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Chapter Twenty-Two


It was still dark out when I woke up in the middle of the night. Noah shifted behind me, and soft, inaudible words left his lips as he tossed and turned.

His frown worried me, and I knew that the beads of sweat on his forehead had nothing to do with the warm weather.

“Noah,” I whispered, sitting up and turning towards him.

He didn’t respond, instead, his words got clearer. “No...please, no...”

Panic spread through me, and I reached for one of his arms to see if I could wake him up. It looked and sounded like he was having a terrible nightmare, and it hurt me to see him like this.

“Noah, wake up,” I said a little louder, grabbing his shoulder and softly shaking him around.

His eyes shot open, and before I could register what was happening, he flipped on top of me and grabbed my throat with full strength.

There was no lust in his eyes as he squeezed the life out of me, and I struggle underneath him, trying to get air in my lungs.

“No...ah...” I choked out, tapping his forearms to get him to stop.

All my blood made its way to my head, and I saw stars in front of my eyes as he pressed harder, pushing me into the mattress.

My throat hurt and my eyes burned, but I kept looking into his, using all the strength I had left to fight him off of me.

Then, he recognized me.

He released me and stumbled backward, falling against the wall and looking at his hands like they had betrayed him.

I coughed loudly, trying to fill my lungs with as much air as I could, blinking the tears away. Oh my god, he was going to kill me.

My chest still burned as I crawled back against the headboard, staring wide-eyed at Noah.

“I’m so sorry,” he said softly, and it almost came out as a sob.

I was still high on adrenaline, breathing hard as he slowly looked up, his eyes red and watery.

Who had hurt him so bad that he was like this? Or was it something that happened in prison? As much as I was scared of him, I felt bad for him.

“Noah,” I rasped, staying in place.

He seemed broken, looking at me, the green in his eyes vibrant against the red around them.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, slouching against the wall behind him and resting his head back.

“What happened?”

He sighed, looking at the ceiling. I wanted to help him, get rid of his demons, and hurt everyone who hurt him. Though, he was the one who hurt me.

“I’ll be fine.”

I stood from the bed, slowly walking up to him and sitting down on the floor in front of him.

He brought a hand to my face, brushing his fingers over my cheek. “I’m sorry I hurt you, in more ways than one.”

“It’s alright—”

“It’s not. You should feel beautiful, powerful. Because you are. And I should’ve never made you feel the opposite.”

I couldn’t listen to this. Of course, it wasn’t just him who crushed my heart, and I couldn’t let him take the blame.

“Other people were worse. I guess...” I trailed off, debating my next words. Was I going to let myself be vulnerable in front of him?

I guess the answer was yes.

“It just hurt more coming from you,” I added, looking up at him through my lashes.

He flinched, dropping his hand from my face. I leaned forward, with hesitation, but somehow, I trusted him. I trusted him not to hurt me anymore.

It was ignorant of me to try and wake him up—touch him while he was experiencing his worst, and I made a mental note to look up how to help him. Because I was determined to do so.

He searched my face, staying frozen in place as I brought my lips to his.

I kissed him softly, cupping his face in my hands.

He sighed against my mouth, and he relaxed under my touch as I rubbed my thumbs over his cheeks.

“I don’t want you to go but maybe you should sleep in your room,” he mumbled, and I pulled back.

I nodded, grabbing my clothes from the floor, and I tiptoed out of his room without looking back.

To say I was utterly confused was an understatement, and it kept me awake for the remainder of the night.

Why did it feel so good between us? Like we were made for each other? And why did I push away all my principles and throw myself at the guy that had made me feel so low all those years?

Maybe it really was time to forgive—and forget.

Maria groaned, sipping her water as she sat hunched over the table. “Why did we decide to eat out today?”

I chuckled, taking a bite of my pasta, actually feeling pretty good. I mean...

“This pasta is everything,” I said, enjoying the creamy red sauce and little hints of basil.

Maria straightened up in her chair, studying my face. She finished her own meal, slowly placing her fork on her plate when she was done, keeping her eyes on me. “Oh, Bella.”

I raised my brows, taking a sip of my water. “What?”

“You fucked him.”

I almost choked on my drink, my eyes instantly watering, and I quickly placed my glass on the table.


She rolled her eyes, running a hand through her hair. “I saw you leaving with him yesterday.”

“And that means that I fucked him?” I questioned, my cheeks reddening—giving me away.

I fiddled with my napkin, slowly bringing it to my lips and taking my time wiping my mouth, looking anywhere but at my friend. Shit, what do I do?

