He gently placed me on the bed and I scooted down, finding the edge with my foot the way I always did. I thought I heard him growl, as though he was furious. He took off his clothes and climbed in behind me, wrapping himself around me and pulling my back into his chest.
The delicious smell of his skin helped calm my mind. I tried not to think about what had just happened. Tried not to think about the familiar feel of my head being bashed in.
Adam tucked a curl behind my ear. “Did she come in at night when you were sleeping, and attack you?”
The question made my chest tighten. I ran my foot along the edge of the mattress.
“Not always at night. She’d lock me in my room for hours, sometimes days at a time. I tried to stay awake, but it was like she knew. The moment I fell asleep, she came in, yanking me up by the hair…the face…”
Adam stroked my hair softly.
“I don’t know what I did to make her so angry. I got the most scared when she pinned me down and dug her nails in my throat.” A sob broke deep in my chest. I had never said any of this out loud.
Adam pulled me tighter against him.
“She told me once when she was choking me that I had ruined her. Not just her life, but her. I learned that if I knew where the edge of the bed was, I would be able to jump off it before she got to me, and try to make a run for it.”
Adam exhaled harshly. “Do I scare you?”
I rolled over to face him. “No.”
He ran his thumb along my lower lashes, dabbing the tears away. “But you run from me.”
I nodded, because it was true. From the moment I’d met him, I knew Adam was something I could never obtain fully. And over the last several weeks, I realized that I had fallen in love with him, opened myself to him, and he hadn’t given any part of himself back. It scared me. Made me feel like this state of bliss I was in would never be permanent.
“At some point, you’ll break my heart, and it will hurt. Now or later, it will happen.”
He cupped my cheeks. “Yes. I’ll f**k up, hurt you, and make mistakes.” His eyes were searing when he said, “But I’ll never abuse you.”
Despite Adam’s grumbling, I had gone to work today. I had a bad headache, but it was time to move on. Megan said she’d file a report with the police, but nothing had been stolen or damaged aside from the backside of my skull.
Between Adam’s move-in proposition and the recent head trauma, my brain was neither functioning fully nor able to tackle big life choices at the moment. We were safe, the locks changed, and that was that.
It had been a long day. Adam called and texted relentlessly to check in on me. The walk home in the crisp air felt good against my face. When I came to my front door, ready to kick off my shoes and relax, I was greeted with red tape and a sign that said Undergoing Construction.
Megan was outside stomping her foot and talking to Phil, our landlord.
“What is going on?”
“I’m sorry, ladies, but you’ll need to find another place to live for the next month or so.”
Megan glared at Phil and I followed suit, utterly pissed off. “We’ve never missed the rent, and you haven’t given us any notice.”
“I’m sorry, we were bought out and the new owner found black mold. Due to health risks, it has to be removed and your whole apartment is undergoing construction.” Phil handed Megan and me an envelope. “All the documentation is in here, as well as a check that will cover all living expenses for you girls for the next month.”
I looked down the hall. “No one else is being forced to move?”
“Nope. Just us,” Megan snarled. “Apparently our apartment is the only one with this severe case of black mold.”
“We’re just trying to keep you girls healthy.”
Megan opened her envelope and when she yanked out the check, her eyes went wide, then turned into pissed-off slits. My gut churned and a nagging sense of doom crept through my pores.
“Phil, who bought this complex?” I asked.
Megan shoved the check back into the envelope and didn’t give Phil a chance to answer. “Take a wild guess!” she barked.
A slow simmering rage began to boil as the dots connected. I returned my attention to my landlord.
He looked bewildered, tentatively glancing between Megan and me. “Kinkade Enterprises bought it.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I yelled, storming into Adam’s office.
His secretary and the entire security staff knew me by first name now, so this time I got my dramatic entrance.
He sat back in his chair. “Good evening, lover. Something the matter?”
“Don’t give me that crap! You’re kicking me out!”
“Do I need to remind you of what happened last time you stomped in here in this manner?”
“You bought my apartment complex and are kicking me out because I didn’t agree to move in with you right away.”
“I’m looking out for your health. The renovations should be done in a month, at which time you’ll have your newly updated apartment back.”
“Is there even black mold?”
His face was like stone. “There was something black on the wall.”
“I’m sure there is. Simon drew on it with crayon two years ago.”
“I felt it needed further investigation.”
I shook my head. “Oh, really? And how does this work now, huh? All my things are in an apartment I can’t get into, because you’re throwing a tantrum about living together.”
He sat back in his chair and threaded his fingers over his lower abdomen. “It looks like you are the one throwing a tantrum. I gave you and Megan plenty of money.”
I clenched my jaw. The check Adam had written could keep both of us living in the penthouse of the Four Seasons for well over a month while dressing in a different designer outfit every day and eating caviar for breakfast. But that wasn’t the point.
“I don’t want your money.”
He shrugged. “Being the owner of the complex, I have insurance for cases like this.”
I threw my hands up. “That’s not the point. I want my home. Not a hotel. What am I supposed to do? And don’t you dare say live with you.”
“Why? It makes sense. It’s a good trial period. You can see that you belong with me, yet retain that false sense of security you have with that apartment.”
“False sense of—” I took a deep breath. My anger was dialed to defcon-freak-the-fuck-out. “How do you not see what you’re doing?”