Authors: Kourtney King
Still trying to wrap his mind
around how the plans he had for himself and Valerie had been changed so
drastically in the last twenty-four hours, Vlad zipped up the suitcase that
included the few clothes he had bought for Valerie along with his own. He had
promised himself that he would help her get through the emotional trauma of her
rape, and he meant it. The first thing on his agenda was getting her
comfortably set up at home.
He stopped dead in his tracks
when he took in the image she presented. She looked beautiful. He walked to the
threshold of the balcony’s sliding doors. His heart constricted at the thought
of never seeing her again.
I’m doing this for her
he reminded himself.
“Are you ready?”
“Yes. Are you coming? I
mean, are you going to stay at the beach house with me?”
He had to take a couple of
seconds to think about it. He would make sure that she got home safely, and
he'd put the right measures in place to ensure her safety. “Yes.”
Walking across the short
distance, she looked up at him. She had to know whether he looked at her
differently now. “I know this sounds pathetic but… I-I need to know that you
don’t see me differently. Am I still your angel Vlad?” God, she hated how
pathetic she sounded, but she just had to know.
Vlad went still. Instinctively
he placed his hands on her face, barely restraining himself from kissing her.
“You will always be my angel. No matter what.”
The words should have soothed
her, but for some reason, she didn't feel any better. She didn't say anything
after that, and neither did he. He took hold of her hand and walked out of the
suite. They checked out of the hotel and drove to the private airport. He was
still using Taras' jet, a point he conceded to ensure Val’s comfort.
The silence sat heavy between
them as the plane levelled off. Surely they should talk to each other during
the ten-hour flight. Valerie said the first thing that popped into her
mind. "I think I should try and pass my driver's test once we get
back. Maybe you could give me a few lessons."
“I’m not going to be
there long enough to make much of an impact.”
His words were a punch to her
gut. She knew he was leaving and had to come to terms with that fact. “Are you
going to sell the house?”
“No, I bought it for you. I’ll
transfer it to your name.”
“And I moved in because you
told me to stop running. You made me believe in us. I gave up my lease and time
with my friends for you. If you’re breaking up with me, then let's make it a
clean break. I don't want any reminders of us, and that includes a house
that is too big for two people, let alone one.” The anger she felt over this
entire situation clogged up her throat. She was trying so hard to put on a
brave face, but it hurt too much.
Vladimir saw the fire blazing
in her eyes under the shimmer of unshed tears. She was pissed. How could he
make her understand that he was doing this for her? He didn’t mean to hurt her.
“You probably know by now that it’s not safe to be with me.”
Her eyes held his, and when she
blinked, the tears fell. Was he serious? Was that how he was looking at this? A
fit of giggles escaped her lips, and before she knew it, she was laughing
hysterically. "Wow! Okay, I guess we're done." She unbuckled her
seatbelt and stood up. “I’m going to take a nap.”
Vlad remained seated,
completely dumbfounded. One minute she was angry at him and in the next, she was
laughing. Yesterday morning she had been in tears after admitting that she had
been raped, and when he returned to the suite after booking her doctor's
appointment, she was already dressed, ready to go out. Her mood swings were
erratic, increasing his mounting worry over her overall well-being. He
unbuckled his seatbelt and followed her to the back of the jet where the
bedroom was located. He pulled down the handle to let himself in and found it
His chest tightened. Leaving
her wouldn’t be easy. How was he supposed to survive without the one person in
this world who gave his life significant meaning? He leant his head against the
door with uncertainty creeping in. Suddenly, leaving her alone at the beach
house didn’t seem like such a great idea.
Lying in bed alone on a private
jet was the kind of thing people dreamed of, but only sadness washed over her.
What was it about her that made the men she gave her heart to leave? First
Rehan and now Vladimir. She wouldn’t count her previous two boyfriends. Back
then, she'd been too young to give her relationships the gravity to impact her
psyche. She berated herself for allowing Vlad, a man she had tried so valiantly
to shield herself from, to get close enough to break her all over again.
It hurt a thousand times worse
than she ever remembered feeling when she’d found out the truth about Rehan’s
“business trip”. She wished she was still back at the palace. The nothingness
back there was better than the pain that clawed at her chest. The memory of
Keyaan came back unbidden.
She wouldn’t even go there. She forced it
to the back of her mind and tried to think of something else. Math. Yes,
drawing up equations in her head would keep her mind away from that morning or
the mess that her life had become.
Vladimir walked back to his
seat. She needed space, and he would give her that. As he stared out of the
window with nine hours and thirty minutes to go before they landed, he took
time in his solitude to think about what he was doing.
Leaving her would ensure that
no one tried to use the one person he cared about to get to him, but the
widening distance between them tore at him. Even the locked doors that she put
up to ensure he didn’t come in unbidden disturbed him. Thinking back to the
past month without her, he asked himself whether he could live without her. He
had nearly lost his mind back then. He would have had it not been for Andrei
and Raven at his side keeping him focused on her return.
What mattered now was Valerie.
