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Home > Complete Me (Stark Trilogy #3)(10)

Complete Me (Stark Trilogy #3)(10)
Author: J. Kenner

I’m still there, cursing my own foolishness, when I think I hear my name from somewhere behind me, muddled by the sound of the crowd bustling in this wide, echoing hall. At first, I think it’s one of the reporters trying to get my attention. But there’s something familiar about it. I frown, because surely it’s not—

But it is. Ollie.

I see him the instant I turn around. Orlando McKee, the boy I grew up with, who has been one of my best friends since forever. The man who has repeatedly said that Damien is a danger to me.

The man who Damien believes is in love with me.

There was a time when I would have run to him, thrown my arms around him, and spilled out all my fears. Now, I’m not even certain how I feel about seeing him here.

I stand frozen as he hurries toward me. He arrives out of breath, his hand outstretched for mine. Slowly, he drops his when he realizes that I am not reaching out in return.

“I didn’t know you were going to be here,” I say blandly.

“I tried to reach you at the Kempinski this morning,” he says, “but you’d already left.”

“I have a cell phone,” I say.

He nods. “I know. I should have called. This was last minute. Maynard learned that I went to school with one of the junior attorneys on the prosecutor’s staff, and he wanted me here.”

“Law school?” I can’t figure out why a German prosecutor would go to a United States law school.

He shakes his head. “Undergrad. Small world, huh?”

“Does Damien know you’re here?” My voice is cold and clipped, and I’m certain that Ollie knows why. If Damien were selecting the legal team, Ollie would not be included.

Ollie has the good grace to look embarrassed. “No,” he says, then runs his hand through his hair. His usually unruly waves are combed back, and his fingers loosen a few strands that now fall in his face, brushing over his John Lennon–style glasses. “What was I supposed to tell Maynard?” he asks. “That Stark doesn’t want me around? I say that and I have to say why. And if Stark hasn’t told Maynard that I told you attorney-client privileged information, then I don’t see any reason to tell him myself.”

“You could have thought of something,” I say.

He nods slowly. “Maybe. But I’ve been working on Stark’s defense from Los Angeles. It’s been my full-time gig for over three weeks. I’m not here just because I have a personal connection, I’m here because I understand the law. I can be an asset, Nikki. And you know as well as I do that Damien needs all the help he can get.”

I force myself not to ask him what he means. Maynard is aware of the abuse in Damien’s past, that much I know for certain. But it was my understanding that not everyone on the team knows. Does Ollie? The thought makes me queasy, because I know how much Damien wants that aspect of his past to stay private. I can’t ask without revealing the facts, though. All I can do is hope that the reason Ollie isn’t in the current meeting is because he isn’t in that inner circle.

“Are you sitting at the counsel table?” I ask, and am relieved when he shakes his head.

“I thought I’d sit with you. If that’s okay.”

“It is,” I say. Things have changed a lot between me and Ollie, but he has seen me through most every crisis in my life, and it feels right that he will be beside me now, too.

His smile is gentle as he lays a soft hand on my shoulder. His expression, however, is intense. “You’re doing okay? I mean, you’re not—you know?”

“I’m not,” I say but I don’t meet his eyes. “I’m good.” I draw in a breath and fight the urge to cry, mourning the loss of those days when I would have told Ollie everything. How every day I’ve awakened expecting to battle the urge to cut, and every night I am amazed when I get back in bed beside Damien and realize that the compulsion never came. I am not “cured”—I know I never will be. I will always crave that pain to keep me centered. I will always be just a little astounded when I get through a crisis without putting a blade to my flesh. But I have Damien now, and it is him that I crave. Damien who is my release valve instead of turning a knife on myself. Damien who keeps me centered and safe.

And that, I know, is another reason I am afraid to lose him.

“Nikki?”

“Really,” I say, looking into his face. “No blades, no knives. Damien is taking good care of me.”

I see the way he flinches, and for a moment I regret my words. But it is only a momentary weakness. Ollie has been an absolute shit about my relationship with Damien, and although I will always love him, I am not going to forgive or forget that easily.

“I’m glad,” he says, his voice formal. “You’re going to be okay, you know. No matter what happens, you’re going to get through this just fine.”

I nod, but I also notice that he’s said that I will be okay—not that Damien will. And a peculiar spark of anger tinged with sadness rushes through me, spurred by the simple truth that Ollie no longer understands what I need. If he did, he would realize that without Damien, I won’t be okay. Not ever again.

We have been talking in the hall a few feet from the wooden double doors that lead into the courtroom. Now Ollie steps in that direction and holds them open for me. I hesitate only briefly, glancing down the hall where Damien and Maynard went, but they have not come out of the conference room. I draw a deep breath for courage, force my feet to move, and sweep past Ollie into the courtroom where the course of the rest of my life will be decided.

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