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Fall Into You: Chapter 33

Shay

I wake up in bed in my room with a throbbing headache and a vague sense of doom hanging over me like thunderclouds.

It’s morning. Sunlight streams through the windows. Birds chirp in the tree outside. My mouth tastes like the final resting place of a dead rodent.

“Hey, sleepyhead.”

Chelsea sits in the overstuffed chair next to my dresser. Her feet are bare. Her legs are tucked up beneath her. She has dark circles under her eyes, her lids are heavy with fatigue, and her shirt is wrinkled.

“Hey. What are you doing in that chair?”

“I slept here.”

“Why?”

She studies me for a moment. “What do you remember about last night?”

“Last night?” I furrow my brow, trying to remember. “I left work around six, I think. Got in the car and drove…”

I wait for it to come, but there’s nothing. My mind is blank.

Panic sets in.

I sit up too fast, and the room starts to spin. “Shit. Oh God. I feel awful. Did we go out? Did I have too much to drink? I can’t remember anything.”

Chelsea unfolds her legs and crosses to the bed. She sits on the edge of the mattress and squeezes my hand. This is when I realize I’m still dressed in the clothes I was wearing yesterday at work, and my panic spikes.

“You’re okay,” she says, her voice soothing. “You’re safe now.”

“The way you say that makes me really nervous. What happened?”

A floorboard creaks.

Cole appears in my bedroom doorway, looking serious and disheveled. His jaw is shadowed with scruff, his shirt is stained, and his hair is a mess. He looks as if he’s been rolling around in the woods fighting bears.

He’s never looked more handsome.

My mouth goes dry from fear.

“Why are you here? Did I do something wrong? Was there an accident? Why can’t I remember anything?”

Chelsea stands, leans over and kisses me on the forehead, then straightens.

“Cole will explain. I’m going home to get some sleep. Call me if you need me. And remember that I love you, no matter what.”

She turns and walks away, stopping briefly to share a wordless look with Cole. He rests his hand on her shoulder for a moment, then she walks out, leaving me confused and hyperventilating.

He takes the chair Chelsea vacated. He leans over, rests his forearms on his knees, clasps his hands together, and gazes silently at me.

Terror makes my voice high. “Oh my God, did I kill somebody or what?”

“No. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Relief floods me. My frantic heartbeat slows. Then I notice a few more details about Cole’s appearance, and it surges again. “Why are your knuckles all scraped up? Is that blood on your shirt?”

“Look at me.”

When I meet his gaze, his eyes are dark. So dark, they look more black than blue.

“You met Chelsea at a Mexican restaurant after work last night. You drank a margarita that had been spiked with drugs.”

Drugs? Oh God.”

“Take some deep breaths. You’re hyperventilating.”

I do as he orders, sitting there with my head pounding and my heart throbbing and a sick feeling saturating every part of me. “Someone drugged me? Who would do that?”

“Dylan.”

I’m not sure I heard him right. “Dylan from the office Dylan?”

“Yes.”

“How do you know?”

“Security cameras recorded it.”

When he doesn’t offer more, I go from feeling sick to feeling stabby. “I’m sorry, you’re going to have to tell me more than five words at a time. Tell me the whole story, start to finish, and don’t leave anything out.”

He doesn’t move a muscle or change his tone. He gazes straight at me as he speaks.

“All right. Keep breathing. I saw you get into your car when you were leaving the office and decided to follow you. I did that because I’ve been obsessing over you since the night we spent together, and it got worse this past week. Then you signed the memo with my last name instead of yours, and I lost my mind. I tailed you in my car, and when you went inside the restaurant, I followed you in there too. I know the owner. He’s an old friend. We work together sometimes. I asked him to let me watch you on his security cameras. I want you to know that he didn’t like that idea, he didn’t approve, and he was right, but I made him do it anyway. I wanted to see you. I needed to see you, to see what you were doing and who you were with.”

He pauses. “You’re not breathing, Shay. Deep breaths.”

Stunned, I suck air into my lungs until he’s satisfied I’m not going to faint. I’m not so sure about that myself, but he starts talking again, so I focus.

“I owe you an apology for my behavior. I know better. I am better, but last night, I wasn’t. Stalking, spying, it’s inexcusable. I can’t tell you how ashamed I am for that. And for raising my voice to you, slamming doors…”

He closes his eyes and draws a slow breath. “You have my word I won’t do any of that again.”

After a long moment, he continues, his voice lower.

