The Difference You Have Made (PREVIEW ONLY)

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Chapter 4 - Blurred Lines

Rachel comes in the morning for Liam. Her eyes are bright with excitement as she looks at the little boy.

"I have so many plans for us. First we'll go to Itty Bitty Town, then we'll have lunch at Chuck E. Cheese. After that we'll go to the toy store-"

Cole holds up his hand, interrupting her. "That's all for one day?"

"Yes, but don't worry I have plans for tomorrow as well."

"When is my son coming home?"

Rachel taps her chin in thought. "Um, I'm not sure. I'll let you know."

Cristiana jogs down the stairs carrying a small army green duffle bag filled with Liam's clothes and necessities. "I put extra training diapers in there, but he's been doing really well with saying when he needs to potty. Also, he's wearing underwear during the day now. Don't worry, they're the thick kind for potty training so they're observant, but let him wear them too long if he has an accident. You can put a training diaper on him when you're out. He has a small rash on his bottom so there's some cream in there as well. His skin has been extra dry lately, so please use the Aveeno lotion before bed." Her thorough instructions make her sound more like a concerned mother than a nanny. The thought strikes Cole in an odd way. He shifts uncomfortably.

Rachel takes the bag with a gracious smile. "That's a lot to remember."

Cristiana laughs lightly. "I wrote it down. The note is in the front pocket of the bag along with a list of foods that he refuses to eat currently."

Rachel's smile widens. "Wow, you're like super nanny. Thank you. You're coming tomorrow, right?"

"Coming to what?" The nanny's head tilts with curiosity.

"We're all going to church and having lunch at my parents' place. It's the usual Sunday thing, but Cole has been out of town every Sunday since you've started working so there's no way you could have known, " Rachel explains while glaring at her brother. "You didn't tell her."

"It hasn't come up," Cole responds defensively. Truthfully, it never occurred to him to let Cristiana know. She would enjoy the extra day off.

Rachel rolls her eyes at his lame excuse. "Well, now you know Cristiana, and I expect you to be there as well."

Cristiana's mouth turns up. "It sounds like a family thing."

The vivacious woman waves away her comment. "You're basically family. Say you'll be there."

"I'll be there," Cristiana agrees halfheartedly.

It's obvious Rachel won't leave until she gets the response she wants. She wants Cristiana to be present Sunday although it truly does sound like a family only event. Cristiana isn't family, she's the help. Rachel probably wants you there for Liam. He gets restless easily. They don't want to deal with a cranky toddler during church. The thoughts only slightly ease her worry. There's a clear rebuttal. Cole knew of the plans and hadn't mentioned them to her. That means he doesn't want her in attendance.

"Okay, we're going now. Have a good kid free day you two." Rachel waves as she leads Liam out of the door.

Cole shoves his hands into the pockets of his gym shorts. "I'm going to get some work done." He turns, walking out of the foyer towards his office.

Cristiana follows him. "I don't have to go if you don't want me to. I only agreed so Rachel would let it go."

Cole takes a seat at his desk. "My mom wants you there too, and Liam will enjoy having you around." But not him. Cristiana senses the reluctance in his voice.

"I don't want to intrude. Besides, I'm going out with my sister tonight, so I may not make it back here in time tomorrow."

Cole rubs at the back of his neck. "Church starts at nine. Just make it back before eight and you'll be alright."

"Or I can simply not go."

His eyebrows quirk. "Do you have a problem with attending church?" They have never discussed religion. For all he knows, she could be atheist.

Her lips press together. "I don't mind attending church. I used to do it all time before my life got off track. My problem is with intruding on something that I am not supposed to be a part of."

He expels a breath from his nose and leans back in his chair. "You won't be intruding."

It's her turn to quirk an eyebrow. "Are you sure about that?"

"Absolutely. Everyone wants you to be there tomorrow, so please attend."

"If you say so," Cristiana mumbles while leaving his office.

She doesn't know what to do with her day. It's still morning and her plans aren't until nighttime. The uncommitted hours leave her with the ability to clean her room. Linda offers to do it everyday, but Cristiana always refuses. It's strange having someone pick up after her. It's a luxury that she'll likely never get used to.

