Beneath These Scars (Page 48)

That was when I realized it.

I slapped his broad shoulder. “You didn’t use a condom, you idiot. What the hell were you thinking?”

Titan pulled away, his nostrils still flaring, but this time with rage. “Don’t call me a fucking idiot.” He ripped off his T-shirt and threw it at me. “You can clean up with that. And you can find your own way out.” He snatched his shorts off the floor and shoved his legs into them before striding out of the room.

And there I sat, on the desk of the richest man I’d ever met, one who apparently had tried to set me on the right course to achieve my dream, and I felt like a bigger whore than my mother. My stomach twisted until I thought I’d be sick on his fancy carpet.

What the hell had just happened? What the hell had I done? Had I found a chink in Titan’s impenetrable armor?

And what was I going to do now?

I cleaned myself up, thanking heaven that I was on the pill and hoping Titan hadn’t been screwing around with every woman who’d tossed her panties his way. Then I slid off the desk.

As I saw it, I had two choices. I could follow him, or I could leave.

I DOVE INTO THE POOL and began cutting through the water. The rhythmic motion of my strokes could always calm my temper, but not tonight. Tonight I was on the edge. She’d better not follow me. She just needed to leave.

But, goddamn it, she has no way to get home.

I wouldn’t let myself care. I wasn’t a good guy. Besides, Yve was a smart woman. Both street smart and business savvy, she could take care of herself in any situation.

Except with every stroke, the almost faded scars on her body flashed through my mind. They weren’t obvious, and neither she nor I had mentioned them. Hell, she hadn’t even tried to cover them up—a faint slice on her arm, and starbursts on her knuckles where it looked like she’d been in a fight.

For as well as she hid it, she was vulnerable. Just, apparently, like I was.

I knew I should have burned that goddamn desk. I’d spent too many years being called to the carpet in front of it and told what a waste of time, money, and life I was. Idiot was a favorite endearment of my father’s. Dumbass. Moron. Imbecile, if he was already cracking into the vodka. Hearing that word in the vicinity of the desk had thrown me in a way I’d never anticipated. Ever.

I should feel guilt right now for leaving her sitting there with her legs spread and my cum spilling from her body. But I didn’t. I felt shame. Shame for being my father’s son. Shame for being my father’s killer. Shame for wanting a woman who would probably always hate me for no other reason than I was who I was. And how did I deal with that? Give her more reason to hate me by not protecting her.

God, she’d laugh in my face if I told her that it would be fine if she got pregnant. We’d handle it together. And by handle it, I didn’t mean take care of it. A heartless bastard like me wasn’t allowed to want the things that anyone else wanted, and I’d never admit that I did.

But, goddamn it, now that I had the thought in my head, I couldn’t stop seeing Yve in my house, pregnant with my kid. She’d be a fiercely protective mother, standing between her child and any potential threat. She was a lioness—proud, strong, and devastating to anyone who crossed her. The boy in me, the one who’d lost his mother and faced the wrath of his father without protection, wanted that for my children.

And yet, Yve wasn’t the kind of woman I should want. I should be picking out a former debutante, a Junior Leaguer, someone who would cement my place in society. That would be the good business move.

I kept swimming, I had no idea for how long, and part of me kept hoping to hear the click of Yve’s heels on the tile floor. But it never came. So I swam until my arms, chest, and legs burned.

As I climbed out of the pool and surveyed the empty room, I decided that whatever it was we’d been doing, it was done.

I TOSSED AND TURNED FOR hours. This time it wasn’t fear of Jay or the bogeyman that kept me up. No. It was the look on Titan’s face when he’d thrown his shirt at me and told me to find my own way out.

I’d watched from the hallway while he’d gone lap after lap like a man possessed. I had more sense than to walk into a lion’s den, and that was exactly what the pool room had resembled. I had one skill honed above all others—self-preservation—and every instinct had told me approaching him was not in my best interest. Whatever he was trying to swim an ocean’s length to be free of, it was bigger than what had happened between us.

I didn’t need that kind of baggage in my life. I didn’t need someone else’s problems when I could barely cope with my own. Like my long-lost ex-husband who might or might not be out to get me.

I rolled over again and stared at the clock.

Five a.m. It was a decent hour of the morning. Late enough that I could get up without having to admit that I’d been chased from my bed by bad dreams and monsters. So I did. And that was when I smelled it.


What the hell?

Instinct borne of nothing more than that self-preservation I prized so dearly sent me into action. I threw on jeans and a shirt and shoved my feet into flip-flops, then grabbed my purse off the table and ran out the door. I dialed my cell phone as I headed toward my parking spot.

But I didn’t make it to the alley on two feet. No, I made it there on my hands and knees as the force of the building behind me exploding heaved me to the ground.

“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” I chanted over and over again. I looked over my shoulder and brilliant orange—a color I’d never in a million years forget—blazed high into the gray sky.