Perfect Illusion

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Chapter 59: The Only Way I Know How

I don’t care how long I stand there just staring at him like a total creep. I don’t care that I probably destroyed one of the most expensive bottles of champagne in this restaurant. I don’t care that Daniel’s probably looking at me like I had just lost my mind.

My mind spins off-axis, screaming it’s him it’s him god it’s really him.

Daniel Kerrington is standing right here. In front of me. And he’s never looked as good as he is now. He wears a nice suit- the exact same one he wore when we hosted our engagement party and he danced with me, twirling me around and pressing his strong arms around my waist. His blue eyes have never been so bright, so full of light, the minute they land on me. His jaw tightens as he sees the mess I’ve made and steps forward so he can help me clean up.

“I’ll-” He begins but I finally get my head out of my ass and open my mouth to speak.

“No. I got it.” I say, barely a whisper. But I’m sure he heard it. I’m sure everyone heard it.

Because the whole restaurant is dead silent.

I hear whispers around me and I immediately know that almost everyone here knows who Daniel and I are. Quickly rushing into the kitchen, I grab a mop from the closet and proceed to clean up the mess outside. Daniel’s gaze lock with mine again, and for a second, I’m lost in the blue wisps of his eyes, lost in him lost with him

Lost.

I’m lost.

I can’t let him turn me into mush like this. I need to get myself together. I’m overwhelmed by his presence, but that doesn’t mean I have to break apart the moment his eyes connect with mine. Disrupting all thoughts, I mop up the champagne, my eyes trained on the floor and only on the floor.

“Let me help.” His masculine voice wraps around me, luring me to him. I fight it and continue to brush the mop across the floor like there’s no tomorrow.

“Alex, please.” He says again and this time I almost give in. I know my manager is watching me smugly, seeing how I will react to this. I need to stay calm. I need to hold myself together.

It’s the only thing I’ve learnt to do.

And he dares to come into my life again, causing me to fall apart.

“Alex.” He repeats my name. “Sweetheart, please.”

Sweetheart sweetheart sweetheart sweetheart sweetheart-

“STOP.” I hold my hand out to prevent him from coming closer to me. He stares at me, a little bit frightened, and takes a few steps back. “Stop. Please.” I choke out. “I can’t… you can’t...”

Taking off my apron, I barrel through the kitchen doors, tears threatening to fill my eyes. I burst through the back door and take a few lungfuls of air, just trying to breathe. Because he stole my breath away.

I rake my fingers through my hair and make a sound of frustration. I’m pathetic. I want to be strong I want to be strong without him but just seeing him there, it takes me back. It takes me back the everything good that he’s ever done, with me, to me, for me.

I tell myself that I didn’t miss him all these weeks I’ve been gone. I tell myself that he has done such a horrible thing to me and I don’t deserve to forgive him. I tell myself that I can’t love him I can’t possibly love him.

I tell myself lies.

Wiping the tears out of my eyes, I suck in another deep breath. I wish I can slow down my pounding head and my stammering heart. I need to get it together. I need to accept the fact that he’s not actually here for me, he’s just here to get some dinner and then leave. He didn’t expect to see me here. He doesn’t want to see me again.

“Alex?” Daniel’s voice cuts straight through me and I feel my knees go week.

I force myself to look at him. He’s in front of me, his face filled with worry. The light in his eyes are replaced with confusion. His lips quiver when he sees me.

Maybe he’s just here to see if I’m okay. Maybe then he’ll leave and he will never have to see me again.

“Alex... I didn’t mean…” His voice trails off and he takes a few cautious steps towards me. “Please, I’m not here to hurt you.”

“You already have.” The words come out of my mouth before I have the chance to stuff them back in.

He shakes his head, and when he looks up again, pain claws at his face. “You saw the show.”

“Of course I did.” I mutter, “The whole world watched it.”

“I don’t care about the whole world, Alex. I only care about you.” He murmurs, and we’re closer than we’re ever been.

He stares down at me, but he doesn’t touch me. He’s careful with me. Because he knows that the slightest touch will either send me running or bring me to his knees.

“I mean what I said, you know. Every single thing.” He swallows. “I told the truth. I wanted you to know what my father’s been doing-” “I know.” I nod. “You don’t have to say it again.”

“And then you must know that I did what I did because I love you.” He says with fierce determination. “I didn’t want to leave you, Alex. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. When you walked away from me, my whole world fell apart. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and when I did, I would dream of you. Always. And then every morning, when I realize you’re not next to me, smiling at me, touching me, kissing me, I fall apart all over again.”

