GAGE STOPPED MID STRIDE AS I EXITED the room. His gaze connected with mine and both of us froze. He had been walking towards the door, not away from it, and that stunned me.
“What were you about to do?” I questioned. There was a good amount of hallway between us, giving me the confidence to step towards him and away from the closed door.
The lines of his jaw clenched, and his eyes burned into me. Then he nodded to the room behind me. “I was going to get you.”
His words washed away a heavy weight. He wasn’t just going to leave me. That knowledge made me light headed with relief. He saw that, and I hated it.
“Come on.” He turned, walking away again.
“No.” I rebounded from the weightlessness with a surge of anger and planted my feet where I stood.
“What?” He turned back around, voice like smoke, and fire filling his gaze. His anger sizzled in him, barely contained.
“I’m not going, not unless you talk to me.” I raised my chin and took a step towards him, the air too thick to catch my breath. “Promise you’ll talk to me when we get back to the hotel.”
His eyes narrowed into slits and his face twisted in a sneer. “Why? Why should I promise you anything?”
It took all my strength not to budge, not to fold at the verbal blow he delivered. But there was no power left in my voice, and it came out in strained whisper. “I’m your wife.”
“Then act like it.” He crossed the space separating us, crowding me against the wall but not touching me. His face was in mine, hot liquored breath invading my senses, smelling just as venomous as he sounded. “Quit submitting to other men.”
“Excuse me?” I didn’t have to fake my strength then, my anger gave me all I needed. “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t submit to anyone. Don’t you accuse me—”
“You were in the room with him for five minutes.” He stood tall, looking down on me. “Five-fucking-minutes, but he had you all week.”
The anger was draining from me, he wasn’t accusing me of anything other than what I told him. But he had it wrong. “It wasn’t like that. I was scared—”
“Then you come to me. Damn it, Regan—” His fist curled in his hair and he stepped back, sucking in his breath as he looked down the empty hall. When his eyes met mine again, they were clear, making his words that much sharper. Like they were fact and not emotion. “You let him in and let him mind fuck you all week before you finally broke and told me. And that’s while he’s still in prison.”
I didn’t realize he had been stalking towards me or that I had been retreating until my back hit the surface behind me.
He braced his palm on the wall next to my head and leaned in close. His voice slow and smooth, the fumes of alcohol wrapping around me. “What are you going to allow when he’s out? How much power are you going to give that man?” Emotion seeped back into his words, his breathing deepening and voice thickening. His fingers curled and scratched the wall beside me, but his eyes held all my attention, the intensity in them sucking me in. “When it’s me you should turn to?”
“I’m sorry. I—”
“Forget it.” He cut off my words and stepped out of my reach when I tried to grab him. “I’m putting a stop to it. He’s going to learn he can’t mess with my family.” He took steps back, steps away from me.
And suddenly it clicked; he was leaving tomorrow morning to go see him. It would be Saturday, visiting day at the prison. He couldn’t do that. I fell against the wall behind me for support, fear growing, twisting and constricting through me. “What are you going to do? You’re not going to see him, are you?”
“I’m going to figure out what game he’s playing at and end it. Him and Nikolai, they both played me for a fool, setting up that fucking meeting to get to you.”
“Please,” I was near tears, begging him. I gripped his arm, not letting go of the fabric as he tried to pull away. “Don’t go there. Don’t. Nothing good can come of it.”
He stopped moving back, but stood statue still, body not budging or softening as I gripped him. He closed his eyes, hissing in a sharp breath. “You’re still thinking about him, giving him the control. I’m taking it back.”
I dropped my arms, staggered that he was being so short sighted. “I’m thinking about the baby. It’s not just us that could get hurt, and he made it clear—”
“I would never put you or the baby in harm. I’m ending it before…” His words trailed off as another door opened and a group of men stepped out, coming down the hall towards us.
Gage stepped close to me, sliding his arm around me, speaking low. “Come on, we’re leaving. We’ll talk about this at the hotel.” He walked us down the hall, arm secure around me. His heated body was rigid at my side, making the embrace cold.
The moment we ducked into the back of a waiting car, he dropped his arm from my side and kept a space between us as we rode to our hotel. The chill increased between us, freezing my thoughts. I didn’t know how to thaw him. I wasn’t sure I wanted to. His words were picking away at me as I replayed them. The only thing I knew was that he couldn’t go to that prison. He couldn’t confront Rusnak. That was exactly what I had wanted to avoid.
By time we reached the room, everything in me stung, needle pricks covering me as I struggled for air, my lungs seizing. I couldn’t hold in the tears, and like a gunshot starting the race, I went into action the moment the door clicked close. I had to win, losing wasn’t an option.
“Please. I’m sorry, but please don’t go there. Don’t tell him I told you. Don’t do this to us, to me.”
He was staring at me like I had gone crazy. His rigid anger covered with confusion as he watched me fall apart. But I put all pride aside to fight for this. I had to get him to listen. I approached him and grabbed his hands in mine, but he held them limp. I searched his eyes for any reaction.
“Please, Gage. This one thing. I’m asking for just this one thing.”
He ripped his hands away, anger back and stronger than ever. “You ask too much.”
I gripped my stomach at the icy blast he sent my way. I couldn’t find my voice.
