Endless (Merciless 4) - Page 49

At that thought, it feels as if a jagged nail runs down the length of my chest from the inside. Tearing at me. It’s not right and it’s not fair, but nothing about this tale has been.

“You’re strong, Aria, but I can give you a world where you don’t have to be,” Nikolai tells me. His voice caresses the pain that cascades over me. Three scenarios play in my mind, warring within.

One where Nikolai holds me like he used to. Where I look at him with the love and desire that used to be, and then I look down to a small child in my arms, one who doesn’t belong to him. A baby who will forever remind me that I don’t love Nikolai nearly as much as I once loved another. Nikolai would take care of me, he’d love me and provide for not just me, but also this baby. And I would use him; I know deep in my heart that’s all it would ever be.

Another version of the fucked-up fairytale has me back on Carter’s bed, cross-legged with an infant nestled and bundled in my lap while I peek up at the man I love, sitting across the room in a chair, watching me from a distance he chooses.

The father of my child.

The beast of a man.

If things were different, I’d never leave his side. But wishes and hopes do nothing. Things aren’t different, and I won’t raise a child with the venom and tension that comes with standing by Carter’s side.

And in the third vision, the one I choose, I’m alone on a quiet porch, rocking an infant in my arms. I see the small home set back in the distance off a dirt road. Away from it all. Maybe a boy or maybe a girl, but either way, there will be no hate, no vengeance that lingers around us. The wind will whisper lullabies and although this baby won’t have a father, I’ll give him or her everything I have and protect them from what I once was and this vicious world I came from.

One day I’ll tell him a story so raw and so true that he won’t believe it. It will only be a fairytale gone wrong. More importantly, that child will be stronger and better than I ever will be. I can’t choose a better life for myself. But I can give one to this little life.

“I love you, Nikolai,” I whisper as I open my eyes and then I make sure he sees me, really sees me before I tell him, “but it’s not the love you have for me. And I love another more than you.”

“You left him,” Nikolai reminds me and I nod my head, feeling the rawness scratch up my throat.

“If he would have shown me the love I needed, I would still be with him.” I let my hand travel to my stomach, where I know Nikolai sees as I tell him, “Right now I can’t risk anything.”

The door to the office swings open without notice, bringing with it the sound of my father’s voice. “Still be with who?” The words sound cautious. My heart races as he slowly closes the door behind him and the lights go out, darkness taking over until the backup power comes on.

My father stares behind me, sharing a look with Nikolai before looking back at me. My breaths come in quick pants.

“Father,” I breathe out, and I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what to do. In many ways I feel like his enemy. Simply because I’ve fallen into bed, but also in love with the man who longs to see my father take his last breath.

“Still be with Carter?” my father questions, walking closer to me, each step feeling intimidating.

I can only swallow until he lets out a deep breath and looks down at me with sympathy. “I didn’t hear everything,” he says, his eyes flicking to Nikolai before finding my gaze again and continuing, “but child, this isn’t your fault, and I’m sorry.” A sudden wave of relief flows through me. My lungs are still and refuse to move, even with the reassurance. “It’s all right, Aria.” My father’s voice is calm and gives nothing but comfort. I can’t help but to move to him and as I do, he opens his arms.

To be loved unconditionally is something so rare. But from a parent to a child, there is forgiveness in every moment. The guarded walls crumble even though I’m so aware of Nikolai behind me and my father in front of me, coming forward to pull me in close. He whispers it isn’t my fault. His words are apologetic.

He holds me close to him, he holds me like he has before, but back when I was a child. Back when I let him.

Tags: Willow Winters Merciless Erotic
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