A war of emotions rages in me, my feelings toward him becoming confusing and as painful as anything in my life has ever been.
“I doomed myself to a life of this.” He signals around him. “Maybe I should’ve shot my father. It could’ve been over, right then and there. But blood is a curious thing.” He looks at me, a slight confusion in his hawklike eyes. “It ties you. Even when you loathe your kind, something here . . .” He puts his fists to his chest. “Somewhere here you’re still loyal. I spent eight years with him, believing he’d let me see her. Until I realized he wasn’t ever letting me see her so long as he knew I didn’t really give a shit about him. So I went rogue, dropped him, and tried to find her, doing little jobs in between. I followed every trail I could find. Nothing. She vanished without a trace.”
His bearing is stiff and proud, but I can finally see the chaos in his eyes. I imagine him, a young teenager, torn in two. Using his smarts to survive, while still trying to find and protect his mother.
His every disquieting word races through my mind, his childhood so different from mine that I don’t understand it, almost.
“He’s summoned me back now that he’s dying. He’s got leukemia and he wants me to take the reins of the Underground.” He laughs sadly. “A man like him, I can’t even imagine him sick. But he needs to pass on his torch. Wyatt—I know he’s been more of a son to him than I have. But he wants the alpha.” He pulls out a piece of paper. “When I saw you on this list, you were supposed to be something I worked out of my system. That blonde in my dreams. Then there you were. There you were in the f**king bar with that f**king ass**le trying to take you home—and then there you were, a f**king devil of an angel in the rain.”
“Don’t even talk to me about the rain!”
“You wanted to talk, so I’m talking to you now.” He walks forward, stopping in front of me, the faint smile tugging his lips holding an infinite amount of sadness. “This isn’t how I wanted to spend your birthday, Melanie.” His voice is a tender murmur, squeezing my heart.
I won’t cry, I won’t f**king cry. I blink and swallow.
“All I ask is that you let me celebrate you when I get back. If I only get to spend one day with you, I want to spend this day. With you.”
I can’t stand the way he knows me. The way he understands me. The way he makes my every dream come true and breaks my every fantasy. If there were a day I’d need him in a year, it would be my birthday. But suddenly I desperately need to go home.
“You’re leaving right now?” I whisper.
His eyebrows rise inquiringly. “I have to. Just one more mark. I owe it to my mother.”
He comes over and wraps me in his arms. I close my eyes as his heat envelops me, his scent, him. When he tries to pull away, I pull his arms closer, suddenly just needing this a minute longer. “Why do you want my arms?” he whispers in my ear. “I just told you they’ve done more harm than good.”
“Not to me.”
“Because you fell for me, you fell for me and all my bullshit, and even with everything I just said, you’re still falling, aren’t you,” he rasps. He kisses the back of my ear. “I’m right here to catch you.” He kisses the back of my ear, harder. “Let me catch you.”
I duck my head to compose myself.
He ducks his dark head too and glances at my toes. On each foot, my toenails spell, in perfect blue and hot pink all the way around, GREY ♥
I curl and tuck them into the rug. “I got a pedicure. At the best place in Seattle.”
All for you . . . I think miserably.
His grin gives me butterflies in my stomach, and I wish I had an ax and I could literally kill them. “That someone could get you to sit your restless little ass for a while to get to do that is a testament to their abilities.” He looks at me with those eyes that reach strange little places inside me, and my stomach starts to feel heavy from the complete overload of my emotions. “Or to your conviction to wear my name on your feet?”
He kneels, and I hold my breath as he takes my toe and kisses it.
“Grey, you’re kissing my toe,” I say, voice thick and cottony.
“It’s got my name on it.”
When I pry my foot loose, he exhales a long, long breath and rises to his feet, to over six feet of beautiful lying man, then he quietly starts getting some of the stuff on the bed into his black jacket. I stare into the shadows, watching him slip on his gloves, feeling like this innocence I just lost will never, ever be recovered.
