Denied, p.22
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       Denied, p.22

         Part #2 of One Night series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
 

  ease, no doubt due to Miller’s less-than-stable frame.

  Now my hackles jump up, too, and my jaw instantly tightens when William presents himself to me, his body oozing authority. He regards me closely for a few moments before dragging his grey gaze over to Miller’s wrecked form. This isn’t ideal. Miller looks shocking, and now William is going to want to know why.

  ‘What have you been up to?’ William asks, flat and even, like it’s no surprise and maybe he already knows.

  ‘That’s not your concern,’ Miller slurs, slamming the door. ‘You’re not welcome here.’

  I feel the need to back Miller up, but that curious part of me has multiplied, as has the caution. So I remain with my lips sealed, soaking up the animosity batting back and forth between these two men.

  ‘And you’re not welcome in Olivia’s life,’ William retorts, turning to me. He must see the disbelief on my face, not that he seems in the least bit perturbed by it. ‘You’re coming with me.’

  I cough my objection, noting Miller behind William twitching slightly, but not nearly enough for me to be sure that he’ll intervene. Please don’t tell me he’s going to back William up!

  ‘No, I’m not,’ I reply surely, squaring my shoulders. I’m staggered by Miller’s lack of input thus far, especially after his violent reaction to Gregory’s interference only an hour ago.

  ‘Olivia,’ William sighs, ‘you really are trying my patience.’

  I brace myself for another comment on my mother, worrying about the anger simmering within me just at the thought of William making reference to her. If he comes out and says what I know he’s thinking, then I might be giving Miller a run for his money in the crazy department. ‘You are trying mine!’

  William disguises his recoil well, and I know it’s because he doesn’t want to show a scrap of compassion in front of Miller. No, now he’ll uphold that powerful reputation . . . which means it could get very ugly, very quickly. ‘I’ve told you, you don’t belong here with him.’

  My breath catches slightly, remembering William saying a version of those words to me when I was seventeen. I was sitting in his office, drunk. I didn’t belong with William. I don’t belong with Miller. ‘Where do I belong?’ I ask, making William eye me cautiously. ‘It seems you don’t think I belong anywhere. So tell me, where the fucking hell do I belong?’

  ‘Oliv—’ Miller pipes up, stepping forward, but I cut him straight off, not liking the potential of him agreeing with William.

  ‘No!’ I yell. ‘Everyone thinks they know what’s best for me. What about me? What about what I know?’

  ‘Calm down.’ Miller’s by my side, unsteady, trying to soothe me by taking my nape and kneading gently. It won’t work. Not now.

  ‘I know I’m supposed to be here!’ I yell, making myself shake with my building frustration. ‘I’ve been stumbling through my life since you sent me away.’ I point an accusing finger in William’s direction. It makes him withdraw slightly. ‘Now I have him.’ I throw my arm around Miller’s waist and plant myself to his side. ‘The only way you’ll stop me from being with him is if you put me six feet under!’

  William’s speechless, Miller is stiff beside me, and I’m convulsing with anger, searching deep for the focus I need to take some steadying breaths and calm down. I gulp back air. I feel like I’m having a panic attack.

  ‘Shhh.’ Miller pulls me in closer and drops a kiss on the top of my head. It’s not a full-on thing, but it’s working to a degree. I turn into him and hide, and his lips meet the top of my head, pecking and humming as I clench my eyes shut.

  It’s a long, long time before someone speaks. ‘How do you feel about her?’ William asks, reluctance and caution rife in his tone.

  I stay where I am, dreading what Miller might say. Fascination just won’t cut it. I can feel his heart pounding, can almost hear it, too.

  ‘She’s the blood in my veins.’ He speaks clearly and softly. ‘She’s the air in my lungs.’ There’s a slight pause, and I’m sure I hear William inhale a shocked breath. ‘She’s the bright, hopeful light in my tortured darkness. I’m warning you, Anderson. Don’t try to take her away from me.’

  I blink back my tears and burrow deeper into his chest, grateful he’s backed me up. That silence falls again. It’s eerily quiet, and then I hear breath being drawn and I know whose it is. ‘I couldn’t care less what happens to you,’ William says. ‘But the second I get a whiff that Olivia is in danger, I’ll be coming for you, Hart.’

