Because He Watches Me (Because He Owns Me, Book Nine) (An Alpha Billionaire Romance) (2 page)

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So I grabbed a blanket from our hall closet and covered her, left a soft light in the kitchen on for her, then switched off the TV.

The alcohol had dulled my senses a bit, and everything was blurry around the edges. I’d already changed into pj’s when I got home, so I slid into bed.

As soon as I closed my eyes, panic seized my body, and everything came back to me.

My job.
Lost.

Callum.
Gone.

My reputation.
Ruined.

And yet the thing I cared about the most, the thing that was upsetting me the most, was Callum.

I hated myself for it.

Hated that with everything I’d lost tonight, with the mess that my life had become, the thing I cared about most was him.

Even though he was the reason for all of it.

He was the reason I’d been left with nothing.

You had a part in it, too.

I knew that, on some level. I could have walked away from him, should have walked away from him. But he was older and wiser than me, shouldn’t he have known better?

I started to cry, sobs racking my body, the wine I’d drunk doing nothing to dull the pain, which felt like sharp knives against my ribs. The need for him, the thought of him, the craving for his touch on my body….

I wished I’d never met him, wished he’d never come into my life, and yet at the same time, the thought of never knowing him was inconceivable.

My body longed for his and I couldn’t help but remember the night he’d come for me, the night he’d broken in to my apartment and slipped into bed with me, the way he’d touched me and entered me, played with my body and mind until I was his.

He’d taken ownership of my heart, and now that he was gone, I felt empty, bare.

The ache inside of me was unbearable, the longing and sorrow overwhelming.

I couldn’t stop crying.

I cried until my throat was raw, until my eyes were red and puffy, until my nose was so stuffed I couldn’t breathe.

There was no way I was going to be able to stop it, no way I was going to be able to rail against it, so instead of trying to fight it, I gave into the heartbreak.

I turned on sad music. I laid in that bed and cried and cried and cried. I cried over missing him, cried over the tragedy of thinking that if he’d just been able to let me in, I knew that we could have had one of those loves, the kind of great loves that change you.

It was impossible for me to think that any man could come close to making me feel what I had felt for him.

I fell asleep at a 5 am, my eyes so swollen from crying they almost shut on their own.

When I woke, my phone was vibrating next to me.

I had three new voicemails.

The sound of the phone ringing must not have woken me.

I picked up my phone and pressed it to my ear, hit play.

His voice was like a punch to the gut. The first message was short and to the point, the expectation that I would do what he said obvious and apparent.

“Adriana. Answer your phone.” Click.

His arrogance should have angered me, but all I felt was sweet relief. Sweet relief that he’d called, that he wasn’t going to listen to me when I’d told him to leave me alone, that he was going to try to get in touch with me.

“Adriana,” the next message said. “Fuck, Adriana, answer your phone. I need to talk to you.”

But it was the third message that I replayed over and over, the third message that caused my chest to tighten and my desire for him to stir.

“Adriana,” he said, but his voice was softer now, with a vulnerability I’d never heard from him before. “Lemon, please, answer your phone, baby. I just… Jesus, Adriana, I know I fucked up. But I can’t focus on anything right now, baby, I’m going fucking crazy in here. I need to talk to you. Please, you have to answer your phone.”

A muffled cry escaped my lips, and I imagined him standing at some pay phone in the jail, his face still bruised from the fight he’d been in, calling me over and over.

The need to talk to him overwhelmed me, and I listened to his message over and over, the effect it was having on me all-consuming.

My body felt like it was on fire, and I couldn’t stop thinking about him, his hands wandering my body, his voice whispering in my ear, his lips trailing kisses down my collarbone.

Callum, Callum, Callum.

His name, his presence, imprinted against my heart in a staccato rhythm.

I could almost hear the click of his handcuffs, could almost feel his whip lashing against my skin. I longed for him, longed for his punishments, his rules, his total takeover of my body and soul.

I forced myself to stop listening to the recording, and I squirmed against the sheets, my legs twisting and my body contorting.

It was torture -- this pain, this ache.

I couldn’t take it anymore, so finally, I got up and dressed in black yoga pants and a grey hoodie, then slid out the front door, being careful not to wake Nessa.

* * *

I
headed
for the coffee shop around the corner, slipped inside and joined the line. It was already busy, and the fact that there were people here made me feel better. I might not have had a job to go to, and I might not have had Callum, but the world, at least in some sense, for some people, was business as usual.

I ordered a cinnamon raisin bagel and a vanilla iced coffee, sat outside at a wrought-iron table and sipped my drink while I watched the commuters go by.

It was 8 am when my phone rang again.

The number was the same 212 number he’d been calling from all night.

The urge to answer was intense, but I resisted.

I held my breath, waiting for the voicemail. As soon as the alert popped up, I pressed play.

“Adriana,” he said, the vulnerability that had been present before completely gone from his voice. Now he was stern. “I’ll be out at nine. I’m coming over.” He clicked off, his commanding tone causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up.

I couldn’t take it anymore.

I wanted him.

I
needed
him.

