The Road Between

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Chapter 13: Closer Still

Aviana POV

My heart fluttered as a charming smile spread across his face. Once again his whole demeanor had shifted. He looked real again, maybe even safe. I hesitated eying his hand before taking it and allowing him to pull me to my feet.

When I was up I quickly pulled my hand away stuffing both hands into the pocket of my hoodie.

As we walked Liam kept glancing over smiling warmly at me.

"What?" I suddenly asked self consciously.

"I like it when you wear that sweater." He said smiling down at me.

I looked down verifying that he couldn't see through it before asking, "Why?"

"It looks better on you then it ever did on me." He joked playfully.

I blushed deeply as I realized what he meant. Suddenly it made sense that his smell had been so helpful for calming me down in the bathroom. I looked down, pulling the sleeves down hard over my hands.

This sweater had been the only one that was baggy and didn't feel starchy and new, because it hadn't been. It had smelled so good and had helped me sleep in the beginning of all of this. It had quickly become my comfort and I wondered if subconsciously I had known all along Liam wasn't as bad as he acted.

"I can get it back to you if you want." I said with a shrug as I pulled my chin up looking ahead again.

I hated how shy and awkward I felt around everyone lately. It was like my guard had dropped and I barely had the energy to put it back up. Or maybe, because they knew me so well I didn't see the point anymore.

Still the voice in the back of my head was screaming to stand up straight and not show weakness. I had to be strong, if I wasn't then maybe Dan had been right about me all along. His voice saying no child of his would be so weak echoed in my head. Was I really weak? Did I deserve what he had done to try to make me strong? Had he been in the right to hate me so much?

"No, I'm really glad it comforts you. I want you to keep it." He looked away but I could still see a slight blush creeping down his neck.

"Why?" I stopped and stared at him more confused than ever.

He sighed dramatically then stopped walking to smirk down at me. "I care about you, is that so hard to believe?"

It was. How could anyone care about me if my own father hated me so much?

I quickly covered my shocked expression with an arrogant smirk of my own.

"So this is the fearsome Reaper King." I chuckled humorlessly as we started walking again.

"Yeah, I guess." Liam sighed deeply, running his fingers through his hair.

I looked over realizing he looked troubled suddenly.

Guilt clenched my chest so I decided to add, "It finally makes sense."

"What does?" He asked absently as he stared forward, seemingly not seeing anything.

"Why all the best people are loyal to you. Why everyone here is like one big family." I paused looking back down at my feet. "Why I feel safe here. All of it."

He smiled, raising an eyebrow in my direction.

I felt heat flood my face and quickly added, "In the house I mean. I didn't mean here as in with you. Not that I'm scared of you."

Liam tossed his head back laughing boisterously before saying in a chuckling voice, "I'll toss you a rope."


"You are digging yourself a hole. I'll toss you a rope, you know to help you out." He shrugged then added, "Scar says it alot it kinda stuck."

Suddenly he was serious again, "Anyway I'm glad you are comfortable here, but that's not thanks to me it's Scar. Also they are great people but I'm just lucky. If I really were a great leader I wouldn't have traitors."

I was shocked that he felt that way. I had never thought of Liam as insecure. I was quiet, thinking of what to say, or whether to say anything.

"Here we are." Liam said pushing branches out of the way to reveal a small clearing that came to an abrupt end at a cliff. Down below I could hear the ocean slapping against the rocks.

I tried to fight off the instinctual fear. What if this was all an act? It would be so simple to lure me here then throw me over the ledge. I froze, heart skipping a beat. My breathing quickened for a second before my previous train of thought returned.

I looked at Liam allowing myself to calm. Slowly I stepped into the clearing but stopped a good six feet from the edge.

Liam took one step past me before he looked back confused. With a grin he sat on the grass and patted the ground. I sat quietly still thinking.

Liam's POV

"What's going through your mind?" I asked after studying Aviana for a few minutes as she chewed on her bottom lip.

Screw a penny for her thoughts, I would pay whatever it took to know what was going through her mind right now.