Most of her clothes are dirty so she decides to wash them. It's a long overdue task. Her hamper is nearly overflowing. A couple hours later Cristiana is in the spacious laundry room folding her freshly laundered clothes. She hears heavy footsteps approaching and turns with anticipation to the open door. Cole struts into the laundry room sans shirt wearing red gym shorts that are sitting low on his waist. The V of his hips is prominent. It takes all of Cristiana's will to look away from his sculpted abdomen.

"I know you own clothes and yet you hardly ever wear them," she comments in a teasing tone.

Cole briefly glances down at himself before continuing his search for a clean shirt. "I like to be comfortable in my own home. Don't try to use your double standards on me."

"Double standards?" She gasps. "I don't have double standards."

"You're always walking around at night wearing skimpy shorts and half shirts. I don't complain about that, but as soon as I shed my shirt you throw a hissy fit."

"I do not throw hissy fits." Her eyes roll at his accusation.

Cole stands directly behind her. He leans forward so that his mouth is at her ear. "I'm not the only one looking. It's not our fault that we're two young and attractive adults with certain needs."

"You can't satisfy my needs," Cristiana grumbles.

Boldly Cole places his hands on her waist, pulling her round bottom against his stiffening cock. "Give me the chance and I promise you that I can satisfy your every need." She shakes her head trying to choose the right words. "Don't run from me."

"I'm not running. I'm following the rules."

He scowls, "Fuck the rules."

Slowly Cristiana turns in his hold until they're face to face. She holds her head back so that she can look up at him. Their eyes lock in a heated gaze. Their faces inch closer to one another.

Cole's voice becomes a heated whisper. "All that matters is what you want. What do you want?"

Her bottom lip is captured between her teeth. Hesitation fills her eyes. "I can't have what I want."

"I say that you can."

Their mouths meet in an exploratory kiss. Cole's tongue flicks out of his mouth, tracing her lips. Her arms wind around his neck. His hands squeeze her sides as he lifts her onto the countertop. His hands slide under her thin camisole. Her legs wrap around his waist. Her hands move down to his back. Cole shivers, moving his mouth to her neck and sucking the flesh. A startled gasp pops from her mouth. His large hands caress her breasts. Their mouths return to one another as she uses her feet to ease down his shorts. Her hands move over his body ready to explore below his waist.

"Front door open, " the automated voice breaks into their heated moment.

He ignores it, helping her lower his shorts with one hand as his other pushes her shorts and panties aside. Someone is in the house, he can faintly hear them moving about as his fingers skim her folds.

"Cole are you here?!" A male voice calls out.

Cole groans placing his forehead on hers. "You've got to be kidding me." His head falls back. "Yeah, I'm here Greg! I'll be down in a second!" He tries to reattach his mouth to hers, but she turns her head and pushes at his chest. The moment is over. He takes reluctant steps back, giving her space. Quickly she jumps off the counter, making her way to the high-tech washer and dryer. Her back is to him. She can't face him right now. Not after that.

Cole follows her pulling her back to his chest. "I'll get rid of him and we can finish what we started."

She pulls out of his hold. "There's nothing to finish. Go to your friend."

He can see the shutters closing down around her. Disappointment slams into his chest. He's finally got somewhere with her and now she's retreating. By the end of the day she'll put distance between them greater then where they started. There's no time to coax her back. Greg is walking towards the laundry room.

"We'll deal with this later." Cole pulls up his shorts and tosses on a white tshirt before bolting out of the laundry room and swiftly pulling the door close behind him. Greg is standing in the carpeted hallway. "Hey man, what's up?"

Greg looks at his friend curiously. "I thought we could head over to the park together." They're meeting up with Peter and his friend, Matt, to play basketball.

"Sounds good." Cole leads the way down the stairs. "You need water or anything?"

"Nah, I'm good. Are you?" Greg can tell something is off about his friend. He cocks his head. "Did I interrupt something?"

Cole walks into the kitchen and opens the refrigerator. "I thought you were a doctor not a detective."

Greg chuckles jovially. "You're being evasive. What did I interrupt? And who was it with?"

"You didn't interrupt anything. I was looking for a shirt." Cole shrugs his shoulders. "Let's go. If we get there too late the good side of the court will be taken."

Greg looks around. "Where's the mysteriously beautiful nanny of yours that Peter can't shut up about?"

"Somewhere you aren't," Cole grumbles as they walk out of the house.

"Ah so that's who you were with when I interrupted. Hey man if you want to go finish whatever you started, I can get lost."