  And with that, the door slams shut and we’re alone. Miller’s hold loosens on me, the vibrations of his body receding, and he releases me when I really want him to hold me tighter. He paces on unsteady legs to his drinks cabinet and clumsily restocks on whisky, knocking it back fast and gasping. I remain still and silent, then after what seems like centuries, he sighs. ‘Why are you still in my life, sweet girl?’

  ‘Because you fought to keep me in it,’ I remind him without hesitation, forcing myself to sound sure. ‘You’ve threatened to rip the spine out of anyone who tries to take me away from you. Are you regretting that?’

  I steel myself for an unwanted reply as he faces me, but his gaze is dropped. ‘I regret dragging you into my world.’

  ‘Don’t,’ I snap, not liking his loss of fortitude now that William has gone. ‘I came willingly and I’m staying willingly.’ I choose to ignore the referral to my world. I’m getting sick of hearing the words my world, yet hardly anything about it.

  More whisky is tipped down his neck. ‘I meant it.’ He makes an attempt to focus on my eyes but gives up, turning and wandering off across the lounge instead.

  ‘Meant what?’

  ‘My threat.’ His arse meets the low coffee table and he places his glass accurately to the side, despite his drunkenness. He even swivels it before releasing it, now happy with its placing. His curl is present and clearly tickling his forehead because he flicks it away and then drops his face into his palms, elbows braced on his knees. ‘My temper has always been a burden, Olivia, but I frighten myself when it comes to my overprotectiveness with you.’

  ‘Possessiveness.’

  His head lifts and a frown wriggles its way onto his forehead. ‘Pardon?’

  A diminutive smile pulls at the corners of my mouth at his show of manners when he’s so intoxicated and we’re in such a wretched place. I walk across to him and kneel between his feet, and he looks down at me, watching as I remove his elbows from his knees and hold his hands in mine. ‘Possessiveness,’ I repeat.

  ‘I want to protect you.’

  ‘From what?’

  ‘Interferers.’ He drifts into thought, his eyes looking past me for a few moments before returning to me. ‘I’ll wind up killing someone.’ His admission should shock me, yet his acknowledgment of his unreasonable flaw strangely settles me. I’m about to suggest counselling, anger management, anything to get this under control, but something stops me.

  ‘William is interfering,’ I blurt.

  ‘William and I have an understanding.’ Miller stumbles over his words. ‘Although you were never in the equation before. He’s walking a thin line.’ The abhorrence in his drunken tone is palpable.

  ‘What understanding?’ I don’t like the sound of this. They both have terrible tempers. My guess is that both men know what damage they can do to each other.

  He shakes his head on a frustrated curse. ‘He wants to protect you, as do I. You’re probably the safest woman in London.’

  My eyes widen at the inaccuracy of his comment and my hands drop his. I disagree. I feel like the most exposed woman in London. But I don’t tell him so. I fight off my urge to continue the William–Miller debate. William hates Miller, and the feeling is totally mutual. I know why, so I should just get used to it. ‘Do you want the good news or the bad news?’ I ask as I stand and offer my hand. My unease subsides slightly when I catch a brief twinkle in Miller’s eyes. It’s familiar and needed.

  ‘Bad.’ He rests his hand in mine a
nd studies our joining as I secure my grip and give a little tug, encouraging him to stand, which he does with too much effort.

  ‘The bad news is you’re going to have a bitch of a hangover.’ I mirror his tiny smile and start leading him to his bedroom. ‘The good news is I’ll be here to nurse you when you’re feeling sorry for yourself.’

  ‘You’ll let me worship you. That’ll make me feel better.’

  I raise doubtful eyebrows over my shoulder as we enter his bedroom. ‘Will you be in any fit state?’

  He drops his arse to the bed when I give him a little shove in the shoulder. ‘Don’t question my ability to satisfy you, sweet girl.’ His palms slide around to my bum and apply pressure, pulling me between his spread thighs. He’s looking up at me with a carnal stare that’s leading to one thing.

  I shake my head. ‘I’m not sleeping with you when you’re drunk.’

  ‘I beg to differ,’ he counters, his hands working their way to my front and sliding under my top. His eyes are challenging me to stop him, and although I have just been flung into desire overload, I’m not budging. It takes every molecule of strength that I possess, but I locate it fast before I’m tossed into surrender mode. I don’t want to be worshipped by a drunken Miller. I remove his hands on another shake of my head.

  ‘Don’t deny me,’ he breathes, pulling me forward onto his lap and arranging my legs across him. I have no choice but to curl an arm around his shoulder, bringing me closer to his face. The alcohol fumes only increase my willpower.

