Viktor held me until my tears ran dry. At the time, I don’t think I could have said why I was even crying. The emotions that bowled me over after my orgasm were an intense shock to my system.
He came home showing me an intense jealousy I didn’t think he had in him. Not for me. Was it because I was just a possession for him, and another man was a perceived threat?
Or did he care about me and believe that I should be with him? When Viktor Novak told me repeatedly that I was his, I wanted to believe him. I really did, and with every fiber of my being.
Yet how could we be together at the end of the contract? Even if Viktor had feelings for me, what could we do?
I had the ballet, and Papa and Dax to worry about.
The way Viktor held me while I cried, cradled in his arms and fingers running through my hair, I couldn’t help but to love him. It didn’t matter how harshly he had behaved leading up to it; he touched my body like it was made for him, and then comforted me afterwards.
Sitting on the edge of the bed after a shower, I picked at my nails, listening to the shower still running as Viktor got cleaned up. My head felt clearer, and I took a deep breath, wondering what I could say to him when he walked out of the bathroom.
Was there anything I could say?
Hey Viktor, I’m totally in love with you and want us to spend the rest of our lives together!
That thought made me snort and roll my eyes at myself. I closed my fluffy robe tighter around my chest, gnawing on my bottom lip when I heard the water shut off in the other room.
Maybe I should sleep in the guest room tonight, I mused. I hadn’t slept in there in weeks, but after this afternoon I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about it. Of course, I didn’t want to be away from him, but maybe he needed the space?
Just as I rose from the edge of his bed and turned to the bedroom door, I heard his voice at the door to the bathroom. “Are you hungry? It’s still early and I haven’t eaten yet.”
I turned to face him with my hand’s inches away from the doorhandle. His brow furrowed and those brown eyes got impossibly darker.
“Where are you going?”
“To get dressed?” I wanted to slap myself for saying it like a question. My eyes roamed over the little droplets of water cascading down the sculpted planes of his chest and abs until they were caught by the towel slung low over his hips.
“Alright, sounds good.” He took a step and my fingers curled over the handle. “Are you hungry?”
When he repeated the question, I swore I heard something else in his tone. It was an invitation of some kind. I got the sense that perhaps Viktor wanted to talk. I guess we needed to.
“Yeah, I am.” If I was being honest with myself after what Viktor did to me in the living room, I was starving.
“Go out or order in?” He was running his hand through his damp hair, and I was staring at his biceps, and ogling every inch of his toned arms.
I didn’t want to go anywhere else after going out today. One glance through the open space in his bedroom curtains told me it was still raining.
“I think it’s going to storm all night. We should stay in. We don’t need to make anyone deliver in this weather, either. I’ll toss a pizza from the freezer in the oven.” I turned the handle, cracking the bedroom door open to leave.
“No, you go get comfortable, I’ll handle dinner.” There was a hint of a command in his tone. I couldn’t tell him no when I heard that.
“Okay.” Then I turned to leave without looking back. If I stayed for another second, I honestly worried that I would drop my robe and beg him to fuck me again.
That man has no right looking as good as he does. It really isn’t fair.
Going up the narrow stairs to the two guest rooms on the fourth floor, I turned to the room that had been designated as mine my first night here. It was a strange feeling for me to think that only six weeks ago I spent my first night here. Viktor fucked me on the bed and then left me alone after I went cold on him.
I think my softness growing towards him after that was my downfall. Viktor asked me not to go cold on him after sex, and that was the first step in the wrong direction. Without putting my wall up as I had with the other men and the other meetings, it left me vulnerable to Viktor’s charm.
Oh, who am I kidding? I was susceptible to Viktor that first night in the hotel. No one ever touched me the way he did or set my body on the fire like he was capable of.
No one asked if they could kiss me, but Viktor did.
He truly had my mind and body. Viktor wholly ensnared me, and he didn’t even know it. It hurt knowing that I could never tell him.
Since we were staying in for the rest of the night, I went for something casual. A loose green sweater and black leggings and my hair tossed into a messy bun. It’s not what I would have worn around Viktor before the accident, but things were different in our lives now.
There was a new feeling of domestic life between us that neither of us was going to comment on. Of course, I had boyfriends in the past, but never in my life had I lived with a man. Not until Viktor, and there wasn’t a man on this earth quiet like him.
He was already in the kitchen when I went downstairs. His back was turned as he read the instructions on the pizza box. From his side profile, I could tell his brows scrunched together and his mouth was a thin line as he read.
“Have you never made a frozen pizza before?” I giggled despite myself. I’d been buying whatever groceries I wanted since I was stuck in the house for the past two weeks, and there had been no pizza in the freezer when I moved in.
“Of course I have,” he whirled around at the sound of my voice. “Years ago, when I was in college, but still. It’s just been a while.”
He shrugged one shoulder and tossed the black and red box onto the counter. Right after the oven beeped that it was done preheating. Viktor didn’t need to know that I was looking over his shoulder to check the oven temperature and timer for how long to cook it. Despite knowing he could cook other dishes; I was too hungry to let him mess up this pizza.
Sitting on one barstool at the opposite side of the island in the kitchen, I watched Viktor as he went to the double wide fridge and pulled out ingredients for a side salad. Silence fell over us as he chopped tomatoes and I rested my chin in my hand to observe him work.
There was still tension between us. Like the string that connected us together had a knot in the middle of it. I wasn’t sure how to unravel that knot and make things feel normal again. Or get back to whatever normal was for us and our illicit relationship.
“So.” I tapped my nails on the counter, and Viktor’s warm brown eyes turned up from the chopped tomato to meet my stare. “My friend that I saw today, I don’t think his boyfriend would be too happy if our lunch meeting was anything more than just lunch.”