"Shut up." Cole's mood is sullen. Even if he took Greg up on his offer, there would be no finishing what he and Christiana started. That was obvious from her cold voice and lack of eye contact just before he walked out of the laundry room. She's running again and he's not sure he wants to chase her this time.


Cristiana finishes her laundry and decides to take a relaxing bath. She needs to release the tension that is now flooding her body after the steamy laundry room encounter with Cole.

What were you thinking? You almost had sex with your boss. So cliché!

She groans, making her way into Cole's bedroom. She walks through the large bedroom into the bathroom. Cole's bathroom is the best one in the house. It has a double granite vanity with a lighted mirror. The floors are heated. The shower is in a wide square stall separated from the large bathtub, if you can call it that. It's more like an armless chaise lounge made from gray and blue porcelain tiles and encased in a glass rectangle. There's even a small television hanging on the wall right outside of the shower. It could be viewed from either the so-called bathtub or from the white leather chaise lounge, with built-in massage features, placed in the center of the floor.

Cristiana doesn't make it a habit to come into Cole's bathroom. Truth be told she has only been in there once before when her shower was broken, and he offered his. It's usually weird going into his space when he isn't around, except for now. After all he's the reason that she's wound up so tightly. She runs the water and goes to her bathroom to retrieve her body wash and a lavender bath bomb. Cole probably won't be back for a while so she can truly relax.

Over an hour later she wakes with a start. Quickly she drains the cold water from the tub and leaves the bathroom. A glance at the square frosted glass clock hanging to the right of her bedroom door reveals it's after six o'clock. The house is silent. She wonders if Cole has found something fun to do with his Saturday. Jealousy scratches at her skin. Cole flirts with her from time to time, but he isn't really interested in her. She's seen the women that are his type. They're all tall, slim, and pale. She's far from being any one of those things. She has to remind herself not to fall for him. Cole is poison. He's generous, charming, and too good looking, but she has no doubt that he will chew her up and spit her out if she ever gives in to his advances.

She shivers at the thought. She needs to get him out of her mind. She distracts herself with Netflix. By eight o'clock Cole still hasn't returned. She shakes away her concern and decides to get ready for her night out. She's in the midst of shaving her legs when her cell phone vibrates on the nightstand. It's a new text message from Cole.

Cole: Out to eat with the guys. Do you want anything?

Cristiana: I already ate. Getting ready to go out with my sister.

Cole: Oh, okay. I guess I'll see you when you get home.

Cristiana: Probably won't be home tonight. I'll see you tomorrow.

Cristiana dresses in a red silk dress that crosses behind her neck with a swooping neckline that hugs her breast and dips down to her navel. The skirt of the dress flatters her curves and stops just a couple of inches above her knees. It's been so long since she's worn something so revealing, that she feels uncomfortable showing so much of her skin. It takes a pep talk in the mirror and a phone call with one of her friends from the support group before she feels confident enough to leave the house.

She straightens her hair and applies makeup including a highlighter that makes her cheeks stick out more than usual. Her plump lips are perfectly glossed. She slips her feet into a pair of black strapped pumps. Looking in the mirror at her reflection, she grins widely. For the first time in a long time she can see the beautiful woman that everyone talks about.

She takes an Uber to her sister's townhouse apartment in Queens. The plan is for her brother- in-law, Keon, to drop them off before he returns home with their one-year-old son. Tyra is dressed to the nines in a black strapless wrap dress that daringly parts at the top of her left thigh. Her chocolate brown hair is in large and luscious curls framing her caramel oval face. Much like Cristiana, Tyra isn't a big fan of makeup but she's wearing it tonight only enhancing her natural beauty. Tyra was a pageant girl growing up. Cristiana was the theater nerd. Tonight, they both look unrealistically beautiful. They pose together on the sidewalk as Keon takes their picture. Cristiana posts it to her Instagram account. She's surprised that she remembers her log in information after nearly a year of inactivity. Social media was the last thing on her mind when she was enduring Tyson's torture.

Keon drops them off at Atomic, a somewhat ritzy nightclub in downtown Flushing. Tyra's best friend, Peppa, and Cristiana's friend, Michelle, are waiting inside. Cristiana orders a round of tequila shots. She raises a toast to Tyra, the twenty-four-year-old wife and mother. The ladies down the shots before moving to the dance floor. They're here to have fun and let loose. Cristiana can't think of anything wrong with that.


