“You really don’t have to do that. I kind of want to be alone,” I lie. I don’t want to be alone at all. The apartment feels so empty now with Mallory gone. It’s been the two of us since college, but now she spends her nights a few floors up, with Miles, and I don’t foresee her coming back. He’s not letting her out of that apartment. I’d grown used to having someone around. Probably clung to it more than was healthy, but when you spend years alone and then you get to experience the joy of having someone so close, it’s hard to let go. She’s all I’ve ever really had.

The silence in the apartment has been driving me crazy. The walls feel like they’re closing in.

Captain cups my face, his thumb rubbing along my jaw, and I tilt my head into his touch. I don’t want him to stay because he thinks it’s the right thing to do. I want him to stay because he wants to.

“You can let me in, or I’ll stand in this hallway all night.”

“You’d stand here all night?”

“I’d probably break in at some point,” he admits. “Until I think you’re really all right and not just feeding me a line.”

His confession pulls at my heart, because I don’t think I’ll ever be all right. I don’t tell him that. Instead, I motion for him to enter. He locks the door behind us, letting go of my hand, and I see him release a breath. The relief is clear on his face.

“Didn’t think I was going to let you in?” I ask over my shoulder as I make my way to the kitchen. I open the freezer and pull out a bottle of vodka. I grab a glass and pour myself a drink, shooting it back before pouring myself another.

“I never know what you’re going to do.” Captain takes off his jacket, tossing it over the back of the sofa as he rolls up his sleeves, revealing all those tattoos I love. I could close my eyes and trace them perfectly.

“That must drive you crazy.” I make my way back toward the sofa and sit down. I slip my shoes off, and the motion causes the slit of my dress to fall open. I look up to see Captain’s eyes zero in on my thighs before they quickly move to my face. Forever the gentlemen. Until tonight, when I kissed him. Or did he kiss me? It was hard to know in that moment. I couldn’t tell where he began and I ended. I’d never felt so connected with someone, and I wondered if sex was like that.

“No, I’m just always speculating which Paige I’ll get.” He comes around to sit on the other end of the sofa. I’m disappointed he doesn’t sit next to me. Right now I could use more of his touches. But disappointment turns into pleasure as he pulls my feet into his lap and rubs them. The ache from the heels I’d been wearing all night fades away as his big hands engulf my feet and ease the pain.

I take another sip of the vodka, enjoying the massage. I lie there and let him rub me, and a comfortable silence falls on us. I shoot back the rest of the alcohol and set down the empty glass on the table next to me. With only that little bit of vodka, I feel warmth flowing through me. It relaxes me and helps me to forget.

I want to forget seeing my father. To forget how easily I’d frozen up when I was around him. It only further shows me how unprepared I am to see him. How can I seek revenge on a man I can’t even speak two words to?

“How many of me are there?” I tease, trying to make light of Ryan’s words.

“The one you pretend to be and the one you really are.”

I lean back, folding my arms over my chest. His words sink home. I wonder if everyone can see through me so easily. Maybe it’s the vodka, or maybe I want to know, but I ignore his words and go for something else.

“You think you want me.” It’s not a question, because I already know the answer. The kiss we shared said it all.

“Think?” His fingers dig deeper into my foot, making me moan at the pleasure. His hands still for a second, and I look at his face. He takes a deep breath, like he’s trying to get himself under control, before he goes back to rubbing. Jesus, he’s good at that.

I want to tell him all the reasons we’d never work. That he’s too good for me. That there is too much of my father inside me. I can feel it. Where else did I get these dark thoughts from? What kind of girl wants to kill her own father? What kind of girl stands by and watches her mother die?

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