  ‘Stop it,’ I warn, not prepared to fall victim to his tactics. ‘You’re in no fit state and if I kiss you, then I’ll probably end up as drunk as you are.’

  ‘I’m fine and perfectly capable.’ His hips push into my bottom. ‘I need destressing.’

  He has a nerve! I’m the one who needs destressing, but if I’m honest with myself, then Miller taking me under the influence of alcohol makes me nervous. I know he fights to maintain control during our encounters and a belly full of whisky won’t aid him.

  ‘What?’ he asks, regarding me with suspicion, obviously perceiving my wandering thoughts. ‘Tell me.’

  ‘It’s nothing.’ I brush off his concern and attempt to remove my body from his lap. And get nowhere.

  ‘Olivia?’

  ‘Let me give you your thing.’

  ‘No, tell me what’s troubling that beautiful mind of yours.’ He’s insistent, firming up his hold of me. ‘I won’t ask again.’

  ‘You’re drunk,’ I blurt quietly, ashamed for doubting the care he takes with me. ‘Alcohol makes people lose reason and control.’ Now I’m cringing. Miller doesn’t need whisky to lose control and both scrapes with Gregory are evidence of that. And the hotel encounter . . .

  I remain on his lap and let him process my worries while I twist my ring nervously around and around, wishing I could retract my words. He’s rigid beneath me, every hard plane of his body seeming to bruise my flesh. Then he takes hold of my face, squeezing my cheeks gently, and brings it to confront him. He looks remorseful, which increases my guilt and my shame. ‘My self-hatred claws at my dark soul daily.’ He seems to have rapidly gathered something close to soberness, maybe my omission feeding it. His blue eyes seem stronger and his mouth is now forming clear, exact words. ‘Never fear me, I beg you. I could be of no harm to you, Olivia.’ His sombre statement takes the edge off my despondency, but only a little. Miller fails to comprehend the destruction he can cause by hurting me emotionally. That’s what I fear the most. Losing him. I can recover from physical injuries in time, if unintentionally caught up in one of his psychotic outbursts, but no amount of time will fix the mental injuries he can inflict upon me. And that terrifies me.

  ‘It’s like you take leave of your senses,’ I begin cautiously, choosing my words wisely.

  ‘I do,’ he mutters, before nodding for me to continue.

  ‘I’m not frightened for me; I’m scared for your victim and you.’

  ‘My victim?’ He coughs. He’s not happy with my choice of word. ‘Livy, I don’t prey on innocent people. And please don’t worry about me.’

  ‘I do worry about you, Miller. You’ll be thrown into jail if someone presses charges and I don’t like seeing you hurt.’ I reach up and brush over a faint blemish on his bristly cheek.

  ‘That won’t happen,’ he sighs, pulling me into his chest and attempting to rub some comfort into me. Weirdly, it works, and I melt into his relaxed body, matching his tired sigh. He sounds confident. Too confident. ‘Gorgeous girl, I’ve said it once before and on this occasion I have no problem repeating myself.’ He falls to his back, taking me with him, and tussles with me until I’m cuddled into his side and he has access to my face. Feathery kisses trail from one cheek to the other and back again. ‘The only thing in this world that can cause me pain is currently being held in my arms.’ He lifts my chin so my lips are level with his and the lingering stench of whisky invades my nose. I find it easy to disregard. He’s gazing at me like I’m the only thing that exists in his world, those eyes easing my remaining anxiety from this long day. His lips move in and I brace myself, my hand slipping onto his chest to feel him. ‘May I?’ he whispers, pausing mere millimetres from my mouth.

  ‘You’re asking?’

  ‘I’m aware that I smell like a distillery,’ he murmurs, making me smile. ‘And I’m sure I won’t taste much better.’

  ‘I beg to differ.’ All of my reluctance to let him have me in these circumstances diminishes under his tenderness, and I close the small gap between us, our mouths clashing more forcefully than I intended. I don’t care. Disinclination has been hijacked by an urgent need to reinstate my serenity and Miller’s recently relaxing disposition. I can taste the whisky, but Miller’s essence dominates the alcohol, drowning my senses with pure yearning. It’s making me light-headed. The only instructions I can find in my suddenly lust-filled mind are ones telling me to let him worship me. That that will chase away my woes. That will make the world right again. That will calm him. Our passion collides and everything else is of no importance. It’s perfect in these moments, but hard to hold on to when faced with endless resistance.

