Beneath These Lies (Page 52)

“Go to bed, kid. Get back to your life, and keep an eye on Valentina when I can’t.”


She gave me another brilliant smile and spun before heading down the hallway toward the guest room.

I wanted nothing more than to go climb in bed with Valentina upstairs, but the studio drew me in. It was like a window into her thoughts and feelings, and one I knew I was never supposed to see.

The piece on the easel wasn’t finished, but seeing it rocked me all the same.

This one wasn’t of a person, it was two partial people, walking down a tree-lined path, holding hands. One tanned the color of my skin, and the other pale like Valentina’s.

Trinity’s words rolled through my brain. Happily ever after. Babies. Those things had never existed as a possibility in my world. Could they?

Something about the woman sleeping upstairs made me refuse to rule them out.

I crept up the creaky old staircase, avoiding the noisy treads. It was telling that I knew what steps to avoid when I wanted to be silent.

As much as I wanted to slide inside Valentina while she was still half-asleep, I didn’t wake her tonight as I climbed between her pristine white sheets. There was a kid in the house, and when I took Valentina again, I wanted her screaming my name.

THE SUN SHINING BRIGHTLY THROUGH the bay window in my bedroom woke me gradually until I registered the heat against my back and the arm wrapped around me. My eyes snapped open.

He was here.

And he hadn’t woken me.

I turned in his arms and found him wide awake. “How long have you been here?”

“A while.”

“How long have you been awake?”

“A while.”

I flipped the sheet back so I could get a look at his side. A clean bandage covered it. My hair fell into my face as my gaze darted back up to his and I asked, “Are you okay?”

Rix nodded and reached up to tuck my hair behind my ear. “I’m fine. Your girl’s fine. So I’d say life is pretty good.”

“You got hurt getting her out, though. Tell me what happened.”

The soft smile on Rix’s face faded a few degrees. “You don’t need to know anything except that she’s back and she’s fine. No harm to her.”

I gritted my teeth. The man was ridiculously stubborn. “I need to know.”

Rix shook his head. “No, you don’t. It’s better for everyone if you don’t ask questions.”

I pushed up on one elbow and propped my other hand on my hip. “I’m asking questions, dammit. And I want answers. Trinity wouldn’t tell me anything because you ordered her not to, and you said you’d fill me in.”

“I just did.”

I was going to scream. “You didn’t fill me in on a damn thing. Nothing. I know nothing.”

Rix tugged my propped arm, and I fell toward him. Before I could untangle myself, he had me pinned beneath him, both arms over my head, rendering me helpless.

“What are you doing?”

He pressed a hard kiss to my mouth to silence me. When he lifted his face, his expression brooked no argument. “I’m explaining how things work.”

“I’m not going to like how things work, am I?”

He didn’t respond, just waited, eyebrow raised, as if expecting me to keep protesting.

I didn’t, instead opting to wait for whatever he was about to decree.

“Maybe, maybe not. But either way it doesn’t change a thing. The less you know, the better. So that means you’re gonna know as little as possible about what goes on in my world. There’s nothing good there, and you don’t need to be any part of it.”

I bristled at his pronouncement, but not because of the reason he would expect. “You’re in your world, so there has to be something good.”

Rix’s expression was almost pained. “Trust me when I say I’m not good either. And if you want to call this off right now because you can’t handle what I’ve got to offer, then do it. Tell me to go. You got your girl back. That’s what you needed from me, so if there was ever a time to drop my ass, it’s now. Do it before this goes any further.”

He caught me off guard completely. “Drop your ass? You think the reason I haven’t called the cops when you continually break into my house and sneak into my bed is because I only wanted Trinity back? Are you insane?” I struggled beneath him, trying to break free. It didn’t work. “If I recall correctly, you laid out some asinine requirement that I sleep with you for payback, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who can follow the chain of events here because that happened before. You didn’t have to extort anything from me because I gave it to you freely. Does that make it sound like I want to drop you now that she’s safe?”

I’d finally made my decision. And now he was throwing it back in my face? Oh. Hell. No. That’s not how this was going to work.

Rix hadn’t said anything yet, and I was ready to drag the words out of him.

“Let me up,” I demanded.

He shook his head. “No. I’m still deciding what to do with you.”

“You don’t get to decide what to do with me. I do. And I’m ready to shake some sense into you.”

His chest shook until a deep laugh echoed through my room.

“You’re one of a kind.” He lowered his forehead so it rested on mine. “I don’t deserve you. Shouldn’t be here. But I’m not goin’ anywhere. You’re stuck with me, duchess. You had your out. I’m keepin’ you.”

I strained upward and pressed my lips to his. “Good thing I’d already decided I was keeping you.”