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Mine to take, p.11

Mine to Take, page 11

 part  #1 of  Mine Series

 

Mine to Take
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  The elevator silently rose.

  He closed the distance between them. Didn’t touch her. Instead, he put his hands on the mirror, positioning them on either side of Skye’s shoulders. “Because I had to see you.”

  “Y-you could have told me. Called me—”

  “Have you ever wanted something so badly…” Trace whispered as he bent his head, “that you couldn’t think about anything else? All you feel is need. An endless desire that churns through you.”

  She gave a little nod. “That’s how I feel…for you.”

  She was exposing her soul for him. He could do no less for her.

  “And that’s the way I feel for you,” Trace told her. “Nothing else matters. Just you.”

  The elevator kept rising.

  “When you were eighteen, you had your dreams. Your dancing.” She’d wanted her stage so badly. “For once, once, I did the right thing.”

  Her scent was making him light-headed.

  “I let you go,” he rasped. “It tore my heart out, but I let you go because I wanted you to be happy.”

  She shook her head. “Trace—”

  “I had nothing to offer you. Barely two hundred bucks to my name. And you were amazing. Fucking amazing. I’d seen you dance, so many times. I knew that you’d light up those stages.” He wanted her mouth beneath his. “But I also knew…you’d give all of that up, for me, in an instant.”

  Because, at eighteen, she’d loved him.

  Skye’s love had been real and wonderful and so pure. No hesitations. No limits.

  Her love had been the most precious thing in his life.

  She had been the most precious thing. And because he did love her, he’d tried, for once—not to be a selfish bastard.

  “I didn’t want you giving up anything for me. So I told you I was done. That I wanted out.” When he’d just wanted her. “I hurt you.” Fuck, that knowledge still tore him up. “And even as I did it, I swore to myself that I would never hurt you again.”

  The elevator had stopped.

  “I wanted you to have your dreams. I stepped back. And I pushed you away.” Then he’d gone out and clawed his way to the top. Done anything necessary to make a success of his life.

  For her.

  In case she ever came back to him. In case she ever gave him a second chance.

  “I kept thinking you’d find someone else. Some nice, safe guy. Have a family.” But she hadn’t. “The years passed, and I…I had to see you. Just to make sure you were all right. Just to…fill the fucking hole in my chest from where my heart used to be.”

  The elevator doors opened.

  “I saw you dance,” he said, staring into her eyes, “and I remembered what it was like to be loved by you. To be happy.”

  Her lips parted. “That night…”

  “I didn’t cause the crash. I was…dammit, I was waiting at your place for you. I’d decided that I was going to talk to you that night. To see if you still felt anything for me.” But the hours had passed, and she hadn’t appeared. He’d gone looking for her.

  And found the wreckage.

  “You were awake when I found you,” he said. Awake but…

  Afraid. Of me. No matter what he’d said, she’d screamed and pulled away. He’d thought…she doesn’t want me anymore. She can’t handle the darkness in me any longer.

  He’d made sure she got to the hospital. He’d forced his way inside to see her, again and again.

  Then he’d tried to give her time to heal.

  “When you walked into my office a few days ago…” He stepped back and put up his hand to keep the elevator door from closing. “I was so damn stunned. It was all I could do not to run and grab you, to hold you tight.” And never let go.

  She was still in the corner.

  “I didn’t burn your studio, Skye. I’ve always wanted you to have your dreams. I wouldn’t destroy them.”

  Her gaze held his.

  He offered his hand to her. “If you love me, you trust me.”

  Because that was who she was.

  Skye glanced down at his hand.

  He didn’t move. This moment was hers.

  “I don’t want any secrets between us,” she told him, her voice soft. “Not ever again.”

  He didn’t let his expression alter. “Baby, you don’t need to know the things I’ve done.” Sometimes, he wanted to forget them, but his nightmares wouldn’t let him.

