I leave the receptionist with a thick wad of hundreds, thank her for her loyalty to Meadow and leave, climbing into the back of my waiting SUV and barking the address at my driver.
Meadow would be safe in my bed, living in my home, by tonight.
I’d soothe her, I’d reassure her, I’d vow to never let harm come to her again.
I sure as shit didn’t expect her to be so opposed to my plans.
“Meadow, open this goddamn door or I’ll break it down.”
“I want you to leave,” she calls back from inside her apartment. “I’m not interested!”
I don’t believe this. She won’t even see me.
Her denial skewers me in the chest.
“Look, I know you’re upset with me, gorgeous. But I never, ever would have left you in that place if I’d known you could get hurt.”
“I’m not your responsibility. I knew what Randall was like—I’ve been dodging men like him my whole life. It’s nothing new.”
I’m surprised my roar of outrage doesn’t bring down the building.
“My decisions are my own and I made a bad one when I accepted that check from you. Now I’m fired, jobless and broke. But I would rather be that way than let someone take care of me. I can do that myself. I will do it.”
I bang my head against the door. Of course the woman I fall in love with has an independent streak a mile wide when I’m a possessive, controlling bastard. From here on out, it’s going to be constant fireworks between me and this girl, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. “Meadow, baby,” I cajole. “Just open this door so I can make sure you’re okay. Huh? Don’t you know I lost my mind when I found out that fucker attacked you? Please. I need to see you.”
All of that was the stone cold truth, but apparently demands weren’t going to make her open the damn door and I’ll need to employ a different method.
“I’m fine,” she hedged. “Just go home and forget me, please.”
“Forget you?” I near-shout, before reeling my temper back in. Doesn’t she realize I became her servant the moment she flashed her challenging eyes at me? The moment she dared to mouth off to me?
“Open this door. Please. I just want to see for myself that you’re fine.”
A short pause. “And then you’ll leave?”
God will forgive me for this one white lie.
Hopefully Meadow will, too.
“Yeah. Then I’ll go.”
I send a quick text to my men downstairs, telling them to watch the exits downstairs, in case Meadow tries to make a break for it at some point.
Meadow opens the door and cocks an irritated hip, looking like fucking dessert in a tiny red romper, with ruffles and shit on it. She wasn’t lying. There are no visible injuries—thank God—but her eyes are puffy and I make a note to be extra vicious when I get my hands back on her ex-boss. No one makes my girl cry. “See?” Meadow says. “I’m fine—”
Her statement ends in a squeal when I step into the apartment and throw her sexy package of a body over my shoulder. “Where’s your suitcase, gorgeous?”
“You—you lied to me!”
I start in the direction of the only other room in the place. “You think I’m going to leave you in this shit hole, Meadow?” I deliver a gentle slap to her ass, biting my lip over the resulting jiggle. “Suitcase. Where is it?”
“I’m going to murder you!”
“Many have tried,” I drawl. “All have failed.”
Her struggles cease momentarily. “I-I…really?” She sniffs. “You don’t have to be so cavalier about it.”
“Is that worry, I hear?” My heart is tripping over itself at the grudging concern in her tone and I want to see it on her face, badly, so I pull her down off my shoulder. Just enough to put her eye level and leave her toes dangling near my shins. “I’ll be a lot more careful with a beautiful wife at home, won’t I?” I murmur against her lips. “See? You coming home with me is a matter of life and death.”
“Oh yeah?” Her blue eyes flash. “Who’s going to keep you safe from me?”
A chuckle escapes me, but it turns into a groan as I rest her back against the hallway wall. “I’m obsessed with you, Meadow. You know that?” I settle her pussy on my hard dick and rock upward, hissing at the warm welcome her body gives mine. “Tell me you’re really okay. I’ll tear out my heart if you’re in an ounce of pain.”
“I’m fine, I promise,” she says, gasping at another upward grind of my hips. “You should see the other guy.”
“I will be seeing him,” I promise darkly. “And I’ll be the last thing he sees. You know why, Meadow?”
Her attention drifts to my mouth and I watch her pupils expand. With need. “Why?” she whispers.