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Silent Vows: Chapter 22

Conner

I’d had to drag Bishop’s groggy ass from bed to spar with me first thing that morning. He’d been up most of the night finishing off the Albanian, but I didn’t care if he was tired. I was desperate to work through the shitstorm of emotions clouding my thoughts since sneaking out of Noemi’s bedroom window.

Saying I felt like shit was an understatement. She’d told me she wasn’t ready for her father to know she could speak. Instead of respecting her wishes, I’d been frustrated that she wouldn’t explain herself and forced the issue. It was a dick move, and I never would have done it if I’d had any idea things were that bad.

The second I saw the dark ring marring her skin, I’d wanted to break back inside and demand answers, but I’d already done enough. I could hardly sleep, wondering if her father had hurt her for what I’d done. I had no direct evidence he was responsible for the bruise, but it made the most sense. Her silence and the bruise were connected. I just wasn’t sure how.

Why would he be upset to know she could speak? I couldn’t begin to guess at the answer.

The gnawing worry and frustration were part of why I’d showed up at my grandparents’ house. I knew she still planned to disobey me, and I needed to see her and make sure her father hadn’t laid a hand on her. If he hurt her because of me, I’d do worse than burn him alive.

I wasn’t one for regrets. I could count the number of times I’d regretted my actions on one hand, but last night added one more. I didn’t regret touching her—that had been sheer perfection. Her body had come alive for me. I loved every second of her writhing beneath me, but I never should have manipulated her like I had.

The cloying guilt clung to me like salt from a sea breeze, a constant reminder of what I’d done. It was enough to keep my temper in check at seeing Noemi with Keir. He wasn’t the type to steal another man’s woman. Not exactly. But as one of the two men poised to assume a leadership role in our family, he outranked me. If he decided it would be better for the family for him to enter into the marital alliance, there would be little I could do.

That lingering possibility and guilt made me pull out a small blue box from my pocket. I hadn’t planned to give her the ring in front of everyone. Everything about me was unpredictable where she was concerned. All I knew was that I wanted my ring on her fucking finger so that everyone knew she was mine.

Most of all, her.

“I just picked this up from the jeweler,” I blurted. “Can’t have a bride without a ring.”

Noemi’s eyes widened.

Satisfaction swelled in my chest. I liked catching her by surprise.

Taking her hand, I pulled her to her feet and opened the box. It wasn’t a traditional diamond engagement ring. We weren’t the standard couple. I thought the rectangular-cut sapphire had been fitting, and judging by her raised eyebrows, I was right. The platinum band was a perfect fit.

I leaned in and kissed her cheek, whispering softly, “That way, you don’t forget who you belong to.”

She swallowed, a flush creeping up her neck.

It was unsettling to realize how much I liked everything about this moment—seeing my ring on her finger and the way she responded to me. I couldn’t even bring myself to care about the small fortune I’d spent on the damn thing.

“Well, lass. Let me see!” Nana said excitedly. “Oh, Con. It’s breathtaking.”

While the two women huddled together, I caught Keir’s attention and motioned toward the front entry. He stood and followed me outside, a smirk teasing at the corner of his lips. We were family, but sometimes I wanted to punch that smugness off his fucking face.

“Tell me we aren’t out here to fight over a woman,” he said in a carefree droll.

“Not unless you think it’s necessary. She’s my fucking fiancée, after all.”

He just stared that unnerving glacial stare of his, the tiniest lift of his chin telling me he was surprised at how quickly I’d owned that new label. I refused to give him the satisfaction of successfully goading me, so I let it slide.

“When we’re done here, I’m taking her home,” I informed him.

Keir arched a blond brow. “Her father wasn’t quick to let her go in my custody. Not sure how he’d feel if I turned her over to you.”

“I don’t really give a fuck what he thinks. He’s the one I want to have a word with about the bruises on her wrist.”

My oldest cousin stilled into carved granite. “That so?”

“I suspect. That’s why I need to stop by.”

“Need assistance?” he asked calmly.

Most people thought Keir was unflappable—perfectly impassive—but I knew him better than that. I’d seen him as a kid being dragged away from fights, saliva dripping down his chin and madness in his eyes. The only reason he kept such tight control of himself now was because a storm of emotions constantly brewed beneath the surface. And in times like this, I sensed how close those emotions teased at breaking free.

“No, I’ve got this. I don’t want to piss him off before the deal is done. Just need to lay down some rules.”

Keir nodded. “You let me know if that changes.”

My cousin had been happy to toy with me over my feelings for Noemi, but when it came to a woman being mistreated, neither of us had a sense of humor. I knew he’d have my back on that matter.

Now, to start getting some answers from my bride-to-be. It was going to be an interesting ride home…


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