Mason abandoned his car. He said he preferred to walk rather than drive around the city. In all honesty, I knew he did it for me. He would never offer to walk around carelessly like he was a common man. You wouldn't find a billionaire walking around the city unprotected and with no bodyguards, and it was mostly because they don't do that.
When you're rich and you have enemies, your life is important. You may be at risk of being killed or kidnapped. But Mason said only cowards hide away behind their bodyguards and cars. His belief that he was untouchable was starting to get to me. I have to keep reminding him that he wasn't bulletproof. His skin can be pierced.
We were spending the rest of the day outside, and we've been to a few places, although I was the one who pleaded Mason to keep going when he continued to shot a glare at me whenever I mentioned another place I wanted to go to.
When I saw a mime on the street, I had gasped and dragged him with me, and when I copied what the mime was doing, Mason almost buried me alive. The glare he had sent me was enough to make someone shake, but I had simply laughed. When he said I was an embarrassment to his name, I laughed harder.
Now, I was staring at a statue I found beautiful when I felt his presence behind me. When he came to stand in front of me with his hands tucked inside his pockets, I glanced briefly at him before moving my eyes back to the statue.
"Do you want a statue of you?" I asked casually, feeling like it was something Mason would want, but the minute the words had left my mouth, I realized how stupid the question was.
"No," he replied noncommittally. He looked my way and found my gaze already on him. "Do you want a statue of you? I can make it happen. You just have to say the word."
I laughed. "Okay, crazy. I don't want it, but where would you have put it?"
His gaze went dark and smoky. "Where everyone can see you and admire you, but knowing they can't have you," he rasped.
Even though my cheeks were almost bright red, I still managed to meet his gaze with a small smile. "That is not your property. You can't just put a statue in a public place, Mason." But clearly, his arrogance didn't agree with something being illegal to him.
"You really underestimate what I can and cannot do, Lauren. We have to change that."
"Please, no. I know you're crazy and I'm scared of what you might do to prove it to me. So, I believe you. You don't have to show it to me."
"You'd look beautiful outside the palace." His words, coupled with his serious gaze, had a predictable effect. Releasing a laugh, I went back to look at the statue.
"And you'd not look pretty in prison."
The next place we went to was Mason's choice. Even I was a little surprised he didn't want to go straight back to the hotel, but he was keen on taking me to an art museum. After saying it was one of his favorite places, it suddenly became important to me.
He showed me a few of his favorite paintings and I pretended to understand them. Don't get me wrong, I just didn't understand art. I just knew they were pretty looking. The one I was most fascinated about was a painting of a couple; their faces were only shadows, but the man stood in front of the woman, his back to her, and the woman had peeked her head, their hands clasped together. Not only that, but the scenery was what I loved the most about the painting. They were standing in a field surrounded by lush grasses, the sun was bright and shining in the sky, and far in the distance were mountains.
What also piqued my interest were the people standing not far from the couple and even their faces were just shadows.
"It's so pretty," I gushed, unable to take my eyes off it. I almost wished I could touch it or take it home with me. It seemed to be the second thing apart from Mason that fascinated me.
"Art isn't just supposed to be pretty," Mason whispered in my ear, his breath hitting my neck. He was standing behind me so close, yet not touching me at all. "What do you see?"
His voice penetrated my senses, making my body quake with awareness. "A couple. The sun. People. Mountains," I replied in a low voice.
His soft chuckle and the way it sounded made the hairs on my neck stood up for attention. "Not quite. If you look closely at the couple, the man is trying to shield the woman away from the people." His hands ran up my arms, but I still managed not to lose my words.
"Oh, why is that?"
"That's a good question. But he's protecting what's his. That is a powerful message, don't you think, Lauren?" He kissed me on my neck, sending chills down my spine. "Them against the people."
My throat emitted a little groan before I could stop it. "Mason, we're in public." PDA was the sort of thing I didn't think he was a fan of, but I also remembered that he didn't care what people thought of him. He didn't care to do what he wanted to do in public. People be damned. And that's what I most loved about him.
