking nightmare.

“I’m sorry,” she blurts out before turning her back to me and running to the bathroom.

I hear her open the medicine cabinet and when I do, I push the escape lock on the cuffs with my thumb. It would be all too fucked up for her to have found the cuffs in my car; the ones I put on her, the ones I keep in my car. And not these safety cuffs I intend to use when I light her ass on fire with my paddle. The ones for play sold at sex shops.

Maybe I shouldn’t have let it go on for as long as I did, but I think she needed this. She needed to get it out of her system.

I’m quiet as I unlock the ones on my ankles, taking my time to put them away, gritting my teeth every time the sharp pain reminds me that she cut me.

With the drawer open, I drop the cuffs in, one by one when I hear her close the cabinet and I wait.

Her gasp is telling and I turn around slowly to see the halo of light surrounding her from the bathroom door. A bandage and gauze in one hand, and hydrogen peroxide in the other.

Horror plays in the depths of her eyes as she freezes where she is. She’s a beautiful, broken mess.

I take a single step toward her; the floor groans and the only other sound is the hushed gasp she makes.

“Jase,” she pleads, not hiding her fear. She doesn’t hide anything; it’s a big part of what I admire about her.

“Jase,” she says again and this time my name is strangled as it leaves her. So much begging in only a single word as I take another step.

She trembles where she stands. I reach out for the bandages, and her arm drops dead to her side as she awaits her sentence. I place the bandage over the cut without sparing it a glance and wipe up the remaining blood with the gauze before tossing it behind her into the bathroom and onto the floor.

And she flinches from the movement. From my arm moving her way.

It fucking kills me. My chest doesn’t feel a goddamn thing from the cut. But it feels everything knowing that she thought I was going to hit her. That I would strike her.

Everyone deserves punishment for their sins. And I accept mine. But I won’t accept losing her.

Her eyes never leave mine, and mine never leave hers.

She doesn’t beg for mercy; she doesn’t try to run.

The world is full of broken birds and pain. I won’t add to it.

Not her. Not my fiery girl, my cailín tine.

“Jase.” She says my name thickly and swallows after a second passes of silence. Just the two of us knowing the other’s pain, knowing what’s happened wasn’t a nightmare, it was real.

“I’m sor-”

I cut her off with my own apology. “I’m sorry I can’t bring her back.” The emotion wells in my throat as I add, “If I could, if I had that power, I wouldn’t be feeling the same shit you are.”

The tense air changes, and everything falls around us. For me it does. Nothing else exists for me but her.

“If I could, I would,” I tell her as I brush her hair off her shoulder and lower my lips to hers. It’s all done slowly. I’ll be sweet with her tonight.

Her lips brush against mine gently and then she deepens our kiss.

Her fingers are hesitant at first, as if she’s still expecting me to snap like she did.

I have all the time in the world for her tonight. To see what’s really here. To know what’s between us.

I can show her, and I do. Slowly, gently, and with every small touch, I chip away at any armor she has.

W. Winters Books | Romance Books | Irresistible Attraction Series Books