And that was when she saw it.
A tweet from a well-known society gossip columnist, sharing a photo of Acheron and Amelia kissing in a pub.
The hashtag below it: #ATM
If only she could believe it meant ‘automated teller machine’.
Acheron had just gotten back home when the news broke out, and when he saw Wickham waiting for him in the hallway outside his apartment, he knew right away something had fucking gone wrong again.
“How bad is it?”
“Extremely,” Wickham said grimly, “if Ms. Jones happens to see them.”
The billionaire took one look at the tweeted photos Wickham showed and stepped back into the elevator without a word. He knew – he already fucking knew – if he didn’t make it in time, he might lose her for good.
When the knock sounded on the Joneses’ front door, everyone looked at each other, knowing it could only be one person.
“I just want to talk.”
And it was Acheron, of course.
“Don’t let him in,” Pippi cried out when Astrid started to stand.
But her mother only gave her a chiding look. “I didn’t raise you to be a coward.”
Astrid steeled herself against the tremor in her daughter’s voice. “At least just talk to him…”
Pippi ‘s heart started to sink as she watched Astrid walk away to open the door.
Talk to him?
She couldn’t even think of him without falling apart.
The door started to open.
And she found herself breaking into a run.
Acheron caught sight of Pippi’s tearstained face just as she flew up the stairs, and his heart clenched. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Why couldn’t he stop hurting her? He glanced at Astrid, torn between his need to apologize and go after the woman he loved—
“You’re forgiven,” the older woman said softly.
Pippi heard Acheron’s footsteps, and in her panic she locked herself in the first room she could reach –
And it just happened to be the Monarch Room.
Which was his room.
His things were everywhere, and so were the memories – God, there were too many memories, and she sank to her knees with a sob.
Pain ravaged Acheron’s heart at hearing Pippi cry. “It’s not what you think, baby.”
Pippi squeezed her eyes shut against the hoarse sound of his voice.
“You were right all along. Amelia…had feelings for me, and she set the whole scene up. She wanted to keep causing trouble between us—”
And she succeeded, Pippi thought dully.
“She’s gone now.”
But for how long?
Because it was completely clear to her now.
She was wrong about him.
“Pippi, I love you.”
A hysterical laugh escaped her. “You don’t.”
He loved Amelia, not her.
“I love you. I’ve always loved you—”
“I’m not. I love you—”
“How can you love me,” she choked out, “when all of the risks you’ve taken in your life were for her?” And just like that, all her pain came pouring out. “Anthony Nolasco could’ve killed you just for wanting her, and yet you still ended up falling in love with Amelia. She nearly cost you your whole business, but you still took her back in! And I…And I…”
God, just thinking about it hurt so damn much.
“I g-gave you e-everything, and you left me—you couldn’t even take a single risk—”
The pain in her voice devastated him. “I was scared. I thought I was doing the right thing, leaving you so you wouldn’t suffer the way Millie did. I didn’t want others to hurt you—”
“So you decided it was better for you to hurt me instead?”
“Baby, I’m sorry.”
“I love you.”
He begged her on his knees, begged her for hours, begged until his voice became hoarse and ragged – he begged and begged until he realized…she was right.
He had never taken any risks for her.
And it was time to change that.
“You miss him,” Astrid said knowingly over breakfast two weeks later. “It’s written all over your face, so don’t bother denying it.”
Eyes that were both blue and bloodshot at the same time glared at Astrid. “I admit to not being over him, but I also believe it’s just a matter of time before I learn to move on and forget about him.”
No one bothered correcting Pippi, but the looks her family exchanged among each other spoke volume. They didn’t believe her at all, the traitors!
On her way to work, Pippi did her best to clear her mind of all things that had to do with him, but it proved impossible. Her family might think she didn’t have it in her to forget him, but she couldn’t let herself lose hope like that. She had to find a way to get over him – or die trying.
Gareth Evans was already at the office when she arrived, and she couldn’t help shooting him a suspicious look, saying, “It’s not like you to be early, sir.”
“It’s not like you to come to work looking like you’ve been run over by a truck either,” her boss pointed out dryly, “but that’s life for you.”