Authors: Sadie Grubor
"Look, it's late." I turn, facing Damon now. "You should go." His eyes tear away from Erik to meet mine. "And you can contact my lawyer if you want to discuss the annulment."
I try to shut the door, but Damon's arm holds it open.
"We need to talk. There are things you need to understand," he says with determined emphasis.
"It can wait—"
I spin around at the sound of my son's scampering feet, panic tingling my belly. Alex rushes to me, wraps his chubby arms around my leg, and squeezes.
"Liv, that boy is crazy in the tub. How the heck do you not end up drenched when you—" Mercedes stops at the end of the hall, her eyes wide and mouth hanging open. She looks from me to Erik, back to me, to Damon, and then back to Erik. "Erik, we should go."
"No," I almost shout. "Damon was just leaving."
"I'm not going anywhere until we talk." His voice is casual, stoic.
"She said she doesn't want you here, asshole!" Erik shouts.
Putting my hand on Erik's chest, I stop his progression toward Damon.
"Calm down. Alex is right there."
Erik's hand comes up and covers mine against his chest.
"You can kick him out, Liv." Erik's eyes stay locked on Damon while he speaks to me.
"I suggest you take your hand off my wife," Damon growls, menacingly.
I look over my shoulder at Damon and the look on his face shocks me. I try to pull my hand away from Erik, but he presses it tighter against him.
"Don't threaten him,” I say, keeping my voice firm without yelling. Alex doesn't need to be frightened.
Damon reaches out, yanking my hand away from Erik.
Mercedes gasps right along with me.
Erik's body starts to shake with anger, so I pull my hand away from Damon's touch.
"Erik, calm down. Remember Alex."
"Come on, Erik, let's go." Mercedes grabs her coat from the back of a chair and wraps her arm around one of his. "Let's go, Erik," Mercedes growls low, yanking Erik toward the door.
"Go on, Erik. It will be fine." Sighing, I rub the back of my neck with my now free hand.
"I'm not going anywhere, and I'm sure as hell not leaving you alone with him." Erik suddenly grabs me, pulling me behind him protectively. Alex's body jerks with the movement and tears begin to fill his eyes. I quickly reach down, pick him up, and hold him close.
Mercedes pulls harder on Erik, but he doesn't move.
Damon takes this distraction as his chance to enter my apartment completely.
"Olivia?" he says my name on a whisper, his eyes locking on Alex. His face pales and he begins breathing heavily. For a minute, I think I hear him whisper DJ.
"Are you alright?" Stepping around Erik, I move toward Damon, afraid he's become ill.
He reaches out toward Alex, but I pull him away before contact is made. Suddenly, he straightens to his full height and turns those green eyes back on me.
"I'm fine, but we are going to discuss these," he announces, waving the annulment papers again.
"We can discuss those papers at a more reasonable hour. Right now, I have a son to get to bed and you are leaving," I argue.
"Fine," he half grins, "I'll be back tomorrow morning."
"I have a business to run, so we'll need to make arrangements to talk."
"I'll see you tomorrow morning, Olivia." Pushing by Erik and Mercedes, he exits the apartment.
"That's him? Are you freaking kidding me, Liv?" Erik shouts. "He's a complete asshole!"
Mercedes smacks him in the chest before turning to me. "Are you okay? Do you want me to stay?"
Shaking my head, I hug Alex to me closely. "I'll be fine, but thank you."
"Liv?" Erik steps toward me.
"Go, Erik. Just go, please," I beg.
"Night, Liv." He stomps away.
"I'll see you tomorrow," Mercedes whispers, closing the door behind her.
After locking the door and securing the deadbolt, I take Alex to my room. Tonight, we’ll sleep together.
"You, Damon Knyght, my big brother, are going on vacation?" Hugh didn't bother knocking before entering my office.
"Yes." I don't look up from my laptop. Instead, I continue to update my calendar in preparation for my upcoming trip.
"Who are you and what have you done with my brother?" Hugh sits across from me.
Rolling my eyes and sighing, I turn in my chair to look at him.
"Where are you going?" He doesn't wait for me to answer his first question.
"I have some… personal business to attend to." Picking up a pen, I start going through proposals for Mrs. Shaw to redraft before I leave.
"What the hell is that?"
I look up from the papers and follow his line of sight. He's looking at my hand — my left hand.
