Chapter 43 - Melody
The door burst open and my heart wanted to tear right out of my skin. I felt like I was going to faint. Surely I was hallucinating, because I was sure that Knox was standing in front of me. And not just standing there, but standing there without a shirt. It couldn’t be. I was going out of my mind, was this what crazy felt like?
“Snow, are you okay?”
I wasn’t sure who gave the first step, but a second later I fell into his arms, sobbing uncontrollably.
His arms circled me tightly and we just stood there, and I felt so safe. I wasn’t alone anymore. That darkness was gone.
“Snow, are you alright?” He asked again and I nodded against his chest, holding on so tight onto him that my arms hurt, sobbing so much I couldn’t get a word out.
“Please don’t let me go. Don’t let me go,” I sobbed, feeling my entire body shaking, and his arms tightened around me even more.
“Never. I’ll never, ever let you go again, Snow, I swear,” he said, his voice sounding choked up with emotion.
And it felt like that time inside the ocean. That time when he reached for me and pulled me right out of the dark and the cold and all of a sudden I wasn’t alone anymore.
“Are you really here?” I choked out the words and he kissed me on the forehead.
“I’m really here. And I swear, I’ll never leave you again.”
Just then, there were heavy footsteps, and I looked up to see a security guard running towards us.
“Miss, are you okay? Were you trapped in there?” He pointed to the broken-down door, and I sobbed again, unable to get a word out.
“Yes, she was. I had to break the door down. How the hell can a fire escape be locked?” Knox went off at the security guard, demanding answers.
“I have no idea. I just came on duty an hour ago. I went downstairs to the basement to try and get the generator on, I’m sorry, I had no idea there was anyone still inside the building,” he said apologetically. “Is she okay? Should I call an ambulance?”
“No,” I held on tighter to Knox, knowing that the last thing I wanted was to let go.
“I think you’re suffering from shock, Snow. I can take you to the hospital...” Knox started but I shook my head vehemently against his chest. And that’s when I realized again that he wasn’t wearing a shirt. What the hell was going on? Was this a dream?
“No hospital,” I sobbed, just holding on for dear life. My arms were starting to cramp from holding on so tight, but there was no way in hell I was letting go.
“I’m going to need some details because I have to file an incident report...” the security guard started to say, but Knox nearly exploded.
“Can’t you see the state that she’s in right now? Do what you fucking need to do, but leave her out of it. If I were you, I’d start writing reports about all the breaches of the fire code that occurred here today. If there was a real fire, I hate to think what could’ve happened. You have no idea who her father is, your firm is about to be knee-deep in shit, I can guarantee you that,” Knox said forcefully, and I couldn’t help but smile a little through my tears, because that was probably the truth, knowing my dad.
The security guard had the good sense to back off, leaving Knox and I alone again. We just stood there quietly, holding each other as slowly I felt my tears subside, and I regained some of my composure.
“Sorry,” I sobbed against his chest, and he stroked my hair.
“For what?” He asked gently.
“For nearly strangling you,” I explained, and I felt the vibration of his chuckle deep inside his chest.
“Strangle away, Snow. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting such a warm welcome, actually,” he teased, and I laughed, wiping my cheek with the back of my hand, then immediately circling my arm around him again.
It felt so good to stand in his arms like this. To be together like this. To feel safe and loved and like I was exactly where I belonged again.
“And I’m sorry for sending you away the way I did,” I said softly, sobbing again.
“It was torture being away from you, Snow - these past two months have been torture,” he admitted as he held onto me so tight.
I sighed against his chest. I’d felt so utterly miserable the past two months, and the moment he was back and we were together, everything felt right again. But my heart already hurt at the prospect that this would be temporary again. That he’d stay a few days or weeks, then have to go back again. But it was too late. I had no willpower left. I needed him, and I wanted him for as long as I could have him again.
“I’ve missed you,” I admitted softly and he lifted my chin so our gazes met.
“Snow... I have no words to describe how much I missed you. Every single moment of every single day, I’ve been thinking about you. Everything I’ve done over the past two months, has been so I could get back to you.”