“I feel like my boyfriend just died. I will never, ever, have Greyson anymore.”
If I sound sad, he looks wrecked.
“I feel like my alias just killed my girl. And she’ll never look at me the way she did before.”
We stare the way we do, except we usually smile here.
This time we don’t.
Go home, Melanie, I think miserably.
He steps forward cautiously, and I remember how obsessed he is with my eyes, and I feel a strange sadness for him when he somehow cups my face, thinks about kissing them, but drops his hands instead.
“I’ll be back. Stay here with your friend for the day tomorrow, and think, Melanie. When I’m back, I dare you to look into my eyes and tell me you don’t want me.”
I don’t know what he’s going to do, but terror, lust, love, every emotion swims in me as he crosses the room to leave. “Greyson, swear to me that you won’t kill anyone!” I cry. “Swear, or we will have nothing to talk about. Nothing.”
My heart pounds in my temples, my chest, my fingertips as I wait for his answer to my impulsive ultimatum. He stands by the door and laughs softly, then he pulls something from his jacket, pulls off the cartridge from his gun, sets it down, and swings the door open. He didn’t give me his word, but I believe him.
I don’t know why, but I believe him.
I wait until he shuts the door behind him to have the mother of all nervous f**king breakdowns.
It was an easy mark.
I slip inside the darkened home, wake him up with the tip of my SIG right on his temple while he startles up in bed. He shook like a flag in the wind as he opened the safe, gave me the money.
He’ll probably never again sleep.
Welcome to the club, old man . . .
But I’m not thinking about that anymore. His name is scratched, the fights were good tonight. Riptide owned the ring—and that’s fine by me. Riptide is money, and the Underground is all about money.
But I’m not thinking about that either.
I’m thinking about her. Wondering if she’s sleeping. Or even half as tortured as I am. It’s six a.m. at the hospital, and I’ve been sitting here, hating what I already know.
Hating that I already know what she’s going to tell me later on today when I go to see her.
That I don’t deserve her, am a liar, a con, and not the man she wants and it’s f**king. Eating. Me. Alive.
Can’t sit still. Can’t stop going over shit in my head.
I’ve sat all night at the hospital watching my father struggle to breathe.
I feel choked myself, the air clogged in my lungs. I knew what my life was, what I wanted. It was all clear.
Nothing is clear anymore except that I can’t imagine continuing a day without her. If she won’t have me, I already know I will be obsessed. I will stalk her. I won’t be able to let go of her. I will need to be sure that she’s safe, that she’s herself, that she’s laughing. I’ll have to see someone else touch her. The man she wanted—the man I couldn’t be. My heart thrashes in my chest. A firestorm rages in my body at the thought of anyone touching her but me.
But I won’t be the Hades that drags my Persephone into hell with him.
She’s not Persephone. She’s Melanie Meyers Dean, and I love her.
I exhale and put my face in my hands, shuddering as I try to get a grip on myself.
I’m sick and she’s the only cure.
I’m sick for her, as sick as my father.
I glance up and he’s hardly moving in bed, the sound of his breath low and even. Yeah, it hurts. I hated him all my life. He took everything good from me. And it still hurts that he’s weak and mortal, and still, the motherfucker clinging fiercely to where my mother is.
Rage, impotence, it all swells in my chest. I’ve just worked my last mark with the help of Tina’s information. I carefully worked around my numbers so that only one mark remains . . . number five.
“The list?” Eric anxiously asks me after conferring with the doctors and realizing my father only has hours left. Hours.
“I’m going to get the payment,” I lie, pushing the chair back and rising.
But I won’t. I’m going to get back my girl, and then I’m going to come back here and tell my father that he failed. That he failed in making me like him. In making me completely selfish and evil.
I’m going to get back my girl and I’m going to fetch some of my cash and buy back my girl’s paper. He can put any price he wants on it. He can put my own life on it. Or the price of the Underground. But he’s going to tell me where my mother is, and he’s going to watch me scratch off Melanie’s name while I hand him the cash she owes.
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