Tears Of Betrayal: Chapter 31

ARIANA

Sitting down, I strap the seat belt over my lap, and then I wrap my arms around myself as the first sob tears through me.

God, it hurts too much.

The plane begins to move, and I let out a cry, covering my mouth to smother the sound. My body shudders hard, and my chest tightens painfully as the heartache engulfs me.

I love you, Demitri.

You’ll never know how much.

You saved me in so many ways.

You showed me a world where loyalty does exist.

You taught me what real love is.

The cries come violently, making my chest ache until it’s hard to breathe. My face feels feverish, the tears doing nothing to cool my skin.

Save more lives.

Continue to be the incredible man you are.

Live for me. Live a long life kicking ass with Alexei.

I’ll never forget you. Not for a day. Not for a second.

As I double over from the unbearable pain, I flee to the memories I have of Demitri, hoping to get some comfort from them.

The way he walks. Every step filled with power.

The way he looks at me, seeing right into my soul.

His touch when his fingers brush over my skin.

Malyshka.

When he just lunged after me into the lake.

How his naked body felt against mine.

Demitri.

With the memory of his arms wrapping tightly around me, I struggle to breathe past the excruciating ache grinding my heart to dust.

How do I move on after being loved by the most extraordinary man to walk the face of this planet?

No kiss will ever compare to his. No arms will give me the safety I felt with him.

Demitri took a bullet for you, Ariana. He was prepared to die for you. You find a way to go on. For him.

This is the only way you can keep him safe.

As the plane touches down in Seattle, and I step out into the sunlight, everything looks too bright.

Nikhil’s waiting by an SUV for me, and as I walk toward him, I wipe my cheeks and then lift my chin high.

“Hi, Ariana,” he says when I reach the car. “Demitri said I’ll be guarding you indefinitely.”

Indefinitely.

Forever.

Demitri knows I’m not going back to him.

He already knew when he kissed me goodbye, and still, he let me go.

I nod and climb into the passenger seat, keeping my head lowered, so Nikhil doesn’t see my heartache.

If Demitri loves you enough to let you go, you can do it as well.

“Home?” Nikhil asks after climbing in behind the steering wheel.

I nod again. “Home.”

I instantly think of the island.

As Nikhil drives me to my apartment, I stare out of the window at the familiar streets and buildings, and they all seem so foreign now.

This isn’t home anymore.

I’m exhausted by the time Nikhil stops the SUV in front of my apartment building. He also gets out and walks with me. Stepping into my place, Nikhil searches through the rooms, and then he says, “You still have the tag, right?”

I nod, and pulling it from beneath my shirt, I show him.

“Press the panic button if anything happens. I’ll be in the car right outside the building. If you have any plans, notify me.” He takes his phone from his pocket and then says, “Give me your phone.”

I gesture to my bedroom. It’s in there where I left it on charge the night Demitri took me. Walking to the room, I pick up the device from my bedside table. When I unlock the screen and check the messages, they’re all spam.

No one noticed I was gone.

I walk back to the living room and hand Nikhil the phone. He programs his number into the device and then calls his own phone to get my number.

“Text me your plans every day, so I can look at the routes to take.”

“What if I want to do something unexpectedly?”

“Then you call me. Whenever you’re ready to go out, let me know, and I’ll collect you from the door.”

“Okay.” As Nikhil walks to the front door, I ask, “If you’re watching me all the time, when will you sleep?”

“Sacha will join me soon. Don’t worry.”

I watch as he pulls the door shut and then turn to look at the place I used to call home. Now it just feels empty.

Walking to the bedroom, I crawl onto the bed and slump down on top of the covers, and then I cry for the love I had to give up.

There are no words to describe what I’m feeling. It’s like cancer is ravaging every happy feeling I’ve ever had.

Demitri became my life, and without him, it will be near impossible to simply exist.

 


 

DEMITRI

 

Two days after Ariana left, I step off the jet. Alexei sat with me until I was calm enough to start thinking clearly.

I still don’t know why she left, but it’s definitely not because she doesn’t know how she feels about me. The day she left, I believed her because it made sense that staying with me would be hard for any normal person. I don’t live an easy life.

But then I got to thinking of how well Ariana handled everything during our time together. I remember the way she looked at me before I got shot – like I was her life.

When I woke up, that’s when she was different. So either the shootout and me getting hurt scared the living shit out of her, or there’s something I’m missing.

Nikhil meets me with a frown. “I thought Sacha was coming.”

“He’s staying with Alexei. Give me an update.”

“She hasn’t left the apartment since I dropped her off.”

I instantly frown. Knowing there’s no food at her place, I ask, “Did she have food delivered?”

“No.”

My worry grows as I stop by the passenger door of the SUV. “Did you check on her?”

“Yes. She replies to the messages.”

“But you haven’t actually seen her?” I ask, anger shimmering through in my voice.

“No. You said not to smother her. I figured she wanted to be alone.”