My heart shook inside my chest at those words, and we both smiled and he traced my cheekbone with his thumb. He looked different somehow. Like there was a light inside his eyes that replaced so much darkness that used to be in there before. And I was absolutely dying to feel his lips on mine again. Because no matter what I’d said, what I did, I belonged to Knox Vaughn, and I already knew I’d never, ever find another love that would make me feel like this.
“How long are you here for?” I asked, feeling that old, familiar ache tugging at my chest again.
“Well, I was hoping that we might be able to get out of here soon, actually,” he teased, motioning around the building foyer.
“You know what I mean,” I smiled. “And I’m with you on the getting out of here part, because I just want to go home.”
He nodded, looking at me as though he was unable to tear his gaze away, much like I was looking at him, memorizing each and every feature again.
His eyes darted to my necklace, and a hint-of-a-smile settled on his lips.
“You’re still wearing it.”
“I haven’t taken it off since that day you gave it to me,” I admitted honestly and something which looked like hope lit inside his eyes.
“Let’s get you home, Snow. We have a lot to talk about, and I’d rather not do it here, in a building foyer without a shirt on.”
I laughed. “I don’t mind the ‘without a shirt’ part, actually - it might just help your case. But why aren’t you wearing one? Because that part confused me - I thought it couldn’t be real, because why the hell would you just turn up like this, saving me exactly when I needed saving again, and without a shirt?”
“I had to wrap something around my hand to punch open the glass, so I could get the fire ax out. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the courtesy of leaving a boxing glove next to the glass panel, so I had to improvise. But I’d rather not put the shirt back on, because there might be shards of glass stuck inside,” he explained, and I nodded. Now it all made sense.
“I agree. It’s way too much of a risk,” I winked, glancing at his sculpted chest appreciatively. Damn - the guy was built. And damn - I’d missed him, being held by him like this. “But is your hand okay?” I asked, suddenly frowning, and wondering if he was okay.
“I’m not going to lie, when that ax hit the metal door handle, I felt it, but it’s nothing a few kisses won’t make better,” he teased again and I shook my head again at him.
“Show me where it hurts, Knox, and I’ll kiss it better,” I flirted shamelessly, feeling so giddy and happy inside. Because us, together, just felt so damn right. I’d waited so long to see him again. My heart hurt for such a long time, and all of a sudden, it just felt so light and happy again. It only took a moment, and we were us again.
He seemed to think for a second. “It hurts in a lot of places, Snow. A lot of places. But perhaps it hurts on my lips the most,” he said suggestively and my heart exploded inside my chest.
“Tell me if this helps...”
I circled my arms behind his neck and we both leaned in at exactly the same time...
A whimper escaped my lips as our mouths fused and his lips crashed against mine like a giant wave against the shore. I was home, at last.
“Snow,” he growled against my mouth, and his tongue darted past my parted lips, plunging inside.
I sighed as our tongues rolled together, and we kissed away all of the pain and the fear and the loneliness inside our hearts. I was halfway to heaven standing in my angel’s arms, being kissed like this.
His phone started ringing, and so did mine, almost at exactly the same time, but we just kept going, oblivious to the world that may or may not have existed outside the realm of our arms.
And it was only once I felt dizzy from running out of air that we slowed down, reluctantly breaking our kiss as those phones kept going off, again and again.
“Your dad is worried about you, Snow. If we don’t answer he’ll have my neck on a plate when we get back,” he said begrudgingly, reaching for his phone.
He looked at the screen and frowned, then answered.
“Yes, hi Adam. I have her. She’s safe. We’ll be on our way soon.”
I could make out my dad’s voice, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying to Knox.
“I had to break down the door, it seems to have been locked. It took a while.”
My dad said something to him again, and I just looked at Knox’s face, not being able to look at him enough, because I missed seeing his handsome face so much.
“We’ll be there soon, we’re heading to the car now. And Adam... I think you were wrong,” he said with a smirk and I looked at him questioningly.
My dad said something else, and then Knox hung up with a smile.
“Come on, let’s get you home. Who wants to spend Christmas Eve inside a deserted office building? Your family is worried about you,” he let me go and took my hand instead.
