Astrid simply smiled, and seeing it, the urge to cry and laugh grew stronger. That smile said everything, reminding her of the family motto.
Everything was possible…together.
And maybe, just maybe – because she loved Acheron…
Pippi swallowed hard, but before she could say a word, Astrid had already reached for hand, saying softly, “The answer is yes.”
You love Acheron, and that makes him family.
So don’t give up on him.
Instead, face your troubles…
Acheron’s fingers curled around his phone in a tense, hard grip as he waited for Pippi to answer his call. And if she refused to talk to him, then that was only to be expected. And maybe, it would even be better if it were so –
He jerked in his seat, his heart slamming hard against his chest at the sudden sound of Pippi’s voice.
She had answered his call—
It seemed like forever since he had last heard her voice, and his eyes closed.
I love her.
The realization should’ve felt sudden, but it didn’t. The truth had been there all along – he had turned himself into a clown, cosplayed as a police, bought a fucking ambulance – no man would do such things for a woman he didn’t love, and now he realized that he had loved her from the very start.
He loved her.
The sound of his voice made Pippi want to weep. Oh God, it had been so long. So, so long. Lying on her bed, she could only turn on her side and gaze blindly outside her window, pretending that Acheron was one of the stars watching her.
“I only called to let you know that my legal team’s already filed the appropriate cases against those women. Rest assured they’ll be dealt in the severest way possible.”
Pippi didn’t know what to say. She was glad that the women were being made to pay, but was that really the only reason he called?
Acheron waited for Pippi to say a word, to blame him for fucking her life up the way she had every right to, but when she didn’t, he took it upon himself to do it for her. “I’m sorry, Pippi. I know I promised I wouldn’t let you take any risks, and I failed you.”
“It’s not your fault—”
“Stop being nice, dammit.” Because the nicer she was, the less he deserved her. He just wanted to believe that he could one day earn the right to be with her. Was that too fucking much to ask?
“You weren’t the one who put that thing online—”
“None of this would’ve happened if you hadn’t gotten in the crosshairs of those bitches, and that wouldn’t have happened either if you hadn’t come to Millie’s defense.” A short, hard pause, and then Acheron asked harshly, “Why did you fucking do it?”
“Because…” I just snapped. Or at least that was what she had thought at that time. But now she knew.
Now that she had accepted just how much she loved Acheron –
Now that she remembered Acheron was family…
And you would do everything for family —
“I took a risk,” Pippi whispered.
“I d-didn’t know it then, but now…now I know – I was wrong. I was so wrong, Acheron. Love isn’t about avoiding risks. It’s the opposite, actually. It’s about taking risks – together.” Her voice caught as a wild rush of emotions struck her, and she just felt so, so much.
So here’s to taking another risk—
“I love you, Acheron.”
Acheron inhaled sharply.
“And I think…I can…I can…”
Take a risk, Pippi.
“I can make you love me.”
Acheron couldn’t – wouldn’t – let himself speak.
Because people who loved them only ended up getting hurt.
And he had to fucking remember that.
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.” He could feel Pippi’s heart breaking at the words, but he hardened himself against it. He was doing this for her. He was doing this because she was right, and he loved her. “In fact, I think it’s best if we both pretend nothing ever happened between us.”
Pippi couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “No—” Pretend nothing ever happened between them? “No. No. No!” And this time, the word came out a sob.
“I’m sorry,” he bit out.
“But I l-love you—”
“I love you!”
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
“I’m sorry,” he said doggedly.
And the line went dead.
Amelia slipped silently away as soon as she was certain the call between Acheron and Pippi Jones had ended, and there was nothing else for her to listen to. Jesus Christ, but that woman was so damn hard to get rid of.
She needed a plan.
And she needed to act on it fast.
“You want a drink…now?” It was only nine in the evening, but that one phone call with Pippi had completely drained Acheron, and the thought of having to go out and surround himself with strangers was as appealing as the idea of drinking poison.
“It’s been weeks already, and the furor over Anthony’s death’s died down. They stopped giving a fuck about me the moment the police caught his murderer.” When Acheron still didn’t look convinced, she adopted a light, cajoling tone, “Just one drink, Acheron – please?”