"A ring," I answer.
"Damon?" Hugh pushes.
I drop the pen and run my hands over my face as I relax back in my leather office chair.
"What, Hugh?" I snap.
"That's not your old ring, is it?"
"No, of course not," I growl.
"I got married over the weekend. You'll meet her, eventually."
"I wasn't even aware there was a
to meet, or one you were considering marrying." A flash of hurt crosses his face.
"Hugh, relax." Sitting forward, I place my elbows on my desk and fold my hands. "It wasn't planned. It was spontaneous."
"You, spontaneous?" Hugh snorts.
"I know it's not like me, but I have my reasons."
"Which are?" he presses.
"I can't let her get away." I grin. "And now she can't." I shrug.
His brow furrows. "You speak as if she doesn't want to be married to you."
"Perhaps," I sigh. "She just needs time to warm up to the idea."
"Marriage isn't something you warm up to, Damon." Hugh gives me worried look. "What did you do? Is this going to come back on the company? Have you stopped taking your meds? Do you realize—?"
"First of all," my words escalate to just below a yell, "don't lecture me about this company. It's
Hurt slashes the worry off his face.
"Second, I have reasons and, for now, they are my reasons. We have a common bond, something I'm not willing to lose. We belong together. And third, I didn't do anything. She is a consenting adult who made the choice to enter the chapel in Vegas and leave legally wed to me." Having enough, and not feeling the need to further explain myself, I return to the proposals I need to have finished by this afternoon.
"I want to understand," he states, pleadingly. "I really do, Damon. Please, tell me what's going on?"
Exasperated, I look up once more, ready to dismiss him, but the confusion, hurt, and worry on his face stops me.
"I went to Vegas over the weekend. I knew she would be there and once I was actually with her, talking, laughing, feeling better than I've felt in a very long time — hell, I'm not sure I've ever felt that kind of good — I couldn't and can't let her go. Now, she belongs to me and I intend on keeping it that way."
"Belongs to you?" Hugh shakes his head at me. "What's the matter with you? You don't
the woman because she said 'I do' in an all-night chapel on the Vegas strip. She can annul the marriage and you can't stop her."
"She can try, but I can drag it out and make it a miserable process. Any attorney with even a small amount of intelligence will tell her the same thing." I leer at my brother. "Plus, we have a common bond which plays in my favor. I know what I'm doing."
"Make it miserable for her?" Hugh's words are filled with disgust, matching his expression. "I can't believe you would be so callous. I thought it was just the loss of Becky before, but—"
"Damn it, Hugh, don't make this about her! It's not about her." Clenching my fists and jaw, I fight the urge to pounce on my little brother.
"You need to talk to someone, Damon. You should call the doctor. You can't just take someone else's life as a possession. You don't own this woman. She doesn't
to you!" he shouts as he stands, looking down at me.
"Doesn't Scarlett belong to you?" I counter, raising a brow.
"Only because she
herself to me, Damon. I didn't club her over the head and drag her by the hair back to my cave. Christ, what are you thinking?"
"We belong together," I growl. "She will understand once she knows everything." I sit back into my chair once more, trying to calm my anger.
"Knows everything about what? About Becky and—?"
"It's not your concern, Hugh." Waving him off, I turn my attention back to the proposals. "She and I have a long discussion ahead of us, and it's one I will have with her before anyone else."
In my peripheral vision, I see Hugh's shoulders slump in defeat. He turns from me and leaves without another word. Though, I know this won't be the last time I hear from him on the subject. For now, it's the last chance he would have. I already received her attempt to end our marriage, which only makes my departure more eminent.
Waking at four in the morning wasn't how I envisioned starting the day, but I always have a hard time sleeping soundly my first night in a hotel, regardless of the luxury surrounding me. Anxiousness zinged over my skin as I fought to focus on my laptop, business emails, and anything else I could use to distract me for a couple hours.
It's now seven in the morning and I can’t help but think about the events of last night as I drive toward the bakery currently holding my new family.
My arrival was meant to be unexpected; however, I hadn't planned on the ridiculous ex being present. The fact that my presence interrupted his time with Olivia only fueled my need to keep her. Then, the boy appeared. I really tried not to look at him. I wasn't ready. But when Olivia turned with him in her arms, it was too difficult to keep my eyes averted.
