“My father reached out to me not even hours after Ivy’s accident, letting me know he was behind it. That if I didn’t back off he’d do more to the people I cared about. Assuming Ivy and I were together. We weren’t but it still hurt that I’d gotten Ivy into this because of my anger and running my mouth.”

Ivy shrugs like it was no big deal what happened to her.

“That day gave me Brian back. He was the head of security for my family and I’d always had the biggest crush on him. We’d fallen in love, but never said the words. He refused to be with me, saying I had to go away for college for the experience. I think he thought I’d get over him if I wasn’t with him all the time. After the accident, he never left my side once in the two months I was in a coma, and when I woke up, he said we’d never be apart again.” He leans over, nuzzling her neck and giving her a kiss on the cheek.

She smiles at Oz and I. “I know I shouldn’t say this, but I don’t regret what happened. It brought us together, and for that I’m forever thankful. I don’t blame you for what happened that day, and I’ve made Brian swear to not seek his own revenge on your father.”

She glances over to him and then back to us. “To be honest, his need for payback almost broke us. It was only when I explained to him that his desire for vengeance felt more important than me and our future. There comes a point in your life where you have to decide what’s most important. I didn’t want the anger and hate to consume him, or come in the middle of our relationship anymore. Being with Brian and being in love was the most important thing. Letting that go, and living our lives, is the only thing that matters now.”

I examine Oz, who has his brow furrowed and a concerned thought in his eyes. Seeing our joined hands, I think about what it would mean if he continued to seek his own revenge. Would it always be a cloud between us? Would only the death of his father fix everything? Somehow I don’t think the answer is yes. And Oz doesn’t want him dead, he wants him ruined. Eventually will that be enough? Will this be a constant worry?

“I never meant for any of this to touch you, Ivy. And it’s the reason I kept Mallory at arm’s length for so long. I wanted to be sure all of my plans were in place before I let it be known what she meant to me.” He turns to me and brushes a loose strand of hair from my eyes. “I wanted you to understand the danger you were in by being seen with me, but the time’s come for all that to be over. I promise to watch over you, and to take care of you. Always.”

We sit for a moment in silence before a deep voice breaks it.

“If you need anything, you know where to find us.”

With Brian’s words, we all stand, and he and Ivy make their way out of the office. After the double doors close, Oz comes over to me and we sit down on the couch again.

“Are you okay, baby?”

His eyes that have held a part of my soul for so long, give me a sense of being more connected to him. To know that all of this has been to protect me, makes my love for him even deeper than before. Oz doesn’t do anything lightly, and to know that he calculated all of this so that none of his darkness touched me, could only make me cling to him more.

“Yeah, I think I understand now.”

“It’s the reason I had Paige on you from the beginning. It’s the reason I’ve always had eyes on you, and I’ve panicked every second you haven’t been completely protected, or by my side.” He grabs my face with both hands, and the intense, almost-dark shadow in his eyes shows me all of his emotions. “I can’t lose you. And I won’t allow a situation where that’s a possibility. Ever.”

His words are hard and final, and I know there’s no stopping his plan that’s in place. I can only hope that at the end of this, we both come out safe.

He kisses me so passionately and so thoroughly that there is no room for argument. I belong to him now, and as much as I should be fighting it, I won’t. I’m his, and he’s mine. I would do whatever it took to protect our love, and our possible family in the making.

Chapter Thirty


* * *

The next day, I walk through the lobby with Oz. Paige had to be in early for some training exercise, and when we get on the elevator, I’m about to hit the button for the accounting department but Oz halts me and presses the button for his floor.

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