The Rider's Keeper

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5

BLAKE.

THE surprise in Olive's face reflects mine as she cranes her neck to look up at me, those hazel-colored orbs tracing the edges of my face, each spot tingling where her eyes sweep. Of all the places I imagined I would see her, Lincoln co Hospital was not it. But I can't say I am not glad to see her.

"I didn't realize that seeing each other twice was a gateway to spilling each other's secrets, Blake. We are still strangers after all." Olive folds her arms across her chest, a stern look on her beautiful and tender features.

I nod. "We can change that if you're willing, of course. I meant it when I said I am all for knowing who Olive Greene is."

She narrows her eyes at me. For the past few days, I couldn't help but pick up her suspicious nature. It takes seconds for her to become skeptical of someone. "Who better to trust your secrets with than a stranger?"

Olive rolls her eyes, a cynical smile playing at her lips. "That would probably sound a lot better if I believed I would never see you again, Blake, but for some odd reason, I can't shake off the feeling that I'll be seeing you often." She smirks. "Now imagine that, knowing I've told you all my secrets."

I can't help the chuckle that escapes my lips. "Would it be that bad? Me knowing your secrets and all? I could help you carry them if you'd like,"

Her brow arches. "You're weird. You know that?"

"I have been called many things, Sparkles, but weird was not one of them,"

"I can't imagine," She bites her lip in thought, and oh, how that tiny little action drives me insane. "Maybe I'll take you up on that ride someday and maybe tell you all my secrets, but don't hold your breath."

"Right," I draw my bottom lip into my mouth, the challenge appealing to me. "I guess you'd prefer that over a shot in the dark," I nod, mentally dancing when I catch my girl staring at my lips.

Olive blushes, backing away. "I've got my father waiting for me in, uh, my car. I'll see you around."

"See you around," I nod, resisting a wink because that would be corny.

Watching her walk away from me for the third time since I met her makes me want to bulldoze through the crowd, throw her over my shoulder, and carry her to my apartment where I'll get to see her every day, but then again, she'll probably kick my ass before I even get to lift her.

Meeting her in this unexpected place that I always dread to return to had washed away my misery for a minute, and for a moment, I forgot that I am here to accompany my father. She plagues my thoughts throughout the entire visit, only nodding when my father needed to ensure that I was listening.

"Blake?" My father calls, pulling me from my trance. "Did you hear what I said?"

"Excuse me, what?" I frown. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that."

My father narrows his eyes at me, something he does each time he attempts a shot in reading what goes through my head. "Heather wants the family to gather for dinner tomorrow."

"Right," I roll my eyes. "I'll just pretend I didn't hear that,"

"You will do no such thing, son. You will obey your mother." Father orders, clear and final.

"Really? Which mother? The one laying alone and cold underground?" I spare a glance at the nurse who just entered my father's VIP room in our hospital. "Last time I checked, she was the only mother I had."

His lips part open, my words seeming to have struck a nerve. "I expect you to be at the house tomorrow at 6. I am not going to fight with you."

"Then drop it. It's not happening." I stand from my chair and approach the door. "I'll see you on your next checkup, father. Don't call me."

It's been years since I stopped calling him 'dad,' but somehow, calling him 'father' still hurts him more. Being a corporate guru, you'd think that none of these little things would matter to him, but as it turns out, out of all his children and mistresses, I am still the son who knows him best.

Funny that after all these years of being treated poorly by him, I am still the one who hurts him more. He didn't hit me, though, not until the moment I needed him most. It turns out that accusing his beloved wife of the murder of my fiancé was going too far in the great Liam Lincoln's dictionary.

I moved out after that. It was the final straw for me. There's a limit to how much a man can take, and that is that. I am not going to play happy family on the wishes of Heather and her children. The further I stay away from them, the better things will be for everyone. I will not have her blood on my hands, and I definitely will not rot behind bars for her just for the sake of revenge. That woman is not worth it. She never has, and she never will be.

I can forget about all these things when I am with Olive. Her presence, as strong as it is, takes everything away. Just like a moth drawn to a fire, I feel drawn to her. Despite the chances that I might get burned, I find myself wanting to see more and more of her.

...

The light knock on my door forces me to tear my gaze from the papers on my desk. I push my glasses up the bridge of my nose to stare at the intruder. Cocking my jaw, I lean back in my chair and raise a questioning eyebrow.

"Surprise!" Emma strolls in, a sultry grin on her face as she struts lazily toward me.

I am working late in my office, wishing nothing more than to close my eyes and wish her away, but even I know that such things never work with Emma. "Can I help you with something?"

She rounds my desk, coming up to my side to position herself on top of it. "Aren't you glad to see me?"

