Promised, p.32Part #1 of One Night series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
incredible, say some beautiful things when you make love to me, but when you behave like this, all . . . all . . . all . . .
‘All what, Livy?’
‘You’re a self-righteous prick!’ I spit desperately.
He’s not at all fazed. ‘Tell me why you disappeared. Where did you go?’
His demanding questions only heighten my fury . . . and my desperation. ‘You said you’d never make me do anything I didn’t want to.’
‘That I know you don’t want to. I can see a burden weighing down my sweet girl.’ He reaches for me with his hand. ‘Let me ease it.’
I look at his hand for a few moments, my mind racing with only one worry. He’d leave me again if I ever told him. ‘You can’t.’ I turn on my bare feet and stalk away. I can’t stand this. Miller Hart is a roller-coaster ride, tossing me from untold pleasure to indescribable anger, from confident to timid and nervous, from pure joy to painful hurt. I’m being constantly pulled in two directions and while I know full well how I felt when he abandoned me before, at least the despair was consistent. At least I knew where I was. I’ll make the decision this time.
Cold and wet, I pull open the bottom drawer of the chest and take my knickers, bag and shoes, then hurry into his wardrobe and grab the first shirt that I lay my hands on, tossing it over my shoulders and dropping my shoes to the floor. Once I’ve slipped my knickers on and my feet into my heels, I make my escape, running across his bedroom, down the corridor and into the lounge, desperate to hide from his pressing questions and disapproving tones. I know that I was reckless last night. My mistakes are plentiful, but none as big as the man who I’ve just left in the bath. I don’t know what I’ve been thinking. He won’t understand.
Dashing towards the front door of his apartment, I begin to relax when my hand makes contact with the handle. But I can’t turn it. It’s not locked, I can leave if I want to, but my muscles are ignoring my brain’s faint order to open the door. And that is because there’s a more powerful command drowning it out, telling me to go back and make him understand.
I look down at my hand, mentally willing it to turn the knob. But it doesn’t. It won’t. My forehead meets the shiny black door, my eyes clamping shut as I battle the conflicting commands and stamp my heel on the floor in pure frustration. I can’t leave. My body and mind are not prepared to pass this door and leave behind the only man who I’ve ever connected with. I didn’t allow this to happen. It was unstoppable.
I roll my body around until my back is stuck to the door and I’m staring at Miller. He’s standing quietly watching me, completely naked and dripping wet. ‘You can’t leave, can you?’
‘No,’ I sob, my knees becoming as weak as my falling heart and refusing to hold my body up any longer, leaving me sliding down the door until my bottom hits the floor. My anger turns to tears, and I cry silently to myself, the last of my defences melting away. I let my hopelessness pour into my hands and my barricades completely diminish under the scrutiny of the confounding Miller Hart. It feels like a lifetime, but I know it’s only mere seconds before he’s gathering me up and carrying me back to his bed. He doesn’t say a word. He sits me on the edge and slips my shoes and knickers off, and then pushes his shirt from my shoulders and down my arms, leaning into me and resting his lips on my cheek as he does. ‘Don’t cry, sweet girl,’ he whispers, uncharacteristically throwing his shirt to the floor before taking me gently down to the bed. ‘Please don’t cry.’
His plea has the opposite effect and more tears flow, his bare chest becoming as sodden as my face as he presses me into him, tenderly kissing the top of my head every now and then, while he hums that peaceful harmony above me. It starts to soothe me and my sobs begin to abate under the hard warmth of his body holding me and the calming hum of his voice seeping into my ears.
‘I’m not a sweet girl,’ I whisper into his chest. ‘You keep calling me sweet girl, but you shouldn’t.’
His humming fades out and the tender kissing of my head stops. He’s thinking about my declaration. ‘You are very much a sweet . . . woman, Livy.’