He turned me away from the painting and grasped my chin in a tight, unyielding grip. I watched the flash in his eyes and quaked all the way down to my toes.
"What makes you think I care?" He ran his hand over my curves, tracing a path up my spine before clasping my neck. "You're mine to do as I please. Anywhere." He tightened his hold on my neck, so it was not painful. "Anytime."
I tilted my head to look at him.
A wicked grin masked over his face.
"Fuck everyone." He pressed his hot mouth against my lips.
We pulled away from each other but didn't put some distance between us. I looked around and blushed at the number of eyes that had watched our display and some of them didn't hide their displeasure or glare.
I was trying to text back Beth when I spotted something from the corner of my eyes; two guys were looking at me and were doing a bad job at pretending they weren't. They could be my age or maybe a few years younger than me. Standing just a few feet apart from me, dressed in loose clothes and with green and orange hair.
Ignoring them, I continued to type out the message when two bodies loomed over me. I lifted my head up from my phone and saw the two guys standing over me, giving me their best smile and I turned down the urge to twist my face.
"Can I help you?"
The orange-haired guy stuck his hand out for me to shake, and when I didn't, he ran the hand through his hair and played it smoothly. "I'm Andre."
"And I think you're hot," the other guy added, eyeing me from head to toe.
"Excuse me?" I blanched.
"Do you look familiar? We could have met somewhere?"
"Peut-être dans mes rêves. We're throwing a party tonight. Do you want to come? Best DJ in the house," the other remarked.
"Can you guys please leave? I'm not interested," I said with great firmness, looking around nearby to see if I could spot Mason. He had gone off to answer his mysterious phone call. I needed the two guys to leave before he came back and find them talking to me. Knowing how possessive he was, he could seriously do something to them.
"Aw, come on, belle. I promise you will have a sweet time. You're so beautiful."
"Excuse me, gentlemen."
"Mason," I breathed out. His face was blank. His body, calm and collected. Not a trace of lines was on his forehead, and what I was seeing was not a chaotic man. I waited for a trigger to go off, but it never came.
"I think you got here a bit late, monsieur. The lady is coming with us."
He waved his calloused hand.
"Oh, don't worry, I'm not trying to be in your way," he replied with bored nonchalance. Ignoring my stricken expression, he continued blithely, "As a matter of fact..." He took Andre's phone from his hand and glanced at the two guys. "I'd love to take a picture of you together. You never know when you might need to find her if she slips."
Andre's eyes widened in delight. "Oh, sweet! Merci Beaucoup, monsieur." He put out his fist for Mason to bump but he had to retreat it back because my husband didn't acknowledge it.
"Pas de problème. Just trying to help."
I gave Mason a look that could have melted him.
"What?" I exclaimed, so shocked in disbelief at the words that had come right out of his mouth. It felt like a big blow to my gut. This was not the reaction I was hoping to get.
I didn't move at all, even when the two guys stood beside me and Mason lifted his hand and took the picture.
"What are you doing?" The orange-haired guy protested when he saw Mason's fingers moved over the keyboard swiftly.
"Sending the picture to her phone. You don't want that?"
"Oh, Je suis désolé. I just thought you fine lads would be happy about it. Girls love talking. Her friends might take an interest in you two, and I heard some of them are models. And the bonus point is you having her number as well. But since you don't want to send it...." He tried to give the phone back to Andre and all the while, his face was not showing anything.
I didn't know if it was possible to die from shock, but what I was experiencing could very well lead to that.
I wasn't looking at anyone but the man I wanted to punch in the face. I thought he was going to act like a jealous boyfriend and threatened the two, not give out my number and take a bloody picture of me with them.
"Of course, we want that."
"You should be our wingman." The other guy tapped Mason on the shoulder, but when he saw those iced eyes set on him, he gulped and moved his hand away.
The phone vibrated in Mason's hand before he gave back the phone. They were spotting the biggest smile I had ever seen and I was still paralyzed with shock.
