“Then out slipped your picture. All that red hair and fire in your eyes. Hit me like a fucking truck. Knew right then why I was on the path I was on. It was leading me to you, and all the dirtier shit I had to do to get there was worth it. All of it. I knew I had to have you. You were mine. And then once I met you, I couldn’t stand not being with you. When I went to Miles, I struck a deal. Told him I was with the CIA, deep undercover. Didn’t care I was breaking so many laws I could end up in a cell and never see light again, but we hatched a plan together. He thought I was working my case. I was working to get you. To do what I had to do to take Alexander down, and in the process keep him the fuck away from you.”

He cups my cheek, his thumb rubbing back and forth. I lean into it.

“When Miles and I came up with you watching over Mallory, I hired a private guard to follow you around and take pictures and keep an eye on you. It was all I had for years. I put them in here so that every night I could fall asleep looking at you while I waited for the time when you were close.”

I’m shocked and overwhelmed as he sits me on the end of his bed, and he goes to his knees in front of me.

“I’ve been beyond obsessed with you since I got a glimpse of you. I gave it all up for you, Paige. My mission with the CIA, my plan to take down Alexander. All of that was pushed aside the day I saw you. You came first. I had to protect you, and I knew the only way to do that was to hide you. I knew sending you away was the best bet. Miles and I had a common goal. Take Alexander down. I made him keep you in school and isolated from everyone. God help me, I wanted to put you in a tower and throw away the key, and this was as close as I could get.”

He drops his head to my lap, and I don’t know what to say. All of this is hitting me like a ton of bricks.

“I made sure you were alone, with no one else to lean on besides Mallory and myself. I’m not the good and perfect man you think I am, but I can’t say I’m sorry for it.” He lifts his head, and his dark green eyes are pleading. “I would do everything all over again to have you end up in my arms. I love you, Paige. I love you more than my own life. I would set fire to the world to make you smile. With one word from you, I would turn it into ash. You are the beginning and end of my life. Don’t make me live a life without you. Because I won’t survive. Without you there is no me. You have been my everything and I swear you’re all I know anymore.”

Tears fall down my cheeks, and I wonder how my body has any left to shed.

“All these years I felt like the only thing I’ve ever wanted was revenge,” I tell him. “That’s it. It was all I could see. But then today I thought I’d lost you, and my world crashed. That was the worst pain I’d ever felt. Worse than losing my mom. You know why?”

Captain leans in, kissing one of my tears. “No, kitten. Why?”

“`Cause I was happy. I don’t think I’ve truly been happy until I was with you. You made me light up inside. Made the real me come out. No walls or mask. I could just be me, and I knew you loved the real me. Faults and all. I’d never had that before. Someone who would do anything for me without a thought for themselves, and then I thought it was gone. All a lie.”

“Kitten.” The word comes out pained.

“But I saw you tonight. Heard the words you said to my father. You said you’d do anything for me. I’d do anything for you, too. I love you more than anything. I don’t think I can breathe without it,” I admit. When he was gone, the walls had started to close in.

“No more secrets, no more lies,” he says. Everything is out in the open now. All of it.

I throw myself into his arms so hard that it topples him onto the floor. His lips connect with mine as he rolls us over so that I’m under him. He puts his weight on me, and it’s a welcome pressure. The knowledge that he’s here with me and that I’m safe allows all the years of worry and sadness to leave me. It’s like he’s chased away all my demons and I have a new beginning.

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