Ruthless Saints: Chapter 20

CARSON

I drive to Hailey’s cabin so I can bring all her belongings to my place.

Part of me is happy she’s practically moving in with me, even if it’s against her will. Still, the other half knows it’s only temporarily.

Focus on the now, Carson.

Hailey let you hold her. She just needs to process everything. There’s still a chance she won’t leave you.

Climbing out of the SUV, I glance around. A neighbor quickly shuts their door. So much for blending in with the town’s people.

I walk to the front door and using Hailey’s keys, I open it. I move from room to room, checking it’s safe before I grab her bags. I set them down on the bed and start removing her clothes from the closet. I fold each item neatly before I place it in the bag.

She let me hold her. It gutted me to hear her cry, but having her in my arms was heavenly.

I wish I could turn back time. I’d take Hailey to Damien and Winter’s island, where she’d be safe.

I’d cancel the contract on Joseph Rudaj.

If only…

What’s done is done, though, and I have to deal with the repercussions.

When I’m done packing all the clothes, I move through the cabin, grabbing everything that belongs to Hailey. I set the packed bags down by the front door, and then clean every surface, removing any trace of Hailey being in this place.

Not that it will help hide her. It’s too late for that.

I carry the bags to the car, and after loading them, I lock the front door. I’ll return the keys to the owner.

I drive back to my place, and when I walk into the house, it’s quiet. Alexei and Demitri are probably in the armory.

I carry the bags to the guest room, and seeing Hailey is fast asleep, I move as quietly as I can so I don’t wake her. I unpack all the clothes into the closet and set the framed photo of Hailey’s parents down on the bedside table.

Leaning against the wall next to the bed, I stare down at her sleeping face.

Please find a way to forgive me.

Slowly, I move down until I’m sitting on the floor. With my legs bent at the knees, I rest my arms on them, my eyes glued to Hailey.

Taking in the fading bruises on her face, the memories of the attack ripple through my mind, and I close my eyes against the images of Hailey being beaten. Lifting my hands, I cover my face as the sounds of her choking and whimpering begin to haunt me for the millionth time.

I’ll never forget it.

The regret eats away at what’s left of my soul.

Hearing her struggle to breathe. I try to shake the memory, but it digs its claws into me until my body begins to tremble.

I move my hands to my hair, lowering my head as the guilt bears down on my shoulders.

While Hailey finds peace in her sleep, the memories lash at me with brutal force.

When the sun begins to set, I hear Hailey whimper. My head snaps up, and I dart to my feet. She’s still asleep, but it’s restless, her features tight with fear.

Leaning over her, I whisper, “You’re safe, baby.”

Her hand lifts, slapping against my chest, and then her fingers grab a fist full of my shirt. Slowly, I sit down, and I press a kiss to her forehead. I wish I could follow her to her dreams to keep the nightmares from coming.

Hailey turns her body toward me, letting out a soft groan. Releasing my shirt, she curls closer until her face presses against the side of my leg. I move my hand to her hair and tenderly pull my fingers through the strands, knowing she loves when I do it.

She seems to settle, and I remain frozen, taking every second I can get to be this close to her.

The urge to lie down and wrap her up in my arms almost overwhelms me, but I keep still, not wanting to wake her. Because then she’ll pull away again, and I just need this for a little longer.

Alexei comes to check on Hailey and watches us for a couple of seconds before he leaves again.

My eyes caress every inch of Hailey’s face, my fingers relishing in the feel of her silky hair. She lifts her arm and wraps it around my leg, holding onto me.

Don’t fight us. We belong together.

I let out a sigh, not so sure whether I’m going to win this fight. I already know what the next question from Hailey will be, and I dread answering it.

Why don’t I stop being an assassin?

I’ll have to explain to her the day I retire is the day I die. If you don’t remain active, you become an easy target. I have too many enemies to leave the underbelly of crime. I’m too deep in.

Also, she’ll forever be linked to me. Even if she leaves me, I’ll never stop watching her. Not only because I can’t let her go, but because I need to keep her safe.

She’s already in my world, her light struggling to shine with the darkness closing in around her.

I’m so fucking sorry you met me, but I wouldn’t change it. Not if it means never getting to see your smile or hear you laugh. I’m sorry I’m such a selfish bastard.