"Text us, belle!" The waved at us before they started to walk away, talking in hushed whispers and chuckling.
And me, who had no idea what just happened turned my eyes back on Mason, I drew a long, harsh breath trying to bring my anger under control. I searched his face for answers, but he gave me none. Instead, he fished his phone out of his pocket and dialed a number.
"Hello? I sent you a number. Take care of it," he commanded curtly, turning around to leave. My jaw dropped in shock before I was quick to block his path.
"You can't have them killed!"
This time, there was no doubting the humor tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Why does your head always direct you to death, Lauren?" he asked belatedly, positively oozing good humor. "Should I be worried?"
"When someone says 'Take care of it', they usually mean kill them," I provided.
Mason hesitated as if coming to an important decision. He lifted his phone to my face before the flash went off, guiding the phone to his ear before he said softly, his eyes smiling into mine. "Take care of it."
I wrenched the phone from his hand and realized that he hadn't actually called anyone. That earned him a glare from me.
"You're an arse."
"You're not going to kick me?" he wondered, a gleam of amusement in his eyes.
"We're in public, Mason and you want me to kick you? Don't embarrass the Campbell name." I threw his words back at him, and it was his insufferable grin that made me whirl around, making sure to smack his face with my hair.
We went back to the hotel before dinner and rode up in the elevator. My legs were killing me and I just wanted to eat something before I hit the bed. We were leaned back against the elevator wall with Mason's arm draped around my hips, while I half stood and half sagged against his side.
He removed his arm from me and helped me stand upright before he was crossing over to the buttons, pushing a yellow one. The elevator came to a stop abruptly and the doors never slid open.
Mason turned around to face me as he leaned back against the buttons, his hands behind his back.
"Want to play a game?"
He stepped closer, bending his head down until his breath fanned over my neck. "There's no better time than right now," he remarked.
"We're in the elevator."
The way he pressed his frame against my sides were making me feel delirious. "Oh, I thought we were in our room."
"What kind of a game?" I didn't miss the look of delight that crossed his features.
He kissed the back of my ear and an electrical jolt surged through me as he held me against his body and whispered into my ear in a thick tone. "What would you like to win?"
"Really? You're going to give me anything I ask?" He nodded without a beat. "If I win, anything?" I tried not to moan when he sucked on a spot on the back of my neck.
"You have my word. What do you want, Lauren?"
"Answers. Straight forward answers," I said without hesitation. He didn't look surprised. In fact, I suddenly got the feeling that I was led into a trap he had set for me when he grinned at me.
"What do you want?" I asked while keeping a wary eye on his face. The predatory look on his face made me suspicious, and when I get suspicious, it was for a good reason.
"I guess you will find out," he said with a smirk.
"You're not going to win." It was a stupid response, considering I was seeing my defeat clear on his face. Whatever game he wanted to play, I knew it would benefit him more than it would me. Mason did not play fair.
His fingers coasted up and down my arm, wreaking all havoc inside me. "Lauren, I didn't ask you to play with the intention of not winning it. Make no mistake, love, but I will get what I want. I always do."
My breath shuddered out unevenly as my body succumbed to the heat of his words. And when he added his teeth to my earlobe and gently tugged, I couldn't bear it anymore as I started to turn and kiss him when he suddenly stepped away from me.
"On the second thought, we're not playing now." Then he hit the button again and the elevator started to move once again, climbing the rest of the way. I glared at him, feeling lightheaded at the loss of contact.
When the doors slid open, I walked out of the elevator, and when I didn't feel him behind me, I turned and found him still inside.
"Go. I will be with you in a few." He smiled and I nodded, turning on my heel.
Walking into our suite, I took off my shoes and head straight to the master bedroom. I did a double-take when I noticed a large red box sitting on the bed with a card on top of it. I grabbed the card first and opened it to Mason's elegant handwriting.
Wear this. 7:30. Lobby.