Seeing her safe and keeping her happy. She hadn’t taken the news of his
departure well. Should he have not said anything and just left when the time
came, kind of like ripping off a band-aid? That sounded cowardly, and he was
not a coward. Thinking back to the first time they met, he had behaved like a
brute, and there were times he thought that she didn’t like him. Yes, they were
physically attracted to each other from the start, but he wasn't the fairy tale
kind of guy. He could go back to that cold bastard with her, make her see him
for who and what he really was. That would sever the bond he had tried so hard
to create between them as he made the effort to be a better man. Either way,
the end result would be the same. He would always hurt her even if that weren't
The last time a man had hurt
her, she ran into him. He couldn't even bring himself to think about another
man taking his place. That's what relinquishing the role in her life meant -
she would be with another man, a better man than he was. However, he was a
selfish bastard when it came to her. For that reason alone, he was having a
hard time committing to the decision he'd made.
Mental math had kept Valerie
busy for about an hour max. Sadly her thoughts went to the one place she had
wanted to avoid – Keyaan. Thinking about that incident made her want to kill
herself. The violation and humiliation were too hard to bear. For a split
second, she thought of taking her life. Then what? What about her family and
friends and the grief she would cause them? What about Vlad?
He doesn’t want you anymore
her conscience whispered. Even
though she loved him and was willing to fight for him, what kind of
relationship would they have if she forced him to stay? She was starting to
despise this weak, pathetic woman she had morphed into lately. No, Valerie
Thusi would not fight for a man who didn’t want her. She had nine more hours on
this flight to come to grips with their break up. She couldn’t wallow in
There was a knock on the door
that woke her. She wasn’t aware of when she had fallen asleep or for how long
she had been out.
“Ma’am, the plane is about to
land. I need you to come back into the main cabin.”
“I’ll be out in a minute.”
She got up, straightened her
clothes and unlocked the door. This time, she took a seat on the opposite side
of the isle instead of the original one she occupied next to Vlad. If he wanted
to leave, then she would not stand in his way. She had so much to live for that
went beyond the relationship she had with the man who had consumed her life
over these past few months.
Imaging Valerie with another
man for the entirety of the flight had done a number on Vlad. He would never be
comfortable with that idea. The one thing that was clear is that she needed a
support system. Until she had settled in he would remain at the beach house. It
may take a few weeks or even months. That didn't matter; he just wanted to help
her overcome this ordeal. He would selfishly feed his need to be around her,
but more importantly, he would make sure that no one was sniffing around her
when she was at her most vulnerable. She would always belong to him even if he
weren't with her. He cared about her, more than he cared about himself and what
removing his presence from her life would do to him. Sacrifice. That’s what
this was. Putting her wellbeing ahead of his feelings and desires.
He had planned to tell her all
of this once she’d woken up. However, she emerged from the bedroom and moved to
a different seat. She was probably still angry with him, and he didn't blame
her. His initial plan was impulsive and not well thought through. He watched
her settle into the butterscotch leather chair, buckle her seatbelt and turn to
face the window.
The plane landed smoothly on
the tarmac. When they came to a standstill, he stood up and went to her side to
help her out. Valerie walked past him and headed towards the open door and down
"Valerie," he called
out, but she continued walking. He reached for her arm and pulled her back.
“You mean the world to me. You are the most incredible woman that I’ve ever
met. I will be there for you for as long as you need me. Please understand why
I can’t stay. I thought I could start over with you but what happened proved me
wrong. If anything else was to happen...”
Not this again. Was this
declaration supposed to make her feel better? No, she didn't need a consolation
prize. If he was adamant on leaving then, he might as well get out of her life
right now. There was no use in prolonging the inevitable. She took a deep
calming breath. "Okay, Vlad. One week. Do whatever it is you need to do,
and then you can leave." She pulled her arm out of his hold and continued
walking. She had survived Rehan, she had survived Keyaan and Valerie had enough
faith in herself to know that she would survive Vladimir. She was a survivor.
She affirmed as she kept walking.
She couldn’t deny the
attraction she still felt towards him. His presence was hard to ignore no
matter how hard she tried. For the few moments he had touched her, she almost
gave in to his offer until she reminded herself that it would be short lived.
She couldn’t avoid the inevitable, so she tamped it down and pushed her love
for him aside, all in the hopes that it would help her move on quicker.
Arriving at what she once
thought of as their home, she went straight to the green room. It was the guest
bedroom she used to study in because Vlad always gravitated towards her
whenever she worked anywhere else. If she hadn’t told Vlad about what had
happened, then she would probably have walked up to the third floor of what was
once their bedroom. Things were different now. She knew that he was going to
leave in a week. She had given him a deadline and set one for herself.
Preparing herself emotionally for his departure would start today, not when he
left in a week.
Vlad didn’t know what to do at
this point. He had tried to explain why they couldn't be together, but that had
been a disaster. She wouldn’t speak to him, and now she was avoiding him. He
poured himself a glass of vodka from the bar and walked upstairs to the master
bedroom. After a few hours of wrestling with his pillow and the sheets of the
California King, he got up to find her. Maybe she had calmed down enough for
them to talk.
This time, he knocked on her
door before entering. From experience, he knew that whenever she went to this
room, in particular, she needed to work without him being a distraction. He had
never disturbed her before, but this was important. They needed to resolve
their feelings. He waited for a few beats, but there no reply came. If she were
sleeping, he would just check on her and try again tomorrow. Turning the knob,
he found the door locked. The rift between them was of his making, but the
locked door in their home pushed him over the edge. He banged on the door
incessantly, vowing to break it down if she didn't let him in.
Valerie had hoped that Vladimir
would think she was asleep if she didn’t answer. Sadly she was mistaken. She
got up and yanked the door open ready to give him a piece of her mind. That was
until she met the thunderous look on his face.
“Why is the door locked?” he
asked with barely contained rage.