“You think that it wasn’t like that for me?” I choke out. “I can’t stop thinking about you. You invade my thoughts all the time. I just... I don’t know what to do. I tried to forget about you. I really did. You destroyed me, Daniel. My mom was right. You fucking destroyed me. When you said what you said in order to get me out of the penthouse... it hurt. So bad. The pain was unbearable.”

“I did what I did because I wanted you safe!” He says. “Your family had no money, and your mom didn’t look like she was in any position to do something about it. So I made the choice.”

“IT WAS MY CHOICE.” I say in ragged breaths. “MY CHOICE. You didn’t have any right to make that decision for me!”

“I wanted to protect you!” he exclaims. “It’s the ONLY way I know how to love you!” My mouth gapes open in shock.

Then, his voice softens and he says almost in a whisper. “I wanted to protect you.”

I sigh. “I don’t need protecting, Kerrington.”

“Everyone needs a little bit of protecting once in a while.” He says, and then he makes a bold move by running his fingers down my cheek. I don’t stop him. I hold my breath, relishing the feel of his touch against my skin. He gives me the lightest touch, and I get a rush of electricity through my body.

I hate it. I hate that.

“I shouldn’t have done what I did, I know that.” He says after a while. “But if you were in my position, what would you have done?”

“I would have told you about it first,” I merely say.

Daniel shakes his head. “I couldn’t. Do you know what my dad threatened to do if I didn’t agree to his terms? He said that he was going to make sure you and your mom won’t ever ‘cause problems’ again. He was going to destroy everything and anything you hold dear just because he couldn’t stand the fact that I have fallen in love with you.”

“He’s mad.”

“He is.” He nods. “He’s been mad with grief for so long that it has eaten him up. And I can’t stand idly by any longer as he controls me and my life. You taught me to stand up for myself, Alex. And I did. That’s why I called Charlize and requested an interview with her. I needed to tell my side of the story. I wanted to cause him the same pain he has caused me.”

“Wh-what happened to him after the news broke?”

He hesitates on telling me. “He said I ruined everything for him. I told him to go fuck himself. And then, I got myself emancipated from him.”

“WHAT?” I almost shriek. “You mean...”

“I am no longer tied to Harry Kerrington anymore,” He says, brushing his fingers along my arm. “I’m Daniel now. Just Daniel.” “Just Daniel.” I echo.

“Yeah,” He fights a small smile. “I wanted to tell you but... well, I didn’t have the balls to call you. I heard that you were doing well with your mom in California from Cara and I thought that you moved on without me.”

“I never did.” I say truthfully. He closes his eyes briefly, allowing the words to sink into him.

“Then... when I heard from Cara that you came back to Boston...” He looks down, “I wanted to see you. The second you landed. But I was afraid of what you’d say to me. How you’d look at me. Like I’m a monster.”

“No.” I gulp. “You’re not a monster, Daniel. I- I guess I get it now... I understand why you did what you did. It’s just that I wished that things were different.”

He leans so close, his hands cupping my cheeks, his breathing ragged. “I’m sorry. So fucking sorry. About leaving you when you needed me most. About not telling you about it. I’m fucked up, Alex. You know I am. I make mistakes, horrible ones, and I don’t know how to stop. Maybe… Maybe I came here because I wanted- I hoped you would forgive me. All I know is that if you walk away from me now, I can’t promise you that I won’t chase after you.”

“God dammit.” I curse. “You’re making it so hard for me, Daniel.”

“It’s never been easy for me, Alex. It’s never been easy for us.” He holds my hands. “And I can’t guarantee you that it will ever be easy for us. But I’m willing to fight for this. I’m willing to fight for you. So please, for the love of God, Alex. Don’t leave me hanging here.”

There are so many things I want to say to him but I can’t find the words. His eyes beg me to say something, say anything to assure him that I’m going to be here for him but

How can I assure him when I don’t know myself?

I don’t know what to think. I’m still trying to make sense of everything he has told me. About his father, about him being emancipated, him still loving me...

God. Everything is so screwed up.

I need to think about him. I need to think about this.

I can’t give him an answer now. “I...” I pause. “I have to go back inside.” “W-what?” He stutters.

“I... I need to think about this. Please.” I tell him.

He closes his eyes again, the pain of my words shattering him. He takes a deep, shaky breath. “Okay.”

“Can we... talk later?” I say.

He nods. “I’ll... wait for you.”

I nod, but I can’t say anything else. When I open the door to the back door kitchen, I look back, and I see Daniel, his hands in his pockets, staring at me like he’s about to lose me the moment I walk through the door.

“I’m not going anywhere, Daniel.” The corner of my lips lifting slightly. “I’m not.”

“I hope not.” He replies, his voice breaking. “Because if you do, then I will have nothing left.”

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