  Miller rolls to his back, keeping our mouths fused, and locks one palm on my nape and his other under my bottom, ensuring I’m secure in his clutch. ‘Savoured,’ he mumbles against my lips, that one familiar word making me see past my consuming desperation for him and follow his demand to slow things down. My fear was unwarranted. I’m the one being told to rein it in, Miller appearing to have full control and lucidity, despite the obscene amount of whisky that must have passed his lips. ‘Better,’ he praises, moulding at my neck. ‘So much better.’

  ‘Hmmm.’ I’m not prepared to release him to speak my agreement, choosing to hum it instead. I feel his lips spread into a smile through our kiss and that does make me pull away, and pull away fast. Catching a glimpse of one of Miller’s rare smiles will send me delirious with happiness. I’m sitting up fast, wiping my hair from my eyes, and when my view is clear, I see it. It’s something else, a no-holds-barred, megawatt smile that sends me giddy. He’s always devastating, even when he looks downright miserable, but right now he’s surpassed perfect. He’s ruffled, tatty and messy, but utterly beautiful, and when I should be returning his smile, matching his ease and cherishing the rare sight, I start crying instead. All of the crap that today has dealt me seems to come collectively together and pour from my eyes in silent, uncontrollable sobs. I feel silly, overwrought and weak, and in an attempt to hide it, I bury my face in my palms and blindly remove my body from his.

  The only sound in the peaceful air encompassing us is my shallow sobs as Miller silently shifts, seeming to take for ever to find my shuddering body – probably because his usually stealthy movements are hampered by too much alcohol. But he eventually makes it to me and embraces me, sighing heavily into my neck and delicately rubbing calming circles into my back. ‘Don’t cry,’ he whispers, his voice like sandpaper, rough and low. ‘We’ll
survive. Please don’t cry.’ His tenderness and barely spoken understanding only escalates my emotions, making clinging to him tightly my only purpose.

  ‘Why can’t people leave us alone?’ I ask, my words disjointed.

  ‘I don’t know,’ he admits. ‘Come here.’ He collects my hands from the back of his neck and holds them between us, fiddling with my ring unconsciously as he watches me fight my tears away. ‘I wish I could be perfect for you.’

  His admission cripples me. ‘You are perfect,’ I argue, however wrong I know I am deep down. There’s nothing perfect about Miller Hart, except for his visual appeal and incessant obsession to have everything surrounding him precise. ‘You’re perfect to me.’

  ‘I appreciate your unrelenting belief, especially since I’m drunk right now and have shamed myself in front of your grandmother.’ He shakes his head on a frustrated exhale and reaches for his head, holding it for a few moments as if the consequences of his actions have just registered, or maybe a hangover has.

  ‘She was pissy,’ I tell him, seeing no reason to try and make him feel better. He’ll need to face her wrath eventually.

  ‘I gathered that when she manhandled me up the garden path.’

  ‘You deserved it.’

  ‘I concur,’ he accepts willingly. ‘I’ll call her. No, I’ll visit.’ His lips straighten and he appears to think hard about something before refocusing his attention on me. ‘Do you think I can win her over by offering a bite of my buns?’

  My lips press together as he raises his eyebrows, looking for a serious answer. Then he loses the battle to maintain his serious face, his twitching lip lifting a smidgen. ‘Ha!’ I laugh, shocked by his comedy streak, all sadness sucked up by humour. I lose control. My head falls back and I fall apart, shoulders jumping, stomach aching, and tears now springing from amusement, which is so much more appealing than the despair of a few moments ago.

  ‘Much better,’ I hear Miller conclude, gathering me into his arms and striding across his room to the bathroom. I’m not sure if the staggers and sways are a result of his drunkenness or my persistent jerks in his arms. He places me with accuracy onto the vanity unit and leaves me to collect my hysteria while he unbuttons his waistcoat, regarding me with a dash of humour on his heart-stopping face.

  ‘I’m sorry,’ I chuckle, concentrating on breathing deeply to dampen down the shakes.

  ‘Don’t be. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing you so happy.’ He shrugs out of his waistcoat and I’m stupidly delighted when I see him fold it neatly before slipping it deftly into the washing basket. ‘Well, something else does, but your happiness comes a close second.’ He starts on his shirt, the first button revealing a sliver of taut, tempting flesh.

 
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