I roll my eyes at her. I think I have perfected the art of eye-rolling since living with these people. "When have I ever been glad to see you?"

A look of hurt flashed across her face for a moment but quickly replaced by that sultry grin I think nothing of. She extends a manicured hand toward me in an attempt to grab my tie, and I stand from my chair and stride to my window.

"Do yourself a favor, Emma." My jaw ticks as I shove a hand in my pocket. "Let's not hurt ourselves more than we already have, yeah?"

"Aren't you even going to try!" She yells, taking angry and determined steps toward me, and pushes me onto the couch, straddling me.

"I am trying, Blake." She whines, grinding on me. "I am trying to make this work, just let me please you, okay? Let me make you feel good."

"And then what?"

"What?" She blinks.

"Let you please me, and what happens after that?" I stand abruptly, and Emma falls to the floor. "Am I supposed to forgive you for what you did? Am I supposed to get married to you knowing full well that you had a part in destroying me?"

Emma sobs, still sprawled across the floor in her ridiculous coat and lingerie. "I-"

"You what? You're sorry?" I seethe, memories of nothing but the pain I suffered flashing behind my eyelids. "You took everything from me, Emma. It doesn't matter what my father says. It doesn't matter what that damn Heather says, or what anyone else says for that matter. The only way you're going to get the honor of being my wife is if you shoot me in the head and drag my corpse down the aisle. We'll see how that works out for you but for now, get out."

She bawls her eyes out, shaking her head hysterically on the floor. "You will marry me, Blake. There's no one else who's going to love you as I do."

"Right," I say calmly. "Take the pathetic excuse of what you think love is and get out of my sight. As much as I'd love to see security dragging you out of here, I'd prefer if you keep the last of your dignity as you leave this place. And don't come back."

Emma stares at me for a long moment, gauging whether or not I meant everything I said. I did. When she finally realizes that, she stands from the floor, stumbles across the room, and out my door. I strip my clothes off the second the door shuts and throw everything in the bin, feeling nauseated by the smell of her perfume on my clothes.

I change into my riding gear, gather the spreadsheets from my desk and throw them in my drawer, suddenly feeling suffocated by the thought of being stuck in this office. Throwing one leg over my bike, flipping the kickstand, and shoving my helmet on, I ride off into the night.

"I did it for you, Blake."

"You would've been suffocated and caged if I didn't,"

"I know how much you love your freedom, and you can have that with me,"

"I was doing you a favor, and instead of crying like a broken little boy, you should be glad I did what I had to, to save you from yourself."

"You didn't know what you wanted, and I just had to make you see that I'm the only woman for you,"

Pushing my bike to ride faster, ignoring all road signs as the words of a psychopath invade my thoughts, I arrive at a secluded spot at the peak of the mountain, staring out into the faraway lights of the city, and scream at the top of my lungs.

My tears betray me, escaping from my eyes as I scream into the night, and all of a sudden, I feel like I am crawling back into that hole again, losing all hope as I disappear into the darkness.

A certain hazel-eyed and raven-haired girl crosses my mind, and somehow, her image is the only thing that seems to keep me from drowning. If there is one thing that I know she wouldn't want, it is for me to beat myself up like this, trailing back and forth with no hope of ever moving forward.

I hate how that foolish woman would be happy to know that someone like Olive exists to save me from my misery, from myself. For some fucked up reason, if she were here, she would find comfort in knowing how strong Olive is, strong enough to put a burly man down with a single kick to the face.

I find myself laughing all of a sudden, shaking my head as I remember the look on Joe's face after my girl showed him where to shove it. Of course, I showed him a thing or two afterward to ensure he won't go back to that café and start something he can't finish.

I regretted it big time that night, wishing I could turn back the clock and tell Joe to sit on his ass in his garage and leave us young men to take care of our business.

Drawing in a sharp breath of the cold night air, finally feeling like I can survive the night, I hop on my bike and head home. The empty penthouse offers some relief for me. I don't have to see Heather's little shits running around the house. No trace at all of my father and his family. Just me, and I like it.

Ever since Zack acquired Olive's phone number, I have been struggling to get myself to call or text her. The reason, of course, is that she will probably think I'm a creep and a stalker. Which, I kind of think I am. I've been one since the day I laid my eyes on her.

It's nine pm on a Monday, a school night for her, which makes me wonder if she would even spare a glance at her phone. I hate thinking for too long; it takes the joy out of everything. An unexpected text from me should be able to do the trick. Right? Of falling for me, I mean.

"I miss you"

I type in, then hit send, biting my fingernails and waiting anxiously for my girl to reply. I have a picture of my bike on my profile, secretly hoping that she'll know it's me. The text shows 'read' after a good, nerve-wracking thirty minutes.

"Come see me then"

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