Home > Complete Me (Stark Trilogy #3)(13)

Complete Me (Stark Trilogy #3)(13)
Author: J. Kenner

I turn to face Damien, but his back is still to me. The prosecutor now stands in front of him, speaking earnestly, but in such a low voice that I cannot make out the words. Maynard stands beside Damien, his hand on Damien’s back, the gesture almost paternal.

“It’s true?” I ask the German attorney. “You really mean it?”

His smile is broad, but his eyes are soft with understanding. “It is true,” he says. “We would not joke about such a thing.”

“No, of course not. But why? I mean—” But he turns away in response to a question from another attorney. Then I see that the prosecutor has moved away from Damien, and a wave of pure joy sweeps through me and I no longer care how or why.

“Damien,” I say, and my voice sounds light. His name feels delicious on my lips, and I want to capture this moment and hold it close to me. This singular instant when I got back the man I feared that I had lost.

He begins to turn, and I anticipate how he will look when I see his face. His eyes alight with joy, his features stripped of the worry that has been weighing on him since the indictment came through.

But that is not what I see. Instead of warmth, I see a chill in his eyes. And there is nothing joyous in his expression. Instead, it is flat and cold and desolate.

I frown, confused, and reach out for him. “Damien,” I say, leaning over the bar to take his hands. His fingers close tight around mine, as if I am a lifeline in stormy waters. “Oh, God, Damien. It’s over.”

“Yes,” he says, but there is a harshness in his voice that sends a shiver through me. “It is.”

Damien holds my hand, but says nothing during the ride back to the hotel. He is shell-shocked, I think. Probably unable to believe that the nightmare is really over.

We are alone—the attorneys having hung back to take care of all the administrative stuff that goes on once a trial reaches its conclusion, and I can only assume that there is even more to do when the conclusion is unexpectedly premature. I let the silence linger until we pull up in front of the hotel, but then I can’t take it anymore.

“Damien, it’s finished. Aren’t you happy about that?” Personally, I’m about to explode simply from the joy of knowing that Damien is free and safe.

He looks at me, and for a moment his expression is blank. Then his face clears as he smiles. It’s not huge, but it is real. “Yes,” he says. “About that, I couldn’t be happier.”

“About that,” I repeat, confused. “What else is there? What’s going on? Why were the charges dismissed?”

But now the valet has opened the door, and Damien is sliding that direction. I mutter a sharp curse and follow. Damien reaches for my hand to help me out, then twines his fingers in mine as we walk the short distance to the hotel entrance.

I’m so wrapped up in my storm of joy and confusion that it takes me a minute to realize that the walkway is lined with reporters, and that the hotel staff are making a human barrier to let us pass.

Damien was news when he was on trial for murder. Now that the charges have been dropped, he’s an even bigger story.

The concierge greets us with a stack of messages that I take since Damien seems utterly uninterested. They are all congratulations, and the concierge himself adds his own. Damien replies politely, thanking the man, and then steers us both toward the elevator.

“I thought we could stop in the bar for a drink,” I say. It’s a lie. I hadn’t thought that at all. But I’m trying to get some sort of reaction from Damien, and at the same time I’m hating myself for manufacturing a scenario where he’ll be forced to actively make a choice.

“Go ahead if you want.”

“Alone?” I feel a bead of sweat trickle from my underarm down my side. I’m starting to panic.

“Ollie will be along any moment. I bet he’d be happy to have a drink with you.”

“I don’t want to have a drink with Ollie,” I say, proud of myself for keeping my voice calm, when all I want to do is scream. Because the Damien who would willingly park me at a happy hour table with Ollie McKee is not the Damien I know and love. I take a step closer to him. “Damien, please tell me what’s wrong.”

“I just need to get up to the room.” The elevator car arrives, and as if in proof of his words, Damien steps inside.

I follow, then frown as my gaze takes in his face. For the first time I see the beads of perspiration at his hairline. I see his bloodshot eyes and pale, waxy skin. “Jesus, Damien,” I say, reaching out to press my palm against his forehead as the elevator whisks us up to the Presidential Suite.

He turns away. “I don’t have a fever.”

“Then what the hell is it?”

For a moment, he says nothing. Then his shoulders rise and fall as he takes a deep breath. “I’m just upset.”

“Upset?” I hear my voice rising and force myself to keep it down. “Because the charges were dropped?”

“No. Not because of that.”

The elevator door opens, and I follow him into the hall, then halt at the door of our suite.

“Then what?” I ask as he slides his keycard into the lock. My speech is unnaturally calm. “Dammit, Damien, talk to me. Tell me what happened today.”

The light turns green and he pushes open the door and steps into the suite. I am not sure if it’s real or my imagination, but he seems unsure of his steps, as if he’s afraid that the floor is going to disappear out from under him. I have never seen him like this, and he is starting to scare me.

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