 


 

HAILEY

 

Waking up in the early hours of the morning, the first thing I become aware of is that I’m holding onto something, and it’s not a pillow.

Slowly I pull back, and glancing up, it’s to find Carson staring down at me. I was clinging to his thigh.

Even in my sleep, I still gravitate toward him.

My eyes drift over his face, and I notice how tired he looks. “Did you sit here all night?”

“You were restless.”

Since I’ve stopped taking the painkillers, the nightmares have started. It’s disjointed memories of that night.

He sat with me.

For a moment, my heart thaws, but then I force myself to remember who he is.

His fingers brush over my hair, and my body savors the touch while my mind rebels against it.

It’s becoming a constant war.

Carson stands up. “I’m just going to shower, then I’ll make you something to eat.”

Slowly, I pull myself up into a sitting position, my chest protesting and begging for a pain killer.

“Will you take something for the pain after you’ve eaten?” he asks.

I shake my head, not wanting any kind of drug from him.

Carson places his hand beneath my chin, nudging my face up until our eyes meet, then he says, “I never have, and I never will take advantage of you. You need painkillers.”

I search his eyes and only seeing the man I love hurts.

Will I ever be able to tie my hermit together with the assassin?

“Nothing strong,” I give in because my chest aches like hell. “I don’t want anything that will cloud my judgment.”

Carson nods, the corner of his mouth lifting.

The sight makes emotions pour into my heart, and the question escapes me, “I can’t… how can you be this caring person with me and then go out there and kill people?”

Carson sits down again, his eyes caressing my face. “This is who I am, Hailey.” He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “When I’m working a contract, I don’t see the person. I focus on what they’ve done and the reason someone wants them dead.”

I lower my eyes to his hands. They’ve loved me. They’ve brought me pleasure.

Then I remember how quickly Carson killed those men. The confidence and agility he moved with.

“Is it always like what I saw? The fighting?”

“No.” I lift my gaze back to his. “I prefer a long-distance shot. It’s merciful when they don’t see it coming.”

Merciful? Only a ruthless killer would think that way.

“Did you…” I swallow hard on the emotions, hating the question, but still, I ask, “Did you kill anyone since we met?”

He nods, and it rips through me. My face distorts, and I pinch my eyes shut. I don’t know why it hits so hard. Then I remember Zürich, and my eyes fly open. “What happened in Zürich?”

“I killed Joseph Rudaj. You weren’t supposed to be there.”

“The blood on your hand.” I gulp hard. “Was it his?”

Carson nods again, and I turn my face away from him, unable to look at him.

“If only I had known, I wouldn’t have encouraged anything between us. I would’ve left Saint Luc’s immediately.” My words are filled with the blame I’m placing squarely at his feet.

“I know.” He lets out a sigh. “I tried to stay away from you.”

“Not hard enough,” I snap, angry that I’ve been fooled into loving a murderer.

“With everything I had,” he whispers. “I’ll never regret anything we shared. I’ll always love you.”

“And I’ll always regret it.” I scoot away from him.

“Do you still love me?” he asks, and for the first time, I hear heartache shimmering through in his voice.

I press my lips together, my mind and my heart going to war once again. Unable to keep quiet, I say, “I fell for the lie you told me. I can never love a murderer.”

Carson takes hold of my jaw, turning my face to his. Our eyes lock, and I see the raw pain in his. “You fell for the real me, which means you love me.”

I pull free from his hold. “How I feel about you won’t change anything. Do you think I’ll sit here and wait for you while you’re off killing people? Worry about you dying every time you leave? I’ll help you pack your travel bag and guns, then kiss you goodbye at the door? Run into your arms when you return home? Don’t be stupid, Carson.”

“I’m not that easy to kill.”

“Carson!” I yell, desperate for him to hear me. “I am!” I lean closer, pressing a hand against my chest. “I am easy to kill.”

“I won’t let that happen,” he argues.

“It almost did,” I snap.

“Only because I wasn’t armed, and they were. It happened because I was hiding who I am from you. I can promise you no one will ever get close to you again. I can protect you.”

Hopelessly, I shake my head. “It doesn’t change who you are.” I meet his eyes. “It goes against everything I am. You were right. We’re complete opposites, and it will never work between us.”

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