“You’re the Devil,” I whisper. It’s barely audible above my own ragged breaths, but he heard me, loud and clear. Striding forward, I match each of his steps with a retreating step of my own. This was a dance we had enjoyed in the past, but not today. I’m grateful when my back finally hits the door of his office; my legs had begun to tremble, and I feared I was about to hit the deck. My hands press against the solid wood for support, and fixing my eyes on his, I start to shake my head.
A futile non-verbal request for him to stop.
He steps so close my breath catches, and I actually stop breathing for a moment. Closing my eyes, I drop my chin to my chest.
Please don’t do this.
His knuckle brushes my jaw, and he tips my whole face up with his fingertip but makes no other movement, no sound at all. He simply waits. When the silence becomes too much, I open my eyes and meet his gaze.
“I told you I was.” His lips form the perfect smile, and his eyes seem to darken to an impossible shade of midnight blue.
It’s strange; I always thought the devil would have darker colouring, inky black hair, a deep tan maybe, and eyes you would easily lose your soul to. Not him. Although the eyes are spot on, everything else was way off; he couldn’t look less like the Lucifer of the movies. He is tall, towering over me now, broad, strong shoulders, but slim, fit, stunning actually. His rough blond hair falls over his eyes, and on any other day, that would be a crime. No, he looks more like an angel than the devil I know him to be. He looks like a Nordic God.
The pain ripping me apart from the inside out escapes in a sob that I can’t contain and takes us both by surprise. My hand flies to my mouth, too late to hide the heartbreak. He laughs, a hollow sound that chills my blood, and even the tender way he tucks my hair away from my face feels too raw.
Please don’t do this.
“Oh, Princess, you always did know how to make me laugh,” he states with a wry smile that makes my stomach turn.
“My pain amuses you?” I manage to form actual words when I feel utterly speechless and broken.
“No, your naiveté amuses me.” He sighs. “I told you I was the Devil, Tia, and yet you are surprised when I drag you to Hell.” He draws his bottom lip in slowly between his teeth, and even now I can feel my body betray me. My fingers twitch, restless to touch him just one more time. My heart clenches, and there is an unwelcome spark of heat right between my legs. He inhales deeply through his nose and flashes a knowing grin, which adds mortification to my devastation.
He’s acutely aware of how he affects me; he always has been.
He chuckles and leans closer. His mouth is just below my ear before he speaks. “Your pain is just a pleasant bonus, princess.”
“Oh, God.” I gasp, my fist clutching at the unbearable pain cleaving through my heart.
“Now, princess, do you really think He will save a little sinner like you? Besides, He really can’t help you now, not when your soul is already mine.” His lips press a kiss on the crook of my neck, and I whimper. They always feel like heaven on my skin, and now it’s no different, except everything is different.
“What do you want?” I’ve lost so much. My tone fails to hide my absolute desolation.
“I gave you everything…I gave you my heart, damn it. I have nothing left.” The tears I have managed to hold at bay fall, bursting unbidden from my eyes as I hold his unwavering gaze.
“Now we both know that’s not true.” He sucks some air through his pursed lips, shaking his head lightly as if he is reprimanding a small child.
“I don’t understand.” I sniff, dragging the back of my hand unceremoniously along the underside of my nose and roughly drying my cheeks in an attempt to regain some composure.
“I think it’s cute that you believe your heart holds any interest to someone like me. What am I saying? There is no one like me,” he taunts, then tilts his head to one side as if thinking how best to deliver his next line. “You promised me forever, princess, and there’s only one thing that is truly forever.” His eyes narrow, and the cruel smile that has been an almost permanent fixture since he brought me here, vanishes. His expression is chillingly vacant and so changed, I barely recognise this monster before me. “I’ve come for your soul, Tia.” He pulls back just enough to slide his hand into his back pocket, retrieving a long slim dagger. He flips it with ease, catching it and wrapping his fingers around the handle like it was moulded only to fit his hand. The tip of the blade is reflected in his eyes, and the sharp edge shines brightly, even in the dim light of the fading evening.
“I don’t understand. I didn’t do anything wrong. I love you,” I plead, my hand resting on his chest where his heart should be.
“I think, with that statement, you’ve answered your own question, haven’t you, princess?” His tone drops, and his expression is now deadly serious. He waits again for realisation of what he’s asking to slowly sink in. It doesn’t take long. No.
“I can’t do this.” I mouth the words because I can’t bring myself to say them out loud. It doesn’t matter. Whether he’s lip reading or mind reading, he knows me, and he knows this is no longer a choice I have to make.
“I know, princess…I know.” His voice is softly soothing, coaxing me, and I comply. His words are like a balm, hypnotic, and I find I am no longer able to resist or fight him. He places the blade in my hand, cupping his larger hands over the top and gripping tight. He twists the blade until it is pointed just below my rib cage and angled upward, perfectly aimed for maximum impact. I’m shaking my head because I know I can’t do what he’s asking me to do. Then he hugs me…he steps his strong body into mine and presses us both hard against the door.