Cole is a tired and sweaty mess. Sometimes being around his friends makes him forget how old he is. It didn't take long for their friendly two-on-two basketball game to get bogged down by competition. He's exhausted by the time they declare the game over with him and Greg deemed the victors. The men decide to meet at a pub for food after they all go home and shower. The men decide to meet at a pub in Flushing for food after they all go home and shower. Cole dresses in a black button down with black velvet paisley print on the sleeves and dark jeans.

The four men meet at the pub and sit around a high table munching on chicken wings and sipping their beers. The place is packed with people but that doesn't bother them. Boisterous conversation fills the air. Everyone is having a good time, including Cole.

It's nearly two hours after they arrived when Peter hisses while looking at his phone screen. "Holy shit!"

Greg leans over nosily wondering what has caused the reaction. "Whoa, Cole isn't that your nanny?"

"I've never seen a nanny that looks like that," Matt comments while shaking his blond head in disbelief.

Cole leans over getting a view of the picture on Peter's screen. His libido spikes. "Where'd you get that?"

"It's on Instagram," Peter responds as Cole snatches the device out of his hand. "Don't you follow her?"

Cole doesn't answer. He's too busy staring at the photos of the woman who lives under his roof. She looks sexier than he's ever seen her. The first picture is of Cristiana and a younger woman who looks similar to her only with lighter skin. The caption mentions her sister Tyra, so he assumes that's who she's photographed with. The second picture is Cristiana by herself. She's sitting on a cushioned bench with her legs crossed showing a tempting stretch of her thigh. The red dress she wears looks like it was made specifically for her body. Fantasies of ripping it off her fills Cole's mind.

"Man, you're drooling," Greg teases as he steals the phone away from Cole. "Damn she is hot. Her sister is too."

"It's looks like they're at Atomic," Matt comments. "We should go. I need to see her in real life. There's no way she's a nanny looking like that."

Cole shakes his head. "Nah, man. I'm too old for a nightclub."

"You're not too old to tap that." Matt jabs his finger at Cristiana's picture.

"Either you make a move on her, or I will," Peter adds. He's completely serious. Cristiana is gorgeous. Peter doesn't know how Cole has been living with her all this time without crossing the line. His brother has more self-control than any man.

Cole rubs his chin in thought. "It's not like I have anything to lose. Let's go." He slaps a couple twenties onto the table and stands. The other three men follow suit. It doesn't take long for them to reach the nightclub. There's a line outside, but they don't have to wait. The Skylark name has connections and Cole Skylark is a familiar face in New York.

"Do any of you see Cristiana?" Cole talks loudly so he can be heard over the thumping music.

"Over there." Peter points straight ahead.

Cole cranes his neck until his eyes land on her. She has her back to some muscle-bound douche gyrating her hips. "Who the hell is he?"

"Calm down, they're just dancing." Greg slaps his shoulder. "Let's get a drink."

They go to the bar, but Cole never lets his eyes leave Cristiana. He's antsy watching her dance with another man. A rare bout of jealousy is gearing up inside of him. He has no claim on her, but that doesn't quiet his displeased thoughts.

Greg snorts with humor. "Did you expect to find her sitting at a table wishing you would show up?"

A deep frown pulls down Cole's mouth. "Of course not. I didn't expect to find her dry humping another man either."

Peter smirks, "You can put that to an end. Let's go make our presence known."

"I need another drink." Cole turns to the bar. Uncertainty is a strange feeling for him and it's breathing down his neck. Cristiana was receptive when he kissed her earlier. She even advanced things further, then she pushed him away. He doesn't know what to expect now. Will she be happy to see me?

Greg grimaces as the man holds onto Cristiana's waist tightly. "Let's go. Your suffering is palpable."

All four men watch as Cristiana ends her dance with the man with a polite hug and walks to a round booth against the far back wall. There are three other women sitting there. Peter takes the lead, carrying a tray of tequila shots.

"Who are those fine specimens walking this way?" Peppa cranes her neck as her dark eyes focus on the approaching men.

Cristiana gulps audibly, "Oh my gosh, what is he doing here?""You know them?" Michelle questions. Her square shaped head cocks with interest.

"The one in the black button down is my boss," Cristiana explains in a rush.

Tyra eyes Cole warily. "Your boss looks like he's about to devour you." She takes a sip of her daiquiri with a knowing smirk.

"Shut up. I cannot believe he's here," Christians mutters just before the men reach their table.