“I’m supposed to let him walk around thinking he has a piece of you. Why the hell would you want that?”
“I don’t want you to get hurt.” I sunk to my knees, crumbling, losing everything around me.
He took a breath, forcing down the anger. I could see him struggling with it, wresting the tension pulling on every muscle. “You have to trust me on this Regan.” His voice was strained, but when he crouched in front of me, his touch was light as his fingers slid to my cheek. “I know what I’m doing here.”
I closed my eyes and absorbed his gentle caress on my cheek, but it didn’t lift any of the terror crushing me.
His other hand slid to the opposite side of my head, turning me to look up at him, if I opened my eyes. I moved my hands over his and gripped them, a silent stream of tears flowing straight from my sliced heart.
“Regan.” He increased the pressure of his hold, and I opened my eyes. He was still determined and that only increased my pain. “I need you to trust me to do what’s best for us. Let me do this my way.”
I shook my head no, and he tried to drop his hands, but I held tight. “Wait. Just wait, all right? Wait till he gets out, if he gets out. Don’t go to that prison. There’d be nothing you could do but talk, and if things go wrong, there’s nobody there that can help.”
He looked away towards the wall, but he was in his own mind, jaw clenching with his thoughts.
“If he gets out, then we can decide what to do about him,” I pressed.
His eyes cut back to me, embers of his anger still glowing in them.
“You want me to trust you. I want to trust you. But you’re scaring the crap out of me right now.”
That seemed to hit something in him. He released a breath, eyes searching my face as his brows came together. “I’m scaring you? It wasn’t that long ago that you were under his control, pushing me away and turning to him. I can’t fucking handle that again. Not now. Not ever.”
I dropped my head, shamed by the past. “That won’t happen. I won’t let it.” I spoke so low I’d be surprised if he heard me.
He hooked one finger under my chin and lifted it back up. His voice soft but filled with strength, surety. “No, it won’t happen again because you are mine. All of you. And I won’t let him take any part of that.”
I swallowed down my tears, catching a spark from him to strengthen my own flame. “I’m yours. You have all of me, I gave it all to you. Now it’s your turn to trust me. This isn’t something you need to fight for right now. Trust that I won’t let him that close, and I’ll tell you if he tries. I will turn to you. I won’t wait, I promise. Just, please, don’t do anything yet.”
His nod was barely there, but I saw it and fell into him. His arms wrapped around me, catching me, pulling me close.
My relief was tempered when I tried to kiss him and he turned away. I leaned back in his arms to try and interpret his feelings, but his expression was too mixed to decipher. His soft lips pulled down and jaw flexed, a storm behind his eyes. My heart skipped at the thought that I maybe misread that nod to begin with. “You’re not going tomorrow, right?”
He shook his head, eyes bouncing over me before meeting mine. “I don’t want to regret this.” His sigh was heavy and full of unease. “I’m doing this for you because I see how upset it’s getting you and…” He shook his head, looking away from me and then turning back, hands sliding to my stomach. “I don’t want to cause you any pain. I don’t want to be the one that scares you. I want to protect you and the baby. I want to do this my way, but,” he silenced me before I could interrupt. “I’m willing to try your way under one condition.”
Needle pricks covered my skin, unsure about his request. “What?”
His hand trailed through my hair, tugging at the end of the strands. His fingers shook and that made my heart tumble to my stomach.
“What is it?” I grabbed his hand and pulled it to my chest as I raised to my knees to be on his level. “Just tell me.”
His mouth opened and closed a few times, but in the end he shook his head, defeated. “It’s nothing. I thought—but no, never mind. Just—when Anatoli gets out, because I know it’s only a matter of when now, we have to do things my way. No arguments.”
I paused, thinking over his request. As much as I wanted to give him whatever he wanted, I couldn’t. “I can’t promise that, but,” I gripped his shoulders, silencing him this time. “I can promise I’ll talk with you, and not do anything you don’t want me to in regards to him. But we have to work together on this, baby.” I don’t know why baby slipped out; I rarely used that term, if ever. But his lip twitched, turning up for a brief second.
He slid his hands into my hair, gripping my head. “Fine.” His eyes dropped over me, the fire in them morphing into something different, something primal. “Just say it again,” his grip tightened as he dropped his head to my ear. His voice was a low growl, sending shivers of sensation over me, radiating from my core. “Who’s are you?”
I leaned back, my laugh mixing with a moan as his lips attached to my neck, sucking on my skin. His hands slid down my back, supporting me so I could arch into his lips. In the pleasure he started, I let go of the pain, of my worry, and sought escape in him. But I saw it, how crazy we were. We both whipped from one emotion to the next, dropping it all for this, for each other’s touches and caresses.
He nudged my shirt down with his chin and dipped his tongue into my cleavage for a moment before pulling back, his firm hands gripping me. “Whose, Regan?” His rasp was demanding and something in it made me ache between my legs.
I moved to straddle him, to press myself on him. Meeting his eyes, I answered, “Yours.” Then I sucked his bottom lip between my teeth, pulling away before he could press further. “Who do you belong to?”
His chest rose and fell as he met my eyes, even his slight smile was heart stopping and he had my stomach doing flips when he licked his lips. With quickness he had me on my back on the floor, under him. “Yours, babe. Heart. Soul.” His hips ground into me. “And body.”