The tiniest (sensible) part of her wished she could make herself hate him. But she couldn’t. Maybe it was her genetic makeup at fault (she truly hoped it was), but Diana simply couldn’t find it to be mad with him, and when he spoke again—
“I’m sorry, Diana.”
She could only cry harder, body shaking, throat tightening to the point of pain. The raw agony in his voice was unbearable, but it was hearing him say her name the very first time that ended her.
I’m done for, Saint M.
She was his to fool, his to possess. She was…his.
Matthijs slowly drew her into his arms, and it was like finding his way home when he felt her cheek press against his chest. But her tears still fell, wetting his shirt, and his arms tightened around her.
“I’m sorry,” he said hoarsely. “I never wanted…I’d never want to hurt you—”
“Then why did you?”
He heard the fragile catch in her voice, and his chest threatened to cave in under the weight of his self-contempt. Lips brushing against the silken crown of her head, he whispered, “You know why, my darling.”
The endearment made Diana press closer, and feeling his lips brush against her hair once again was a painfully sweet pleasure.
Please God. Please let this last.
“You’re the first…the only one I’ve ever liked this way.”
“It’s no different for me.” His voice turned rough.
Diana wished she could believe him. But she couldn’t. And even worse, she realized that she no longer cared. Now that she was in his arms, it was no longer possible to hide from the truth, no longer possible to pretend that she would do everything just to keep him in her life.
She slowly pulled away, and his arms gradually slackened its hold. She slowly looked up, heart in her throat. “If I promise…” She swallowed hard. “If I p-promise to never make you choose between me and your career…if I promise never to say or do anything that might cost you your job…”
Matthijs couldn’t bear the tremulous plea in her voice.
That he was making her of all people beg…
It just showed how little she knew him, just showed how little she understood the strength of his desire for her, that she would think some university policy was enough to keep him away.
Terrified he was about to say goodbye and even more terrified how that would completely break her, she found herself clutching his shirt, found herself crying and begging, her pride completely forgotten.
“I’m not asking you to marry me. We don’t even have to date if that’s too much of a risk. But just please…please…” Diana’s voice cracked. “Could you please just promise you won’t push me away again?”
Diana woke up the next day wanting to pinch herself.
But she managed not to, reminding herself that to do so was an indirect admission of doubt.
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in You.
Diana quoted to herself, and if she wanted God’s backing, she would do well not to forget that to doubt in any way was to doubt Him in every way.
Rosy memories replayed in her mind as she stepped inside the shower, and she found herself humming rather dreamily, her movements languid as she soaped and rinsed her body.
The professor had promised to stay. Had even said he would stay for as long as she wanted him. How could she not be in a good mood, with such beautiful memories playing over and over in her mind?
The sound of her room phone ringing insistently when Diana came out of the shower had her gasping and rushing to answer it. She had been so engrossed fantasizing about what today would bring that she had completely forgotten her weekly morning call with her family.
Diana pressed the button that would allow the phone to switch to video call, and the wall-mounted plasma display immediately lit up. A beaming cherubic face filled the screen, eyes sparkling in excitement. “Theia Diana!”
Diana beamed back. “Hello, Nala.”
“Papa and Mama are here, too,” her niece declared, moving back to reveal the attractive-looking couple seated on the couch behind her.
Diana waved hi. “Hey guys.”
“It normally doesn’t take you that long to answer our call,” her overprotective billionaire brother pointed out gruffly. “Is something wrong?”
“I just came out of the shower, sorry.”
“And that’s it?” Damen’s tone was skeptical.
She crossed her fingers behind her back, saying, “That’s it. Honest.”
Damen didn’t look convinced. “You know I can send the jet for you anytime, ne? No questions asked—”
His wife’s groan cut her off. “Seriously, Damen, ease up. You can see for yourself Diana’s perfectly fine.” But not a second had passed when Mairi slanted a faintly worried glance at her sister-in-law, saying uneasily, “I mean, you are. Right?”
Diana giggled, thinking it was so like Mairi to act first and think later. “I’m perfectly fine, yes.”