‘It’s not the reference to “girl” so much,’ I whisper. ‘It’s the sweet part that bothers me most.’ I feel him stiffen a little before he encourages me from his chest. We’re conversing, he wants eye contact, and when he finds it, he wipes my damp cheeks with his thumbs and gazes at me, his eyes full of pity. I don’t want pity, and I don’t deserve it.
‘You’re my sweet girl.’
‘No, you’re mine, Livy,’ he asserts, almost showing annoyance.
‘I don’t mean that,’ I sigh, dropping my eyes, but soon bringing them back up when he shifts his hands from my cheeks to my neck and tilts my head back.
‘I want to be yours,’ I murmur, and he smiles. He gives me that rare, beautiful smile, and my heart skips with happiness for a split second, but then I remember the conversation direction. ‘I really want to be yours,’ I affirm.
‘I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.’ He drops his lips to mine and kisses me delicately. ‘But you really don’t have a choice in the matter.’
‘I know,’ I agree, aware that it’s not just because Miller says that I don’t have a choice. I tried to leave, and I couldn’t. I really tried.
‘Listen to me,’ he says, sitting up and dragging me onto his lap. ‘I shouldn’t have pressed you. I said that I’d never make you do anything I know you don’t want to. That will always stand, but please know that whatever you fear will change my opinion of my sweet girl is wasted anxiety.’
‘What if it isn’t?’
‘I’m never going to know unless you choose to tell me, and if you don’t, then that’s fine, too. Yes, I would prefer it if you confide in me, but not if it’s going to make you sad, Livy. I can’t see you sad. I want you to trust me that it won’t make any difference to how I feel about you. Let me help you.’
My chin starts to tremble.
‘Your mother,’ he says quietly.
‘Livy, you’re not like that. Don’t let someone else’s bad choices affect your life.’
‘I could have been like that,’ I whisper, shame beginning to flood me, my head dropping.
My face is grasped and pulled to him, but I keep my eyes low, not wanting to face the contempt he’ll be showing. ‘We’re talking, Livy.’
‘I’ve said enough.’
‘No, you haven’t. Look at me.’
Forcing my eyes up, I meet his, but there’s no contempt. There’s no anything. Even now, Miller Hart gives nothing away. ‘I wanted to know where she’d gone.’
He frowns. ‘You’ve lost me.’
‘I read her journal. I read about the places she went and who with. I read about a man. A man named William. Her pimp.’
He’s just staring at me. He knows where I’m heading.
‘I put myself in her world, Miller. I lived her life.’
‘No.’ He shakes his head. ‘No, you didn’t.’
‘Yes, I did. What was so amazing about that life that it kept her from being a mother? That it made her abandon me?’ I fight to control the tears threatening to break free again. I refuse to shed another tear for that woman. ‘I found Nan’s gin and then I found William. I tricked him into taking me on and he set me up with clients. Her clients. I went through most of the men listed in my mother’s journal.’
‘Stop,’ he whispers. ‘Please stop.’
I harshly brush at my wet cheeks. ‘All I found was the humiliation of letting a man slam into me.’
He winces. ‘Don’t say that, Livy.’
‘There was nothing glamorous or appealing about mindless sex.’
‘Livy, please!’ he yells, pushing me from his body and standing, leaving me feeling exposed and lonely on his bed. He starts pacing around his room, clearly agitated, his head falling back on a curse. ‘I don’t understand. You’re so pure and beautiful to the core. I love that.’
‘Alcohol got me through it. I was just there in body. But I couldn’t stop. I kept thinking there had to be more, something I was missing.’
‘Stop!’ He flies around and hammers me with an enraged glare, making me jump back on the bed in shock. ‘Any man who’s done anything less than worship you should be fucking shot!’ He crouches on the floor, his hands in his hair. ‘Fuck!’
My entire being goes lax – my body, my mind and my heart. It’s all given up, my past very much in my present and forcing me to explain myself. He looks up at me. His blues are boring into me. Then they close and he pulls in a long, calming breath of air, but I don’t give him time to start firing his thoughts at me. I have a good idea what they are, anyway.
