I’ve written you countless letters, none of them ever reach you. So I stored this one away to make sure that, somehow, it will.
I remember all our years together, I cling to them. And of all those years, I remember our time in Seattle most. You liked it when we walked to the waterfront.
We used to stare at the yachts out on the water and we’d wonder what it would be like to have a home that gave us that kind of freedom.
We both wanted to stop running, remember? We were tired of running from city to city, home to home, and yet every time I told you to pack, you did so quietly and without complaining.
I’ve never forgotten what a noble son you were, and I never forgot those days. Not when we moved to Dallas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Boston.
I’m surrounded by water now.
Since I got here, I’ve seen these lovely yachts sail by, and I became obsessed with finding a way to make sure that one day you have a boat of your own, where you can sail far away from any trouble, away from all those bad men around you.
In the end, I couldn’t see another way to do this except to cooperate with your father.
Escaping has been futile. And even if it were successful, who’s to tell me he won’t take his anger out on you before I reach you?
I’ve stayed put and tried to make the best of what I have.
The best of what I have is you, Greyson.
In this box you will find the little that was of value to me, most especially the keys to the boat I wanted you to have. It’s not much, and not nearly everything I would have wished to give you, but I hope that the ocean can give you the kind of comfort it has given me all this time.
Your loving mother,
Blackness. Cold. Beeping sounds. I feel alone. I feel empty. I want to move, open my eyes, as I hear voices around me. Why can’t I move? I don’t remember it. I see faces. A woman. A man. Familiar. Familiar voices.
“Melanie?” she asks.
“Sweetheart, do you remember us?”
I blink and the lights burn through my retinas.
Who . . .
WHERE . . .
Panic starts setting in, and that’s when I see the large figure at the other end of the room. My body trembles in reaction, not from fear but from some innate emotion and my heart starts beating really hard. His face is strained, there’s remorse there, and anguish. Seeing the pain there cripples me. I start hurting in places other than my body. Deep inside. I don’t understand how a pain could go as deep as this.
My lips part but I can’t talk, and then the woman presses a straw between my lips. I swallow coldly, my throat raw. The man—he, he is all I want to see—pushes himself from the wall and starts coming over, his eyes taking me in, forehead, eyebrows, nose, lips, cheekbones, neck.
Heat prickles through me hard and fast when he is close enough that I can smell something other than disinfectant. Forest. Forest. My brain screams thoughts at me. Forest. Kisses. Forest. Love. Forest. Danger. A tear trails down my cheek as I open my mouth again, and nothing comes out.
“Oh, I think . . . maybe you should leave,” the woman whispers to him. Not the woman. My mother. My mother, holding me when I was three, ten, fifteen . . . what happened after?
The man hesitates.
THE MAN looks at me like he lost himself and doesn’t think that what he lost can ever, ever be recovered.
“No,” I rasp. “Don’t go.”
His eyes bounce from my parents and back to me, and behind the depth of those hazel-green pools, there’s a roil of feelings in there. Frustration, regrets, and another more powerful feeling . . .
This man loves me . . .
His eyes red, this man looks proud as a rock and nothing will convince me he has not sat in that chair in the corner and cried for me.
He waits and they step back to give us a moment. He starts to whisper achingly softly to me, and the low timbre of his voice torments and heals me, both at the same time. “Hey, princess,” he says, gently running a hand down the length of my braid.
I’m wearing a braid. Someone braided my hair.
Hey, princess . . .
The way he LOOKS at me, I almost can’t take it. He stands there, his body vibrating with tension as he tries to hold himself together. He looks helpless. As broken as I feel. All my senses ache and hurt and my body itches and my arms ache and my soul burns for me to wrap my arms around him. To get closer to him, comfort him, but I can’t move and the wanting to be close is choking the breath out of me, making my heart race.
“Do you remember?” he asks in that achingly soft voice that makes me close my eyes and remember hearing it. Loving it.
“The doctors said you might . . . or you might forget a couple of things.”
I’m mute, desperately trapping his voice in my ears, it’s so beautiful.
