When we had nowhere to go, we found ourselves in a park; alone and miserable. We were sitting on a bench, deep in thought. Occasionally, I would steal a glance at him but would find nothing but a blank face.
Surprise flickered in his eyes as he turned his head towards me, immediately overwhelming me with his gaze. I forced myself to look away, conscious of a sudden difficulty in breathing. "What?" A chill ran down my spine at the steel in his tone. "What?" he asked again softly when I remained silent.
"It's my fault. It's my fault that you lost everything, and we are standing here with nowhere to go. If I hadn't left the hospital mad at you, I wouldn't have been kidnapped, and you would still have—"
To my dismay, his eyes grew cold. "Don't fucking talk shit like that. It's beneath you." He tugged on a strand of hair, then smoothed it behind my ear. "None of it is your fault. It's mine...my stupid seventeen-year-old self who wanted a thrill in life. I shouldn't have messed with those people in the first place."
"It's not your fault either," I told him, keeping a hand on his thigh, as he closed his own over mine. I looked around us, chewing on my lower lip as I remembered that we couldn't sit here forever. We had to leave before it got darker. "What are we going to do now? We have nowhere to go."
"Should we go–"
"No," he replied fiercely. "Ginny is not daft. She would have eyes on everyone. I can't put Gale's life at risk again."
I nodded in understanding, staring down at my shoes. "So, we just do nothing? We don't have money and we are homeless now?" I knew that, but I wanted to make sure he knew that. Mason barely looked worried about it, and I might have thought he had lost his mind after losing his money and companies, but he was still sane.
He stood up abruptly, stuffing his hands into his pockets as he turned to me. "Come on." One of his hands was put out for me and I reluctantly took it, as he helped me up. "Have you eaten?"
Shock and disbelief flitted across my features, swiftly replaced by a small smirk. That wasn't what I had really expected. It was enough to get a chuckle out of me, but I couldn't do anything beside stare at his cool, unbothered face.
"We don't have the money," I reminded him.
"I have a couple of pounds in my pockets." My gaze scraped over him as if to prove his words a lie. He spoke through lips that barely moved. "I need to get you to eat. I don't want you to fall sick again, Lauren. You're my responsibility."
My heart warmed. My toes tingled. When at last I spoke, my voice was no more than a breath of air. "Shouldn't we save the money for something more important? We can't spend it without thinking things through." I was happy that he was thinking of me first, but there were more things to worry about than me eating.
"You're more important," he pressed, drawing me closer to place a light kiss on my forehead. "I'm getting you fed, and you can either let it go, or I can shut your mouth for you."
"Good to see that we haven't lost Mr. Prick," I joked in an odd, strained voice. A sick sensation knotted my stomach, mounting until I felt I could not breathe.
He knew that I was joking, but he didn't give me the smile he usually gave me whenever I talked about his douche side.
"I don't break easily, Lauren. I'm going to trust you with this power..." He was silent after that, staring straight into my eyes, and then the tense muscles of his face slowly relaxed. "You're the only thing I know that can break me. Stick with me, okay?"
"I don't think there's anywhere that I want to go that isn't beside you."
"That's a little cheesy, but alright, love," he said, grinning at my upturned face."
"You're really an ass."
After he got me to eat, so much that thinking about food made me want to vomit, he told me he wanted to show me something. There was someplace he wanted me to see, and I pushed all my worries and got excited over it.
It was a tall flat building that Mason took us. I kept giving him a confused and questioning glance, but he didn't say anything. When we entered the lobby, it was empty; just like the parking lot had been empty as well. Most of the items in the lobby had been covered with white clothing.
We headed directly to the elevator, and he pressed the second-floor number. I wanted to ask him what we were doing here, I wanted to voice my concern that if Ginny knew we were here, she would do something to Gale. I thought Mason wanted his friend safe, not to jeopardize his life.
The hallway was just as empty, and I looked around; most of the rooms had a closed sign on them. Everything seemed to be working, and it didn't look like the building was being renovated. I watched him get his wallet out and brought a key card, swiping it on the third door to the right before he opened it and walked into a well-furnished flat.