I sat on the bed and grabbed the box, keeping it on my lap. A gasp left my mouth when I opened it and was met with the most gorgeous dress. It was light blue, an off-shoulder with a V-neck made from flowers down to the waist. The length was just perfect; just stopped above my knee and the size was right. It would fit my curve perfectly.
Snapping a picture, I sent it to Beth and her reply came back immediately.
Me: I know! Mason asked me to wear it and meet him in an hour.
Beth: Holy shit, I'm officially deceased. Can I tell him he doesn't have to try because you're already in love with him?
Beth: Omg Lauren...do you know what else you're getting tonight? 🍆 🍆
Me: I hate you.
Beth: Please, tell me you have panty-dropping lingerie. This is why you shouldn't go anywhere without telling your best friend 🤦🏼♀
Me: I have a thong......that he bought me.
Beth: 😂 You better work that thong or I'd hunt you down and murder you.
Me: I'm actually scared. What do I even do?
Beth: Take what you want, babe. Get that man and don't leave until you make him yours. Gotta go now. Can't wait to hear the deets. Don't break the bed.
Take what I want.
My heart was racing when the elevator opened and I walked out of it in my gorgeous dress. Mason didn't actually tell me what to do once I got to the lobby and I had been here for two minutes now. I felt like all eyes were on me now and I wished he would come take me away.
A man approached me, one of the hotel's staff and asked if I was Lauren. I finally sighed in relief as I followed him through a door, down a long hallway until we stopped in front of a door. It was dark inside when he opened it, and when I turn to ask him about the lights, the door was shut closed and I was completely embraced in darkness.
The lights didn't take any more seconds before they were turned on, and I realized I was in a cleaners room. But it wasn't that realization that got my heart to stop for a few seconds. It was the man in front of me that got me breathing so fast in fear. The man I thought I would never see again was standing right in front of me.
He tried to step forward. "Lauren."
I sucked in a breath.
"Stay back!" I whisper-shouted, putting my hands up in defense. I tried to open the door without turning around, afraid that if I turn my back to him, he would try and hurt me again as he did before.
"I won't hurt you." A sound of regret and pain ripped from his mouth. But I didn't care the slightest how he felt.
"Open the door. Let me out, Dominic." I didn't want to scream, but if he didn't open the door in the next five seconds, I was going to scream louder than I had ever done.
"Please, you've to listen to me."
I was pressed against the door like I could go through it at any moment. "I don't want to listen to you." I was visibly shaking now, screaming, "I just want you to let me out!"
"I never meant to hurt you. What I did–"
"I don't care! Open the door right now!"
"Listen to me, please. I need to tell you. I was never going to hurt you, Lauren. I would never do that."
"Hello?" I shouted, banging on the door. "Can anybody hear me? Get me out of here." But I knew it was impossible to hear me from where I was locked in the cleaner's room.
"Chloe has always loved Mason. Even when she cheated on him with me, she loved him. When she heard the news that he was getting married, she went ballistic. She came to me crying to help her get him back. I told her I wouldn't help her even if it meant her dying."
I turned and stared at him as if he had grown two heads. He ran his hands in his hair and exhaled. Now that I noticed, Dominic looked like shit. He wasn't the man that I met months ago, who had oozed of confidence.
"When Mason brought you to Scotland, she found me. She has something on me that can destroy me completely. She threatened that if I didn't," he paused short and I closed my eyes, my hands shaking. "I was only meant to scare you. I wasn't going to do anything to you that night, Lauren, I'm sorry. If I had told you the truth, she would have found out. I needed the fear to be real. I was never going to do anything to you. I'm not a monster."
I knew I hated Chloe from the moment I had met her, but I didn't think she would stoop that low to hurt another woman for a man. But love made people do crazy things.
"I don't care, Dominic. Let me out of here." My voice was little more than a croak as I searched his eyes for a sign that he was lying or joking. He was telling me the truth, but I didn't care and he knew that I had nothing but hate for him.