“Does that injury to your lips feel better now?” I asked shamelessly, feeling nowhere near done with that kiss.
“A little. But it still hurts a lot, Snow, I’m not going to lie,” he teased and we both smiled as we walked towards the revolving doors leading to the exit.
“I have a feeling we’re both hurting, Knox,” I said more seriously as he held the passenger door open for me.
He looked at me intently, then nodded, his expression serious again.
He got in and looked at me again before he started the ignition.
“We have so much to discuss, Snow. I made you some promises two months ago, and I’m back to deliver on them,” his voice was low and my heart beat faster because the look he gave me was filled with promises as well.
“You’re right. We have a lot to talk about.” I agreed, fastening my seatbelt as he pulled away.
“What did you mean earlier, when you told my dad that he was wrong about something?” I asked with a little frown.
His lips curved upwards into a smile. And I could just see this Knox was different, somehow. It was as though he was more carefree. As though he wasn’t weighed down and haunted by his inner demons anymore.
“That was a rather confidential conversation we were having earlier, Snow. Just as you called, actually.”
I gasped. “You were at my house? You talked to my dad?”
He looked away from the road for a second to meet my gaze again, that hint-of-a-smile still on his lips.
“Yes, and yes.”
“What were you doing there? When did you get back?”
“I was hoping to see you. I promised I’d be back within two months, and I was finally in a position to make good on everything I said back then. And my plane got in this morning.”
I smiled because it sounded as though he didn’t waste much time between him arriving back home and looking me up.
“And... when are you going back again?” My heart was heavy again, but I had to know how long we had this time.
“I’m not,” he looked at me again, and smiled.
“You’re not... going back again?” I asked, a frown burrowing between my brows, but my heart felt like the lead inside had been replaced by helium.
“No. I’m here to stay. For good. I’ve arranged things so I finished my coursework component, and I only have my thesis left. I’ll have to fly over two or three times to meet with my course supervisor but that will only be for a handful of days each time.”
He sounded so happy when he said those words. That change in demeanor hadn’t escaped me. It was like he was a different man. It was as though he wasn’t carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders anymore. And I wondered what the hell had happened to him these few months that we hadn’t seen each other that would’ve changed him so much.
The car came to a standstill at an intersection and he looked at me hopefully.
“What do you think about that?”
I couldn’t contain my smile. “I’m thinking that sounds an awful lot better than you having to go back again.” But then my smile faltered. “Why, Knox? You said you’d be staying a few years...”
He sighed, but he still wore that hint-of-a-smile. “I wasn’t planning on having this conversation inside my car, Snow, but this will have to do. Because I’m not waiting any longer. I’ve made the mistake of waiting too long to say things before, and I’m not making the same mistakes again.”
He placed his hand over mine before he spoke again, and his eyes blazed fire as he looked at me.
“To answer your question: because plans change. Because people change. But more precisely, because of you. Because I don’t want to be away from you anymore. I want us to be together - really together. Not just a few stolen weeks here and there. I don’t want us to end again this time.”
There was so much hope inside his voice. So much sincerity in his gaze, it nearly killed me, and I felt the tears well up inside my eyes, because he was saying exactly what I needed to hear right now.
“Do... do you still love me?” I asked, holding my breath.
“Snow... I don’t have words to explain exactly how I feel about you. ′I love you’ doesn’t quite seem like enough. But yes - I love you, very much. You’re the first thing I think about each morning and the last thing I think about at night. And in between, you haunt me in my dreams, every night.”
I felt choked up with emotion at the honesty of his words, and I knew that he meant every single one of them.
“But the real question is... how do you feel about me? Because everything hinges on you, Snow. If you’ll have me, I’m yours. You were the one who sent me away last time. I promised I’d be back, and here I am, asking you for another chance. I promise it will be different this time. I promise we won’t have to end. But most of all, I promise I won’t let go of you again.”
He pulled into our driveway and the car came to a standstill as he turned, facing me, loosening his seat belt.
The rain was pounding down outside, and it felt as though we were existing on our own planet just then.
My breath caught in my throat. Suddenly, I ran out of air inside my lungs again, because I had no idea how to even start responding to a profound declaration like that...