  She stepped from the corner. Moved toward him. “You’re wrong. I want to know all of you.” Her shoulders squared. “And I want you to know all of me.” She took his hand.

  Hell, yes.

  Trace pulled her into his arms. Kissed her. He lifted her up, holding her easily. He nearly broke down the door to the penthouse before they got inside.

  He didn’t make it past the foyer.

  Too frantic. Too desperate.

  He needed her.

  His clothes still smelled of smoke. The specter of death hovered too close.

  He stripped her there. Shed his own clothes in an instant.

  He took her against the wall. Driving deep and hard and sinking into the only paradise he’d ever known.

  Paradise, with her.

  He couldn’t get inside her deep enough. Couldn’t touch her enough. Couldn’t kiss her enough.

  With her, Trace knew he could never have his fill. He’d always want more with her. He’d want everything.

  She came around him, her delicate inner muscles squeezing hard. Her release brought on his own, and his body shuddered as the pleasure pierced him to his core.

  But he didn’t let her go.

  Didn’t stop thrusting.

  He couldn’t. He was starving, insane with need—for her.

  He’d wanted her for ten long years. She was back. No one and nothing would ever take her away from him again.

  ***

  The phone call came just before dawn. Trace threw out his hand, grabbing for his phone.

  His first thought…Reese. He’d been told his friend was stable. Be okay, be—

  “Weston,” he barked into the phone. If that was the hospital…

  “There’s a gentleman in the lobby, sir,” he recognized the voice of John Ford, his building manager. “He’s insisting on seeing you.”

  “I don’t take visitors,” he said, rolling from the bed. “Especially not this damn early.” Ford should know better. Skye slept on, undisturbed. “Tell him to get lost—”

  “He’s very adamant,” John’s voice was hushed. “He said to tell you…his name’s Mitch Loxley, and the news he has is urgent.”

  Loxley.

  “Keep him there,” Trace ordered as his gaze slid over Skye once more. That SOB was in town? Right after the fire? “I’m on my way down.”

  The sheets pooled around her body. She looked relaxed, at peace.

  She’d stay that way.

  He grabbed his clothes. Three minutes later, he was dressed and in the lobby.

  John turned toward him. Mitch Loxley was at the man’s side. Mitch appeared pale, and there were dark circles under his eyes.

  What the hell does he want?

  “Thank you for seeing me,” Mitch began as he ran a hand over his face. “I wasn’t honest with you in New York. There’s…there’s something you need to know.”

  ***

  “Trace?” Skye reached for him when she woke up.

  But the bed was empty. The sheets beside her felt cool.

  She searched the penthouse.

  Trace wasn’t there.

  Uneasiness settled within her as she dressed.

  Then she slipped from the penthouse and made her way downstairs.

  ***

  Trace’s gaze cut to John. “We need to use your office.” Because he wasn’t taking this guy anywhere near Skye.

  John instantly nodded. “Of course! Right this way.”

  Trace didn’t speak again, not until he and Mitch were in John’s office. The building manager hurried out of the room, then
shut the door, making sure to give them privacy.

  Trace crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the doctor. “Your timing is shit, doc.” Especially right after the fire. To be in same city…

  “I had to come.” Mitch paced around the small confines of the office. “I needed to tell you—ah, dammit, you have to know the truth about her.”

  “I know plenty about Skye.” He didn’t need this guy cluing him in to anything.

  “Really?” Mitch spun back around to face him. “Then I suppose you know all about her mother? You know that Skye’s mother was psychotic? Delusional? The car wreck that killed Skye’s parents…her mother caused that wreck. She deliberately killed herself and her husband.”

  Trace didn’t let his expression change. “How do you know that?” Trace knew, he’d found the truth long ago, but why had this guy dug into Skye’s past?

  “I know because I was worried about her.” Mitch blew out a hard breath. “Skye…she’s too fragile. Too damn breakable.”

  “That’s why you fucked her?” Trace demanded, voice sharp. “Because she’s breakable?”

