Promised, p.42
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       Promised, p.42

         Part #1 of One Night series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
 

  the doors open each time they try to close.

  ‘Livy, get out.’

  ‘No.’ I shake my head, clutching my belongings to my chest.

  He reaches in, but there’s at least two feet between his outstretched hand and me. ‘Give me your hand.’

  Why isn’t he getting in to pull me out? He’s looks afraid, and I’m beginning to realise that it’s not just because I’m running away from him. He’s scared of something else. The horrible realisation slams into my frantic mind, accompanied by countless flashbacks of him carrying me up endless stairs. He’s scared of the lift.

  He takes a slow look around the inside of the lift until his eyes slowly fall back to mine. ‘Livy, I beg you. Please, give me your hand.’ He thrusts his hand forward again, but I’m too stunned to take it. He’s truly petrified. ‘Livy!’

  ‘No,’ I say quietly, pressing the buttons again. ‘I’m not getting out.’ My clouded eyes release the pools of tears that have been building and they begin to trickle down my cheeks.

  ‘Fuck!’ His hold of the door releases and his hands delve into his dark waves.

  Then the doors start to close again.

  And this time he doesn’t stop them.

  We stare at each other for the short time it takes for them to meet in the middle, and the very last image I see of Miller Hart is what I have come to expect. A straight face. Nothing to tell me what he’s thinking. But I don’t need expressions from him to tell me how he’s feeling any more.

  I stare at the door in silence, my mind awash with so many thoughts to process, but a chime from the lift makes me jump and the doors begin to open. It’s only now I realise that I’m standing in my underwear with my dress, shoes and bag still clutched to my chest.

  I hurry to dress myself as a corridor comes into view, relieved that there’s no one awaiting the lift’s arrival. Then I stop at every floor on the way down until the doors open onto the lobby. My strained heart is working overtime, smashing against my breastbone as I dart out of the lift, desperate to escape this hotel. Images of Miller escorting many women through this foyer engulf my mind and the woman on reception catches my eye as I hurry across. She knows Miller, she knew the drill, handing him a room key without question or payment, and now she’s looking at me with a knowing look. I can’t bear it.

  ‘Oh!’ I yelp, dropping my bag as I lose my footing, tumbling to my knees and sending an expensive leather briefcase skidding across the marble floor. Pain shoots up my arm when my palm smacks the marble in an attempt to stop my head from hitting the hard surface, my tears beyond my control now. Shocked gasps ring out through the air as I stare at the flecked marble floor. Then it falls silent. Everyone is looking at me.

  ‘Are you okay, darling?’ A big hand appears in my downcast vision, the deep, grainy voice pulling my eyes up to the crouching form in front of me. I find a mature man in an expensive suit.

  I gasp.

  He recoils.

  I scramble from my knees and fall back, landing on my backside. My heart rate has lost control. We both stare at each other.

  ‘Olivia?’

  I scoop up my bag and struggle to my feet, not knowing how much more shock I can take. It’s only been seven years, but his salt and pepper-flecked temples have greyed completely, as has the rest of his hair. He’s shocked to see me too, but his face still holds that softness and his grey eyes are still sparkling.

  ‘William.’ His name falls from my lips on a shocked rush of breath.

  His tall body rises, his eyes roaming all over my face. ‘What are you doing here?’

  ‘I—’

  ‘Olivia!’

  I swing around and see Miller come flying down the stairs, fighting his way into his suit jacket. He looks dishevelled and untidy, a complete about-face from my usual finicky, fine Miller. The lobby is silent, everyone looking at the girl who’s just taken a tumble and now at the man who’s pelting down the stairs while dressing himself. He hits the bottom and halts dead in his tracks, his stare cast over my shoulder, his eyes wide. It prompts me to slowly turn until I find William staring as intently at Miller. The men are in a staring stand-off, me in the middle.

  They know each other.

  My simple little world has been turned upside-down and has now just exploded on me. I need to escape. My legs kick into action, leaving behind the only two men I have ever loved.

  William is a ghost to me and should stay that way.

  But Miller is the heart beating in my chest.

  Every pound of my feet on the steps jolts an image of him. Every inhale of breath spurs a memory of his words. Every thump of my heart spikes the absent feel of his touch. But nothing is worse than the imprint of his beautiful face on my mind’s eye as I run away.

  Escape from him.

  Hide from him.

  Protect myself from him.

  This is unquestionably the right thing to do. Everything indicates that I’m being wise – my head, my body . . . everything.

  Except my fallen heart.

 
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