Surprise shone in my eyes. Mason only smirked at me before he pulled me further into the living room. With gaped mouth, I stared around, until I couldn't help myself from asking, "Where are we?"
"My flat building."
I spun around in shock. "What do you mean your flat building? Do you think that's a good idea? Ginny—"
He moved closer to me, brushing his fingers over my neck. "Ginny doesn't know about it," he informed, his white teeth flashed in a devastating grin. "No one knows about this place, actually. It's not listed in the properties that I owned."
I was impressed. Now I knew the reason why he hadn't been worried. I thought I knew him well, but there were still things I didn't know about Mason.
"Shady business, huh?" I grinned, earning a chuckle out of him. "How many of these do you own?"
"Six," he revealed.
"And you let me worry that we might be homeless and kept this information to yourself?"
His lips twitched with laughter.
"It's fun to watch you worry, love."
"What else are you hiding from me?"
"Nothing you don't know about." His smile was irresistible, and I fell in with his teasing mood.
"Oh?" I prompted, slowly walking backward. He advanced another step so that he loomed over me, and I retreated again. "You've to remind me."
"You always seem to need a reminder."
For every step he took forward, I took one back, a slow dance that ended when I bumped into the wall, my shoulder blades pressing hard against the wall as if I could force my way through it. His arms shot out before I could slide sideways to escape, his palms flattening against the wall on either side of my shoulders, imprisoning me within the cage of his arms and body.
With a small smirk, he leaned down slightly; his pulse throbbed visibly in the hollow at the base of his throat, right in front of my eyes. I suddenly had a flashback of the night we were together and my cheeks burned, desperately seeking to steady myself.
"Well?" he asked, still in that dangerous, purring tone.
His wrists squeezed my shoulders; his skin was hot against mine. His wide shoulders and broad chest were like a wall in front of me, and his scent made my nostrils flare in delight. My hands were pressed against his chest, holding it like a shield between them, I swallowed and managed to say, "You're a little too close for my liking," I teased with a forced smile, willing my heart to stop beating out of my chest.
"You made me suffer a lot these past few days," he said the words very precisely, leaning down even closer until his nose was almost touching mine. "I don't think I have forgiven you yet, but I can be persuaded."
I ached with the need to touch him, to press myself against that big, steely body and open my own body to him once again. "No," I replied. "Aren't you tired of getting whatever you want?"
"In this case, no. It's been far too long." I tried to slip past him, but he yanked me back and a sound very much like a growl rumbled in his throat. He gave me a dark look while I smiled slyly. I held my breath when he reached for my hand and took it in his firm grasp, lifting my fingers to his lips.
My voice shuddered out of me. "How are you?" He paused and his eyes looked up into mine, but he wouldn't let me see what I wanted to see. He appeared to look fine, but I knew he wasn't. There was no way anyone would be okay with what had happened, especially Mason.
He gave me a dark nod as he raked a quick, heated look over me. "You're safe. I'm good."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
He stared at me, his face taut in an unreadable mask. "You want to talk about how poor I am now? You're not running away from me, are you?" Hearing his dense, distressed voice caused the little hairs on my body to jump.
I swear I ached deep, so deep, right where my soul was.
"I can't be with someone who won't meet my needs," I lied with an amused smirk.
Electricity coursed through me as his eyes darkened and his lips curled sensually, full of the knowledge that I, contrary to what I would say or anyone, he was the only man that rocked my world.
"There's no better person to take care of your needs more than me. As far as I know, I'm the only man in your world."
I could feel the heat of his gaze burn every part of my being, down to my toes.
His eyes flashed in frustration.
"He's an actor. A tall, handsome, sexy—"
"He won't give you the time of the day. And you're lucky I gave you my time," he stated sincerely, and I glared at him. "You want to make me jealous, love?" His thumb dragged with sensual roughness across my lower lip. "I don't think you can because I know there's no one you think about more than me."