  Mitch flushed. “I thought she needed me. Skye does something to a guy. She makes you think—she made me want to protect her.”

  Trace had always wanted to keep her safe.

  “But…something’s wrong with her.”

  It took all of his strength not to lunge at the doctor.

  “I started to suspect the truth, after a few weeks. The things she would say, what she would do…” Mitch’s hands drove into the pockets of his coat. “I talked to the detective up in New York. Fuller. No one pushed Skye’s car off the road. I think she drove it off herself.”

  Bullshit.

  “Skye told me about someone breaking into her apartment back in New York, she told me that she felt like she’d been watched—she told me everything…” Loxley’s words trailed away.

  “But you didn’t believe her,” Trace finished, disgusted.

  “Because it wasn’t happening. I would be with her on the street, when she was so sure someone was behind her. No one was ever there. No one ever broke into her apartment. Nothing happened.” A muscle jerked along his jaw. “Her mother was in her early twenties when her schizophrenia first presented itself.”

  Fuck. “You went into her mother’s medical records.”

  “Delusions,” Mitch muttered. “Paranoia. That’s how it began for her mother—and how it begins for dozens of others. And that’s how it’s beginning for Skye.”

  No, it wasn’t. “You’re wrong. Someone is after Skye. She was attacked at her studio. She got a concussion—”

  “Did anyone see the attack?”

  No, his agent had found no one at the scene.

  Mitch shook his head. “How do you know she didn’t do it to herself?”

  Because I know Skye. You damn well don’t. “A fire nearly killed her tonight. Are you seriously standing here, trying to tell me that she might have done that, too? That she torched her own place?”

  “Did anyone see her attacker there?”

  Trace didn’t answer.

  “I thought so.” Loxley’s breath heaved out. “You think I want this to happen? To her? I don’t. I care about Skye. But her behavior was becoming increasingly erratic back in New York. When I told her that she needed help…that’s when she fled.”

  Trace studied the man for a moment in silence, then demanded, “Why didn’t you say something when I questioned you at the hospital?”

  “Because I wanted to be wrong! I wanted to be, but my gut told me I wasn’t. I came here, heard about the fire just a little while ago on the news—and I knew that I had to see you. I had to warn you.” He whirled away and strode toward the window on the right. “Believe me or don’t, but you’ve been warned. I think—I think Skye can be dangerous. As dangerous as her mother was.”

  Trace kept his eyes on Loxley’s back. “She didn’t just leave because you tried to get her ‘help’.” He wasn’t buying that line. “When we were in New York…” And this had been bothering him… “You mentioned something about ‘that night’—how it all changed then.” He waited a beat and said, “Do you really think Skye didn’t tell me about what happened?” Lying was easy for him. Especially when he was facing someone like Mitch Loxley.

  The doctor’s shoulders stiffened. “No.” He sighed out the word. “I figured she had.” He turned to face Trace once more. “But doesn’t that just prove my point? She confused the two of us. She called me by your name. She thought I was you. For an instant, Skye didn’t know who I was—or even where she was.”

  She called me by your name.

  “No one is stalking Skye,” Mitch continued, his voice strengthening. “She’s a severely troubled woman. Just like her mother. She needs an evaluation, medical treatment—”

  “I’m not crazy.”

  John hadn’t locked the door. Shit.

  Skye must have been eavesdropping outside. She’d just shoved the door open. She stood on the threshold now, chest heaving, cheeks stained red. “I’m not imagining what is happening to me!”

  Mitch’s whole body jerked, like a puppet on a tight string. “I-I didn’t mean for you to hear this—”

  “Obviously, but I did hear it.” She licked her lips and her chin notched up into the air. “Someone is after me, and it’s not some figment of my imagination. What’s happening to me is real.”

