“Not even Deacon?”
Aiden shook his head.
“I feel… honored that you’d share that with me. I know it’s a lot.” I squeezed his arm. “I just wish you’d never had to experience any of that. It wasn’t fair to any of you.”
Several moments passed before he answered. “I had justice for what those daimons did to me. I know it’s different from what you dealt with, but I wanted to give you that justice. I wish I’d told you before.”
“A lot of stuff was going on then,” I said. We hadn’t been talking, and then Caleb’s death happened. My heart didn’t clench as badly as it used to at his name. “I understand what happened with Eric.”
He smiled a little. “It was a knee-jerk reaction.”
“Yeah.” I searched for something to take our minds off everything. We both needed it. My gaze found the acoustic guitar propped against the wall. “Play something for me.”
He rose and picked up the guitar reverently. Walking back to the couch, he sat on the floor in front of me. He tipped his head down and locks of hair fell forward as he fiddled with the knobs along the headstock. His long fingers plucked a pick out from the taunt strings.
He peered up, his lips tipped in a half-smile. “Treachery,” he murmured. “You knew I wouldn’t refuse you.”
I eased down on my side. My stomach rarely ached, but I’d grown accustomed to being careful. “You know it.”
Aiden laughed as he thrummed his fingers on the strings lightly. After a few more moments of adjusting the tone, he started playing. The song was as haunting as it was soft, pitching high for a few strands, and then his fingers slipped down the chords. My suspicious were confirmed. Aiden could play. There wasn’t one wrong slip or falter.
It entranced me.
Resting my head on the throw pillow, I curled up and closed my eyes, letting the melody filling the room drift over me. Whatever he was thrumming on the guitar was soothing, like the perfect lullaby. A smile pulled at my lips. I could totally see him sitting in front of a packed bar, playing tunes that enchanted everyone in the room.
When the song ended, I opened my eyes. He was staring back at me, eyes so soft, so deep, that I never wanted to look away. “That was beautiful.”
Aiden shrugged and gently placed the guitar beside him. He reached up, carefully taking the barely-touched glass of wine from my fingertips. His eyes watched me as he took a sip, and then he set the glass aside, too. Minutes could’ve passed as we stared at each other, neither of us talking.
I didn’t know what came over me, but I reached out and placed a hand on his chest, beside his heart. Under my right hand, there was something hard and teardrop-shaped tucked under his shirt. I’d felt the necklace before and never really paid it much attention, but now there was something… familiar about it.
I sucked in a sharp gasp as comprehension shot through me. Aiden stared back, his eyes incredibly bright. A shiver ran down my spine, spreading across my skin with dizzying speed. I reached up, sliding my fingers under the thin chain.
“Alex,” Aiden ordered, pleaded really. His voice was thick, gruff. “Alex, please…”
I hesitated for an instant, but I had to see it. I just had to. Carefully, I tugged the chain up. My breath caught in my throat as I lifted the chain until it was completely out from underneath his shirt.
Dangling from the silver chain was the black guitar pick I’d gotten him for his birthday. The day I had given it to him he’d told me he didn’t love me. But this… this had to mean something, and my heart was swelling, in danger of bursting.
Speechless, I ran my thumb over the polished gemstone. There was a tiny hole in the top, where the chain threaded through.
Aiden placed his hand over mine, closing my fingers around the guitar pick. “Alex…”
When my eyes met his, there was a brutal level of vulnerability in his stare, a sense of helplessness that I shared. I wanted to cry. “I know” And I did. I knew even if he never spoke those words, even if he refused to, I’d still know.
His lips parted. “Couldn’t fool you for that long, I guess.”
I squeezed my eyes shut, but a tear wiggled its way free, gliding down my cheek.
“Don’t cry.” He caught the tear with his finger as he pressed his forehead against mine. “Please. I hate when you cry because of me.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t want to be all weepy.” I wiped at my cheeks, feeling foolish. “It’s just that… I never did know.”
Aiden clasped the sides of my face, pressing a gentle kiss to my forehead. “I wanted a piece of you with me always. No matter what.”
I shuddered. “But I don’t… I don’t have anything of you.”
“Yes, you do.” Aiden brushed his lips over my damp cheek. A soft smile filled his voice. “You’ll have a piece of my heart—all of it, really. Forever. Even if your heart belongs to someone else.”
My heart tumbled over, but I stilled. “What do you mean?”
He dropped his hands, leaning back. “I know you care about him.”
I did care about Seth. But he wasn’t my heart. When Aiden was there, in front of me, the connection between us was something more than prophecy. My true fate—real and not an illusion. Prophecies are just dreams; Aiden was my reality.
“It’s not the same,” I whispered. “It never has been. You have my heart… and I only want to share my heart with you.”
Aiden’s eyes were back to liquid silver. I saw that before he lowered his gaze. Moments passed before his eyes flicked up, meeting mine. There seemed to be some sort of internal battle he struggled with. When he spoke, I wasn’t sure if he’d won or lost. “We should go to bed.”
