Tears Of Salvation: Chapter 26

ISABELLA

The longer my eyes are on Alexei’s face, the more the ruthlessness fades until all I see is the man I fell in love with.

I search for the anger inside me, but I’m not able to find it. All that’s left is the hurt.

Suddenly Alexei nods, then he says, “I never meant to hurt you.”

“But you did,” I say, rising to my feet. “You could’ve told me the truth from the beginning.”

“I didn’t want you to leave,” he admits.

Frowning, I ask, “Why? I can’t figure that out. What do you want from me, Alexei?”

“Everything,” he answers. The possessiveness lacing the word sends shivers rushing over my skin.

God, he still has the power to cloud my better judgment. His presence makes it hard to focus on the fact that I should be spitting angry with him.

Alexei begins to move toward me. “I want you and everything you have to offer.” He stops in front of me, and lifting his hands, he frames my face. His eyes bore into mine as he says, “I just want you, Isabella.”

I search his eyes for the truth, but doubt makes it impossible to read them. Something’s holding me back, and I can’t figure out what it is.

I pull his hands away from my face, and stepping around him, I walk out onto the balcony. With my back to Alexei, I say, “I have no idea what’s the truth and what’s a lie when it comes to you.”

I feel Alexei as he comes to stand behind me and my eyes drift closed.

I might be angry and hurt, but at the end of the day, Alexei still has the power because I can’t stop loving him.

Just a couple of minutes alone with him, and even the heartache is starting to ease.

I shake my head, wondering if I even stand a chance against him. Or has he already taken ownership of me, and I just need to come to terms with it?

Alexei places his hands on my shoulders, and then his breath fans over my skin right before he presses a kiss to the side of my neck. “When I brought you to the hospital, I just wanted time so you’d be open to an alliance between us.”

I turn around, coming face to face with him. I’m so tired of putting up an act I don’t think to wear a mask. Looking at Alexei, I don’t think to hide what I feel. “If you only wanted an alliance, why did you make me fall for you?”

Emotion washes over his face, and then his features become predatory. “You fell?”

“That’s not what’s important,” I argue. “Why did you do it? Why humiliate me in the process?”

Alexei shakes his head. “I didn’t do it to humiliate you.” He looks sincere as he says, “I did it because I love you.”

My eyes search his, and then I ask, “Who are you, Alexei? I can’t put the two versions of you together. All I’ve ever known of you is how calculating and ruthless you are. You’re the devil, the only person my mother fears.” I shake my head. “But during the two months I stayed here, you were caring and so attentive…” I shake my head again.

Lifting his hands, he places them on the sides of my neck, and then he moves closer until his cologne is all I breathe. “I’m both men, Isabella. I don’t show everyone the person I am when I’m home. That would be fucking stupid and suicidal.”

“God, it’s hard thinking Alexei Koslov is playful and caring,” I mutter.

He lets out a chuckle. “I’m full of surprises.”

“You can say that again.”

His expression turns tender, and it makes a wave of emotion wash through me. “If I didn’t lose my memory, would I still be here now?”

Alexei nods. “Definitely. I would’ve found a different way to convince you to form an alliance with me.” He lets out another chuckle. “Besides, after the hot hook-up we had in the club, I knew the attraction was there. I just had to build on that.”

The blood drains from my face as the realization slams into my heart.

Oh. My. God.

I forgot about our initial attraction.

Concern flashes over Alexei’s face. “Isabella?”

My heartbeat speeds up. “You’re attracted to me.”

Alexei nods. “I thought I made that clear?”

“You really love me?”

A smile curves his lips, and his eyes soften. “More than anything.”

Lowering my eyes, I close the distance between us and press my forehead to his chest.

He really loves me?

Alexei Koslov really loves me.

I suck in a deep breath, the realization overwhelming me and making me feel emotional.

“I’m sorry I lied to you,” he murmurs as he wraps his arms around me and presses a kiss on my hair. “But I’d do it again if it meant I got you at the end.”

I think that’s what I’ve been struggling to accept – that Alexei Koslov has fallen – for me. Love is rare in our world, and men like Alexei… they don’t love anything but power.

“I’m processing,” I whisper as I take a deep breath, “the fact that you actually love me.”

He pulls a little back and leans in to catch my eyes. “Why?”

“Because we were supposed to be sworn enemies.”

Alexei begins to chuckle. “That was until I watched you risk your life to save the innocent.”

“Why did that make such an impression on you?” I ask.

A shadow moves over Alexei’s face. “That’s a story for another day.”

“You’re assuming there will be another day?” I tease him.

“Damn right I am.” Wrapping an arm around my waist, he yanks me against his chest, and then he gives me the possessive look I love so much. “Are we done fighting, Isabella?”

“For now.”

“What do you mean for now?” he asks.

“Until you do something to make me angry or vice versa.”

A hot smirk tugs at his mouth. “We can always end our fights with sex. It’s a great way to let off steam.”

As he begins to lean down, I arch back to tease him. “Oh, is that so?”

Alexei’s hand fists in my hair to keep me in place, and then he crushes his mouth to mine just as his watch begins to beep, indicating the hour is up.