I wanted to laugh at the gears I could see turning behind his eyes. The corners of his mouth dropped into a frown before he went back to chopping vegetables.
“I’m sorry.” He strained his tone as the apology came out. He was sincere in saying it, and it was clear that he felt remorse for his behavior.
Suddenly, he exhaled loudly and dropped the knife onto the counter. “God, I am so sorry. I had no right to come home and act like that toward you.”
“Viktor,” I tried to interrupt, but he didn’t stop talking.
“You can have friends, of course you can have friends. You have a whole life outside of me, and it isn’t right of me to think I can keep you all to myself. I was an ass, and you’re allowed to be upset with me. As a matter of fact, you should be upset with me.”
“Viktor!” I shouted over him, slapping my palms on the cold counter. His eyes finally shot up to my face, and he clammed up.
I was stuck on something he just said. For some reason, it was lingering with me that he would say it at all.
“You have a whole life outside of me.” It was the way he said that, making me feel he wanted to know more. Maybe to be a part of my life. As dangerous as it was, I opened up a little more for him.
“His name is Ricky. He’s the leading male role of Swan Lake, and the best male dancer with the theater. When you saw my show, he’s the prince I danced with.” While I talked, the strain in Viktor’s shoulder released and I saw him visibly relax. “We’ve known each other since dance school, but it wasn’t until we joined the same ballet company after that we bonded. We were always the top two, so naturally we spent a lot of time together.”
“I see,” Viktor added.
“Ricky’s boyfriend, Devin, was a dancer too, but he retired early to become a model. I’m friends with them both, but I’m closer to Ricky.”
Ricky knew about my grandfather and my family. While he didn’t know what I did to pay the medical bills, he knew Papa was in the hospital. I felt terrible for shutting him out of my life to the extent I did when I signed the contract with Dax after Luke brought it up.
“That’s good to know.” Viktor leaned over the table, crossing his forearms. The tight grey t-shirt he wore strained against his muscles, and I felt my face get warm as I stared at him. “You never talk about your friends.”
“Neither do you,” I tossed back before I could stop myself.
He stared at me, dumfounded that I would turn it around on him. We both seemed to realize it would cross a line to divulge more about ourselves. It was natural to let information slip through when you lived with someone or made idle conversation. But now, we were going to actively take that next step in getting to know one another on a deeper level.
“I don’t have many friends these days,” Viktor admitted, being the first one to cross over the line. “After college, I went straight to work for my uncle. Game nights and parties just slipped away as I became wrapped up in work. Eventually they stopped inviting me out.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I told him, biting my lip.
“Eh, I don’t really mind. At least you still have friends though.”
It wasn’t the same, but I could relate somewhat. Viktor might be the only person I could talk to about this. “I don’t see my friends much either. When I signed the contract and started having the meetings, I felt dirty. When I would try to go out with my friends, I didn’t want to spend the money or let them look at me too long. Some part of me felt like they would know if they just looked me in the eye, and I couldn’t stand that feeling.”
“I hate that for you.” I caught sight of his fist curling. “You shouldn’t need to make a contract like you have.”
“Well, it is what it is.” We do the things we need to do sometimes.
“On one hand, I’m glad you were doing the meetings because it gave me the chance to have you. But I know you deserve better. Stella Sokolov deserves the world.”
The glimmer deep in his eyes made my breath hitch. Hearing him say that caused my heart to flip over in my chest and begin fluttering against my ribs.
“Nothing to be done about it now. I’ve made my bed, and now I’m lying in it.” It was Viktor’s bed now, though, and if it paid the medical bills, I would force myself into any bed.
Whatever it takes to keep Papa with me.
“The only bed you should be in is mine.” His voice was deep, almost a growl. It made me flush with heat all throughout my body. Swallowing hard, I looked down at the marble’s pattern on the island countertop until he cleared his throat. “Stella, why did you sign the contract?”
Every muscle in my body froze, and my blood turned to ice. The air got stuck in my throat as I turned to stone under Viktor’s gaze.
“I’ve wondered it before. I mean, you’re the Prima Ballerina of New York. This city should be your stomping ground. You should rule over it like the golden Swan Queen you are.”
How he could still make me blush with the fear coursing through my system was beyond me.
“Debt.” Not the full truth, but not a lie. It was the only thing I could force through my frozen lips.
“Hm,” Viktor rose to his full height, and I glanced along the width of his impressive shoulders. He rubbed the back of his neck and looked over the salad items on the counter. “Debt from dancing school?”
“Something like that.” I needed him to stop pressing me. After my emotional breakdown of crying in his lap earlier, it was easy to imagine myself breaking down to him and telling him everything.
Papa nearly went into debt to put me through the best dancing school in New York. If I had to pay his medical bills for the rest of my life to pay him back, I would do it gladly. Because of his sacrifice, I could see my dream of becoming the Prima Ballerina come true.
“You know, I could help you.” Viktor said something, but I didn’t hear him over the loud beeping of the timer going off and alerting us that the pizza was ready.
Whatever he said, I was internally rejoicing at the distraction. That was a topic I didn’t want to linger on.
“Pizza!” I hopped off the stool and worked alongside Viktor to finish the salad and slice up the pizza. I was grateful that the conversation took another turn when we settled in the dining room to eat.
We moved onto nicer topics, though still personal. Talking about what our friends were like, and the groups we were a part of throughout school. It was nice to learn more about Viktor and who he was, and who he used to be.
Rain poured down on the patio through the bi-fold doors, and thunder boomed through the sky. And we smiled and laughed at each other under the dim lights despite the storm raging around us.
The more I learned about Viktor, the more I fell in love.