"Who wants shots?" Peter presents the tray as if it's a golden ticket.

"I do, but first I need to know your name," Michelle coyly responds. She pushes her long jet-black hair off her bare shoulder.

"I'm Peter. This is my brother Cole and our friends Matt and Greg."

"Cole is my boss," Cristiana adds before motioning to her group. "That's Michelle and Peppa. And this is my sister Tyra."

"It's lovely to meet you ladies," Greg grins. "I hear it's Tyra's birthday today."

"It sure is." Tyra reaches for a shot glass. Soon all eight of them have one. Tyra lifts hers in the air. "To good times with new friends. And to celebrating my birthday bitches!"

"Here here!" Matt chants. They all throw down the tequila letting it soak into their bones. "I want to dance."

"I'll join you, " Peppa volunteers with a playful grin. Michelle slides out of the booth to let her out. Peter reaches out for Michelle's hand. "Are you interested in dancing?"

"With you?" Michelle bats her lashes. "Most definitely. Come on white boy."

Greg looks to Tyra. "Birthday girl, married or not, you still deserve a dance." He didn't miss the silver band on her ring finger.

"You're right." Tyra slides out of the booth excitedly.

"Looks like it's just you and me." Cole comments letting his gaze linger over Cristiana's body. "Let's dance."

A demure grin stretches on Cristiana's face as she places her hand into his outstretched one. "I hope you can keep up old man."

"Don't let my age fool you," he chuckles while following her onto the floor. His arms wrap around her waist pulling her back into his chest. She's like a belly dancer with the way she whines her waist. Cole has no problem keeping up. Travis Porter – "No Hands" is playing and they carelessly move to the music.

Cristiana let's go of her inhibitions and embraces the fun mood. She dances with Cole without a thought of consequences or rules. Song after song plays and they continue moving. The room feels hotter. Sweat trickles between her breasts.

She stumbles on her feet. "I'm feeling dizzy."

"Yeah, because you just shook up all that tequila inside of you," Michelle teases leading the way back to their booth.

Cole keeps his arm around her waist as they walk. "How much have you had to drink?"

She pouts. It's the first time he's seen her do that. "I don't know. I wasn't counting. We've done a lot of shots."

"It's my birthday!" Tyra throws her arms into the air.

Greg shakes his head with a humored grin. "She's toast."

"Did you drive?" Cole asks Cristiana as they slide into the booth. He doubts she did. She rarely drives one of his cars even if it's for something related to Liam.

"No, my brother-in-law dropped us off." Her words slur causing her to frown. She doesn't like the fuzzy feeling encompassing her body.

Peter appears with bottles of water. "Time to sober up." He hands one to Cristiana.

Cole watches her carefully as she takes a swig of water. "You look amazing tonight."

She cuts her eyes to him with tight lips. "You can't say that to me."

"Why not?" His eyebrows arch with confusion.

"Because I work for you," she heavenly whispers. "And there's a no fraternizing clause in my contract."

He rubs her thigh. "You didn't seem to care about that clause when you had my dick in your hands earlier today."

Her eyes widen, "Cole!"

He shrugs his wide shoulders without a care. "I'm just being honest."

"Okay, in all honesty, have you ever been involved with one of your employees?"

He grimaces. If he tells the truth it will be sexual suicide, but if he lies, she won't like that answer either. It's a catch twenty-two.

"One time. It was Liam's nanny before you. In my defense, she wasn't actually interested in being his nanny."

"So that's your game. You like to screw the help." Cristiana takes another drink from the water bottle. She's offended by his answer even though she asked the question.

"You don't see me bending Linda over the dining room table," Cole counters with a frown.

"She's old enough to be your mother. I shouldn't have asked. I already suspected that I'm just another notch in your belt, but that answer just confirmed it."

"You're overthinking. You can't be another notch in my belt if I haven't gotten you to bed yet."

Her mouth pops open as she turns a frosty glare onto him. "That's all I am to you, right? I'm just another young and impressionable woman for you to use and toss aside."

Cole growls in frustration. "Cristiana, I wou-"

"Are you two arguing?" Michelle asks as she leans towards the odd pair.

"Nope, everything is peachy keen." Cristiana smiles looking out at her sister. Tyra dragged Greg back onto the dance floor and is giving him a run for his money. "I need to get her home soon."

Cole's jaw tightens. "Who's going to get you home?"

Her slim shoulders shrug. "I can take care of myself."