  Mitch eased toward her. His voice was low and soothing as he said, “I know you think it is…”

  “Yeah, I do! Because it’s real!” She shoved her hair back. Pointed at him. “You want to talk about that night? Fine. Let’s talk. I called you by Trace’s name because I was thinking of him. I wanted him, okay? I always think of him. Every lover—it’s him. That’s wrong and confused, and, maybe even a little crazy, but I know what I’m doing. I wanted him that night, so I called for him.” She shook her head. “I didn’t do it because I’m having a breakdown! I did it because I wanted him.”

  Mitch’s face had turned stone. “No one can find any evidence of your stalker. Not the cops in New York. What about the ones here? I’m betting they can’t, either. Even Weston Securities has turned up nothing because he’s not real. Just like your mother, you’re—”

  “Don’t talk about my mother.” Her voice trembled with pain.

  That was it for Trace. He leapt forward. Grabbed Mitch’s arm and jerked the guy toward the door.

  “Wait!” Mitch squealed. “What are you doing? Stop—”

  “Get your ass on a plane, and get out of Chicago. If you aren’t gone by noon, I’ll know. Then I’ll come after you.” Trace glared into the doctor’s eyes. “You don’t want that, got me?”

  Mitch swallowed. “I-I just want her to get help.” He cast a worried glance toward Skye. She’d backed away from the door. “I care about you. I want to help you.”

  “How? By getting me committed?” Red still stained her cheeks and her eyes glinted with fury. “The stalking is real. He is real.”

  “No.” Mitch sounded sad and certain. “He’s not.”

  Trace took immense pleasure in throwing the doc’s ass out of the building.

  “Uh, sir…” John began as he watched Mitch storm off down the street.

  “He doesn’t get past the door,” Trace ordered. “Not ever again, got it?”

  John quickly nodded. “Indeed. I’ve…got it.”

  “Good.” He strode back to the office—and found that Skye hadn’t moved. Her gaze was on the window. “Skye…”

  She glanced over at him. “Go talk to Reese. He can tell you that someone else was in that studio. I’m not crazy.”

  “I never said you were.”

  Her smile held an edge of sadness. “But do you wonder?”

  He took her hands in his. “No, I don’t.”

  She flinched. “I thought you were better at lying.” Then Skye pulled away from him. “I thought you were much better…”

  ***

  “I only saw Sk
ye…” Reese shifted restlessly in the hospital bed, a bandage taped around the left-side of his head. “I felt like someone whacked me with a baseball bat, but I didn’t see anyone but her.”

  Dammit. Trace had been hoping for more. “You didn’t hear anyone?”

  “If I had, the asshole wouldn’t have gotten the drop on me.” Reese exhaled slowly. “Skye went in the studio first. I think she forgot her bag. I can remember her going in…” His fingers clenched around the white sheets. “Then not a damn thing until I woke up in this place.”

  Trace put his hand on Reese’s shoulder. “It’s okay. You just rest.”

  “You got me out, didn’t you? I heard the doctors talking…”

  Trace nodded. “I wasn’t going to leave you to the fire.”

  Reese gave him a tired smile. “Does that make three times…or four…that you’ve saved my life?”

  “Doesn’t matter. I stopped counting long ago.” He squeezed Reese’s shoulder and slipped away from the bed. “Get some rest, man.”

  “Wait…”

  Trace glanced back at him.

  “I do think…I remember one more thing.” His eyes became slits as he seemed to struggle with the memory. “Your girl, telling me she was sorry…again and again. I swear, I can hear her saying that.” He squeezed his eyes shut. “But that doesn’t make any damn sense. Probably just the drugs they gave me.”

  “Probably,” Trace murmured. “I’ll check back on you soon.”

  Trace shut the door behind him.

  Skye caught sight of him, and she hurried toward him. “Was Reese awake? Did you talk to him?”

  He’d gone in alone because he’d wanted to gauge Reese’s responses for himself. He’d also thought Reese might speak a little more freely if they were alone.

  I remember one more thing. Your girl, telling me she was sorry…again and again.

  “Did he remember anyone else being there?”

  Trace shook his head.

 
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