Why was the hospital so white? The walls, the ceiling, the chairs, the floor... Everything was so white, not to mention sterile. The sterility smell lingered in the air, teasing my nose, just as the white of the afterlife threatened to blind me for good.
The only color in the waiting room was Liam. He sat with his elbows leaning on his thighs, his leg drumming on the floor anxiously. His face was grave, his light gold eyes cold, and he seemed close to a breaking point.
We hadn’t talked since we started the nerve-wrecking wait for Holden’s surgery to finally end. Usually I didn’t mind the quiet, but today... I couldn’t handle it. Not like this. Not now.
So I decided to be the one to break the silence first. “Why didn’t he get a heart transplant?” It’d been something I wondered in the excruciating time in the waiting room.
Liam’s eyes darkened as they snapped up to meet mine. He didn’t seem like he wanted me there too much, and honestly, I wasn’t sure myself I wanted to be here, but I made my choice and both Liam and I would have to accept it, and, as though he read my mind, he answered. “He’d been waiting his entire teen years to finally get to the top of the list of the heart transplant patients. Only when he reached eighteen he’d won the lottery; some girl was brain-dead and she matched him, heart-wise.” His face turned even graver. “He demanded to know who his donor was, but the doctors, according to protocol, refused. So he sneaked out one day and went to find his donor. When he saw it was a girl, he knew.”
And I knew now too. “He would never agree to get a heart transplant, no matter who the donor is, no matter how much worse his condition gets.” Because Holden needed to fix broken things, all broken things but himself. He believed he did not need stitching up. He was a martyr like that.
It pissed me off. Everything about Holden pissed me off now. He was not Wayne, not the man I knew before today. He was indeed Holden Knight, the man who pushed his own boundaries and both selfishly and selflessly achieved everything he wanted for himself and everything he wanted for other people.
“I hate him,” I informed Liam. “I really, really hate him.”
He bit out a sarcastic snort. “More than you hate your family?”
My hands curled into fists. “Yes.” And, for my entire shock, it was the truth. “At least I knew who my family is from the start, even before they did inexcusable things. At least I was somewhat prepared for the knife in the back. They’ve always been upfront assholes, and I have no problem handling them accordingly. But Holden?” I looked at Liam with all the anger I felt at the moment. “He was supposed to be completely, utterly honest with me. He was supposed to be the love of my life, when I get the chance to fall for him deep and truly like I prepared myself for it to happen. He was supposed to be my everything; best friend, boyfriend, fiance, husband. And now I realize I know absolutely shit not about him.”
“That’s why I was against you being with him,” Liam said quietly, drawing my eyes to him. He sighed. “I lied to you before, Blair. I didn’t want to protect Holden. I’m not the judgmental ass I made you think I am. In fact, the last thing anyone who knows me truly can say about me is that I’m judgmental. I just put on a front so I can convince you to stay away from him.”
Confusion replaced the anger boiling inside me. “I don’t think I understand your point, Liam.”
“You’re a good girl at the end of the day,” he said, giving me an odd look. “Cold, distant, maybe twisted and wicked, but not bad. Not evil. You went through a lot in your life – Ford told me everything about that asshat Darren when he warned me to stay away from you – but I never believed you to be bad. In fact, when I met you the first time at that dancing class, I was cautious, because you weren’t completely broken; you were redeemable. And you had something in you that made me keep my guard up because you would try to wreck me. That’s what my instincts told me.”
He gazed down at the floor. “I pretended to hate you, Blair, because I knew what Holden wasn’t telling you, and I knew you’d be hurt. I like you, and I think you didn’t deserve anything of what happened to you throughout your life, and so I wanted to save you from one last unnecessary pain. But Holden was stubborn and selfish and he couldn’t stay away from you. I didn’t know what to do, because I truly tried everything. I should’ve known you would take the insults I threw at you to give me the middle finger and do whatever you please, but I never said I wasn’t an idiot myself.”
These revelations were quite shocking. So shocking, in fact, that I could barely listen when the doctor came out of the OR and told us Holden was stable and currently sleeping, so we should visit him tomorrow. Only when Liam’s hand landed on my shoulder and squeezed did I snap out of it and looked up at him. “So you tried to save me the trouble of heartbreak.”
“Yes,” he responded, and crouched so we were somewhat eye-level. “I’m sorry that you had to find about Holden like this. And I’m sorry for being an asshole to you this entire time.”
I searched his eyes for deceit, something I did automatically with anyone I knew or met. I found none. He was clear, sincerity only in his eyes, and something in me, something I hadn’t been aware of until now, sagged in relief and filled with me with exhaustion. “Let’s get out of here,” I said tiredly.
