“You’re leaving, then?” Roth asked.

I choked on a sob “You killed my father, Roth! How am I supposed to feel? What am I supposed to do?”

“Very well, then." He straightened, spine ramrod stiff, jaw set, eyes cold, expression closed. “I’ll have Harris take you where you need to go.” He snagged his shirt off the floor and tugged it on as he left the bedroom.

He stopped in the doorway, turned as the cotton fell to cover his carved abs. “I’m letting you leave, Kyrie. But don’t think you can get away from this thing between us.” He smirked, a hard curve of his lush lips. “Because you can’t. I own you.”

And then he was gone, the door clicking closed behind him.

I dressed slowly, shakily, pulling the sundress on and zipping it up my back. I fled to my quarters, packed my things into my suitcases. I refused to look at the room around me, to think of anything except my next breath, my next step. I took only what was already mine…from before. After everything was packed, I took a shower, forcing myself to keep it short and efficient. I wanted to linger. I wanted talk myself out of going, or out of staying. I wasn’t sure which was true. I needed to go, but part of me wanted to stay. Part of me knew I’d never, ever, find anything like what I had with Valentine. I’d gotten a taste of him, of his world, and I didn’t ever want to leave it. It was more than a palatial home, a suite of rooms stocked with all the best clothes; it was more than the fancy cars and private helicopter flights to the opera. It was more, even, than the sex. And the sex was motherfucking mind-blowing, out-of-this-world incredible. It was Valentine Roth. I’d never met a man like him before, and knew I never would again. So, yeah, I wanted to stay.

But the fact remained that he was involved in my father’s death and the subsequent unraveling of my life. And I didn’t know how to deal with that. Not even slightly. Panicked emotional overload welled up inside me, choking me, making it hard to see, to breathe, to perform the most basic functions. All I wanted to do was collapse to the floor and sob, but I couldn’t. Not here. Not with him still around.

So I packed, showered, dressed in an old pair of faded jeans and a WSU T-shirt, gathered my hair into a wet ponytail, and pulled my suitcases to the foyer. Harris was waiting, as was Eliza.

I nearly cried when I saw Eliza’s unhappy expression. “Miss Kyrie,” she said. “He is a good man. Try to remember that. And I think…he will never care for anyone the way I see him care for you.”

I choked. “I have to go, Eliza.”

“I know. I see that. It will be lonely here without you.” She turned on her heel and strode away.


Harris took my bags and led the way to the parking garage, silent the entire way. It wasn’t until I was sitting in the back of the Mercedes on the way to the airport that Harris said anything.

“I’ve never seen him treat anyone the way he does you.”

I shrugged. “I believe that.” I met his eyes in the rearview mirror. “Did you know?”

Harris shook his head. “I don’t know the details. I have my suspicions as to…the nature of his interest in you. How that occurred, I mean. Regarding…your father. But he never spoke of it, and it’s not my place to ask.”

I only nodded and lapsed into silence the rest of the way to the airport. My mind was racing, a thousand distorted thoughts clamoring and jangling, emotions rifling through me one after another, and it was all I could do to remain calm and coherent. At the airport, Harris parked near a hangar. Inside was a small private jet, not the same one we’d flown in on. He loaded my things into the jet himself, had a brief exchange with a technician of some sort, and then led me up into the cabin of the jet. He took the pilot’s seat, and went through the process of verifying a flight plan and readying the airplane for flight. I sat in one of the deep, luxurious chairs, buckled and waiting, thoughts and emotions whirling.

Eventually we took off, although I barely noticed. There was no flight attendant this time, no champagne. No blindfold waiting for me on the other side.

What did await me when we landed? I didn’t know.

The flight passed in an endless blur, minutes dragging like days, yet the hours flitting by in a heartbeat.

Another Mercedes was, inexplicably, waiting for us on the tarmac when we arrived. Harris moved my luggage from the jet to the car and still, in silence, drove me away.

“Where to, Miss St. Claire?”

“Layla’s.” It was all I could think of. I didn’t even bother asking if he knew where she lived.

But of course he did. I’d retreated into false numbness. Everything was still there, roiling deep down, but I’d managed to shut myself down until I knew it was safe to have my breakdown.

I knocked on Layla’s door at six in the evening, Harris standing behind me, holding my suitcases.

She opened the door, saw me, and burst into tears. “Kyrie! You’re home!” She pulled me into a hug, then backed away, examining my face. “Oh, shit. This ain’t good.”

“No….” The word was barely audible, thick with barely held-back tears.

“Give me those,” she said, taking the suitcases from Harris.

Harris paused. “Do you require anything else from me, Miss St. Claire?”

I shook my head. “Thank you, Harris.” I managed that much in a steady voice.

He nodded, went down the steps, and then turned back. “Kyrie? Give him a chance. If you can.” It was the first time he’d ever used my given name.

I couldn’t answer, so I only nodded, and watched him go.

Layla pulled me inside, led me to the couch, and sat beside me. “What happened, Key?”

I only shook my head, heart in my throat, tears pricking my eyes. Finally, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I burst into tears, and they didn’t stop until I’d cried myself to sleep. The sobs came long and hard and relentless, subsiding momentarily, only to begin afresh, wracking me hour after hour.

Layla curled up on the couch with me, holding me as only a best girlfriend can, not asking any questions, just letting me cry, letting me sleep.



Waking up was not a pleasant experience, this time around. I didn’t even get that fleeting moment of blissful forgetfulness before reality asserted itself. I woke up and my very first thought was: Valentine killed my father. My second and third thoughts were, respectively: Valentine loves me, and I’m in love with Valentine.