“Sh, no,” he says, petting the back of my head, holding me tighter. “Nothing’s your fault, Mia. Everything’s okay. I’m so sorry.”

“I’m sorry,” I whisper.

“Stop apologizing. I pushed you too far. This is my fault. It’s going to be okay, I promise.”

I feel so safe in his arms. Maybe I can just stay in my bedroom and never leave again, not even for dinners. People will see me and know that I’m the horrible monster who loves her boyfriend’s murderer then, but in my bedroom, there’s no one to hate me for it. No one but me, I guess.

“Don’t make me leave,” I say, burrowing into his chest. “I don’t want to leave.”

“I’m not going to make you leave,” he assures me.

“I do love you. I just feel so horrible for it,” I tell him, new tears springing to my eyes.

Sighing heavily, he wraps his arms all the way around me, blocking out everything else. There’s only his chest, his arms, his scent, and even though I know he’s the danger, I still manage to feel protected from the world.


When I finally recover from my nervous breakdown, Mateo is still there in the floor of my bathroom, holding me tightly in his strong, comforting arms.

Adrian disappeared and came back with one of those little white pills, but I did not hesitate to take it this time. My brain was ripping me apart and I wanted to claw my way out of it, so if the little white pill would calm me down, this time I would let it.

It did.

I’m not sure what kind of attack or mental break that was, exactly, but it was fucking scary. I felt completely unhinged, drowning in a sea of guilt, unable to pull myself out.

Mateo has stopped apologizing to me, but he did, a lot. Frantically. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, I couldn’t piece it together, but now that the pill has sedated me and I don’t feel like I’m losing my goddamn mind, I remember something else Vince told me—about how Mateo was the one who found his mother after she committed suicide. He was only a little boy. Mateo’s never told me the story himself, but he has mentioned that women have killed themselves to escape the torment of the Morelli men before—he even promised that while he would push my limits, he would always stop before it got that far.

It didn’t occur to me he might jump to that conclusion. Nothing occurred to me—it wasn’t a plan, I just needed somewhere to hide, and only the bathrooms don’t have cameras. I just didn’t want him to see me breaking in half.

“I’m so tired,” I murmur against his chest. My arms are around him now, locked in an embrace that he seems completely disinterested in breaking.

“You scared the living fuck out of me,” he replies. He sounds tired, too. Remorseful. It scares me a little, and I hold him tighter.

“I didn’t mean to scare you. I didn’t think you’d even know I was in here. I just didn’t want you to see me.”

“Mia…” He sighs, and I can feel his grip on me tighten. “You can’t do that. If I’m pushing you too hard, you have to tell me.”

“I didn’t want you to make me leave.”

Tipping my chin up, he meets my gaze. “I will never make you leave. I don’t want you to leave.”

“But you said…”

“I’m a fucking liar, Mia,” he states, sounding aggravated with himself instead of me this time. “I’m so sorry. Please, just… don’t ever let me push you this far again. I’ll never make you leave. Never. Not for anything. You don’t have to be afraid of that. You’ll be in this house long after I’m gone.”

I squeeze him tighter. “Don’t say that. I don’t ever want you to be gone.”

“Please don’t let me break you.”

“I’m not that breakable,” I assure him. “I just… I’ve never felt this much guilt before. It’s so horrible.”

“Stop thinking about that. Come on, let’s stand up.”

I don’t want to let go of him, but he doesn’t give me much choice. Once he’s standing, he takes my hand to help me up. He pulls me into his arms to hug me again, like he just can’t express enough how glad he is that I’m alive.

Finally he pulls back, but he still holds onto my hand. He laces our fingers together and walks me out.

I follow, docile as can be, until I realize he’s taking me to his study. Then I slow to a stop.

“I don’t want to go in there,” I tell him. “I can’t be sad anymore today.”

“You’re not going to be sad anymore today,” he promises me. “Mad, probably. Not sad.”

I frown, confused. He’s still holding my hand and he drags me into the study, whether I want to go or not. I try to focus on his desk, because I cannot look at Vince’s empty chair.

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