He smacks his lips together doubtfully. "Let's just go." Cristiana starts to protest as he slides out of the booth. A tired sigh falls from his lips. "Please don't fight me on this."

She turns to Michelle and Peter. "I will see you all later." She smiles while hugging them goodbye.

Peter watches Cristiana and Cole warily. "I'll see you both tomorrow bright and early."

"We'll both be there," Cole grumbles unenthusiastically.

They stop on the dance floor pulling a reluctant Tyra away. Matt picks up on the tension radiating between them. "You're leaving already man?"

"Yeah, got an early morning tomorrow," Cole answers with a bite.

Matt nods and turns his attention to Cristiana. "It was nice meeting you. Maybe we can all go out to dinner sometime."

"That would be nice. See you around."

It's already after midnight. Cole leads the way down the street to his car – a sleek black 2021 Audi A5 convertible – and helps Tyra into the backseat. He holds the front passenger door open for Cristiana when she folds her arms across her chest and shivers.

"I'm sorry for ruining your night," she sniffles.

"You didn't ruin my night. Get in." He doesn't want to have this conversation on a public sidewalk. He's sure at least one paparazzo has caught up with him by now. They always do when he's out.

"Yes, I did. Go ahead and admit it. Tell me how I messed up. Tell me how much of a stupid bi-"

"Stop!" He closes the door and takes quick strides until he is standing directly in front of her. "Don't you dare put words in my mouth. You may be used to an immature boy who talks down to you, but that's not me. I'll never treat you that way, no matter what our relationship is. Do you understand?"

Solemnly she nods. "Yes."

"Great, now get in the car."

"You're upset." Cristiana's eyes mist as she speaks.

Cole rubs a hand over his head. "It doesn't matter. Just get in the car." He opens the door for her. She stands firm. Her mouth is set in a thin line. He gives a knowing grin. "Cristiana, please get in the car."

"Okay," she slides down onto the leather seat.

He leans down placing a lingering kiss on her lips. "You are even more beautiful when you're angry. I'm sorry for being a jerk...again." He straightens himself and starts to the driver's side pausing when his eyes land on the spectator. There's a bald heavyset man holding a professional camera a mere foot away from the car. "How much do you want for the pictures?"

The man shakes his head. "Oh no, these pictures are too good. They would be even better if you gave a statement."

"No comment," Cole grumbles turning to his car.

"Come on Mr. Skylark. Do it for the sake of accuracy."

"It doesn't matter what I say. The story won't be accurate anyways."

The paparazzo clicks another picture. "It looks like you're in the middle of a lovers quarrel. Who's the unlucky lady?"

"There's no quarrel. I'll give you a thousand dollars right now if you delete all the pictures you have of me and the people I was with tonight."

"That's a lot of pictures."

Cole growls, "Two thousand." Cristiana is nowhere near ready to deal with the invasive media that he deals with every day. He's already skating on thin ice with her. He doesn't need any help cracking it wide open and dumping him in freezing water.

"Is everything alright?" Cristiana sticks her head out of the car.

"Everything's alright, Cris." Cole curses. He slipped. The paparazzo's eyes widen as if he just won the lottery. In a way he has. Not only does he have the photos, but now he has a name even if it is an incomplete one. Cole hangs his head in defeat.

The sleezy man sighs, "I'll tell you what, I'll delete these pictures free of charge if you agree to do a spread with my magazine."

"What's your name and what magazine do you work for?" Cole takes the bait.

"I'm Tony. I work for Weekly Update," the paparazzo responds proudly.

Cole scowls, "That's not a magazine." Weekly Update is a trashy online tabloid that loves to make the wealthy out to be narcissistic tyrants that want to watch the world burn.

Tony shrugs his slouched shoulders. "That's my offer. Take it or leave it."

"Fine, I'll have my secretary call your office." He doesn't have much choice if he wants to protect Cristiana. He watches as Tony deletes each picture. They are several from inside the nightclub. Pictures of Cole and Cristiana dancing together. Pictures of their heated conversation.

"These are saved to my cloud. They'll be permanently deleted in thirty days so long as you hold up your end of the bargain," Tony warns him.

Cole nods stiffly. "I'm a man of my word. See you around." He gets into his car and pulls away. He follows Cristiana's directions to Tyra's home.

An athletically built man with mocha skin answers the door. He takes Tyra into his arms. "Thanks for looking out for her. I'm Keon."