Taking a calming breath, I climb into the car. When Nikhil pulls away from the landing strip, I say, “You’ll take the day shift, and I’ll take the night shift.”

“Okay. Where to?”

“Ariana’s place,” I mutter as I open the bag I brought along. I take out a couple of surveillance cameras. “You’ll check on her and plant these so I can see what’s going on in that apartment.”

“Okay.” Nikhil drives us through the city, and as we stop across the road from Ariana’s building, I breathe a little easier, knowing how close I am to her.

“Don’t let her see you plant the cameras,” I remind him, even though I don’t have to.

“Okay.” Nikhil gets out of the car, and I watch as he crosses the road and disappears inside the apartment building.

Pulling the laptop out, I open it and bring up the screen that shows me the cameras. All three remain static, and then finally, one comes on, and I get a view of the living room, front door, and kitchen.

A couple of minutes later, the second one comes online, showing me Ariana’s bedroom from the closet’s angle.

Ariana’s got the covers pulled over her head, and when I see Nikhil’s lips moving, I turn up the volume.

‘Have you eaten?’ I hear him ask.

‘Mhh… I’m fine. Leave,’ Ariana mumbles, sounding tired as fuck.

Nikhil leaves the bedroom, and I watch as he opens the kitchen cupboards and fridge, then he glances at the camera in the living room and shakes his head. When he leaves the apartment, I watch the entrance until he comes out of the building.

I glance back at the screen, showing Ariana not moving from the bed, and let out a sigh.

What are you doing, Malyshka?

Nikhil gets in behind the steering wheel. “I only planted two cameras.”

I nod. “I’ve got a good view. Let’s go get her food.”

We drive to the nearest Walmart, and walking through the isles, Nikhil mutters, “Never thought I’d go shopping with you. This is weird.”

I let out a chuckle. “Shut up and grab three boxes of mac and cheese.”

I get things that will be easy for her to prepare and fruit and then head back to the apartment. “Make sure she eats something,” I order as I open the laptop.

“Okay.”

As Nikhil heads inside with the bags of food, I check the camera feeds. The bedroom shows Ariana lying on her back, her feet propped up against the bed’s headboard. She just stares up at the ceiling. Suddenly she begins to jerk and throws an arm over her face as she cries.

My heart constricts, and the muscles in my body tense as I watch her fall apart.

Why, Malyshka?

Taking my phone from my pocket, I open the messenger app. I haven’t reached out to her since she left but can’t hold back any longer.

Demitri: How are you doing?

I send the text, then watch the camera feed.

With no energy, Ariana reaches for her phone, and then the light of the screen illuminates her face.

Christ.

She looks worn out, and there are red blotches around her eyes from all the crying. She opens the message, and then another sob sputters from her. Pressing the phone to her chest, she curls into a fetal position as she loses it again.

Nikhil walks into the apartment, and it makes Ariana pull the covers over her head again. He packs all the food away and then grabs a fork, taking a bowl of mixed fruit to the bedroom.

‘You need to eat. Come, sit up,’ he says.

‘Just leave it in the kitchen. I’ll eat it later,’ Ariana mumbles, her voice quivering and hoarse.

‘Now, Ariana. I’ll force-feed you if I have to,’ Nikhil warns her.

Ariana throws the covers back, and sitting up, she holds her hand out and takes the fruit. She shoves the food down, then glares at Nikhil. ‘Happy? Now leave!’

‘There’s food in the kitchen. I’ll check daily whether you’re eating,’ he gives her another warning, and then he leaves.

Ariana sits still until Nikhil is out of the apartment, and then she falls back on the bed, and unlocking her phone, she stares at it.

She begins to type, and every couple of seconds, she pauses as she begins to cry. Watching her struggle is fucking hard, and I don’t look away from the screen as Nikhil gets back into the car.

It takes her almost ten minutes before she sends the text.

Ariana: I’m good. Getting back into my old routine. Busy making a makeup tutorial and plan on visiting my mom later. How are you?

I shake my head as I type out a reply.

Demitri: Back at work. Are you making any progress with figuring out how you feel about me?

I send the message and watch as she reads it immediately. Again she breaks down, pressing her face into the covers, and then I hear her voice, muffled but clear enough to make out the words. ‘God, I can’t. This is too hard.’

She turns onto her back and takes a couple of deep breaths, using the back of her hand to wipe the tears from her face. Staring at the screen, she whispers, ‘I love you so much. I wish I had the chance to tell you that.’

My breathing slows as her words sink in.

I fucking knew it.

She types out a message, and when it comes through, I stare at the lie.

Ariana: Yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot. Being away from you has definitely given me the clarity I needed. It was all a spur-of-the-moment thing for me. Can we keep our relationship professional? Only contact me for business.

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly, then respond to her request.

Demitri: You do your thing, and I’ll do mine.

Keep running, Malyshka. I’m right behind you.

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