The Life She Left Behind(4)

By: Maisey Yates

“What are you doing?”

“You started it, Angel, shouldn’t you have the answer?” he asked.

“I don’t…” Her pulse thundered in her head and she tried to form a coherent sentence. She had meant to show him she had command now. That she wasn’t so easily manipulated. But all of those intentions had been knocked right out of her the moment their lips had touched.

She couldn’t prove a point, not while she was so utterly lost in sensation.

He took a step toward her, his expression changing, softening. He put his hand on her cheek. “You are real. You must be.”

“I…of course I am.”

“You never said goodbye to me when you left.”

“I was angry at you.”

The corners of his lips turned down. When he made that face, it was easy to imagine him as a sulky, spoiled child. Nothing about that should be endearing, and yet, she found it was. “I surmised as much. I never did find out why.”

“You don’t know?”

He shook his head. “I assumed perhaps you had found a better prospect, and yet here you are, a nanny, so I’m certain now that isn’t the case.”

She laughed. “I did find a better prospect. Independence. Life beyond being your accessory. When I found out my father was promising you my hand in order to cement the merger I…I couldn’t stay. I’m not a thing, Taj, and I refused to be traded like I was.”


“Is this the part where you tell me I misunderstood? That you weren’t really going to do it? That you had other motives?” She’d wondered over the years. Wondered if she’d been too quick to run. If she should have stayed and talked to him.

Waiting for the words now was tantamount to torture.

“No. I’m not going to say that. Because I was using you to get the merger. Though, I confess I thought you were complicit in the arrangement.”

Only because she’d imagined she’d meant something to him. That when he’d kissed her, there had been feeling in it.

“I wasn’t.”

“And now what, Angelina? Do I leave you here? Do we never see each other again?”

The idea of Taj turning and walking away, the thought of never seeing him again, made her heart ache. More than that, it reminded her of the ache that had existed since she’d lost him the first time.

He was the man she’d never been able to forget. The one demon from her past left unexorcised. What would it take? What would it take to rid her body of her desire for him? To squeeze those deeply held feelings from her heart? To erase him from her mind.

Her body burned from the kiss. Her heart burned from looking at him.

She hated it. She hated how much he controlled her. Whether he was standing in front of her, or in another country entirely, the man held too much power. It had to end.

He turned away, and her stomach jolted. Leaving, separation, that wouldn’t work. It wasn’t enough. She knew it. And she was desperate. Desperate to make it go away. Her desire for him was beneath her skin, in her blood.

There was only one way she could think of to bleed herself of it, to pour it out of her.

“Don’t go,” she said.

He stopped, his shoulders going ridged. “What?”

It wasn’t too late to go back. To stop herself from touching him. From confirming what she was certain he suspected. But she didn’t want to. She had run from him, from her feelings, her heartbreak, all those years ago. But she hadn’t escaped it. It had clung to her, wrapped itself around her heart like a clinging vine.

Distance hadn’t killed it. But he was here now. Maybe if she could have him, just once, she could draw a line through that part of her life and call it done.

She took a deep breath, ignoring the trembling in her fingers as she reached out to put her hand on his shoulder. “Stay. Stay with me tonight.”

Chapter Three

Taj’s original theory, the one in which Angelina was a mirage, was starting to seem likely again. She had felt real beneath his hands, beneath his lips. Her unsteady fingers felt real on his back, but the words she’d just spoken made it all seem like a fantasy.