“Ah! Oh…oh…please…please.” The dagger burns like a thousand blades as it pierces my skin. A tidal wave of pain tears through my body, and I continue to cry out.
It hurts so much.
“I do love it when you beg.” He jolts the blade deeper, and I can feel it slicing through my flesh. The pain is unbearable. I can’t breathe. Every nerve is screaming in agony as I feel my lungs burn with the blood now filling them from inside. I start to choke. Even at this time, I take comfort from the knowledge that this flesh and blood pain is fleeting and is only a fraction of the devastation my heart feels.
It will all be over soon.
“Why are you smiling?” My vision is a little blurry, but I can see the confusion on his face.
“Because, at least this pain will end,” I answer, slumping against him with weakness. My words are faint. He tilts my head up; it’s too heavy for me to hold and flops to one side, but he is careful to ensure I am looking into his eyes when he speaks. He wants to make sure I truly understand my fate.
“Princess, trust me, this is just the beginning.”
“Tia! Tia! For fuck’s sake, wake up!” The booming, deep, throaty voice penetrates my darkness, and from the edge of worry in the tone, he’s had trouble waking me this time. My eyes spring open but are still filled with tears. I blink rapidly to clear them, enough to focus on the face before me. Long, silky black hair frames his handsome face. Deep, dark eyes that have shone with wickedness and lust now look troubled. He drags his hand through his hair, which is long enough to fall neatly back away from his face without tucking it behind his ears. This face has a shadow of stubble that is a few days past a shave but not quite a beard. He’s naked, that’s not a surprise. It’s his house, and he’s never been the shy sort of guy, which is something of a paradox considering his heartbreaking agoraphobia. Although I don’t know why; the two aren’t linked in any way. It just seems strange how someone so confident, rational, and intelligent can let this disease rule his life, but then that’s the very nub of a phobia; it isn’t rational.
His chest is heaving, and I guess that is from the long run from his room to mine. I can’t help but admire the work he puts into maintaining such a muscular body. It’s impressive what a decent set of weights and a treadmill can achieve. Smooth, olive skin over taut muscles, which flex and ripple as he continues to draw in heavy breaths. He’s such a beautiful person, inside and out. Still, I have just one friend in this world, and I’m not going to ruin what we have by doing something as ugly as fucking. Sex ruins everything.
“Logan, I’m fine.” I shuffle up my bed and try to disentangle my legs from the bed sheets. My lower body resembles an Egyptian mummy where I must’ve been twisting and turning for some time. I’m soaked through, too. My t-shirt is almost completely see-through, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. “Ahem, my eyes are up here.” I snap my fingers in front of my breasts to get his attention and point to my face.
“Yes, but your perky nipples are right there, and I don’t care what nightmare you were having, those babies are a fucking dream come true.” He grins and lets out a loud laugh when my cheeks burn from his wayward attention. He can be such an arse sometimes, but he does have a way of distracting me. I pull the sheet up high to my neck and roll my eyes when his bottom lip pushes out in a brattish pout. He holds the sulky look for a moment before his dark chocolate brown eyes lose their playful crinkle, as his face softens and is once again etched with worry.
“I’m fine. I’m sorry I woke you.” I sigh and reach from under the sheet to hold his hand. He squeezes and wraps his other hand over mine. He is soft-spoken at the best of times when it’s just us, but I find myself tilting forward to hear him now.
“Tia, you could’ve woken the dead with that cry. It’s only that we live in such an old and extremely well soundproofed little home that I don’t have the neighbours banging on my door.” He fails to mask his real concern with talk of noise pollution, but I’m happy to play along.
“Logan, this is a mansion, and our nearest neighbour is a good half a mile away,” I retort.
“They still might’ve heard you, T.” He pulls my fingers to his mouth and presses my hand to his cheek. The chill and cold sweat from my nightmare begins to lose its grip with every kind gesture this man bestows without hesitation, and it just warms my soul.
“I’m sorry. I wish they’d stop, too. I hate that I wake you every night.”
“I don’t give a fuck about that. It’s not like I work; I can sleep all day if I want, but you work, and I know you haven’t had a full night sleep since you started that job. Is this worth it, Tia? You don’t need to do this.” His tone is almost pleading, but he already saved me once. I’m not going to sponge off him any more than I need to. Besides, it’s not just about the money.
“I want to work; I need to work. You have given me more than I can ever repay. I need to contribute something to this weird relationship,” I argue.
“I love our weird relationship, and you saved me just as much. Besides, you know I have zero interest in money. I have money. I have lots of money. We could take this to the next level if that helps. I could probably learn to fancy you enough to stop with the hookers,” he teases, tilting his head and flashing a roguish smile that would have the girls falling at his feet if he’d let them.