“Don’t you dare lie to me, especially since those bruises in your neck tell me enough,” she said surprisingly alert, pointing a finger at me before she grabbed her drink again.

“Ok, I won’t. We...yes, we had sex,” I replied, sitting back in my chair and looking around the restaurant to see if anyone overheard me. I wasn’t going to mention that the bruises didn’t come from hickeys though.

Maria sighed, chewing on the inside of her cheek. “But Bella—”

“It was just sex,” I interrupted her, knowing full well that I was lying to her and myself. No matter how much I wanted to ignore it, there was something between me and Noah. Something that probably had been bubbling under the surface, disguising itself as hate and loathing.

“Well, this is perfect,” she said, clapping in her hands.


“You can use him to break his heart for a change.”

I swallowed hard, wondering how the fuck I was going to change her image of Noah. Because mine had already been altered, making a full one-eighty.

“I guess,” I mumbled, rubbing the back of my neck.

“Finally, some payback. Make him fall in love with you, and then—” she snapped her fingers, “—you’ll break him.”

I forced out a chuckle, grateful for our waiter when he came to collect our plates and ask if we wanted a dessert.

“Oh! Yes, I need chocolate,” Maria moaned, completely distracted as she received a menu.

We didn’t stay long after we finished dinner, and with nerves swarming my stomach, I unlocked the front door when I came home.

It would be the first time Noah and I would see each other after last night, and I had no idea what to expect. Would he regret it? Tell me it was a one-time thing?

I jumped when the door opened, and my brother appeared.

He seemed equally surprised to see me—almost like I caught him doing something illegal—but he gave me a quick smile and walked away.

“Uhm...” I trailed off, watching him get in his car.

He gave me a final wave while he drove off, and I shrugged before getting into the house. He’s a grown man, he can do whatever he wants.

“Hi,” I heard softly when I walked into the living room, and I looked up at Noah. He was sitting on the couch, nursing a cold beer and staring at the television.

“Hi,” I replied, dropping my keys on the dinner table and getting a glass of water from the kitchen.

I didn’t have to look to know that he followed me, and I slowly turned around, placing my water on the counter behind me.

“I just wanted to say—” Noah started, and I already didn’t like where this was going.

“It meant nothing?” I filled in, my voice calm but my heart thumping loudly in my chest. Some part of me didn’t expect it, the rest did. But I was still disappointed.

However, he surprised me. “No, it did.”

I quickly looked up, staring into those mesmerizing green eyes. “But...”

“It can’t happen again.” He shifted on his feet, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Why not?” I questioned softly, looking at my shoes because I knew for a fact that my face had turned bright red.

Noah sighed, leaning back against the wall. “I just can’t do it. I don’t want you to get hurt, and—”

“I won’t,” I quickly said, taking a step in his direction. I had no idea what I was doing but I was like I had no control over my body anymore.

“You won’t?” He closed the distance between us and gently grabbed my jaw, turning my head to the left to reveal my neck. “Look what I did to you.”

I placed my hand over his, feeling an ache in my chest because of the painful look on his face.

“I...did people hurt you in prison?” I blurted out, asking the question that had been on my mind for weeks now.

He frowned, letting me go and taking a step back.


It was a very firm answer, and if I wasn’t so intoxicated by him, it would’ve scared me. No, what scared me was that he got hurt another way, maybe a worse way.

He slouched back against the wall, and I walked up to him, placing a hand on his cheek.

“Whatever it is,” I said softly, tracing the contours of his face. “It will get better.”

He didn’t respond. His eyes dropped to the floor, or my neck—I couldn’t tell.

When he looked back up, I leaned in, ready to take what I had been craving all day, but before our lips touched, the doorbell rang.

I huffed, quickly letting Noah go. “I’ll get it.”

As I turned to the front door, I saw him run his hands over his face.

Who would be at the door at this hour?

When I opened it, I came face to face with a woman I had never seen in my life. Her green eyes were surrounded by fine lines and they looked tired, yet I could still see a little sparkle in them.

Brown locks were cut into a long bob, and her lips were painted a bright pink.

“Uhm, hello,” I said, wondering what this total stranger was doing at the house in the middle of the night.

“Hi, is this Noah’s house?” she asked, tucking her hair behind her ears.

“Leah?” Noah said from behind me, and I frowned.

So did the woman, who narrowed her eyes at him. “Oh, don’t call me that, I’m your mother.”

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