Twisted Love (Twisted 1) - Page 29

“I will destroy him.” Alex’s words sliced through the air like lethal blades of ice. Goosebumps blossomed on my skin and I shivered, my teeth chattering from the cold. “Everything he has ever touched, everyone he has ever loved. I will ruin them until they’re nothing more than a pile of ashes at your feet.”

I should’ve been terrified by the leashed violence flickering in the car, but I felt oddly safe. I always felt safe around him.

“I’m not crying because of Liam.” I took a deep breath. “Let’s not talk or think about him anymore, okay? Let’s salvage the rest of the night. Please.”

I needed to take my mind off everything that happened tonight, or I’d scream.

A few beats passed before Alex relaxed his shoulders, though his face remained tight. “What do you have in mind?”

“Food would be good.” I’d been too nervous to eat at the gala, and I was starving. “Something greasy and bad for you. You’re not one of those health nuts, are you?”

His body was so cut he looked like he subsisted on lean protein and green shakes.

Disbelief shadowed his eyes before he let out a short laugh. “No, Sunshine, I’m not one of those health nuts.”

Ten minutes later, we pulled up in front of a diner that looked like it served nothing but food that was bad for you.


Heads swiveled in our direction when we walked into the diner. I couldn’t blame them. It isn’t every day you see a duo in black-tie enter a roadside diner. I’d tried my best to fix myself so I was presentable before I left the car, but there’s only so much a girl can do without her makeup bag.

Something warm and silky enveloped me, and I realized Alex had taken off his jacket and draped it over my shoulders.

“It’s cold,” he said when I shot him a questioning look. He glared at a group of guys who were ogling me—or rather, my breasts—from a nearby table.

I didn’t protest. It was cold, and my gown didn’t cover much.

I also didn’t protest when Alex insisted we sit in the back and positioned me in the booth facing the wall, so I was out of the other diners’ sight.

We placed our orders, and I shifted beneath the weight of his stare.

“Tell me what happened in the car.” For once, his tone was gentle, not commanding. “If not Liam, what made you…”

“Freak out?” I fiddled with a loose strand of hair. No one knew about my lost memories or nightmares except my family and closest friends, but I had a strange urge to spill the truth to Alex. “I had a…flashback. Of something that happened when I was young.” I’d been in denial all these years, telling myself they were fictional nightmares instead of fragmented flashbacks, but I couldn’t lie any longer.

I swallowed hard before I told Alex, in halting sentences, about my past—or what I remembered of it. It wasn’t the lighthearted conversation I’d envisioned when I’d suggested we “salvage the rest of the night,” but I felt ten times lighter by the time I finished.

“They told me it was my mom,” I said. “My parents were going through a nasty divorce, and apparently, my mom had some sort of breakdown and pushed me into the lake, knowing I couldn’t swim. I would’ve drowned had my dad not come by to drop off some papers and seen what happened. He saved me, and my mom’s condition deteriorated further until she killed herself. They told me I was lucky to be alive but…” I drew in a shuddering breath. “Sometimes, I don’t feel lucky.”

Alex had listened patiently the entire time, but his eyes flickered dangerously at my last statement. “Don’t say that.”

“I know. It’s super self-pitying, which is not what I want. But what you said at the gala earlier? About me craving love? You’re right.” My chin wobbled. Call me crazy, but something about being tucked away this corner of a random diner, sitting across from a man who I thought didn’t even like me until a few hours ago, made me voice my most insidious thoughts. “My mom tried to kill me. My dad barely pays attention to me. Parents are supposed to be the most loving forces in their children’s lives, but…” A tear slipped down my cheek, and my voice broke. “I don’t know what I did wrong. Maybe if I tried harder to be a good daughter—”

“Stop.” Alex’s hand curled around mine on the table. “Don’t blame yourself for fucked-up things other people do.”

“I try not to, but…” Another shaky breath. “That’s why Liam cheating on me hurt so much. I wasn’t really in love with him, so I wasn’t heartbroken per se, but he’s yet another person who was supposed to love me but didn’t.” My chest ached. If I wasn’t the problem, why did this keep happening to me? I tried to be a good person. A good daughter, good girlfriend…but no matter how hard I tried, I always ended up hurt.

I had Josh and my friends, but there was a difference between platonic love and the deep bonds that bound a person to their parents and significant other. At least, there was supposed to be.

“Liam is an idiot and an asshole,” Alex said flatly. “If you let lesser people determine your self-worth, you’ll never reach higher than their limited imagination.” He leaned forward, his expression intense. “You don’t have to work overtime to get people to love you, Ava. Love isn’t earned, it’s given.”

My heart rattled in my chest. “I thought you didn’t believe in love.”

“Personally? No. But love is like money. Its worth is determined by those who believe in it. And you obviously do.”

Such a cynical, Alex way to look at it, but I appreciated his straightforwardness.

“Thank you,” I said. “For listening to me and…everything.”

He released my hand, and I curled it into a light fist, mourning his warmth.

“If you really want to thank me, you’ll take Krav Maga lessons.” Alex arched an eyebrow, and I laughed softly, grateful for the small break. It’d been a heavy night.

“Okay, but you have to sit for a portrait with me.”

The idea came to me on a whim, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I’d never wanted to photograph someone as much as I wanted to photograph Alex. I wanted to peel back those layers and reveal the fire I knew beat within that cold, beautiful chest.

Alex’s nostrils flared. “You’re negotiating with me.”

“Yes.” I held my breath, hoping, praying…

“Fine. One session.”

I couldn’t hold back my smile.

I was right. Alex Volkov did have a multilayered heart.

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