“Oh, Logan, you say the sweetest things; you’re such a romantic.” I mock fan myself at his crudeness.
“Aren’t I though?”
“You know you’re like a brother to me, right?” I clench my jaw to try and hide the lie, his eyes narrow, looking closely for any sign of truth. It has to be like this. I can’t lose him; I won’t. He sniffs and sucks in a slow breath before shrugging off my comment.
“Since this isn’t Game of Thrones, and the sister thing is a hard limit for me, and there is no fucking way I see you as a relative in any respect, I’m ignoring that comment and keeping us fucking firmly on the table.”
“Logan!” I slap him with the back of my hand on his taut tummy, which tenses on impact to rock-hard undulating muscle, and I have to fight everything in me not to turn my hand and just caress his skin, his body. To let my fingers explore where my cowardly heart fears to go.
“Look T, I don’t mind coming down the hall every night, bollock naked to rescue your arse from whatever demon hell you’re dreaming, but they seem to be getting worse. Are they always the same?” I close my eyes, trying not to recall the dream, but the images are ingrained, and I nod my head.
“Always the same, the location might vary but the actual death is always the same, and it’s always…him.” With effort, I swallow the dry lump in my throat, my chest still aching from the dagger. The pain felt is so genuine it carried over into my reality.
“You die in your dreams?” His back straightens, but I ease him down, squeezing his hand and hopefully returning some of the comfort he gives me.
“Yes, but don’t panic; it usually just means a big change ahead, and I think that’s pretty spot on, don’t you?” I let out a humourless laugh, which makes his brows pull together in a deep frown.
“Why the devil?” he asks, his voice thick with concern. “I mean, why is he the devil in your dreams do you think?”
“Because he turned out to the devil in real life. Only the devil could do what he did.” My words drift from my lips with no emotion, not anymore. “They’re just dreams, albeit they’re dragging residual feelings from the very depths of my subconscious, and I’d much rather my subconscious left me well enough alone.” I force a tight smile. ”Still, I’m sure they’ll stop one day.”
“If you survive that long…no sleep and you haven’t been eating my gourmet cooking for weeks. You look like shit.”
“There you go again, you sweet talker.”
“I’m serious.” He narrows his eyes, and for once, he does look serious, deadly serious. I try to smile, but it’s having little influence. He’s really mad at me this time.
“I know, Logan.” I let out a long breath and hold his gaze. “Look, there’s not much I can do about the lack of sleep and broken nights. I’m not taking tablets, so I’ll just have to deal. I will make an effort though, with the food if that pleases you?”
“It would. It’s pretty much the only thing I do, apart from the hookers, that gives me joy, and when you don’t eat what I lovingly prepare, I feel like I’ve failed,” he states quietly, and his honesty takes me back. He’s such a closed book most of the time that, when he does share like this, I feel hugely honoured and like a complete shit at the same time.
“Oh Logan, god, not at all. I’m so sorry. I love your cooking. I love our mealtimes. Actually, I live for our mealtimes, but I’ve just not felt that hungry recently.” I shuffle closer to him and hold my hand to his cheek, stroking the stubble with my thumb. He leans into my palm. Not a second passes before his head snaps up, his eyes wide with shock.
“You’re not pregnant, are you?”
“You have to have sex for that to happen,” I lament.
“Not necessarily.” His eyes dart suspiciously between my belly and my face.
“I’m not pregnant.” Pulling my hands from his, I wrap my arms around my tummy. I’m not protecting anything in there, just my pride at his accusatory glare.
“Good, because I still get first dibs on your womb if you want offspring. That was the deal when I invited you to move in.”
“Fuck off was it the deal!” I snap, and he wisely leans out of my reach before I can nut punch him. “And you didn’t invite me…you found me living in your basement. Three months after I had already moved in.”
“My little thief.” He never fails to get my heart hammering with the possessive way he says the word ‘my’. I love that more than I should. “I knew you were there after a week of having to double order in on bread and cheese. I thought for a moment I had an enormous mouse that liked his cheese in a sandwich.” He grins and wiggles his thick brows.
“What? You’ve never told me that. Why the hell didn’t you call me out sooner?” My jaw drops, and he has the good grace to look at least a little sheepish. He offers up a slight shrug in his non-existent defence. “You let me freeze my arse off in the basement for eleven more weeks. Why?”
“I needed to be sure.”
“I needed to be sure you weren’t a wicked lie.” His voice drops to a whisper, and the sadness in his eyes breaks my fucking heart. We all have demons, but for the most part, they don’t come out to play. I don’t think that’s the case with Logan, but I know so little about him. He has to be the most private person I’ve ever met, and as much as I’ve tried, he won’t let me in. Whatever haunts him, he keeps it locked inside, and since I am not sleeping on the street because he took pity on me, I am not going to pry.