I’ve ruined his opinion of his pure, beautiful girl. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say evenly as I drag myself off the bed. ‘I’m sorry for destroying your ideal.’ I collect his shirt from the floor and calmly start to put it on. I can feel the pain turning in my gut, stirring years of anguish and misery.
I draw my discarded knickers up my thighs, pick up my shoes and bag from the floor and walk out of his bedroom, knowing that this time I’ll be able to leave. And I do. The evident contempt that he feels makes me turn the handle of the door with ease, and I’m on my way down the corridor to the stairwell, my bare feet dragging the floor along with my fallen heart.
‘Please don’t go. I’m sorry for shouting at you.’
His soft voice halts me mid-step and rips my breaking heart from my chest. ‘Don’t feel obligated, Miller.’
‘Yes, obligated,’ I say, starting down the steps again. Miller feeling guilty over his violent reaction isn’t what I need, nor is sympathy. I’m not sure what the happy medium is of those two, but acceptance and understanding might help. It’ll be more than I allow myself.
‘Livy!’ I can hear his bare feet coming after me, and when he lands in front of me, I mildly register that he’s wearing only a pair of black boxer shorts. ‘I’m not sure how many times I have to tell you,’ he grinds. ‘When I’m talking to you, you look at me.’
He’s saying that because he doesn’t know what else to say. ‘And what will you say if I do look at you?’ I ask, because I don’t need to see disgust or guilt or sympathy.
‘If you look at me, you’ll find out.’ He hunkers down to get in the field of my dropped vision, prompting me to glance up. I find his beautiful face completely expressionless, and while I usually find this frustrating, right now I’m relieved because with no expression, there is no contempt or any of the other emotions that I don’t want to see. ‘You’re still my habit, Livy. Don’t ask me to give you up.’
‘You’re disgusted with me,’ I whisper, forcing my voice to remain steady. I don’t want to cry on him again.
‘I’m disgusted with myself.’ He tentatively lifts his hand and seeks out my nape, watching me closely for any signs of denial. I won’t deny him. I’ll never deny him. I know my face must be as hard to read as his right now, and that is because I’m not sure what I’m feeling. Part of me is relieved; a huge part is still ashamed and another part, the biggest part of all, is acknowledging what Miller Hart means to me.
I’ve fallen. This beautiful man fills me with far more comfort and offers far more refuge than my life strategies ever have. When he’s not scorning me or reminding me of my manners, he’s overdosing me with adoration, but even the irritating parts of him are stupidly comforting. I’m as much in love with the fake gentleman as I am with the attentive lover. I love him – all of him.
His lips twitch at the corners, but it’s nerves. I can tell that much. ‘I hate the thought of you like that. You should never have been put in that situation.’
‘I put myself in that situation. I drank to get through it, even if it made me stupid. William sent me away when he realised who I was, but I was determined. I was stupid.’
He blinks lazily, trying to absorb being bombarded with my reality. My mother’s history. And my history, too. ‘Please, come back inside.’
I nod faintly, and he exhales in relief, putting his arm around my shoulder and tucking me into his chest. We walk slowly and silently back to his apartment.
After sitting me on the couch and placing my bag and shoes under the table, he goes straight to his drinks cabinet and pours some dark liquid into a tumbler, quickly downing it before refilling. His hands are braced on the edge, his head dropped. It’s too quiet. Uncomfortable. I need to know what’s ticking in that complex mind of his.
After the long, difficult silence, he picks his drink up and makes his way over to my shrinking form, taking a seat on the glass table and placing his drink down, shifting it a tiny bit. He eventually sighs. ‘Livy, I’m doing a terrible job of pretending that this hasn’t knocked me sideways.’
‘You are,’ I agree.
‘You’re so . . . well, lovely – pure in a healthy way. I love that.’
I frown. ‘Because you get to walk all over me?’
‘No, it’s just . . .’
‘What, Miller? It’s just what?’
