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As we pass Riley at the door, he flatly says, “Stay away from her.”

“If you f**king hurt her—” Riley starts, but Greyson cuts him off.

“No, if you touch her again, I’ll kill you.”

Greyson’s words—if you touch her again, I’ll kill you—send a chill through me.

Riley takes a step forward but I lift my hand to stop him and shake my head in a frantic no. I can’t bear to risk Riley and I’ve never—ever—seen Greyson like this. His whole body crackles with unleashed energy as he carries me to the service elevators, holding me in one arm as he murmurs into his phone, “Back service entrance,” and then he tucks the phone into his slacks and presses me even tighter to his chest.

Tighter than ever.

We’re alone in the elevator, and though he’s quiet, he’s wearing an expression I’ve never seen before.

I think I’m going to vomit.

We exit into the underground parking lot, the cool air biting into my legs and cheeks, and I close my eyes and duck against the cold, feeling utterly miserable when the heat of his body rises up to warm me. I wonder if she licked his skin. Slid her fingers into his hair. If he calls her princess too.

I briefly hear a car motor start nearby, and when I look up, Greyson is looking at me. When our eyes lock, my nerves sizzle down to my toes. My body is screaming possessively for me to claim this man from any other woman. But no. Greyson might drive my body crazy, but I just realize he can never, ever be the man for me.

He’s a cheater.

A liar.

And he’s very, very mad right now.

A car pulls over in front of us and he yanks open the back door and as he guides me into the backseat, all this confusion rears up in me, and all the alcohol in my system isn’t helping.

He climbs in behind me, settles to my right, and slams the door, then a gloved hand cups my face and forces me to turn, where he looks at me with frustration carved on his hard jaw. “Sometimes I won’t be able to tell you everything about my work. I do it to protect you.”

“Fuck you! I saw you holding her hand. I saw you—”

“You saw me working, Melanie. That’s all you saw.”

“I saw you giving her a present, motherfucker! How on earth would a security job involve that, huh?” I push him away and he curses under his breath. “Do you feel like a big man, having lots of women panting after you? All of them deluded? Thinking they’re special to you?”

“Jesus, listen to you!”

“That’s right, and hear me well, Greyson, this is the last time I’m played! Do you hear me?” I rap on the limo ceiling, hoping Derek hears, but he doesn’t stop the car.

Greyson laughs in dark disbelief, then he rakes his hands through his hair and stares outside, his hands in fists, and I stare unseeingly out at the passing storefronts, stubbornly clinging to my anger and insecurities.

“I’m on to you, Greyson. What’s in your secret steel room? Porn? Is that where you Skype with . . . who the f**k is she?”

Until he interrupts, softly, “I saw your lipstick on another man’s mouth and I can still go back and break it until he can’t find his f**king teeth. Hell, I want you to watch me break it if only so you know, once and for all, that you’re my f**king girl and the only lucky bastard getting a piece of my girl is me.”

“Was!” I drunkenly correct. “Was your girl.”

He laughs more darkly. “You are so f**king mine you don’t even know how mine you are,” he says in a soft, threatening voice, and in my drunk brain, I suddenly register that he’s trembling with rage. He’s not worried about me having just caught him cheating. It seems all his thoughts are on his selfish jealousy. But I can’t even remember what happened in Riley’s room, all I keep remembering is Greyson and that bitch.

“You walked past me like you’d never seen me before!” I cry, hitting his chest.

He catches my wrist and squeezes. “Because I don’t want a woman like her to use you against me—anybody to use you against me. Do you understand me? Do you, baby?” he asks, lowering his voice, tender, almost pleading.

“I understand you are a liar and a cheater and you didn’t want HER to know you also had ME waiting on the side!”

“Fuck! Seriously? You were in another guy’s f**king room, stripping for him! Were you trying to drive me insane?” Suddenly the vivid pain in his eyes is real. The pain in his voice is real, so real my chest cracks open like glass. “Were you really intending to go through with it? Were you honestly going to let that motherfucker inside you?” he asks, every word like a shard inside me.