“You went to the bathroom and didn’t return. I became suspicious, so I had Emiliano check all the camera’s views. One of them showed Dylan dragging you through the parking lot to his car. I stopped him and brought you back into the restaurant. I called a doctor, then called Chelsea into the office. When the doctor arrived, they examined you, took your vitals, and determined you were stable and whatever had been given to you would be metabolized by your system within hours. We decided to bring you home and watch you here. Which is what we’ve been doing until now.”

I know my mouth is open. I know my heart is still beating because it hurts. That’s pretty much all the knowledge I have, so I sit gaping at Cole until the blood that drained out of my head starts to creep back into it, and I can speak again.

“You…you’ve been obsessing over me?”

“Yes.”

I love that he doesn’t look away, flinch, or deny it. I know he doesn’t want to admit it, but he does anyway, and that gives me the courage to continue.

“And…you followed me.”

“Yes.”

“You watched me.”

“Yes.”

My throat closes. My chest gets tight. My eyes begin to water, and it’s hard to speak because I’m so emotional. “Dylan drugged me. He was taking me to his car, but you stopped him.”

“Yes.”

“So…basically…you saved me. You saved me, Cole. That’s what you’re saying.”

He hangs his head, exhales, and drags his hands through his hair. Looking at the floor he says, “I’m not a hero.”

“If you hadn’t been there watching me, what would’ve happened?”

He lifts his head and gazes at me with dark eyes but remains silent.

“Dylan didn’t drug me and try to get me into his car so he could take me on a sightseeing drive.”

“I’m not a hero.”

“Stop saying that. You are.”

He leaps to his feet and starts to pace at the end of my bed, hands on his hips, jaw clenched, eyes flashing. I watch him for a moment, wondering why he’s so agitated.

“You said you ‘stopped’ Dylan. What does that mean?”

“I shoved him.”

I take in his raw knuckles, his wrinkled slacks, the stains on his shirt. “You shoved him.”

“Yes.”

“Into a hole you dug?”

He stops pacing and looks at me but doesn’t answer. His blue eyes are fathomless.

“Cole?”

“Yes?”

“What happened to Dylan?”

After a moment of hesitation, he speaks. His voice is deadly soft.

“He was fired.”

We stare at each other across the room. I think of Chelsea, how she looked at me when I woke up. The darkness in her eyes. The resolution, like we’d passed a milestone we couldn’t go back from.

I remember how Cole touched her shoulder when she left. The glance that passed between them like they a shared a secret.

And I understand that being fired by Cole is on a whole other level than his human resources department can handle.

I wait for shock or fear to come, or any negative emotion at all, but the only thing I feel is a twinge of relief that I won’t have to deal with that sleazebag Dylan anymore.

One door closes, another opens, and now Cole and I are on different ground than we were before.

Shared ground.

Strangely, it feels as if I’ve finally found my footing.

I say quietly, “They’ll find out. The police. Whatever you did, they’ll find out.”

He mistakes my meaning. Moistening his lips, he looks away. His voice turns gruff. “You want to talk to them. I understand.”

“No, listen to me. I don’t care about Dylan, I care about you.”

He snaps his head around and stares at me in crackling silence, his eyes ablaze.

“Those security cameras will have recorded you coming and going from the restaurant. Him too. If he’s missing, it’s only a matter of time before the police start tracing his steps, asking people where he went, getting footage from traffic cameras… Why are you looking at me like that?”

“You don’t care about Dylan?” He says it slowly, like he can’t quite believe it, his mouth moving over the words as if they’re from a foreign language.

“The only thing I care about is that you’re okay.”

Our held gazes are an invisible chain of molten fire between us, heating the air, burning with urgency. I want to leap out of bed and run to him, but I don’t have the strength.

“You’re not thinking straight.”

“I am. I knew that guy was wrong from the second I met him. A predator. And we both know I’m not the first girl he tried that with. As far as I’m concerned, good riddance.”

Cole stares at me, dark brows drawn together, eyes piercing, every inch of him taut.

“If you’re about to say I’m not thinking straight again, you’ll regret it.”

In contrast to his feral energy, his voice is soft and stroking. “I wasn’t about to say that.”

“Good. Did Chelsea tell you about her little sister, Ashley?”

“She did.”

“And are you and Chelsea friends now? Because I need you to be.”

“Why?”

“My bestie has to like my boyfriend.”

He closes his eyes, exhales, and shakes his head. “We can’t have a relationship, Shay.”

“You just admitted you’re obsessed with me. Personally, I think that’s a fantastic baseline to start a relationship with.”

He opens his eyes and scowls. “It’s not. It’s unhealthy. And you’re conveniently leaving out all the other things that aren’t so fantastic.”

“Like that you did something to protect me?”