A shock ran through me, flushing my skin. But wait—was he suggesting that we go to bed together or that we go to bed in separate beds? I really had no idea, I was too afraid to hope, and oddly, I was frightened by the idea. It was like being offered what I’d waited for so long and suddenly having no idea what to do with it.
Or how to do it.
His lips quirked, and then he stood. Clasping my boneless hands in his, he tugged me to my feet. My legs felt weak. “Go to bed,” he said.
‘“Are… are you coming, too?”
Aiden nodded. “I’ll be up in a few.”
I couldn’t breathe.
“Go,” he urged.
And I went.
I WAS SURE I WAS GOING TO HAVE A HEART ATTACK. Rarely did mortal illnesses plague us, but since I had a cold already, I figured nothing was impossible.
I still couldn’t really breathe.
I brushed my teeth and got the tangles out of my hair. I stared at the obscenely large bed in the middle of the room. I couldn’t decide what to wear. Or should I wear nothing? Oh gods, what was I thinking? It wasn’t like he said he was coming up to have sex. And if he wasn’t and he saw me lying on the bed naked, that would be a whole lot of awkward. Perhaps he just wanted to spend more time with me. Seth issue aside, there was still the whole glaring issue of us not being able to be together.
But he had the pick. He’d had the pick hovering over his heart this entire time.
I pulled on a tank top and sleeping shorts, then started toward the bed. Then I looked down at my arms. In the moonlight streaming in through the window, I could still see the patchy, irregular skin. I didn’t want Aiden to see that. So I changed quickly, pulling on a thin, long-sleeved shirt. I kept the bottoms on. Then I jumped in the bed, pulled the covers up to my chin, and waited.
There was a soft knock on the door a few minutes later. “It’s okay.” I winced at the way my voice croaked.
Aiden came in, shutting and locking the door behind him. He’d changed, too, wearing a pair of dark sleeping pants and a gray tank top that showed off muscular arms. I swallowed nervously and willed my heart to slow down before I spazzed out.
He faced me and went rigid. The room was too shadowed for me to see his expression, and I wished I could, because then I could’ve tried to figure out what he was thinking. Wordlessly, he went to the windows first and drew the blinds. The room was cast into utter darkness, and my fingers dug into the rich comforter. I heard him padding around the room, and then a soft glow appeared. Aiden brought a candle to the bed, setting it down on a small table. He looked at me, expression softened by the candlelight. He smiled.
I started to relax, the blanket easing away from my fingers.
Carefully, he pulled back the covers on his side and climbed in, never once breaking eye contact with me. “Alex?”
He was still smiling. “Relax. I just want to be here with you… if that’s okay?”
“It’s okay,” I whispered.
“Good, because I really don’t want to be anyplace else.”
Oh, the warmth that flooded my chest could’ve had me floating to the stars. I watched him stretch out beside me. My gaze darted to the closed door even though I knew Deacon was nowhere near us. And it wasn’t like he didn’t already suspect something. Or like he cared. I bit my lip, daring a quick look at Aiden. He chin was tipped up and his eyes burned silver, bright, and intense. I couldn’t look away.
Aiden drew in a shallow breath, lifting the arm closest to me. “Come?”
Heart pounding, I scooted over until my leg brushed his. His arm came up, wrapping around my waist. He guided me down so that I was nestled against him, my cheek on his chest.
I could feel his heart racing just as fast as mine. We lay in silence for a little while, and in those minutes, it was like being in paradise. The simple pleasure of being beside him felt so right it really couldn’t be wrong.
Aiden brought his other arm across him, cupping my cheek in his hand. His thumb smoothed over my jaw. “I’m sorry for that day in the gym. For how I talked to you, for how much I hurt you. I just thought I was doing the right thing.”
“I understand, Aiden. It’s okay.”
“It’s not okay. I hurt you. I know I did. I want you to know why I did that,” he said. “After you told me how you felt, at the zoo… it… it shattered my self-control.” Didn’t seem that way, I thought as he continued. “I knew I couldn’t be around you anymore, because I knew I would touch you and I wouldn’t stop.”
I lifted up, staring down at him and opened my mouth to say something that probably would’ve ruined the moment, but I never had the chance. Aiden’s hand found the nape of my neck and pulled me down. His lips met mine, and like every time before, there was this indefinable spark that coursed through us. He made a sound against my lips, kissing me harder and harder.
He pulled back just enough so that his lips brushed mine when he spoke. “I can’t keep pretending that I don’t want this—that I don’t want you. I can’t. Not after what happened to you. I thought… I thought I’d lost you, Alex, forever. And I would’ve lost everything. You are my everything.”
Many emotions rose in me all at once—awe, hope, and love. So much love that everything outside of us vanished in that instant. “This… this is what you’ve been trying to tell me.”