"Actually, I think about—" My words died when he brushed my mouth with his. It was only a fleeting contact, lighter than a whisper, but laced with a tantalizing hint of his taste. My pulse leaped again, but he was drawing back before I could deepen it. A tiny frown drew my brows together.
"That felt like a jealous peck."
He released his hand, finally, and cupped my chin in his palm. The rough pad of his thumb traced my lower lips again, his gaze focused on the movement.
"Who do you belong to?" he asked. His voice was even darker, softer.
"Me." He pinched my neck and I flinched a little.
He leaned over to slid his fingers to cup the back of my head, then his husky voice danced over my skin. "Who do you belong to, Lauren?"
"Lauren." My response was a whisper.
This time, his mouth lingered. He wasn't holding me; I didn't feel constrained but was somehow helpless to move away. His tongue slipped into my mouth, not thrusting deep but inviting me to taste him. He was moving slow, an agonizingly slow, and I wanted to cry.
I missed him.
I missed his drugging kisses.
At night, neither one of us could sleep. We were both on the bed, and Mason's head was flung back as he stared at the ceiling of the room. He looked about as miserable as I felt, and he looked so frustrated, ready to tear something with his bare hands.
He had been staring at the ceiling for over an hour, his chest expanding slowly, as though each breath was meant to calm him but didn't succeed. I didn't think he noticed that I was awake, deep in his thoughts. My heart hurts when I thought about how much effort it was going to take for him to get out of his head. I wanted to whisper assurances, but I couldn't even seem to speak, and I knew that he didn't need me right now. I had to give him space to think.
I never realized I had fallen asleep until I woke up and found the bed cold. Confused, I tried to get up when a shadow made me pause. Mason was sitting at the edge of the bed, his feet on the ground and his hands on his thigh. He was shirtless, just staring as the wind blew into the room from the balcony doors that were opened, and the moon was in our perfect view.
I didn't speak, just crawled closer to him and pressed my front to his back, wrapping my arms around his neck and placed a soft kiss on his shoulder. He reacted when he lifted his hand and rubbed my arm.
"What's wrong?" I knew what was wrong, but I needed him to say it. He had been shrugging away his feelings about what happened yesterday.
He turned his head then, providing me a clear view of his profile, flawlessly chiseled and wickedly handsome. "Do you want to know about your father?"
I wanted to untangle my arms from his neck, but he held my arm tightly. "You've met him," I said tightly. Bile rose up inside me. "You buried him."
He shifted and turned around, hauling me into his lap. "Your mother's name was Catherine. I saw her picture. She looks just like you. She loved you. I think she would have treated you good."
"Ginny treated me good. I can't..." My mouth was tremulous. Tears stung the back of my throat. My chest hurt with the effort it took not to break down. "I don't know what changed. Why she started to hate me when the memories I had with her as a kid were good."
"I think some of the hatred she bores for me went onto you. When she came back, she wanted to reconnect, but when she saw how much you care about me, and not her, I think that made her hate you even more. But deep down in her twisted mind, she cares for you..that was why she was unable to kill you."
"It doesn't change how I feel about her." A million layers of hurt bled through my tremulous whisper.
"I wouldn't want it to." With his fingertips, he swept a tangle of strands from the curve of my cheek, his expression bleak. "Do you know when I took you, you didn't scream or fight. I held my hand out and you took it willingly." His eyes glowed to such a fierce degree, making my heart thud harder. "There was trust in your eyes, Lauren, and it took me completely by surprise. I almost didn't take you with me."
My heart whacked straight into my ribs.
"Why do you think I trusted you?"
He narrowed his eyes, exhaling roughly through his nose. "I don't know, but it was the first time I had ever felt how heavy guilt was. It was the first time someone trusted me, and it had to be the girl whose life I was going to ruin."
I engulfed his face in my hands.
"You didn't ruin my life. You gave me the best life," I said, kissing the bridge of his nose as I heard his low, shuddering breath. "and I don't think I would have ever liked living with Anthony. I would have been lonely without a mum."
