“I told you before, didn’t I?” she heard Damian say tightly. “You’ve got an asshole for a stepbrother.”
And then he was walking away.
She tried not to cry. Tried so hard not to cry, but she just couldn’t hold the tears back.
I’m so tired, God.
Is he really the one for me?
Can’t I just give up?
Damn her. Even now, she had her hooks in him so damn deep that he was this close to telling his driver to turn the car around and head back to the lodge. Love you always. Those were the fucking words she had used for the other man in her life, and she had said them while wearing his ring on her finger. He had heard him say them with his own ears, but even after this…even knowing that all she might want from him was revenge and that whole scene of her trying to stop him from leaving was just a fucking act, to have him pay for all the times he had hurt her—-
He still couldn’t make himself hate her.
Couldn’t even stomach the idea of hurting her back by fucking the first available woman and letting Sarah know about it.
He couldn’t do any damn thing to hurt her because he loved her.
All he had been able to do was leave…because he loved her and probably always would.
When Damian’s phone rang, a part of him was already wishing it would be her name he would see, and he did his best to convince himself it wasn’t despair that crushed his heart when it was Tommy’s name that flashed on the screen.
“What is it?”
“News about you and Ms. Clarke have exploded on the Internet,” his PA reported anxiously. “There were guests at the balcony who saw what happened, sir, and the photos have already gone viral.”
Damian swore under his breath. “Do Josiah and—-” His phone started vibrating, with his father’s name popping up on the screen. Fuck. “I’ll call you again. I already have my father waiting on the other line.”
And as was his usual, Josiah nearly roared Damian’s ears off the moment he answered his father’s call.
“What the hell is going on, Damian?”
And because he was too tired to lie, he simply gave the full, unvarnished truth. “I’m in love with Sarah, and she’s in love with another man.”
“What the fuck—-”
“A married man named Hardy—-” He stopped speaking when he heard Naomi cry out in the background. “Am I on fucking loudspeaker?”
Instead of Josiah answering, however, it was Naomi who came to the line. “Did you say Hardy, Damian?”
He stiffened. “Yes. I did.” And remembering how adamant Sarah had been to keep the truth from their parents, he couldn’t help asking sharply, “Do you know him?”
“Oh, yes.” And this time, there was a distinct sob in Naomi’s voice. “When Sarah was young, she had…she had a hard time saying Daddy for some reason. That’s why she ended up calling her own dad Hardy.”
“She probably tracked him down. He’s—-”
He cut his stepmother off, saying with fierce urgency, “I need your help, Naomi. Can you find Sarah for me and keep her from leaving? I’m heading back right now.”
And his driver was clearly eavesdropping because the guy was already taking a U-turn as he spoke, and when he saw his employer looking at him through the rearview mirror, his driver simply mouthed three words: I’m Team Sarah.
Damian could only give a nod of thanks, his nerves stretched taut while he waited for Naomi to get back on the line. And when she finally did—-
“She’s in your office,” Naomi shared shakily. “Can you tell us what’s happening—-”
“I’ll give you all the answers you want,” he promised curtly, “but right now, I need to focus on Sarah—-”
“Do you really love her, Damian?” Naomi asked painfully.
“I always did, Naomi. From the moment I saw her.”
And after that, Damian found himself doing something he hadn’t done for years.
Tommy was waiting for him by the steps, and his PA looked as if he had aged in years in the past few minutes.
“Sarah?” Damian asked right away.
“Still in your office, sir.”
He gave the younger man a curt nod of thanks. “Keep everyone away. I don’t want us disturbed.”
But when Damian entered his office, it was to find the room completely empty, and his gaze immediately strayed to the balcony’s open doors. He was too fucking late, Damian realized dully. She had obviously outwitted everyone. He should’ve expected this, should’ve fucking seen it coming. He had hurt her so fucking much, had hurt her for the last time, that she had obviously decided it was better to risk her neck, escaping through a second-floor balcony, than have to face him again.
A gentle breeze blew in as Damian sank to his knees.
He had lost her for good.
And it was all his fucking fault.
An unfamiliar stinging sensation struck his eyes, and the realization that a man of his age was about to cry had his lips twisting. It was just one of the many things, he thought numbly, that only his little Sarah could make him do.