But this was different. I knew Max, and no one could question about what he’d done, with all the people who had been there. The drugs in my system were proof enough of his intentions. How I’d find the strength to walk into the police station and tell my story though, I’d never know. But if it helped Blake out of this madness, I’d do whatever I needed to do.
“I’ll go with you. You won’t be alone.” Alli reached for my hand.
“Thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“You’ll never have to know. I’m always here for you, and I’m not going anywhere. We all are. We’re all but family now.”
My heart pulsed with gratitude for her friendship.
“Hey, I have an idea.” Alli brightened a little and took my hand.
I raised my eyebrows. “What’s that?”
“I know this is probably the last thing on your mind, but what do you think about going dress shopping this week? It would take your mind off all of this upset.”
I smiled and nodded. “That sounds perfect.”
“Alli told me about Max pressing charges.”
Blake had worked late and he hadn’t been home five minutes before I approached him. I could think of little else since Alli left that afternoon. On top of that, I was pissed off that he didn’t tell me right away. He tugged off his shirt and stepped out of the bedroom into the adjoining bathroom, effectively ignoring me. I followed him in.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Having criminal charges against you matters.”
He let out a sigh and turned toward me. I tried to hold my concentration on the matter at hand, but his shirtless body and the way he smelled when he pulled me close the way he did now always seemed to scatter my brain cells. A hand on my hip, he leaned down and pressed a soft kiss on my lips.
“It doesn’t worry me, so it shouldn’t worry you, okay? You’ve got enough on your mind.”
I stared into his eyes, letting him know that I sure as hell was going to worry. “Will this affect your work? What about Angelcom, or all the other businesses your name is attached to?”
A short laugh escaped him. “Are you talking about my reputation? Money talks, Erica, and thankfully I’ve got plenty of it. The same reasons the board wanted to keep rubbing up against Max until I put their balls in a jar are the same reasons why none of this is going to matter to any of them. I’m the one holding the cards. Anyway, I could give a shit what anyone else thinks.”
I couldn’t help the worry that rooted right next to all the hate I now held for Max.
Blake framed my face in his hands. “Listen to me. Do not worry about this. It’s nothing I can’t handle, and trust me that I’m handling it.”
He sighed and released me, leaving a few inches of distance between us.
I looped my fingers into his jeans, tugging him back. His eyes widened a fraction.
“I’m going to talk to the police tomorrow. I don’t remember everything, but hopefully it’ll be enough. If that means testifying or whatever, I’ll do whatever I need to do.”
He paused. “I’m glad to hear it. Not for my sake, but for yours.”
I frowned. “I’m not sure I’d do it if it weren’t for your sake. I hate that he’s done this to you.”
“Why wouldn’t you tell the police your story, Erica? He deserves to face what he did, and God knows, you deserve justice. You’ll never have it if you don’t tell the police what happened. You’re the victim, and they need to hear your story, not mine.”
I dropped my gaze to Blake’s waist where my fingers idly tangled in the loops of his jeans. “The thought of going through it all makes me sick, that’s why.”
He tipped my chin until I met his serious eyes. “There are times when it makes sense to let go, and there are times when you need to fight, no matter how miserable the idea might seem.”
I got lost in his eyes for a second. “And you want me to fight.”
“I won’t make the decision for you. But if this is any indication,” he said, gesturing to the now deep red scabs decorating his knuckles, “you know where I stand on knocking him down to size.”
I winced at his injury and how it’d been incurred. I couldn’t imagine Max’s injuries, but I relished that he was likely still suffering with them. I drew in a deep breath through my nose. I’d spent the past few days trying to push past all of it. I couldn’t go down this road again. I wouldn’t give Max the satisfaction of breaking me like Mark had.
“I appreciate that you fought for me, but this isn’t about revenge.”
“You’re right. It’s about holding Max Pope accountable for the first time in his life. He needs to learn a lesson that he’s been working up to for a very long time. That’s not revenge. That’s justice. That’s making a situation right that’s been wrong for too long.”
I could argue all I wanted, but Blake was right. Max hadn’t just threatened me, crossing a line that could never be uncrossed. He’d betrayed my trust, threatened both my business and Blake’s. Blake’s grievances extended far beyond the experiences we’d shared with Max. Before I’d even met Max, I’d known he was a playboy, a spoiled young man. He skated above the consequences that would have fallen on anyone else. Instead, he’d been shielded by his family’s fortress of wealth and prominence. Professor Quinlan had used such a circumstance to his advantage, earning me a meeting with him with the promise that he’d invest in Clozpin.
How long would this go on? How long could he wreak havoc over our lives without consequences, spurred by this mindless jealousy that Blake inspired in him? Maybe Blake was right. Perhaps this was the one strike that couldn’t be ignored—by Michael or by the law. Maybe this infraction would finally show him he wasn’t immune from consequence.
Blake broke my thoughts with a kiss that was both tender and careful. Pulling back, he studied me. “How was your day? Are you feeling any better?”
“I feel fine. I told you that this morning. I’m going back to work tomorrow, regardless of what you say. If I sit around here lazing around one more day, I’m going to lose my mind.”
He smirked. “Well, we can’t have that.”
Turning away from me, he started the shower. He stripped naked and opened the door, filling the room with a rush of steam. I chewed my lip, following his backside as he stepped in under the stream. The fire that had lain dormant for days lit within me. Apparently the days of being deprived of intimacy had taken its toll, and now that my energy was back, I was having a hard time ignoring it.