If someone had stabbed her with a knife, Rory was certain she’d hurt less than right this moment. There he was. The only man she had ever loved, the one man she had built so many dreams with, the very same man who so callously let her know he didn’t love her anymore.
And that was all he had to say? Hey Ror? As if these two years hadn’t gone by and wounds hadn’t been opened? Seriously? Well, she had had two years to practice what she had to say, and the one thing she did need to tell him was.
“Get the hell out of my apartment.” She aimed the gun directly at his heart.
“Rory, put the gun down.” Though he’d known she knew how to shoot, it did something to him to see this woman with a gun aimed at him.
“No. It’s rather dramatic, actually. I pictured this moment so many times, and now that you’re here I should just shoot you.” Much to her annoyance, her voice shook, and so did her hands. Angry tears poured out of her eyes but she continued to stand there, breathing through the tightness in her throat.
Owen wanted to take that gun away from her. The image of Rory, his Rory, holding a weapon and aiming it at him, was a clear indication that he’d screwed up big time. And that even if what he’d chosen over Rory to do went well, there was no chance in hell she’d ever forgive him. For he’d never imagined she could hate him as much as she had once loved him.
“Do it, then. Shoot me. Put me out of my misery.”
She sobbed, and all but shouted back.
“You are miserable? What about me? You……..you left me at the altar, Owen. You sent your best friend to tell me you didn’t love me anymore. You…………you broke your promise of never leaving me.”
“Ror..” If she shot him, he was certain he could endured the pain. Her words were ripping him open from the inside, because they were all true.
“No! I’m not Ror, anymore. I’m just some woman who is pointing a gun at a total stranger, asking him to leave her the hell alone. Now, go!”
He was next to her in a flash. He disarmed her with one swift move and used his free hand to wrap it around her waist, to stop her from bolting.
“Let me go, or I’ll scream.”
“Listen to me.”
“Let me go!”
“Damn it Rory, what the hell are you doing with a gun?”
“None of your business. I said go. You went away once, do it again.”
Her words stabbed him deep in his already wounded heart, but he kept his grasp on her.
“Not until you listen to me.”
“You don’t get to ask me for anything. Not after…….” Her eyes went wide with dismay. “You were there, yesterday. With that……that man, he was going to……..” God, she was going to be sick. She felt her stomach react to the sound of his voice when he’d talked to that other man, the savagery in his movements, the fact that there was not a trace of the man she fell for many years ago.
Owen was dressed in black fitted jeans, a black leather jacket, and he reeked of cigarette and alcohol. His hair was an unruly mass of gold, tied to the back. His face looked hollowed, dark, hardened. His eyes were like two black holes of water devoid of any life, without the sweet, warm tenderness he used to have whenever he looked at her. Whatever had made him become the man she now knew had been in that alley yesterday, had certainly made him look more dangerous.
Unfortunately, her heart seemed to waken up from its two year slumber, as it recognized him, and reacted to his dark demeanor.
“You weren’t supposed to know.” He all but groaned at her in despair.
Bile rose to her throat at his admission. Had he always been this man? Had she been saved by not marrying a delinquent?
“You lied to me. You……you were a cop! How could you?”
This time, his eyes narrowed at her, as if offended by her accusations. As if he’d expected something else from her.
“No! I should be calling the police, so just…….just go.”
“You can’t call anyone, Rory. I’m already risking so much by being here. I just…….I just wanted to make sure you were safe. Yesterday….”
“Yesterday, I was almost the victim of a sick man, and you happen to know that sick man, Patrick.” She thought she saw disgust play across his face at the mention of the name. “So Owen, Patrick, whoever the hell you are, just go!”
“Not until I know you’re safe.”
“With Kyle?” He knew he had no right to act jealous, but the idea of Rory in the arms of another man simply twisted his gut and made him want to find the man and ask him to leave her the hell alone. Rory was his, he’d been her first, the only man to touch her, to love her. She was………….she was heartbroken and hated his guts.
At her sharp intake of breath, she freed herself from his hold and slapped him across the face.
“My life is no longer your concern.”
The fact that he had the nerve to act wounded, or even worse, as if that fact hurt him, made her entire body explode with rage.
“Leaving you was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, Ror.” He whispered.
And in that moment, she couldn’t take it anymore. Rory fell on her knees to the floor and started crying, bitterly, hard sobs rocking her body, as he tucked the gun in the waistband of his jeans, and used both arms to gather her close.
God, how had he survived the horrors he’d witnessed without this? Without her? Her touch, her smell, her heart?
“I’m so sorry, Rory. I had no choice.”
That last statement seemed to have the effect to stop the flood of tears. She pushed him away, and stared at him, exhaustion marring those light brown eyes, making her look fragile and vulnerable.
“You had a choice. To tell me upfront you didn’t love me. To tell me who you really were. You had the choice not to break my heart.”
He wanted to punch something, anything, to make the hurt go away from her eyes. He’d put it here, and he doubted it would ever go away. Asking Kyle to tell her he no longer loved her had torn him deep within. And now, that same man was probably the one she turned to for comfort.
“I never stopped loving you.” He tried to touch her, just a caress, but she flinched away from him as if disgusted by his touch.
“Well, I did.” She lifted her chin, as if daring him to find the lie in her words.
He felt the air rush out of his body, and whatever hope he’d harbored of seeing her again, of being with her again, the only thing that had kept him afloat all of these years shattered like fine glass inside him.
Yet, he’d come here because he needed to make sure Nathan hadn’t followed her. When he’d walked into that alley and seen her there, a knife to her throat, Nathan’s filthy hands on her body, he’d been sick. It had taken all of his training not to run to her and kill him then and there.
For Owen Reynolds had been living undercover for the past two years, under a grueling investigation. An investigation that had begun the moment he’d caught this case just months before his wedding.
“Listen to me, please. You have to be very careful, Rory.”
“Are you threatening me?”
“Damn it, Rory. Nathan is not someone to take on lightly. Please, be safe.”
“Why do you care?” She rubbed her wet face, praying he would just vanish and leave her alone to nurse her recently open heart wounds.
“Because of this.”
And before she knew it, he had her horizontal on the floor, her hands pinned over her head, his mouth hungrily taking hers, as she tried to move away from his touch. It was as if the ghosts of their passionate nights took over for she was kissing him back, reveling in his touch again, in the way his firm lean body pressed hers down, intimately, until she started to ache. The sensation almost made her cry in joy but also in despair, for she’d known no other man would ever have that effect on her.
Before she could claim her pride back, Owen broke the contact and stood up, panting, eyes wild with…….with that same need he’d given her every night, every stolen moment when they’d made love.
Idiot. He said over and over as they continued to stare at each other, breathing hard from both the long lost feelings surfacing and for the effort of pulling away, again. Coming back to her had been a huge mistake, because he’d known he wouldn’t be able to hide his feelings if he ever saw her again. He had no right to come like this, to kiss her as if both were desperate for the touch. Maybe he was, but he had no right to put Rory in the position of seeing him walk away again. Because until this whole mess was cleaned, he couldn’t stay. For both their sakes.
“Go, now.” She sat there, waiting for him to do just that. When the front door to her apartment clicked shut, she ran to the door and locked herself inside, leaning against the door, her left cheek pressed to the cool surface.
Rory was about to go lock herself in her room and just hide until the pain receded, when Owen said from the other side.
“I won’t let anything happen to you.”
And then he was gone.