He sent me a hard look. “The very idea is absurd, I know, but the rumor mill that I’m sure you remember is still alive and well.”
Absurd, yes. I let that sink in as he carried me to his bed, laying me down, a strange look on his face. “And if you notice anything strange about this hotel, I’d suggest you stick close to me, and speak of it as little as possible.”
That only whet my curiosity, of course, but I dropped it, suddenly much more interested in the fact that he had lain me on his bed.
He stood at my side, studying me intently, an enigmatic look on his face. I didn’t last long under that regard, much to my everlasting dismay. I shifted impatiently, watching his face as closely as he watched mine. “Please, Dom,” I said softly.
He was suddenly over me, our lips touching. “Damn you,” he said roughly, kissing me with all of his pent-up rage and anger.
“Damn me,” I agreed, when he finally came up for air. The storm took us yet again.
I knew it was a touchy subject, but I asked anyways. “What did you think I was for all those years? Of course you didn’t buy any of our covers. I never expected you to. It was always enough that you didn’t press me for answers.”
I could only see his profile. His mouth tilted up slightly in a bitter smile. “Actually, I thought you were an angel. I couldn’t have been more wrong now, could I?” He didn’t look at me as he walked into the bathroom, shutting the door hard behind him. Well, shit, it had been stupid of me to ask. But it hadn’t occurred to me that the answer would hurt so much, reminding of all that we’d lost. Reminding me of how he had adored me once.
I was perched on the side of his bed, completely undressed. I had a fleeting urge to get dressed and get out of there before he came back out, but couldn’t seem to make myself move. I just sat staring at my feet, listening to the shower run in the background. I was trying hard to talk myself out of following him in when my eyes fell on the drawer of his heavy-wooded black nightstand. It was slightly ajar. I vaguely recalled him closing it quickly when I woke up. I sent a quick glance at the bathroom door before I peaked inside the drawer. Yes, you can add nosy to my already impressive list of character flaws.
A large manilla envelope was the only thing inside. I hesitated briefly before plunging my hand inside. My hand trembled a little when I realized what was inside the envelope. I’d never actually seen the thick stack of photos before, but I was very familiar with their contents.
The man in the photos couldn’t have looked less like Dom if I had gone in search of a man just for that purpose. He was pale, with long yellow-blond hair, lithely muscular rather than bulky, and almost exactly my height. There could have been no mistake that it was not Dom’s naked back facing the camera in the first photo I looked at. My hands were gripped tightly in his curly golden hair. Our coloring had complemented well, two golden forms melded together. The pictures were even prettier than I’d thought. I’d angled myself in the first dozen shots so that the photographer would capture my angled face and naked torso perfectly. My naked hip just peaked out from behind his naked butt, which was practically plastered to the window where my hand-picked photographer was taking furtive shots with a trigger-happy speed only Caleb could have managed. There was no mistaking that it was me. And there was no mistaking the man in the pictures either. Especially the ones where I angled for a perfect straight shot of his lust-dazed face at the camera. I’d known if they captured his face there’d have been no hiding for Declan. As a passionate and incriminating embrace, it was convincing. The only thing suspicious about the photos were my eyes. They were downcast in most of the shots. But the ones that revealed glimpses showed clearly that there was no passion there, just cold determination. But that was a small thing when confronted with all of that naked skin. And I knew that as far as convincing Dom, it’d been overkill. But, hell, overkill had always been my specialty.
The bathroom door slammed open behind me, and I jumped. I calmly began putting the photos back into the drawer, but of course, the damage was done. Goosebumps rose along my skin as I felt his eyes boring into me from behind.
I sat perfectly still as he appeared in front of me, wearing just a towel slung around his naked hips. The wet towel clung. I couldn’t even pretend this didn’t affect me. A nearly naked Dom would only stop affecting me when I was dead.
He didn’t even address my lack of regard for his privacy as I’d thought he would. “How was he?” he asked, his voice low and intense.
I closed my eyes. “Dom, don’t.”
His hand gripped hard over one of my braided buns, pulling my head back roughly. “Tell me,” he ordered.
Finally, I shrugged one shoulder. It was awkward with the way he was holding me, but I think he got the point. “He did the trick,” I said cryptically. He shoved me away in disgust, and started pacing. “How often do you look at these pictures?” I finally asked him. What have I done? I thought to myself.
He stopped, staring at me. “Often enough. I assume you know what happened to him, what I did to him.” His restless pacing began again. “What did you feel when you found out I killed him? That I tore him limb from limb?”
I sighed unhappily, interrupting him. “You should just burn these, Dom. It’s not healthy to be so obsessed with something that happened so long ago.”
He stopped, leaning in close. “I’m not obsessed with those pictures, Jillian. I’m obsessed with you. I’ve been obsessed with you since I was fourteen. What’s not healthy is being obsessed with someone that I despise. I used to think that I could never hate you, that no matter what you did, my feelings couldn’t change.”
“I was wrong. God, was I wrong. You proved me wrong. And it wasn’t just that man, Jillian. You broke your blood oath to me without blinking. You gave up on us without blinking. You were never the person I thought you were. You were an adolescent fantasy that I just couldn’t shake.”
I was still trying to let his stinging words sink in when he continued. “When I met you, you told me I was too young to fall in love. I knew you were wrong at the time. And what I felt didn’t fade with time or distance. But you made me wish it would.” His voice was a low growl in my ear. “Now answer the question. What did you feel when you heard I had killed him?”
I did the idiot thing and told him the truth. I figured it wouldn’t go over well. I was right. “Relief. I heard you were going to fight him in the arena and I was relieved when it was over and you weren’t hurt.”