Liam nodded and rose again. “But I think we should eat first. It’s late and we both haven’t eaten anything.”
I nodded and let him lead me out of the hospital to a nearby restaurant. We settled down next to a table, and the waitress came, all blushes and excitement to meet the Liam Arthur in real life. Sometimes I forgot all that bunch was famous.
After he gave the happy waitress an autograph, we ordered to eat. Then we sat in short silence before I said, “So you’re not a bad guy.”
He chuckled dryly. “I try not think of myself as one.”
I nodded. “I’m not a bad girl either.”
He cocked his head as he gave me a strange look. “No, you’re not. You’re also not as cold as before.”
“You can thank Holden for that,” I scrunched my nose in annoyance. “He did his best to make me open up my feelings, and now that they’re open, I feel everything to much higher degrees. I hate it.”
“So you’d rather being an emotionless robot?” he inquired, arching an eyebrow.
“Don’t be silly,” I told him, “I just want to go back a few steps, to get accustomed to these feelings. I never had a chance to do that; Holden just let me feel everything again and again and again until...” Until he almost suffocated me with them. But I couldn’t say that aloud. Wouldn’t. Why? I had no idea, but my mind told me it was better not saying that.
Liam didn’t ask for me to finish the sentence. Instead, he studied my face before speaking again. “I think I understand,” he said, eyes locked on my own. “Holden tried to quicken the process he made with you before today, before something like today happened. He wanted to make sure you’ll be open emotionally before you found out about his sickness.”
I scowled at that. “That’s a shitty thing to do. It’s also selfish.”
“Holden is a selfish man,” Liam said, sighing. “He’s the only man I can think of as both, actually. Both selfish and selfless. He does everything for all the right and wrong reasons. He’s really something else.”
“He’s a different kind of psychopath,” I said, toying with my glass of water. “He likes to take broken things and make them whole for his own selfish need to fix stuff up. He doesn’t care if these people start liking him, depending on him, needing him. He doesn’t care as long as he fixes them up and then leaves them to rot with their own fix-ups.”
“I’m afraid I have to agree with this analogy,” he said softly. “And I’m sorry he made you care for him like that.”
I looked at him quietly for a few long moments before saying, “He never planned to fall for me, did he?”
Liam gave me a sad smile. It was probably the first time I saw him smile, and it was a sad one at that. “I don’t think so, Blair.”
The admission of what I already thought was like having the knife Holden shoved inside my heard twisted cruelly. But I needed to hear that. Needed to hear everything. “He wanted to save me like one saves a stray dog or cat.”
Liam’s face distorted in pain. “Don’t make me say it, Blair.”
I glared at him. “I need to hear, Liam.”
His painful expression remained when he said, “Yes, Blair. He treated you like a pet.”
It ached. It ached so much. But I wasn’t finished. “He never planned to actually marry me. He was simply trying to make me feel like I had a home, like I was finally ready for shit like that, before he passed away.”
Liam closed his eyes and swore. “Yes.”
Agony ripped through my heart, and tears streamed angrily down my face. “Liam,” I said through the internal turmoil, through the fact my world was again spinning, unbalanced, trying to find an axis but failing. “Liam, I need you to get me back home.” My true home. The apartment I worked hard for. The apartment where my piano was.
Liam did as I said, and once we stepped inside my apartment, I couldn’t control my anger anymore. I took a pillow from my sofa and threw it on the wall. Took books and threw them. Ripped some pictures off. Disabled my phone, where all those contaminated numbers of these poisonous people in my life were. I punched the cushions of my bed. Cleaned the kitchen counter with one angry sweep of my arm.
All along I screamed and growled, almost like an animal. Liam simply stood there, leaning against the close door, his eyes hard with satisfaction when he saw me lose my shit. He didn’t try to stop me. He didn’t try to talk to me. He understood. He let me do this.
That was when I realized Liam and I had much more in common that I’d ever thought. I’d never understood his constant anger about everything, about Holden, about life in general. Now I did. Now it connected us both.
And when I finished racking my apartment, I strode toward to him, grabbed his face in my hands, and kissed him. Holden was an asshole of the highest degree and he wasn’t here when I needed him. But I didn’t need him anymore. I could reach oblivion with another man as well, and Liam was more than capable, I believed.
I needed this thoughtless voice. I needed it now. And I begged with my lips for him to give me that.
And maybe he was just as angry. Maybe he was just as desperate with the entire situation. Because Liam didn’t push me away; he grabbed my face in response, deepened his lips onto mine, and plastered his body hard to mine. And heat like nothing I’d ever felt ignited me, causing my skin to feel like it was on fire, causing my heart’s booms to vibrate through my entire body.
Nothing else mattered then. Only this man and what he could give me did.