He takes it but doesn’t drink.
“How many men did he bring?” he asks me.
“Just him,” I tell him, and he lets a smirk spread on his face in response.
“He may be young, but even I’m not that stupid.”
“I know why he did it.” Even though I realize I’m talking to Jase, I speak absently, knowing why Nikolai came alone and what he bargained away just for her to get the note. “He’s desperate.”
“He has a death wish,” Jase speaks up, and I move my attention from him to the screen.
“I told Eli to let her make the decision. If she wants to go to him, let her… and she did.”
“It would be easy to simply lock the door and coming from me…” Jase shakes his head and takes the first sip of his whiskey.
“I want to see what she’ll do.” Every ounce of me wants to control her. To demand she behave exactly how I want her to. Even as I stared at the monitor a half hour ago on the computer, watching her as she picked up a silk blouse I bought her, intending on wearing it for him, the urge to get to her faster than she could walk into that room raced through my mind. To keep her there if I couldn’t convince her otherwise.
“Are you sure that you’re sure?” Jase questions me again. I should feel angry that it’s becoming a habit for him to question me, but I know he’s thinking what I’m thinking, that she’ll choose him again.
With a painful thud in my chest that numbs my body, I answer him, “Yes. She’s already there, waiting.”
“Waiting for what?”
“For me to tell Eli to let her in.”
“You aren’t going to be there?” he questions me with a look of complete disbelief.
Placing my palms on the desk and leaning forward so he can understand exactly why I’m not there, I ask him, “Do you think it would be helpful if he were in my presence right now?” My jaw hardens, and I can’t help it as I tell him, “This is for her.” It fucking hurts to admit, “She wouldn’t want me there.” He’s shaking his head, and I shrug.
I tell Jase, “She’s not in danger. The only thing that could happen is if she…”
“If she chooses him and tries to run.” Jase finishes my thoughts and I nod once, bringing my attention back to the monitors. Jase looks like he’s contemplating what to say next, so I remain silent.
“Eli will kill him if he tries?” I nod again at his question and throw back my second glass of whiskey.
“I just have to give Eli the go-ahead to let her in,” I admit to him as I stare at the screen knowing I’m giving her what she wants, but not knowing how it will affect us and I can’t fucking stand it.
The moment he touches her, I’ll see her reaction.
I will never forgive her if she chooses him over me.
I remember the first time I saw Nikolai. We were only children. His father worked for my father until he was killed.
The funeral home always had the prettiest flowers, and that’s what I looked at whenever we went there, all of the pretty flowers. But that day, I let myself watch the boy next to the casket.
I never liked to look at the people there. They always cried, and it made me want to cry, but I wasn’t allowed. We were Talverys and we weren’t allowed to cry, no matter how much I wanted to.
The boy was crying. He was taller than me and in a black suit that didn’t fit right, because he was too tall for it. His ankles were bare although his black shoes were new.
He looked so angry as he stared at the casket, wiping away his tears like they were nothing but a nuisance.
I never wanted to speak to anyone, not like my mother and father did. I never wanted to give anyone a hug or even be near any of them. Especially, the ones who smiled and laughed at funerals. I didn’t understand it and it made me angry to see people laughing when they were supposed to be mourning. I didn’t learn until years later that everyone mourns differently. Apparently, my coping mechanism is solitude.
And Nikolai’s was anger.
I remember how hesitant I was to touch his shoulder and ask him, “Are you okay?”
He was the first person I’d ever talked to at the many funerals I’d attended by this point. When he looked at me, when he glanced over his shoulder to answer me, he had a look of pure rage, maybe even disgust, but then he saw me, and it softened. Not just softened; his expression crumpled. The boy bared his soul to me and I saw the pain and the loneliness. He didn’t speak; he only shook his head. But then I tried to hug him, and he let me.