She trembled in my hold, her tongue wetting her bottom lip. “What have you done?” True fear licked through her stare. “What did you do, Kas?”
I slid my hand from her sternum to her throat, closing my fingers around the column of muscle. “Something that I can’t undo. Something that means you can’t stay here anymore.”
She went unnervingly still, highly aware of my fingers locked around her neck. “Kas...”
“I’m not well,” I groaned, part of me loving her sudden wariness and the other part screaming to stop. Two sides of me. Two sides that would forever rule and condemn me. “I think you already know that though, don’t you?” I ran my thumb over her silky skin, seeing faint bruises from the previous times I’d hurt her.
How many marks had I left on her?
How many souvenirs of ownership that were never meant to be given?
“Kas, look at me,” she murmured, twisting her head a little, asking silently for me to release my grip. I loosened my hold, even though it cost me. Even though I continued to battle between the good and the bad and the monster inside me.
“Tell me what you did. Did you remember something? Did you do something in your sleep?”
Fuck, her worry was all about my welfare, not hers.
She searched my face for signs that I was the one hurting. She didn’t for a second fear for herself. Her kindness reached into my chest and ripped out my godforsaken heart.
Tipping forward, I wedged my forehead against hers. I breathed her in. I smelled faint threads of woodsmoke and papaya.
Something hissed on my memories—slithering like a snake, hissing with a forked tongue with things I didn’t want to remember. Things that made sweat roll down my spine.
“What did you do, Kas?” She nudged her nose with mine, shattering me into pieces.
I pressed my body against hers, aligning our hips, grazing my lips over her mouth.
I fell in love with you.
The sentence flew into my head, loud, obnoxious, flapping on wings made of worry. I tasted them on my tongue. I felt them in the back of my throat. It would be the biggest confession of my life. A heart-breaking admittance that I no longer wanted to be this man. This loner. This beast.
I wanted to be better.
I wanted to deserve her.
But I’d never deserve her.
And I couldn’t tell her how I felt because then she’d never leave. She’d stay. For me. She’d stay because she’d believe there was hope. That I’d finally allowed light into my darkness. That this was a beginning where I only saw an end.
“Kas...” She arched her chin, pressing her mouth firmly to mine. “Talk to me. What’s wrong? You can tell me anything. You can trust me—”
I couldn’t fight it anymore.
Tomorrow, I would march her out of my valley at gunpoint if I had to.
Tonight, I would indulge one last time. I would say goodbye in the only way I could.
I kissed her.
Slow and shallow, I licked at the seam of her lips, my body locking with need as she shivered. Her head fell back, and her mouth opened, giving herself over to me in an instant.
My stomach coiled. My balls tightened. I grew agonizingly hard.
I love you.
My hand unlatched from around her throat, dropping down her front to palm her breast.
She cried out as I squeezed, her tongue twisting with mine.
A hiss of something black coated my thoughts. A memory I had no intention of remembering. The doors between me and my past opened wide, and my walls smashed into rubble.
I should pull away.
I should stop before I no longer knew what was real and what was not.
I should toss her out of this mansion before my lust switched to violence, and she suffered.
But her hands wrapped around my nape, pulling me into her, shattering my willpower. She sucked in a breath as I deepened the kiss, sinking into her taste. Her tiny gasp ignited the fire between us, placing us in a vortex of crackling lust.
“He loves you so much,” I groaned, pinching her nipple, fondling her. “And I took you away from him.”
“Who? Josh?” Her back arched, gifting up more of her flesh. “He’s my brother. He’s biologically programmed to love me.”
“He’d murder me if he knew what I’ve done to you.” I captured her mouth in a fierce, viscous kiss.
She moaned as I dropped my hand down her front, cupping between her legs. Her hazel eyes darkened to golden brown. “When you meet him, I’ll promise to protect you from his wrath.”
I kissed her again.
I kissed her with tongue and teeth and pain. So much fucking pain because she still thought this was our beginning when I knew different.
This was our end.
This was all we could ever have.
I’d been selfish long enough, and it was time to fix everything I’d done wrong.