He sighed and looked down at his shoes before looking back up at me. "I know you hate me and I hate myself too. Ever since that night, I haven't been sleeping properly. I wanted to come find you, but Mason has eyes on me. If I had tried to come talk to you, he would have had me killed."
"So you decided to follow us to Paris and lured me out here? Did you send the card?" I asked, my anger overriding my fear. Mason didn't send the dress. It was all Dominic. I'm such a fool. But it didn't explain why Dominic would want me in the dress.
As if he knew what I was thinking, he explained, "You were supposed to meet him at the restaurant. I changed the card and sent mine instead. It was easy to make you believe it was him because I learned his handwriting when we were kids to fool his parents."
Oh, bloody hell. I wondered what Mason must be thinking right now. He probably thought I stood him up.
"If he knows you're here...."
"He won't. I made sure of that." He sounded confident and I wasn't sure if I believed him. "I'm so sorry, Lauren. I don't expect you to forgive me."
"Good, because I can't forgive you."
He nodded his head in understanding.
"I just needed you to know the truth and to apologize."
I finally did look him dead in the eye and I knew there was no sympathy in them. "I can only give you one thing, Dominic. I won't tell Mason that we met, but you need to leave right now." That was the best I could do for him. If he thought Mason would kill him if he knew he approached me, then I was convinced he would.
He sent a text on his phone and not ten seconds had passed before I heard the door unlocking. I didn't stop to say anything because there was honestly nothing for me to say to him. And I knew this would be the last time I ever saw him. I didn't feel bad about it.
Stumbling out into the lobby, I tried to catch my breath. I was already ten minutes late and having no idea where to go, I thought I could ask the front desk if there was a message for me, even though I doubted that there was. I can't believe I forgot to get the note back from Dominic.
From the corner of my eyes, I spotted him. He was in a perfectly tailored suit that made him look so mouthwatering, but when I caught a glimpse of his face, my heart actually stopped beating. My stomach dropped as he started for me.
I tried to stay calm but my heart pounded a thousand beats a minute. It was without a doubt the scariest moment of my life. I had faced angry Mason before but I had never dealt with this raging Mason before. He looked like he could kill me and get away with it.
Trembling where I stood, I stayed utterly still as he came to stand before me, his nostrils flaring, his eyes burning fire, his fists trembling at his sides. He looked bigger than ever. But it was the hard desperation and hurt in his gaze that sent awful chills down my arms. I suddenly wanted to drop to my knees and beg him to stop looking at me like that. Even though meeting Dominic was really not my fault, I felt like the blame was all on me. I felt guilty when I shouldn't be feeling it.
He didn't speak, and it took will and courage before I was able to speak. "Can we please talk in our room?" Because I figured there was no way we were going to have dinner anymore.
"I'm not sure I want to do that." And the cold whisper was scarier than being in a life-threatening situation.
The hairs at the back of my neck rose in alarm. "I can explain, Mason," I said with calmness. I was fully prepared to lie about meeting with Dominic. I had already promised him I wouldn't tell Mason anything, and I intended to keep my promise.
"Fine." He glared at me before he turned around and stalked over to the elevator, and I rushed after him.
I was shaking when we walked inside our suite and he slammed the door so loud I thought he would bring it off its hinges. I didn't even get to prepare before he rounded on me and there was a fierce battle in his eyes.
"I want to play that game right now."
That drew a surprised look on my face. "Right...now? But–"
"Yes, right now." His hands flexed and fists at his sides as he glared down at me, his jaw working as he breathed. "I want to ask you some questions, and if you lie to me....if I detect it in your voice, you lose."
"Mason..." I stepped back and he took a step forward until he had me backed against the wall, the exact way he always wanted it to be.
"Where were you?" he demanded in a low, turbulent voice as he pierced me with his gaze.
"I got stuck in the elevator..." Okay. That was a dumb response, but it is the only thing I can think of at this moment where I'm unable to calm the raging beast in front of me.
He narrowed his eyes. "Is that right?" He touched my hair before he seized part of my dress in his fist, drawing me closer to him, the angry look in his eyes cutting me whole. "Did you speak to Dominic?"
