31| Reflections and Resistance

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There had always been a type of permanence to the life I led. The blood, the bullets, the back alley business deals—it was all an inescapable birthright that had been handed down to me, a fortune my father revered more than anything else, even his own flesh and blood. When I was younger I had hardly understood the weight of it, I did as I was told to gain the favour of a man who would never be satisfied, disregarding all that was good to serve a purpose that had been set out since before I'd even been born.

It was a malicious force strung together with merciless expectation, a brutal education in an ability to command, and a useless understanding in mastering the misery of a life that hid behind a pretence of power and control. For the most part, it was a dishonourable legacy that clung to the most destructive parts of my being. I used it to walk a dangerous line between death and the darkness that wanted to hold me hostage, and as the years went by soaked in all my sins, I had learnt to accept that this was the way things were meant to be.

Nothing was easy.

Nothing was simple.

Nothing good was ever meant to be mine.

I had spent the last ten years believing there was no way out of this life, withering away under years of self-loathing as I tried to fill a void with things that only managed to fuel my fury instead of soothing it. The girls, the guns, the games—nothing was good enough anymore. Nothing held my attention the way it used to, nothing calmed the emptiness that flowed through me like a river that had no fucking end. At least that was what I had thought until she had come barrelling into my life—until she had marked me with a slap and burrowed her way into my blackened heart.

Two weeks was all she'd had.

Two. weeks.

Two fucking weeks, and she had proven to me what no one else ever could—what no one else could even amount to.

Her tender touch trembled against the beat of my heart as I brought my hand to my cheek, the ghost of her lips still tingling against my skin as I tried to make sense of what she had done to me. It had been a long time since I'd felt anything so desperate, since I'd yearned for a woman to give me more than everything I took, and yet as the warmth of her mouth had grazed the stubble of my jaw. As her lips had pressed against my cheek—in that moment, I knew with absolute certainty that I would tear this entire world apart just to feel her like that again—over and over again until she got sick of it.

It was an act that was much too sweet to be wasted on a man like me. It was a damning need that demanded my undivided attention, and in both instances, it didn't take me long to follow after her once she had corrupted my every sense.

The plastic bags rustled in my grasp as I gathered her shopping and settled it all at the foot of her front door, staring at the threshold for longer than I should have, watching the light pour out onto the street as something in my chest seemed to twist in response to the turmoil that was suddenly eating away at me.

It wasn't like this was the first time I'd been to her house. The last time I had stood at her front door I'd wanted to fucking ruin her, and I had come so close to doing it. I'd had her backed against her bedroom door, my fingers swiping through her arousal as she whined for me to give her more. I would have been lying if I hadn't wanted her like that again, wishing she would give me another chance to redeem myself so that I could prove to her that I could be everything she wanted.

Except that wasn't going to happen tonight.

I'd already promised her that I would be on my best behaviour, so even as my depraved desires danced in the forefront of my mind, I knew I couldn't just drag her to her room and have my dirty way with her.

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