“You’re Melanie Meyers Dean,” he says in that low, deeply tender voice, “The couple that just left are your parents. You’re a lovely twenty-five-year-old decorator. You love wearing three colors at the same time. You love things that are bad for you, you love laughing, and you love . . .”
You, my mind screams.
He’s fallen silent, as if he has no words for me, raking his eyes over my face as if he hasn’t had a drop to drink and I’m an oasis in his desert.
“Melanie,” he rasps, searching my face for any sign of recognition, reaching out one hand, but then thinking better of it and easing it away. “I’m Greyson King and I’m your man.”
He waits in silence, flexing that hand into a fist at his side as though that’s enough to keep him from touching me. A huge lump of emotion gathers in my throat, and as we keep staring at each other, he looks more and more desperate. He takes his shirt out of the waistband of his slacks and slides my hand underneath, over his smooth, warm chest, past his scar, to his nipple ring. I feel his skin, his warmth, seeping into me, the beat of his heart against my palm. It beats as fast as mine, and streams of tears streak down my cheeks.
Tears of joy.
Of feeling safe, of not feeling alone, as all the love I feel for him floods me.
“Greyson,” I sob.
A breath shudders out of him as if he’d been holding it in all this time, then he brushes my eyelids with his lips. “Do you remember me? Do you, princess? Do you know what I do? Who I am? What you mean to me?”
Thoughts jumble in my head, one after the other. Me running away from him. Me running toward him. Me, and him.
Me and HIM.
Black gloves . . . diamond necklace . . . kisses in the dark . . . almost-there smile . . .
I feel unexpectedly weak, but not even this weakness can stop me from slowly sliding my hands up to his chest, his thick neck, his dark, stubbled jaw as I look into his eyes, eyes looking at me the way they’ve looked at me from the beginning.
The way Greyson King looks at Melanie.
“Remember you?” I croak. “I came back for you.”
It’s the perfect night for a party.
The perfect night for a kiss.
The perfect, most perfect night to be in love.
I’m sitting on a thick limestone terrace railing, my dress hiked up to my waist so that Greyson can wedge his body in between my thighs.
He thumbs my nipple, and I try to keep from moaning as I visually devour him before me—his body clad in a black suit, his hair mussed by my hands, his lips a little red with my lipstick. He stares back at me as he slides his large, warm hand up my thigh and tugs off my panties. I’m breathless as he tucks them inside the pocket of his suit jacket, his hand coming back to cup my sex while the other plays with my aching nipple.
Can you die of pleasure?
Can you die of the way your boyfriend looks and looks and looks at you?
I am. Crazy. About this man.
I would do anything for this man.
And I’ve been waiting for and fantasizing this moment for months.
Behind him, I can see the party getting under way—a party he organized to celebrate my twenty-fifth birthday, an event well over three months old. But trivialities like that don’t matter to a man like Greyson King.
What matters is getting his way.
And from the brand-new Harry Winston diamond necklace dangling from my throat, to the lavish party behind us, to the glimmer in his eyes that tells me almost to the last detail what he plans to do to me tonight, there is no doubt in my mind my boyfriend is getting his way tonight.
And all I can think is, It’s about f**king time.
I’m so anxious that I’m not sure I can wait for us to find our way to our bed.
Maybe if I unzip his pants and get him close enough to ride him . . .
But now hundreds of our friends mingle inside the Ceres Ballroom. These people include my boss and coworkers, my parents, my friends, and Greyson’s old and new business partners. The old ones are the dangerous ones who work for him at the Underground fighting circuit. The newer ones comprise the committee of his King Yacht Corporation he’s founded in honor of his mother.
Anyone could step outside and see us. Him standing before me in his elegant suit, and me . . . my blow-dried hair now in disarray as it flaps in the wind, my body shivering under his hands and his lips, and the way his beautiful hazel eyes look at me.
“Greyson . . .” I say, a plea. He uses his body to shield me from the ballroom doors, towering over me as he ducks so he can trails his lips over my jaw. “You look delectable, Melanie, you taste delectable. Who is it that you’re panting for?”
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