And also proud that she kept using my name, regardless of my orders for her not to. She’d ignored me. She’d been brave enough to ignore me. And in that, she fully deserved to use it.
“I know you aren’t looking for my permission—especially after what I did—but...I want you to know, I—” I cleared my throat, finding it harder than expected to say such simple things. But that was because they weren’t simple. This wasn’t just me allowing her to use my name. A slave name that labeled me as a belonging, a piece of trash, a toy to be used and discarded, but I was effectively giving myself over to her.
I was giving her the right to own me. To summon me. To use me however she liked.
“I’d be honored if you use my name, even if it isn’t my real one. After what you did for me tonight...” I coughed again, unable to get rid of the lump in my throat. “For you to welcome me inside you after I—”
“It’s okay. We don’t have to—”
“No, we do.” I slashed the air with my broken arm. “I don’t care what drove you to do it. I don’t care if you hate me, and it was a ruse to make me fall. I—”
“What?” she scowled. “A ruse? There was no ruse. What are you saying—”
“I’m saying you’re worth more to me than anything, and I—” I frowned. “If I’m honest, I hate that name, but I can’t remember any other. I hate what I am. I hate what I’ve done to you, not just tonight but all the other nights combined. I’ve tried to forget. I’ve tried to be better. I want to be better...for you.”
She inhaled sharply.
Clearing my throat and the sudden squeezing in my chest, I reached out and grabbed her wrist. “Come. There’s something I want to show you.”
She looked down at where my fingers circled her arm. Could she feel the slight zing between us? The constant flow of energy humming from her body into mine? Regardless of my limited knowledge of relationships outside of Fables, I’d never felt the steady crackle of electricity for anyone before. Not even my family.
She had to know she was special. Had to guess that she was the one person in the world who could either save me or kill me. I didn’t have a say in the matter. I didn’t want a say. I just wanted to be with her, to keep her, to love her.
Her body stayed tense, but her eyes flickered to mine, glowing gold in the dark. She licked her lips as the heat between us grew, buzzing in our blood. “Show me what?”
Her stare reached inside my soul and scrambled me up until I couldn’t breathe. I was raw tonight. Every wall I’d constructed had crumbled, leaving me scarily open to her in every way.
“Kas...” She cocked her head. “You sure you’re okay?”
I blinked and tried to gather up my scattered pieces. “Are you okay? After...how I treated you?”
Her eyes flared as if wary of my concern. I supposed she had every right to be. I hadn’t exactly proven I cared about her welfare before.
Slowly, she nodded. “I will be.”
“Did...did I hurt you?”
She grimaced. “Like I said in the library...you didn’t hurt me. Not in the physical sense.”
I flinched, wanting to fall to my knees. That was worse. I might not have hurt her body, but I’d hurt her far, far deeper. I’d taken the same wounds that constantly bled inside me and given them to her. “I’m sorry.”
I shook my head, sadness heavy on my shoulders. “No, I don’t think you do. Not yet.” Giving her a tug, I guided her from the conservatory, through the huge foyer, and down the staff corridor to the kitchen.
She followed silently, ignoring the chain clinking between us, growing louder as we left carpet for tiles before slipping out the back door and slithering through the earth as I guided her toward the bath tucked behind some trellis I’d made to block it from the wind.
Fire licked at the sticks I’d stacked beneath it, embers glowed brightly, heating the water to a perfect temperature but not boiling it.
Gemma slowed as I let her go, ducking to grab the iron poker that’d I’d stolen from a fireplace inside. I scattered the fire, ensuring the heat was dispersed so the bath would stay warm for the next few hours.
“What is this?” she asked softly.
“It’s my attempt at showing just how fucking sorry I am.”
Her head cocked to the side. “You poured me a bath?” She glanced at the hose tossed to the side and the cheery fire crackling beneath. “An outdoor bath?”
I shook my head, gritting my teeth against the constant imbalance from my concussion. “It’s more than that.”
She inched closer. “More?”