"Think carefully about your answer, Lauren. Did you stood me up to talk to Dominic?"
Bloody hell. I wanted to cry because he thought I stood him up. I couldn't stand that I put that thought into his head.
"How would I know where Dominic is? Do you think I would talk to him after what he did?"
His eyes were wild as he slammed his palm on the wall, directly close to my head and I flinched. "You're lying to me!"
"I'm not lying. And even if I were, you shouldn't be upset that I talked to your cousin when not a while ago, you were partners with the woman who abandoned me," my voice was whisper quiet as my windpipe began to close down. I shouldn't have brought this up, but it was still sensitive to me.
He was acting like I had betrayed him when he straight up did that to me. Even if things were okay between us, I couldn't forget he did that.
"Is that why you did it? To seek revenge?"
A nauseating sinking sense of despair hits me when he looked utterly hurt.
"Revenge? Do you think I'd stoop that low? I didn't speak to Dominic, Mason."
A twisted smile that reminded me so much of the old him appeared on his face as he fished out his phone in his pocket and without looking at it, turned the screen to my view.
"What's this? Has this footage been altered? Does that not look like you? Coming out of a fucking cleaners room before he followed after five seconds later. Does that fucking look fake?" he snarled.
My stomach knotted as I stared at the video of me coming out of the cleaners room. That was my face. That was the dress I was wearing. Everything was just so clear. And so was the face of Dominic. There was no denying it.
"Ho...How did you get this?"
He threw the phone across the room.
"Does it matter?! You went and spoke to him? Behind my back?"
I shook my head. "I got a card. I thought it was from you. It said to wait in the lobby. I got cornered by him." I tried to get him to understand that I didn't mean to hurt him, that I would never intentionally hurt him.
"Yet you lied to me about not meeting him, and you think I'm going to believe he got you cornered?"
"Why would I willingly talk to him after what he did to me?!" I snapped.
"Exactly!" he roared, glaring at me. "I thought why the bloody hell would Lauren talk to him after what he did to her."
"I'm sorry." Icy dread spread through my stomach. I never thought anything in my life would ever hurt me as much as the day my mother left me and re-entered my life. But no. Mason hurting was hurting me. "He said he didn't mean hurt me that it was Chloe who threatened him. He came to apologize."
"He doesn't get to hurt you and apologize!" he snapped as he started for the door. "I'm going to break every bone in his body."
I cried out in a breathless panic. "Mason, please, calm down. Where are you going?! You can't do anything stupid."
He spun around, and my breath caught at the way he was staring at me, his eyes raking me angrily before he stormed back into my space. "I've broken dozens of rules for you, Lauren. To protect you. You. Are. Mine. No one touches or hurts what's mine. And Dominic just begged me to hurt him in ways he can never recover from."
Panic seized me once again when he started to turn and I found myself tugging on his arm. "Please, I don't want you to do this. For my sake, leave it alone. He won't even talk to me again, I can promise you that."
"What do you think would have happened if he hadn't been there to apologize?" he spits the word out like it was venom. "He could have hurt you! He could have hurt you and I wouldn't have been quick enough to save you."
"But he didn't. Mason, I'm begging you not to do this. Just forget about it," I pleaded, my stomach sinking when I realized I had never, ever, ached for someone's smile as badly as I ached him to smile at me.
He gave me a sharp, warning look. "If you ever talk to him again..."
"I won't," I promised in a rush. "I won't."
And I didn't even get to say anything else before he grabbed my hair in his fists and crushed my mouth, delivering a brutal claim, a kiss that was both possessive and punishment, and I held onto him tightly as I wrapped my arm around his neck.
This was an angry kiss. It was saying more than what his mouth said. It was hot. It was making me feel faint and needing more.
Mason lifted me off my feet and I wrapped my legs around his waist before he started to move his feet to the bedroom. When he threw me on the bed, I squealed.
And when he loomed over me, I didn't remember anything.