 


 

ALEXEI

 

Isabella laughs as I silence the timer I set, then she says, “One hour. Was it worth the amount you would’ve charged under normal circumstances?”

I press a kiss to her mouth. “Yes.” My teeth tug at her bottom lip, and I feel a groan build in my soul. “Definitely.”

As my tongue drives into her mouth, and I taste her again, I know I’d pay a hell of a lot more than the ten million I would’ve charged just for the chance to kiss her like this.

Before I can take things further, Isabella breaks the kiss and leans back. “I have to get back to Ana.”

Oh. Right.

Reluctantly I let go of her, then I ask, “Is Ana one of the girls you saved?”

Isabella nods.

“Why did you keep her?”

A protective look settles on her face. “She had nowhere to go, and… she needed me.”

Searching Isabella’s eyes, I say, “You love her a lot.”

“Ana’s my family,” Isabella admits. “I trust her.”

A smile curves my lips. “She’s to you what Demitri is to me.”

Nodding, she says, “Yes.” She hesitates for a moment. “Ana’s been through a lot. She’s… sensitive.” Regret flashes in Isabella’s eyes. “I was too late.”

I stare at Isabella as I realize what she’s trying to tell me. Nodding, I say, “I’ll tell everyone to be careful around Ana.”

“Thank you.” Isabella swallows before she adds, “It will take her a while to get used to everyone. It took two years before she was comfortable with me. She’ll probably keep to herself.”

Knowing how much Ana means to Isabella, I ask, “What does she like to do?”

“Security. She handled the cameras and system for me.”

Drawing my bottom lip between my teeth, I try to come up with a plan. “That’s Demitri’s area. Ana will probably freak out if I stick her in the security room with Demirti and Nikhil.”

Isabella nods. “Maybe at a later stage.” Taking hold of my hand, she gives me a sincere look. “Thank you for wanting to make her feel at home. I think she should take a break and just be a normal twenty-year-old.”

My eyebrow lifts. “Ariana will be perfect for that. Will Ana be okay with her?”

A smile tugs at Isabella’s mouth. “I’ll ask Ana.” Then she presses a kiss to my lips.

As she starts to walk to the door, I ask, “Why didn’t you take the engagement ring off?”

I glance over my shoulder as Isabella smiles at me. “How else would you find me?”

“You wanted me to watch you?”

“I used you for the protection you provided,” she teases as she opens the door.

“You’re sleeping here tonight,” I say, my tone clearly saying it’s not negotiable.

Still, Isabella defies me as she murmurs, “We’ll see.”

I follow her out of the room and smile when she glances at me before opening the door to the guest room. Heading downstairs, I go to the security room.

When I walk inside, Demitri turns his attention to me. “No black eye?”

“And I even got a kiss,” I joke.

He lets out a chuckle, shaking his head at me.

“About Ana. Tell everyone not to approach her. She’s a survivor and still dealing with things.”

Demitri nods. “I’ll take care of it.”

“We’ll let Ariana bond with her first and then take it from there.”

“Okay.”

Just then, my phone begins to ring, and pulling it out of my pocket, I see it’s Lucian. “Give me good news,” I answer.

“Your shipment is ready.”

“Thank you,” I say, grinning from ear to ear. “Today is a good day.”

“When will you arrive?” Lucian asks.

I think for a moment. “Three days.”

“See you then.”

Ending the call, I meet Demitri’s eyes. “Have you told Ariana she’ll be staying with Cilian?”

“I’ll take care of it tonight.”

I nod. “I’ll text to remind Carson to do the same with Hailey if he hasn’t yet.”

When I walk out of the security room, Ariana comes toward me. “It’s almost time for dinner.”

“Fuck, I forgot about food,” I say, and then I glance to the second floor. “Let me check with Isabella, but I get a feeling they’ll eat in the bedroom.”

“Okay.”

I head up to the guest room and softly knock on the door. I’m surprised when Ana opens the door a couple of inches and peeks at me.

“Where’s Isabella?” I ask.

Ana pulls a little back behind the door. “She’s showering.”

“You want to eat in the dining room, or should I bring your food up here?” I ask, giving Ana a choice.

“Ah…” she glances to the bathroom, then back at me.

The fear and pain in her eyes is a punch to my gut, and I crouch down, so I have to look up at her, hoping it will give her a false sense of strength.

“You’re important to Isabella, so I really want us to get along.”

Ana just stares at me as if she’s waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Taking a deep breath, I say, “When I make a promise, I keep it, so I don’t make them often. But, Ana, I promise you’re safe with me. I won’t touch you unless it’s to save your life. I’ll respect your boundaries. I love Isabella, and I plan on marrying her, which means the two of us will become family. I always protect my family.”

“Do you really love her?” Ana asks the question I least expected.

“With everything I am.”

Ana nods, then she swallows hard. “Can you bring the food up here?” I nod and straighten to my full height, then she adds, “And maybe you can eat with us?”

A smile spread over my face. “I’d like that, little one.”

When I glance over Ana’s head, my eyes connect with Isabella’s. Her features are tight with emotion from watching Ana and me, and then she mouths, ‘Thank you.’

“I’ll be right back.”

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