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Terms and Conditions: Chapter 34

IRIS

I wake up sweating and unable to move anything but my head. Somehow, I ended up in Declan’s bed, trapped by his arms and legs.

The audacity of this man is unrivaled. I try to escape his grasp, but it only seems to make things worse. His arms tighten around me as he mumbles something unintelligible into my hair.

“Declan.” I push against his chest.

“Shh.” He kisses the top of my forehead before releasing a soft sigh.

“Wake up.” I shove him a bit harder, and that seems to do the trick.

He blinks up at the ceiling before looking at me. “Good morning.” His arms remain locked around me, equally as irritating as his legs securing me to his side.

“You can take your good morning and shove it up your ass.”

He laughs, and I’m instantly peeved from the way the sound warms my insides like alcohol in the dead of winter.

“Is there a reason I’m in your bed?”

“Because I wanted to be able to do this.”

My back hits the mattress right before his lips press against mine. The kiss is a complete contrast from yesterday’s desperation, and I find myself growing frustrated with how controlled Declan appears. It’s soft, sweet, and far too tame after the kind of sex we had.

How can he kiss me like that after walking out on me? Blood rushes through my ears, making the tips hot.

I shove at his chest. “Get off.”

“No can do.”

“What?”

“I’m holding you hostage until you hear me out.”

My mouth drops open. I try to budge, but he created a cage with his limbs.

You fell for the oldest trick in the book.

Instead of kissing him, I should have been trying to get out from under him. Declan had me completely dickmatized, goddammit.

“Stop fighting and give me ten minutes.”

“You don’t deserve ten seconds, let alone ten minutes of my time.”

“How about ten words then?”

I laugh. “I’d like to see you try.”

“I am falling in love with you, Iris Elizabeth Kane.”

I blink up at him. Either I am still sleeping or I must have not heard him correctly because there is no way Declan Kane just admitted that he is falling in love with me.

Absolutely no fucking way.

Right?

I squeeze my eyes shut as if that can erase the words from my memory. “You’re joking.”

“I’m not.”

“This is just another part of your game.” I try to push him away, but he doesn’t budge.

“It stopped being a game for me a long time ago.”

“You’re lying.”

His brows pull together. “Ask me why I hate when people use Times New Roman instead of Arial.”

“Are you serious right now? What does that have to do with any of this?”

“Because I chose it for you.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“I read somewhere online that sans serif fonts are easier for people with dyslexia to read, so I changed my requirements. Forced everyone else I oversee to switch with me or else they would face my wrath. All because I wanted to help you.”

Emotions clog my throat, preventing my ability to reply. What can I possibly say that could compare to that?

Declan doesn’t give me an option as he continues. “Want to know why I kept the cactus?”

I nod.

“Because it was the first time someone got me a present that made me laugh.”

If hearts could melt into puddles, mine would be liquified right about now.

His eyes dart away from my face. “Ask me why you were denied the job transfer.”

No.

There’s absolutely no freaking way.

“Tell me you didn’t.”

His lips press into a thin white line. “I couldn’t let you go.”

“I can’t believe you right now.” I push at his shoulders but it’s as effective as moving a boulder.

“For what it’s worth, I’m not proud of it.”

“You sabotaged me.” My voice cracks.

His face softens. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry? I spent months on my presentation, perfecting it to the point of obsession, only to be rejected because you were too selfish to let me go? Who does that?”

“Someone who doesn’t understand the first thing about loving someone, but is willing to try if you give me a chance.”

“You want me to give you a chance after everything? Do you think I’m stupid?”

He winces, and a bit of my anger fades away at his vulnerability.

“Intelligence has nothing to do with this.”

“Easy for you to say when you’re not the one who feels like a fool.”

“Really? Because based on your reaction today, I’m feeling pretty damn foolish for ever admitting that I’m falling in love with you.” He slips off the bed, leaving me feeling chilled to the bone.

“Declan…” I reach out, but he takes a step back.

My eyes sting from his rejection. It hurts.

“I’m not asking you to love me back. I don’t expect that and I’m not sure if I ever will because I’m the furthest thing from lovable. I’m selfish, rude, and don’t know the first thing about being in a relationship with someone. But that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to try for you if you let me.”

How am I supposed to be angry at him when he thinks he is unlovable? A pain rips through my chest at the thought of him talking about himself this way.

I slide off the bed and walk straight into his chest. His arms stay plastered against his sides, so I grab them and wrap them around my waist.

“Just because you make selfish choices doesn’t mean you’re a selfish person. At least not completely.” The man protected his brothers from their alcoholic father for years without any kind of payback. If that isn’t a selfless sacrifice, I don’t know what is.

“Your logic is half-baked at best.”

“So is yours, seeing as you called yourself unlovable.”

His body tenses. “I’m stating facts.”

“I don’t know what bullshit your father told you over the years, but it’s not true. Your brothers love you.”

“They’re obligated to.”

“No one is obligated to love someone else. Blood or not.”

He takes a deep breath. “You’re right.”

I smile up at him. “I could get used to hearing those words.”

He reaches up and cups my cheek. “Give me a chance and I’ll tell you them every single day.”

I sigh and look away. “I don’t know.”

“Tell me what’s stopping you.”

“You don’t do relationships.”

“Good thing I’m married then.”

I shake my head. “Our marriage isn’t even real.”

“A scrap of paper doesn’t define what we are. Feelings do, and mine are a hundred percent genuine.”

I avoid his penetrating gaze. “What if my feelings are telling me to run?”

“It’s cute you think you can outrun me, but I’ll give you a head start just to make things interesting.”

I stammer. “Do you always have an answer for everything?”

“Not for the one that matters most.” The way he looks at me stirs up something deep inside of me.

Longing.

I want to give him a chance, regardless of the potential fallout.

You might get hurt.

I might, but I might miss out on something special because I’m too afraid of the what ifs. I’m done being that person. Even if it means getting hurt, I’d rather try and fail than never try at all.

I stand on the tips of my toes and press my lips against his. He holds me tight against his chest, as if he is afraid of letting me go.

I pull away, only to clasp onto his stubbled chin. “This could be a disaster, but I’m willing to try.”

He shuts me up by pushing his lips against mine, sealing our new deal. The way he kisses me is different than any time before. He cups my face with the palms of his hands as his lips mold against mine, teasing me until I feel dizzy. His thumb brushes across my cheek back and forth, and heat rushes down my spine straight to my belly. He makes me feel cherished. Protected. Loved in a way that makes me never want to come back down to reality.

I could spend forever being kissed like this and still feel like it isn’t enough. While Declan might not be the best with words, his kiss says it all.

He is falling in love with me. No translation necessary.


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