The gold had been replaced with ice, and I’d been the one who’d frozen his heart.
“I didn’t expect you to come back.” There wasn’t a hint of emotion behind his statement. Years in the military had given him the ability to remain stoic regardless of the war that raged inside. I saw the anger in his eyes, the hatred in the way he stared at me.
My shoulders slumped in defeat. I hadn’t expected anything different except possibly indifference, avoidance, isolation. I never anticipated Matt’s confronting me the moment I walked through the door. It was like he’d been staring out the window waiting for me to pull up. Or maybe he’d been on guard in the entrance since I’d been released yesterday.
“Matt…” His name was merely a whisper of uncertainty.
“Don’t Matt me.”
I didn’t know what to do. I owned the house, too. I had every right to be here even if he didn’t want me to be. I agreed no one owed me anything, but even if he wanted me to leave, there was still the matter of my name on the mortgage, my things in the closets and rooms. If he wanted me to leave, I would, but I had to collect enough to survive which was all I’d be doing—surviving.
“Lissa, I’ve loved you since we were five, but I can’t stand the sight of you right now.” The way he gritted the words out expressed his fury in a way that frightened me.
“Do you want me to leave?” I’d do whatever he needed me to do. There was no fight in me, not for this.
He let out a long sigh, his anger turned to hurt. He was in agony, just like I was. Losing Joshua was more than life-altering, it was life-ending. “I don’t know what I want. I want to lash out at you. Scream, rage. But none of that will bring him back.”
“I know.” It was the truth—the bitter truth of my actions.
“You don’t know! One minute I want to squeeze the life out of you—prevent you from ever taking another breath. But the next, I want to reach out to you and hold you, mourn with you. Love you the only way I know how. I can’t stand the sight of you but can’t sleep without you. I want to hate you but don’t know how to do anything other than love you.” His hands dropped to his side, fists clenched. Releasing, closing, the knuckles going white each time he retracted his fingers. Matt was a trained killer, one of the governments’ prized weapons. He could end me in the blink of an eye or torture me for days.
My head bobbed in a slow nod. I knew exactly how he felt. The same emotions assaulted my own psyche every second of the day.
“For fuck’s sake, Lissa. Say something!”
“I don’t have anything I can say to take away your pain, Matt. Joshua’s life is on me. I took that. I didn’t mean to. God, I didn’t mean to. But that doesn’t matter. None of it matters because none of it changes anything. My remorse doesn’t bring him back, and it doesn’t atone for my sins. It’s just that—regret.
The latch on the door clicked when the knob was turned. I glanced at the clock to see it glow 3:04 am. I only had three hours left to pretend I was asleep before I could get up and do this all over again. I didn’t turn over to see what Matt wanted. I assumed it was him but almost prayed it was a home invader who’d end this nightmare once and for all. When the covers receded, and a warm body filled the spot behind me, I knew it was my fiancé and not the grim reaper.
My body tensed, unsure of why he was here. I waited with bated breath not knowing how to respond. When he finally draped his arm over my hip and pulled me to him, I relaxed into the comfort I didn’t deserve.
“I can’t sleep without you, Lissa.” The thought lingered in the air without my response. “I want to hate you, but my soul needs you.” His words broke—the crack in his voice an indication of how hard he fought the emotion.
I put my hand over his and laced our fingers together. “I’m so sorry, Matt.” I was choked up. Regret, fear, grief—they all moved through me as his warmth surrounded me.
“I need to feel you. I need your skin on mine to remind me I’m alive.”
The last thing I wanted was sex, but if it brought him comfort, I’d allow him to use me in whatever way he needed. I owed that much to him. Without further thought, I removed my shirt and shimmied out of my panties. Reaching behind me, I found Matt already naked. We never slept with clothing on, but I hadn’t expected him to be that way tonight. When I turned to him, he uttered words I never thought I’d hear.
“It’s going to be painful and rough. Don’t mistake this for pleasure, Lissa.”
I turned over and nodded, hoping he could see me by the light of the moon that washed through the window.
Matt hadn’t lied. There was nothing pleasurable about sex that night. It was punishing and aggressive in a way I’d never experienced, but I’d do anything to try to right the wrong in our relationship. He took and took for almost an hour. My vagina was raw and irritated when he finally grunted his release. Tears leaked from the corners of my eyes, not because of what he’d just done, but because he’d needed to do it.
I didn’t know if we’d ever survive this, or if either of us would come back from it—but I’d give myself to him over and over in hopes of gaining his forgiveness or even the chance for an explanation. I was desperate for him to understand I hurt just as much as he did but knew I didn’t deserve that opportunity. I could only hope that time would provide some level of understanding on both of our parts.
When he was done, he didn’t bother to clean either of us up. He resumed his place behind me with a vice grip on my body. His breathing fell into a steady rhythm, and while he slept, I stared out into the night waiting for dawn. When the sun finally graced me with its presence, I slipped from his clutches and donned a pair of sneakers. The only thing I knew to do was run.
Desperate for the ultimate forgiveness, Melissa Jackson offers herself up in the most selfless way. But, by atoning for her past, she could lose her future as she tries to keep her secret from unraveling at the feet of the man she adores.
Daniel Hadley becomes enamored with the wrong woman at the right time. Forever the playboy, Dan falls for the redhead with a jaded past, but all he can see is the gift she so freely gives. Her soft spirit and noble gesture have him head over heels, even though it could be his undoing.
Hoping to right her wrongs, Lissa embarks on what will prove to be one of the most difficult challenges of her life. Clueless to the turmoil she hides, Dan plans for a future that might never be. Together, they set off on a journey to discover their path and fulfill their destiny.
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