She hesitated then said with a sigh, "I don't want to cross lines or upset you."

Her brows furrowed as she stared out into the sea. Her expression, while controlled, was edged with fear.

"You wont. I want to know what you are thinking." I said calmly as I leaned back on my hands.

Here in my safe space, away from the stress of leading, I felt like myself. Also I couldn't help but notice that our arms were mear inches apart and she wasn't flinching or pulling away. I smiled at the realization. It felt good.

Doubt ran through my mind, I should want her to be afraid of me. Right?

"My..." She paused taking a stilling breath, "Dan always had a lot of members in his gang."

She pulled her knees tightly to her chest and I clenched my teeth fighting back the rage that was building up in me.

"Not a single one of them however was or respected women to any degree. The female sex was useless except in the bedroom." She shuttered then took another deep breath. "They stayed with him simply because there were no rules except that you had to... participate."

I could see how hard this was for her to talk about. She was shaking and tears ran silently down her cheeks.

I wished I could walk with her, if not carry her, through these nightmares that were once her reality. I couldn't though. All I could do is sit here with her and listen.

"My point is they were bad men drawn to a bad man and addicted to the lawless society he had created. Not a single one of them will care that he is dead." She looked up, meeting his gaze.

"Your people follow you despite your facade not because of it." She continued, "They follow you because they trust you and know that you care even when you pretend you don't. You're not like Dan, or your father for that matter. You are not heartless even if you act like it, that's just not something you can force. That's why you have really good people loyal to you, and who love you."

I sat speechless as I thought over what she had said.

"That's also why you have to let me leave now." Her expression was serious and more than a little afraid.

"What does one have to do with the other?" I asked, confused.

"I can't watch you die for me..." She said, still meeting my gaze.

"I won't." I said, my voice was strong with determination. "I will protect you though. You can't talk me out of that. I can't let you go, I don't want to lose you either."

She blushed, finally breaking eye contact and started picking at the inseam of her pants.

I liked her reaction, it was as if she was out of her element, alone here with me. She was so strong and fearless in the face of danger, but sitting here talking she was suddenly nervous, even awkward.

I took a minute to admire her again, allowing my eyes to drift over her and revelling in the desperate longing I had to kiss her.

Aviana's POV

I wasn't completely comfortable with the way Liam was looking at me, but I took the opportunity to assess him as well.

His ear length blonde hair blew stunningly in the slight breeze, while his deep blue eyes stared straight through me.

I pulled my legs tighter to my chest feeling suddenly exposed. Looking down I noticed his dark jeans and how his black leather jacket hung open over a white button down shirt. His shirt clung tightly to his torso so I could see the definition of his muscles as he moved.

Suddenly he shifted. His large calloused hand touched my cheek as he knelt on the grass in front of me. He leaned in till his face was all I could see. His eyes burned with intensity and desire.

My heart sped. However to my surprise I was not afraid, it was excitement that had my pulse suddenly racing.

The kiss was gentle and calm at first and I returned it in kind. As he became more desperate though there was a hungry force to the way he pushed his tongue past my lips.

Suddenly fear and anxiety engulfed me. My jaw clenched and my chest tightened. I squeezed my eyes shut and placed both hands on his chest pushing him away.

To my surprise his broad muscular chest moved under even my minimal amount of pressure. He watched me for a moment before sitting back on his feet.

I knew he would be mad. I refused to open my eyes and see the fury contort his beautiful face.

I wasn't ready to face that kind of wrath again, maybe I never would be.

"I'm sorry." He sighed, surprising me into opening my eyes.

He looked, not mad, but sad and a little guilty.

I had just pushed him away when it was clear he wanted so much more and he wasn't angry. I stared dumbfounded.

"What?" I asked idiotically.

"I'm sorry. I went too far and made you uncomfortable." He explained patiently.

Then he stood brushing off his pants before offering his hand.

Before I realized what was happening I saw my hand slide into his and I allowed him to help me up and lead me back through the trees to the house. This time I didn't let go.
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