The beauty of the little boy tightened my chest and almost forced a gasp from my lips. The pain, joy, happiness, and sorrow warring within me was the only reason I left earlier than planned. I needed to get myself together and not lose my shit before I had a chance to explain and convince her that there is no way out.
As I park along the curb outside, I take in the brightly lit bakery. The hours on the door say they don't open until seven-thirty, but an older man is at the counter, talking to a gray-haired woman, so I push open the door. Chimes announce my entrance as I look around, taking in the quaint little storefront with one large table at the window, small café style tables scattered about, and four stools at the counter. Pastries, breads, cookies, and other baked goods fill the glass display cases along each side of the counter and the ones on the wall behind the gray-haired woman. Fresh bread, cinnamon, butter, and other sweet smells assault my nose.
"Good morning." The gray woman smiles brightly. "What can I get for you? Bagels? Coffee?"
Shaking my head, I step closer to the counter. "I'm here for Olivia Harlow."
Her smile falters a bit before she recovers and motions to a small table near a bright green door. "Have a seat right there." She steps out from behind the counter and stands before the green door. "Is she expecting you?"
"Yes." I nod. "She is."
The confidence in my voice, or perhaps arrogance, causes her to narrow her eyes just a bit.
"Can I let her know who's here to see her?"
I grin. She's trying her best to find out as much as she can without being unfriendly.
"Of course." Stepping forward, I hold my hand out to her. "I'm Damon Knyght."
She takes my hand cautiously.
"Her husband," I finish.
The woman's eyes round as her mouth pops open just a bit.
"Excuse me." She pulls her hand away quickly and leaves through the green door.
"Olivia." The door muffles her voice, but the panic is obvious.
"Her husband?" The older gentleman at the counter asks quietly.
I look over at him and realize he isn't asking, he's simply processing. I turn back to the door and step closer, preparing to enter.
"Tell him I'm busy." Olivia sounds annoyed.
I push through the door.
"Oh, I think we have some very pressing things to discuss." Crossing my arms over my chest, I smirk as she spins to look at me.
"What are you doing back here?" Anger flushes her cheeks. It's quite attractive on her. "You can't just come back in the kitchen. You're breaking at least three health code violations right now."
"Sir, please wait at—"
“I agreed to wait until today for us to talk." Reaching inside of my jacket, I pull out the annulment papers — the papers that would be going into the garbage today. "Now, let's talk."
"Unless you are here to sign and give them to me, we have nothing to discuss." She crosses her arms over an apron that reads
I like big bunts and I cannot lie
I chuckle before responding. "Of course I'm not signing them. And since you insist on having this conversation in front of your employees, I will not be signing the annulment papers, Olivia." Side stepping, I drop the papers in a large blue garbage bin on my left.
"Why are you doing this? Are you crazy?" she huffs.
"I assure you, I am not—"
"Not crazy…yeah, yeah, yeah. You say that, but you sure as hell aren't doing anything sane so far by acting like an obsessive man possessed with having what he can't." Her eyes narrow on me.
"You didn't think I was so crazy when you were under me with your legs wrapped around my waist while I—"
"Enough!" she yells, her face blushing a deep pink. "Follow me," she growls, walking toward a doorway at the back of the kitchen while wiping her hands on the apron roughly. She unties the apron and pulls it off, hanging it on a hook beside a set of stairs.
Walking through the kitchen, I take a quick inventory of the five employees standing wide-eyed. I also notice the appliances; some look a little battered while others look ancient. Reaching the stairs, I start to ascend behind her.
"Keep your voice down," she whispers.
"Why?" I ask, my voice as quiet as hers when we reach the top of the stairs.
"My son is sleeping."
She passes a door, pulling it tightly shut.
My steps falter as I walk by the room and press my hand briefly to the door where he sleeps.
I catch up before she notices my lingering and enter the living room I stood in last night. Before she turns to look at me, I take in the open floor plan of the kitchen, dining, and living area. A skylight allows bright natural light into the room, but the hallway is cut off from the large light-filled space.
"What is it you want, Mr. Knyght?"
She stands in the center of the room, eyes hard, and arms crossed over a purple and blue tie-dyed t-shirt. Her bright red hair accentuates the bright blue of her irises, the creamy white of her porcelain skin, and the spattering of light freckles over her cheeks and nose.