I needed him to come over, to take hold of me, to run his hands over my body, to kiss away my tears, to whisper empty promises into my ear until he’d convinced me that things were okay.

The slight relief I’d felt at being out of the apartment was gone. He was getting out in a few hours. He was going to come to my apartment. He was going to break me down again.

I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin.

And then, suddenly, like a switch being flipped, the desire I’d been feeling for him all night turned into anger as I realized once again That Callum was trying to call the shots. He’d caused me to lose everything that had been important to me, had done things he knew would upset me, and now he was trying to control me again.

And the worst part was, I wanted him to.

The pain and anger twisted together into a barbed wire that started in my heart and twisted around my torso, the physical pain so sharp I was almost sure it was real.

A howl escaped my lips, and I threw my phone down onto the sidewalk.

It skittered ineffectually against the pavement, the cover keeping it from smashing.

It only served to fuel my rage.

I kneeled down and removed the cover, slammed the phone against the sidewalk, over and over, harder and harder until it was completely smashed. Then I stood up and stomped on it for good measure.

I stared down at my ruined phone, almost like I was looking at it from outside my own body.

Then I sat down and took another sip of my coffee.

* * *

F
orty-five minutes later
, I was still sitting there.

The stream of people heading into the shop was beginning to dissipate, a lull before the next wave of commuters.

“Hey,” a voice said, and I looked up to see Nessa standing there. “I thought you might be here. Why didn’t you wake me up?”

I shrugged. “You were sleeping so soundly. I didn’t want to disturb you.”

She looked down at the ruined phone by my feet and raised her eyebrows. “Well, that explains why your mom was calling my phone when she couldn’t reach you.” She sat down at the table across from me. “Callum?” she asked gently.

I nodded.

She nodded back, not asking questions, and for that, I was thankful. Just hearing someone say his name sent that blast of heartache burning through me again.

“Your mom needs to talk to you,” she said. “She said it’s an emergency. Something about your sister’s wedding.”

She slid her phone across the table toward me, and I picked it up and dialed my mom’s number. I wasn’t in the mood to hear about my sister Ciara’s stupid wedding. A stupid wedding she was too young to be having in the first place.

“Mom, it’s me,” I said when she answered. “What’s up?”

“Oh, thank God!” my mom said. “I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for the past half an hour!” She said half an hour like it was days.

“Sorry, my phone is…on the fritz.”

Nessa bit back a laugh.

“Well, we’re having a wedding catastrophe,” my mother said. She lowered her voice. “I’m just… the thing is… well, honey, Ciara is pregnant.”

“Oh.” I wasn’t sure what to say to that.

“Let me talk to her,” I heard Ciara demanding in the background.

There was the sound of rustling on the other end as she took the phone from my mother. “So I’m pregnant,” my sister said, by way of greeting. “I know, it’s a travesty, but I’m going with it. And I need to get married before I start showing.”

This part, I understood. My sister had been obsessed with weddings since she was a little girl, and I knew she would want everything to be perfect. Having a bump under her dress in the pictures wouldn’t do.

“Congratulations,” I said hollowly.

“Thanks. We’ve moved the wedding to tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow! Why? I really doubt you’re going to start showing by tomorrow, Ciara.”

“I know that, Adriana,” she said, sounding exasperated with me, like she wasn’t the type of person who would be so worried about her wedding photos that she would think a day would make a difference, even though she totally was that type of person. “But The Corvelle had a cancellation.”

Ahh. So that’s what it was. My sister and I might have been very different, but I understood her brain.

She was obsessed with having her wedding at The Corvelle, a swanky hotel with an outdoor seating area.

“Oh,” I said. “Okay.”

“So you’ll be there, right? You’ll fly in tonight?” She was talking to me, but she sounded distracted, and then she was yelling at someone in the background. “Oh, no, not that dress!” she screeched, and then there was a muffled, scratching sound before my mom got back on the phone.

“Sorry, honey,” my mom said. “She’s having a dress crisis. So you’ll be here, right? You’ll talk to your boss?”

My heart squeezed at the word “boss.” I didn’t have a boss anymore. I didn’t have a job anymore. Panic seized my chest but then, suddenly, I realized I was being given a perfect opportunity. A perfect opportunity not to have to deal with my life. I thought of my house at home, my tiny little cape-style house with its cornflower blue shutters. I thought of my old bedroom, the one my mom hadn’t bothered to change to a gym or an office the way so many parents did when their children moved away.

I thought of the scent of cinnamon that always permeated the house, the sound of my mom’s soaps on the television in the living room, the trill of the landline phone ringing, the one mounted on the kitchen wall that my mom refused to get rid of.

I longed for Michigan.

Longed for people who didn’t care what you did for a living, people from my hometown who’d never heard of Salvatore Ferragamo and who thought Banana Republic was haute couture.

Michigan, which was simple and familiar and far away from Callum.

“I’ll be there,” I told my mom. “I’ll check flights as soon as I hang up.”

I hung up the phone and looked at Nessa, who reached across the table and grabbed my iced coffee and took a sip. She made a face. “Eww,” she said. “It’s all watery.”

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