Home > Complete Me (Stark Trilogy #3)(5)

Complete Me (Stark Trilogy #3)(5)
Author: J. Kenner

But I can’t, and that inescapable truth creeps back under my skin, turning my previously light and giddy mood to something dark and foreboding.

I shift so that I am looking out of the passenger window at the line of trees passing in the night, odd shadows dancing across them, cast from the illumination of our headlights. I shiver, feeling unwound from such an ominous sight, as if we’re driving into a netherworld, but even that won’t save us from the desolate pull of reality.

I want to keep driving—I want to head east to where the sun will rise in five or so hours. I want to push this car to its limit and never stop. We’re in a bubble right now, safe from those dark grasping shadows. But the moment we stop . . . the moment we go back . . .

No. I draw a deep breath. I have to be strong. Not for me, but for Damien. “We should head back,” I say, but my voice is so low that I am certain he cannot hear me over the music that now fills the car. I reach for the radio and press the power button, throwing us into silence.

Damien glances at me, and I see the joy on his face shift to concern as his eyes meet mine. “What is it?”

“We should go back.” I try to speak up, but my voice is still unnaturally soft, as if my will is fighting me, silently begging me to urge him to run. “You need rest.” I force the words out, pitching my voice to sound natural. “Tomorrow’s going to put us both through the ringer.”

“All the more reason to keep going as long as we can.”

I swallow a throat full of tears. “Damien.”

I expect him to say soothing words. To reassure me that everything will be okay. Instead, he simply brushes my cheek, the gesture sending shock waves through me and once again making tears well in my eyes. I clench my hands into fists and fight against the crying jag that is about to explode out of me. I can’t lose it. Not now. Hell, not ever. If I lose Damien, I’ll cry then. And until I know one way or the other, I want to spend every second doing nothing but simply being with him.

I manage a smile that is almost genuine and turn to him.

“Soon.” He hits the accelerator, and the car speeds up.

“Where are we going?”

“Someplace I want you to see.”

My expression must be more confused than I realize, because he laughs softly. “Don’t worry. We’re not running away.”

I grimace. I almost wish we were.

He keeps his left hand on the steering wheel, but he rests his right hand on my knee. The touch is more possessive than sexual, as if he simply needs to know that I am there. I lean my head back, torn between wanting to relish the feel of his fingers against my flesh, and the need to rail on him. To scream and yell. To beg and plead for him to fucking defend himself. Because Damien Stark is not a man who stands back and gets whipped. He is not a man who puts up with losing.

He is not a man who hurts the woman he loves.

And yet he is doing all of these things.

My thoughts, violent and dangerous, swirl inside me as the last of the city lights fade, leaving nothing but the forested acres that line the highway. The engine is smooth, remarkably quiet, and I am tired. Not simply because of the late hour, but because of everything that has been resting upon me. I close my eyes and relax, only to sit up again with a jolt seconds later when I realize the car is stopped, the engine turned off.

“What?” I feel groggy, my mind full of cobwebs. “What happened?”

“You had a nice nap,” Damien says.

A nap?

I frown. “How long?”

“Almost half an hour.”

That startles me to wakefulness, and I sit up and look around. We appear to be in the parking lot of a rustic restaurant with plenty of outdoor seating. It’s closed now, the empty picnic tables seeming eerie rather than welcoming. “Where are we?”

“Seehaus Kranzberger,” he says. I must look as confused as I feel, because he grins. “This used to be one of my favorite places near Munich. Alaine and Sofia and I used to come here once Alaine was old enough to drive. Later, I would come by myself. There are a lot of memories here,” he adds, an odd catch in his voice.

“But it’s closed,” I say stupidly.

“We didn’t come for the food,” he says. He gets out, then comes around the car and opens my door before I have a chance. He reaches a hand down to help me out, and I stand gratefully.

“Why did we come?”

“Walk with me.”

I study his face, unable to read his mood. He takes my hand and leads me down a narrow path that meanders through tall, leafy trees, their green leaves now black and gray in the moonlight. I cannot imagine where we are going, but then we turn, and I gasp. A lake is spread open in front of us, a wilderness surrounding it, the moonlight sparkling on the surface, and the giant orb of the moon itself reflected in such a way that it appears that we could dive in and capture it for ourselves. “It’s beautiful,” I say.

“Welcome to Kranzberger See. I used to spend hours here,” he says. “I would sit on the bank and listen to the water and the birds and the wind in the trees. I would close my eyes and get lost.” He has been looking at the lake, but now he turns to look at me. “I wanted to show you,” he says. What I hear is, “I’m sorry.”

I swallow and nod, feeling overwhelmed. “Thank you.”

He lifts our joined hands and gently kisses my palm. The gesture is soft and sweet and achingly romantic, and I can’t help but wish that we could stay here, lost in the dappled light, hidden away by the fantasy of being all alone in the world.

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