‘You’re different. Your beauty starts here.’ He leans in and runs his palm across my cheek, hypnotising me with his intense blue gaze. Then he slowly drags it down my throat and onto my chest. ‘And goes all the way to here. Deep into here. It shines through those sapphire eyes, Olivia Taylor. I saw it the moment I looked at you.’ My emotions are choking me, the mention of sapphire eyes bringing back fond memories of my granddad. ‘I want to surrender myself to you completely, Livy. I want to be yours. You are my perfect.’
I’m shocked. But I don’t voice it. For Miller to say I’m his perfect, given his crazily perfect world, is . . . crazy.
He grabs my hands and kisses my knuckles. ‘I don’t care what happened years ago.’ His forehead wrinkles and he begins to shake his head. ‘No, I apologise. I do care, I fucking hate that you did that. I don’t understand why.’
‘I felt lost,’ I whisper. ‘Granddad kept things together after my mum vanished. He battled with Nan’s grief for years and disguised his own. Then he died. He’d hidden my mother’s journal all that time.’ I draw breath and continue before I lose my flow or Miller loses his mind. He looks more and more shocked by the second. ‘She wrote about all of these men showering her with gifts and attention. Maybe I could find that, and find her too.’
‘Your nan loved you.’
‘Nan wasn’t capable of anything when Granddad died. She spent every hour of every day crying and praying for answers. She couldn’t see me through her grief.’
Miller’s eyes clench shut but I go on, despite him clearly struggling.
‘I left and found William. He was taken by me.’ Miller’s teeth are gritting now. ‘It didn’t take him long to make the connection and he sent me away. But I went back. Now I had an idea of how it worked. I was even more determined to see if I could find out anything about my mum, but I never did. All I felt was shame when I let one of them have me.’
‘Livy, please.’ Miller’s cheeks puff and release a slow stream of air, an obvious attempt to calm himself.
‘William took me home, and I found Nan in a worse state than when I’d left. She was in such a dark place. I felt so guilty and I realised it was my job to take care of her now. We only had each other. I never returned to William and I’ve never given myself to anyone since. Nan’s never known where I went and what I did. She never can.’
My clouded vision sees wide blue eyes and a stoic face. It’s out there now. No going back.
He seems to shake himself back to life, squeezing my hands in his. ‘Promise me you won’t ever degrade yourself like that again. I beg you.’
I don’t hesitate. ‘I promise.’ It’s the easiest promise that I’ve ever made. That’s all he has to say? There’s no look of contempt or disgust. ‘I promise,’ I affirm. ‘I promise, I promise, I pro—’ I don’t get any further. He moves in fa
He grapples with the shirt I’m wearing, pulling it open to access my body. ‘You’d better not,’ he warns seriously, trailing his lips down my neck and onto my chest. His mouth locks around my tingling nipple and sucks hard, and I’m arching my back and throwing my hands into action. They home in on his strong shoulders, my nails scraping at him, and then I feel his fingers between my thighs, separating me, and his head starts moving down. He sends me delirious with a firm, hot lick up my centre before he’s on his way up my body again and plunging into my mouth. ‘So ready,’ he mumbles.
‘Inside. I want you inside me.’ I’m demanding, desperate for him to scrub away the last hour of agonising confessions and judgments. ‘Please.’
He growls, firming up his kiss. ‘Condom.’
‘Shit!’ he barks, jumping up and pulling me to my feet. He stoops and throws me onto his shoulder, urgently pacing to the bedroom where he lowers me to the bed and immediately removes his boxers before finding a condom and making quick work of rolling it on.
I’m impatient as I watch him, willing him to hurry up before I lose my screwed-up mind. ‘Miller,’ I pant, reaching up to stroke down the centre of his stomach.
He pushes me to my back and falls to his fists, one on each side of my head. He’s breathless, his hair falling forward, his eyes hungry. ‘This is what it’s all about.’ He rolls his hips and drives into me on a suppressed gasp, holding himself deep while he
Promised by Jodi Ellen Malpas / Romance & Love have rating 5.4 out of 5 / Based on43 votes