“YES!” I cry.

He shudders as if he’s breaking, and I start sobbing for real.

He releases me like he needs some distance, his voice trembling with more than anger. It’s pain, and it wrecks me. “Do you think you can f**k someone to replace me? Do you think he’ll make you feel the way I do? Was I nothing special to you, Melanie? Do you fall in love with every ass**le you date?”

A tear runs down my cheek.

He slams a hand to the window and curses. “Fuck this.”

“It hurts,” I sniffle, talking to myself as I lower my hands. “You hurt me like nobody’s ever hurt me, Greyson! I can’t stop thinking about it. Do you call her princess? Do you spend your weekdays with her and your weekends with me?”

He stays silent, gazing out the window, his shoulders tight. “I don’t call anyone else princess. I don’t spend time with any woman but you. Hell, I work my days around just so I can come home to you.”

“Then why are you here with her? I’m not big on second chances, you know! But I’ve given you every f**king chance you’ve wanted!” I cry.

“She is nothing.” He grabs my face with his free hand, hissing through ground teeth, “She is nothing but a work contact. You are everything, you’ve been everything from the moment I saw you, screaming for Riptide. You didn’t see me, you didn’t see me, Melanie, but I’ve watched over you ever since—you are everything. Can you say the same about me? Can you say the same about him—that he’s nothing?”

I stare blankly at him for a moment. “He’s nothing, he’s a friend, I swear. He was a f**k buddy when I came over to see Brooke sometimes, it meant nothing!”

He stares at his hands. “But he’s touched you.”

I suddenly can’t stop myself from touching my boobs. So much smaller than the redhead’s. “Who was she? What’s her name? How do you know her?”

He rubs his face with both hands. “Just a business contact. She gets the dirty on men I need to negotiate with. I’ve never had a relationship with her. I’ve had a thousand f**ks, but she hasn’t been one of them. My every single f**k for weeks has been you.” He looks out and curses, and I wipe my tears.

I see his face and remember the way he smiled at her and my stomach roils with fresh jealousy. “I wanted to pull her f**king hair out.”

“I want to pull his guts out!” He grabs me by the shoulders. “What part of you being my girl didn’t you understand?”

“I refuse to be yours if you’re not going to be mine. If you f**k around I’m going to f**k around—an eye for an eye!”

“Stop being a stubborn-fool drunk and listen to me. I am not cheating on you—but you were.”

I fall quiet.

“Were you?”

“You and I were over the moment you walked past me and I realized all this time you’ve been lying to me,” I cry, sniveling.

“Come here,” he rasps out.

“Why?”

When I edge a little close, he opens his arm, and my eyes blur more when I think about explaining to him what Riley knows about my secret. “I’m f**king sorry, Melanie,” he says.

He pulls me into his chest and the familiarity in his embrace and the comfort I feel in his arms unexpectedly opens my floodgates.

“I’m sorry too, Grey,” I cry.

I start sobbing harder as he presses a very firm, almost desperate kiss to the crown of my head and squeezes me with almost enough force to break me and says, “It’s going to be okay. You’ll never have to run to another man again because I’m going to be right here. Right here for you, if you still want me after I tell you what I have to tell you.”

I try to wipe my face and look into his eyes. “You made me feel unworthy, Grey. Like you’re hiding me. I don’t know who you are, your parents, your family, I don’t know anything about you. Please, I want to know you. Can’t you see I want to know you,” I sob.

His eyes look haunted as he looks at me. “I hide you to protect you, because you’re my princess.” He strokes my nose. “I’ll tell you about me. Just let me enjoy the way these eyes look at me a little longer.”

He kisses my wet eyelids almost desperately, like what he is telling me is going to be bad, real bad, and like he thinks I won’t be able to stay after I hear it.

I cry harder. I’m used to his touch. His touch is unique, delicious, and I’ve felt it for eight weeks, but I knew one day it was going to break me.

NINETEEN

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