“Are you serious?”
He shrugged. “Yeah. Why not? We’d leave the day after Christmas, come back the following week after I finish my business. I mean, come on . . . what could be better than welcoming in the New Year in the city of love?” he asked, nibbling her ear.
“Hmmm. I always forget what a romantic you are.”
“You got a passport, right?”
“Yeah, yeah, I do. But. . .” she looked at him, ready to throw out a million excuses about work being too busy and not being able to get away before realizing there were always reasons not to do something. Just as there were always reasons to do something. She laughed. “Okay. Let’s do it. Let’s go to Paris.”
“Ha ha!” he said, hugging her. “Aw, baby, I can’t wait to show you Paris. It’s an amazing city. You’re gonna love it.”
“I can’t wait either,” she said, kissing him. “Mostly because I’ll have the hottest tour guide.”
“I can’t believe you’ve never been, I mean, with all the traveling you do.”
“Yeah, well, there’s a ‘me’ for the European hotels, and she always comes here for meetings and stuff so. . .”
“I mean just for fun.”
She snorted. “Yeah, I guess I don’t do enough of that.”
Jason slid an arm around her. “Stick with me baby, and I’ll make sure you have fun.”
“You better be showing me some fun later.”
He chuckled. “Why wait?”
“It was his mission to save her from those others.”
That’s what the problem was, what it had always been. Too many goddang distractions.
He knew he couldn
t do what he
d done before. He
d lost too much time that way and in the end had ruined everything. He
d learned patience in the hospital.
Now he had to learn to be smart.
He needed to remove the distractions, make it so that it was just the two of them, with no one to whisper in her ear or turn her head.
It was his mission to save her from those others.
They needed a house. A house just for them, where they could live together in peace, far from the distractions that had gotten in the way the first time.
Finding the house had been easy. There were so many foreclosures in the area, all he had to do was find an auction. It was almost embarrassing how little he paid in the end—all cash. He could thank his grandparents for leaving him that trust fund, the one he was able to get his hands on just before he skipped out on his parents. It was funny how they didn’t overturn the terms of the trust so he couldn’t access the money. Well, he couldn’t worry about why they’d done something or why they hadn’t. All he could do was be glad, because without it, he wouldn’t be able to do any of this.
N atalie eyed the canned green beans and greasy chicken floating on the paper plate in front of her and fought the urge to vomit all over them. She couldn’t stomach the metallic mush of the beans or the slimy, fatty chicken breast. After every meal, he would prod her for praise, trying to extract her gratitude for cooking such wonderful meals for her. He always liked to tell her he knew her better than she knew herself: what she liked, what she didn’t. Yet, he always made her do what he wanted. Eat what he wanted. Be his adoring little puppet.
He called these forced ritualistic meals their quiet time where they could talk and confide in each other. The reality was his alternately blathering on about himself and his unyielding obsession with her or poking her with endless, incessant questions about what she thought about him. What she had thought the first time they met. What she thought about when he said this or when he did that. Sometimes, she thought he was trying to provoke her into declaring her love for him. Or her hatred.
She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of professing either.
She turned her focus back to him now, sitting in a chair at the end of the bed and chattering on about “the future.”