We all have secrets.
“Oh, Logan, come here.” I open my arms wide, and his face lights up.
“Yes…boobs. I get the boob hug.” He grins like a schoolboy about to cop his first feel.
“How can you be super scary intimidating one minute, and the next, you’re a complete dork?” He climbs into my hold, and his strong arms thread behind me, but we’re at a funny angle so we can’t get close.
“Just lucky, I guess. And if it gets me close to these girls, I’ll happily play the dork.” He shifts and lifts me across his lap. My cotton girl boxer shorts are the only thing preventing his swelling cock from nestling where no man has ever been.
“Don’t be an arse.” I slap the back of his head, which makes him laugh. He holds me tight, and it feels unbearably good. I hope it does for him, too. I feel like I am always taking from him, and he asks so little in return, just my company.
“And it’s always him?” he asks after several long minutes. I had closed my eyes and almost drifted off. I draw in a steady breath and nod.
“Yep, I haven’t seen him in so long, and yet it’s definitely him that destroys me every night.”
“Something about first loves, eh?” he muses with a bitterness I happen to share.
“They’re just dreams,” I reply flatly.
“That may be true, my little thief.” He kisses the top of my head, and I smile at my nickname. “But these dreams are also a warning. It’s your subconscious speaking a truth you might not see, or might not see until it’s too late. Listen to them, and learn from them. Ignore them, and you may as well hand me that dagger.” He looks down at me as I look up. I know he cares for me. I wish I wasn’t such a coward.
“You’d never hurt me.” I feel safe in his arms. I know him. More importantly, I trust him.
“No, Tia, I wouldn’t, but since I can’t ever leave this house, I might not be around to save you, either.” He points this out with a mix of sadness and resignation that hits me hard. The last thing this man needs is my shit on top of his own.
“I’ll be fine,” I say with enough conviction he actually smiles before giving me yet another lifeline.
“You want me to stay and sleep with you?”
“Do you mind?”
“You know I don’t, so long as you don’t mind my erection digging into your side for the rest of the night.” He states this as a matter of fact.
“The only time I mind your erection is when I know it’s been balls deep in some hired-in skank.” I screw my face up at the thought.
“Well, my balls have been nowhere near any body part except my right hand for a while, so you’re safe.” He waves his hand, and somehow that image hasn’t helped my face lose any of its distaste.
“Well, if you would let me fuck you, I wouldn’t need the hookers or my right hand,” he teases.
“You’d stop masturbating if we fucked?” My tone is rightly incredulous.
“No, but I’d have your right hand to do that for me if we were together.” He looks at me with a mix of arrogance and lust.
“You know, I used to wonder why you only ever paid for sex. I mean you’re very easy on the eye. I guessed you could get any girl you wanted, but now…now I’m not so sure.”
“Ah, you love my innate charm and straight talking.” His eyes dip to his solid erection, and I can’t help but do the same. It’s massive, kind of hard to ignore. My cheeks flash with heat, and I can feel the liquid pooling between my legs. This is a dangerous game we play, but I need him so much I can’t fuck it up. I let out a light laugh before blowing out some of the heat he is generating in my body.
“Foul mouthed and filthy minded, you mean.” I push him playfully on his shoulder, like you would a mate, a buddy, not someone you want but can’t have, ever.
“That, too. Just so you know, the minute you stop referring to me as your brother, I am in there.” He wiggles his finger in the general direction of my crotch, and I brush off his comment, like I have a million times before. I don’t think of him as my brother, not in the least; it’s just easier. I’m a fucked up mess of feelings at the best of times, but I won’t let sex change us, and I can’t risk losing him. “Now scoot over, and let me start the fondling process.” He slides in behind me and pulls me to his body. He moulds perfectly, his large frame completely encasing mine. His hand reaches up to squeeze one of my breasts.
“Hug, not fondle.” I pull his hand away and entwine my fingers so I can hold him safely at my waist.
“Potato, po-tah-to.” He rolls his hips so his cock is wedged right up against my arse. It’s going to be a long night. His breathing quickly becomes shallow, but I know he’s still awake, so I ask something that plagues me.
“Why don’t you try having a real relationship, Logan? You deserve better than this.” I mean it when I say the words, but it doesn’t stop the painful twist in my gut all the same. No, not my gut, maybe just a little higher. He lets out a sleepy groan and pulls me tighter to his warm body. There’s not a millimetre of space between us.
“Girlfriends tend to want to go on dates, T,” he reasons
“I guess,” I sigh. I don’t really believe that’s his only option for normality, but I do understand his situation is complicated. Before I can contradict him, he whispers into my ear.
“Besides, there’s nothing better than this.”