Today was the end of another productive day, and Tahey gave the beautiful white stallion an affectionate little pat. "Now that you're all sparkly, please, please try to keep yourself this way until tomorrow at least? Please?"
The Arabian proudly shook its head, and Tahey wrinkled her nose. "Are you saying you enjoy being dirty?"
She wasn't really expecting an answer, but she heard one nevertheless.
She turned around, and the voice she had been hoping was nothing but a hallucination—-
It was real.
Because he was here.
She watched him walk close and had to fight against the urge to bolt. It almost felt like déjà vu, really. The last time Tahey felt this way, it had been that day she was in the battle room, and she was about to be interviewed by the men of Strakh Inc.
Tahey lifted her chin. Even frightened as she was at that time, she hadn't run, so no way was she going to run now. She was tougher now. Truly.
Dmitry now stood inches before her. Big, sleek, and beautiful like the dangerous cat he still reminded her of, and even though he was wearing one of his terribly expensive suits, it wasn't enough to mute the tension his powerful frame radiated—-
A sick, horrifying thought struck her, and her eyes flew up to him. "Is it my dad?" she whispered. "Did he do something again?"
Dmitry could've cursed himself for not expecting Tahey to think and fear such a thing. "No," he said right away. "There's nothing for you to worry about on that score."
"I d-don't understand then..." Tahey wrapped her arms around herself, confusion and fear making her feel cold from within. "Why are you here?"
Dmitry shoved his hands deep in his pockets. "I'd like you to work for me again."
Tahey stared at him as if he had lost his mind. "No."
"Are you saying you'd rather work in this dump?" Dmitry snarled.
"That's your thing," she pointed out unevenly, "not mine."
And it was that of all things...
Who knew, she thought hysterically, who fucking knew it was another F-bomb that would make her break down?
She stumbled a step back, but it was too late. That fucking F-bomb...resurrected all the memories she had tried so hard to bury.
A magical night among the many magical nights that she used to share with him—-
A magical night that, at that time, she had believed was real.
And in that one magical night, while basking in the warmth of his embrace, she had asked him sleepily, Why did you keep saying 'fuck'? Did you really hate me that much?
Yes, he had told her, and no. I had my reasons for disliking you, but more than that, it was because every time you came close, I couldn't help wanting you.
The memories crumbled at the hoarse sound of Dmitry's voice, and she choked back a sob.
What a fool she had been.
When he told her that, she had actually found herself feeling tickled pink...
She couldn't believe how much of an idiot she had been about him, so foolishly crazy in love with him that she actually felt glad, knowing she had made him say 'fuck'.
Oh God, she only had to hear him say 'fuck', and...
No. No. No.
She looked up at him. "Why are you here?" she asked painfully. "What else can you possibly want—-"
"You said you loved me," he gritted out.
She stared at him.
And then she was laughing, a tiny hysterical sound that had his jaw clenching at how fragile she sounded.
"It's like what you said," Tahey finally managed to say. "I'm an idiot—-"
"Are you waiting for me to beg?"
"No." She shook her head, so tired that she couldn't even manage to feel dismayed or appalled Dmitry would think that. "I'm waiting—-"
"Because I'd beg if you wanted me to."
Tahey's heart nearly stopped beating.
"Actually..." His throat tightened. "I'm begging right now—-" But when he tried to reach for her, she jumped back, a look of such fear on her pale, lovely face that he froze in shock.
"No." Tahey was white-faced in her terror. "No."
"I wronged you, Tahey." And this time, he heard his own voice turning rough with emotion. "I was blind with grief and bitterness. And I wronged you—-"
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for hurting you—-"
Tahey shook her head wildly. "Stop it—-"
"I know I don't deserve to ask you this," he forced himself to say, "but please come back. Please—-"
"I love you, Tahey."
Tahey gripped her chest. Oh God. It hurt so, so much. Once, she'd have done everything to hear those words. But not anymore.
"That's just guilt," she whispered. "But you don't really love me, Dmitry. I don't think you ever can."
The finality of her words ravaged him, and Dmitry could barely breathe at the pain of it. "Tahey, please..." He could feel his own eyes stinging, but he couldn't even feel embarrassed about this, was too terrified of losing her that he couldn't think of anything else. "Please—-"