"Before I found you again, I was living the life of loneliness. I was already used to it. It was one of the reasons why I joined Omens."
"You had friends, and you told me about some of your adventures. How could you have been lonely?"
The ghost of a sad smile touched his lips.
"Just because I surrounded myself with friends didn't mean I wasn't lonely. I'm good at hiding."
"How did you come to know about Omens?"
His voice slid into a deeper, more darker tone. "I heard one of my friend's cousin talking about it. He hadn't known I had been listening in, and I told him I was interested in whatever he was doing. He didn't object because I gave him a lot of money. He was a drug addict, so it was easy to convince him with a bag of money."
"So, all you had to do was watch the kids, and you didn't ask questions?" I tried to push down the horrifying image of Mason working for Anthony, him looking after the kidnapped children whose parents' lives would never be the same again, and I tried to keep the bile from rising inside me. "How awful it must have been for them."
"I was not allowed to ask questions." His jaw locked hard and tight. "And the kids were quick to forget and play. But there had been one girl who had been quiet and frightened. It took me a little while before I got a name out of her. Amelia." There was a fond smile on his face. "She was smart and feisty. She was the reason why I loved going back there. Some of the kids bully her, so I always found her in a corner crying. She asked me to always protect her, and I promised her I would." His voice grew raw. "Then I left. I left Amelia alone when I promised I wouldn't."
My mind was telling me that I shouldn't be jealous of Mason being protective of someone.
"Where is she now?"
"Dead." His voice dropped, so low I had to strain to hear. "She drowned herself in the tub when she was fifteen."
That sent knife-like pains shooting through my heart. "I'm sorry."
He curled his fingers around the back of my neck and closed his eyes as he leaned his head on mine. "Yeah." He pulled back. Stormy gray eyes held mine, his voice gruff, "Lauren..."
"I love you," I blurted out. My eyes widened when I realized what I had said.
His jaw clamped as hard as a rock as if he was holding some wild feeling back. "What did you just say?" he coarsely whispered, eyes bright.
"I need you to say it again. I want to hear it." There was desperation in his voice, and I think he wanted to know so badly, because he might have never thought I would ever love him, especially after what he did years ago, and raw pain opened in my chest.
He was wildly searching my face, and I felt just as wild looking back at his breathtakingly handsome features, noting how he wasn't touching me anymore because he might fear that if he did, this would be a dream. I touch his face on impulse, and the instant my fingers connected with his soft skin, the words burst out of me.
"I love you. I love you so much." His breath seized in his chest, and I continued in a rush, "More than I ever thought I would. I love all the warm and cold part of you. I love it when you fight with me, the way you push me when I pull."
He closed his eyes, and the feelings he was feeling reached me so deeply, my own heart ached. I heard his soft ragged exhale of breath.
My voice trembled fiercely. "I love everything about you."
He lifted his hand and cupped my face in fiercely trembling hands and pulled me into a hug, and I shuddered as I absorbed the feeling of his arms again. My heart pounded because I knew this was the first night of the rest of our lives. No expiration date.
Mason scooped me up and set me back on the bed, leaning over me, I felt very small. "What if I do something to hurt you? You know I would do something to hurt you again. Lauren, you can't stay those words and leave the first chance I do something stupid. When you say it, you have to mean it and you have to stay. No matter what."
"You have the ability to piss people off, and it's going to be a crazy, emotional ride with you, but I'm going to hang on tight, and we would both jump together because we are crazy. I want to be with you. I want to continue fighting with you. But you have to try with me. It can't be me only, Mason."
His eyes were brilliant gray, and they ignited with a fire that heated my entire being.
He lowered his head and tenderly met his tongue with mine, tracing the flesh of my lips first and stroked my tongue with his. He eased back to caress the back of one curled finger down the side of my face.
"There isn't a single part of me that isn't yours, Lauren."
I sucked in a breath. That was his I love you.
But I believed him. There wasn't a part of him that wasn't mine, just like there wasn't a part of me that wasn't his. He saw the acceptance in my eyes before he leaned down to kiss me again.