“Most people would consider that ‘something’ immoral. Not to mention illegal.”

“I’m not most people. Are you going to come over here and kiss me or not?”

“No.”

I lie back down, close my eyes, and sigh. “Probably not a good idea anyway. My breath is disgusting.”

When the silence continues on too long, I sneak a peek at him. He’s standing in the same spot, staring at me with a mixture of disbelief and confusion on his face.

“What?”

“It’s just…” He shakes his head. “You and your girlfriend Chelsea are two of a kind.”

“You haven’t even seen us in action yet.” I close my eyes again.

After another long moment, the mattress dips on my right side. A strong hand tenderly smooths my hair.

He orders, “Stop smiling.”

“I can’t help it.”

“We’re not going to have a relationship, Shay.”

“I don’t care how sternly you try to say that, it still sounds like BS.”

“It’s not BS.”

“Oh, come on. You’re obsessed with me. How long do you think you can hold out before you’re sending me diamonds and roses and writing me love songs?”

He makes a small huff of amusement. “Are you always this…”

“Charming? Adorable? Irresistible? Yes.”

“I was going to say stubborn.”

“Oh. Yeah, pretty much. You should also know that I’m incredibly impatient. It’s one of my biggest personality flaws. That and I can be moody. Especially around my period. I’m only telling you that so you’ll be prepared.”

His fingertips trace my hairline, my cheekbone, my jaw. His touch is so gentle, I shiver.

“I can’t do relationships, Shay. My life is too…”

When he’s silent too long, I prompt, “Messy?”

“Dangerous.”

I open my eyes and look at him. Gazing down at me, his eyes full of emotion, he’s so goddamn handsome, it’s dumb. And the way he looks at me makes my heart start to thud.

“How is your life dangerous?”

“It just is.”

“You won’t tell me?”

“I can’t. It would put you at risk.”

“Risk of what?”

He doesn’t answer. He simply watches the path his fingertips take as they trace my eyebrow then follow the curve of my ear.

“The night we met, you said you’d just gotten out of a relationship.”

“That was different.”

“So you can have one, just not with me.”

“It’s company policy.”

“Your family owns the fucking company.”

“Which is why it’s even more important that we honor the rules.”

“Are you kidding me right now? You know half the people in that building are banging each other.”

“Still. It’s company policy.”

“Mention that again, and I’ll punch you right in your nose.”

He leans down suddenly and buries his face in my hair. He inhales deeply, then exhales and sighs in contentment. His shoulders relax.

I wind my arms around them and turn my cheek to his, lowering my voice to a whisper. “Things are different now. Do you actually think we can go back to ignoring each other at work after this?”

“We have to try.”

“Oh, really? The way you’re sniffing my neck would indicate otherwise.”

“Don’t be stubborn about this. Let it go.”

“No. Sorry.”

“You’re not sorry.”

“You’re right, I’m not.”

He burrows closer, sliding his arms under my body so he can squeeze me hard against his chest. We lie like that for a moment, just holding each other, until he murmurs, “I should let you rest.”

“No, you should give me an orgasm.”

“Goddammit, woman.”

“Stop trying to control me. You know I’ll win.”

He releases me and stands. Then, because it seems to be the way he gets his exercise, he starts to pace again. I prop myself up on my elbows and watch him until I start to get tired.

“Hey. Handsome.”

He shoots me a tense sideways glance but doesn’t stop pacing.

“How about this? Let’s not call it a relationship. We’ll call it a situationship instead.”

His look sours.

“Fine, it doesn’t have to be categorized. We won’t call it anything. It will be The Thing That Must Remain Nameless. And we’ll be very circumspect around the office so no one will know. I’ll even pretend to hate you. Everybody will believe me because you’re pretty awful.”

He stops pacing. “I’m awful?”

“Yes.”

“Like how awful?”

“Like so bad your nickname is the Grinch. Oh, look, there’s that face you make when someone tells you some truth you find annoying.”

“I’m not making a face.”

“You are. It’s like, ‘Ew, smelly peasant, get out of my way with your rotting teeth and dirty rags, can’t you see the king of the universe is passing through?’ Like that. Super arrogant and scornful. I’ve thought more than once that you must practice it in front of a mirror.”

He gazes at me in agitated silence, jaw working, eyes narrowed. Then he drops his head and starts to laugh.

“Does this mean I win?”

“No, funny girl, it doesn’t. But it does mean I’ll make you breakfast. In the meantime, lie there and think about all my red flags that are waving in your face. Then make the right decision.”

“I’m not changing my mind, Cole. Like it or not, I’m your girlfriend now.”

Shaking his head, he walks out of the room.


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