"I'm Cole. She's had a lot to drink by the way."

Keon groans, "Now I've got two babies to take care of. Have a good night."

The ride home is quiet. Cole pulls into the garage with a heavy sigh. Cristiana wastes no time unbuckling her seatbelt and rushing inside. He trudges behind her making his way to his bedroom. Cole sheds his clothes and flops onto his bed. His cell phone is in hand. He has a message from Peter and Matt.

Matt: Did you smooth things over?

Cole doesn't reply to him. No, he hasn't smoothed things over. He probably won't get the chance to. Cristiana ran straight to her bedroom and locked the door. Cole won't see her until morning.

His phone chimes again with another message. He almost ignores it assuming that it's Matt inquiring about his night again. A quick glimpse reveals a message from his brother.

Peter: You left at the perfect time.

Cole: Why do you say that?

Peter: Tyson was there.

Cole quickly dials his brother's number. "What do you mean he was there?" He demands as soon as the call connects.

"He didn't make himself known until you were leaving. Apparently, he had been watching her all night. When he saw her leaving with you, he started to follow. I blocked his path. By the time Tyson made it outside, you were gone," Peter explains in a hushed voice.

Agitation tickles Cole's skin. "What do you think he would have done?"

"There's no telling, but it wouldn't have been good. He was shouting threats towards her at the door. He would have definitely tried to hurt her. You need to let her know. Cristiana needs to be more aware of her surroundings."

"I don't want to scare her. She's just starting to go out of the house without worrying about him."

"She still needs to know. Tyson won't give up until he has her back. You don't know this guy like I do. We've been investigating him for years. The woman he was with before Cristiana is missing and presumed dead. We know he killed her and moved her body out of state but haven't found any concrete evidence yet."

"What the hell?! Peter, why didn't you tell me that before?"

"I didn't think it was relevant before. Obviously, we watched Cristiana when she was with him and we didn't find any clues that she knew who he really was. His really good at hiding his true personality from the outside world. She's his target now and she needs to know. If he gets a hold of her, we may never find her."

"How the hell am I supposed to explain this to her? She's already mad at me." Agitatedly Cole rubs a hand over his head.

"Just tell her what I told you. She does know I investigated her for you, right?"

"She knows you looked into her past, but she doesn't know that you know about the abuse."

"I'm sure you'll find a pleasant way to handle the situation, " Peter smugly answers. "Go handle your business. I've got my own business to take care of."

Cole delays talking to Cristiana, deciding to take a shower first. He needs a clear head for the conversation they have to have. It's half an hour later when he finds her sitting at the island eating a sandwich and chips.

"Hey, we need to talk."

"It can wait until morning," she murmurs, tossing the rest of her food in the trash in an attempt to leave the kitchen.

Cole runs after her. "No, it can't. It's important." He flips her over his shoulder and walks her to the living room.

Petulantly she slaps his back. "I am not a child. Put me down!"

With a chuckle he drops her onto the sofa. "I put you down."

Cristiana huffs folding her arms over her chest. "What is so important that you had to manhandle me?"

Cole sits down with a serious expression his face. "Tyson was at Atomic tonight."

She gulps and slowly shakes her head. "I didn't see him."

"Peter saw him."

She gulps, "Okay, so what does this mean? Why are you telling me?"

Cole takes a deep breath. "Tyson saw you tonight and he wasn't happy about it. The woman he was in a relationship with before you is missing. She's presumed dead. Peter thinks Tyson had something to do with it."

Her breathing spikes. "Oh my gosh!"

"Hey, don't panic." Cole places a comforting arm around her shoulders. "He's not going to hurt you ever again. I'll protect you."

Cristiana wildly shakes her head. "How can you protect me if he's so dangerous that the FBI can't stop him?"

"I don't know, but I will. I swear I will."

Sobs rack her body. Cole holds her tight. He murmurs comforting words and strokes her back. She cries herself to sleep. His heart is heavy. Carefully he lifts her into his arms and carries her to the elevator. He should lay her in her bed, but he can't stomach the thought of leaving her alone tonight. She's emotional and scared. He wants to be her safe haven, so he carries her to his room, using one hand to pull back the covers of his king-sized bed, and softly laying her down. Cole lays down to her right and wraps his arms around her. He vows that no matter what it costs, he will keep Cristiana safe. No man will ever hurt her again. That includes him.
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