32| Resolute and Responsible

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Freddie was so infuriatingly persistent for someone so seemingly apathetic. It was the dangerous aura he hid behind, a darkened disguise that seemed to disappear in my presence like a mask eroding away after decades worth of sin.

Some days it was easier to read him than others, like when his fury overshadowed his base instincts and when his want for me overpowered his place in this world. Violence was the only language he knew how to respond to, but when he was with me it seemed like the murderer inside of him washed away all the blood and set down its weapons, the monstrous parts of him pulling back their claws and fangs as he softened in my presence and brought forth a gentleness no one knew he was capable of being.

Nevertheless, even in his most tender of forms there was still something so obsessive about the way he pulled me into his orbit, something so futile in the fierceness of his desire for me, something so full of yearning that tangled between our souls like an indestructible thread that anchored us together. I had felt it in the way he had kissed me tonight, in the way his hands had moved against my body, but the truth of his heart was an enigma for the most part, it tilted and twisted—it taunted and twined, and sometimes when I looked into his eyes he made me think that I was all that he ever wanted.

It was foolish of me to fall for any of it, the trick of his empathy digging under my skin—seeping into the system he had corroded and taking claim to it the more time we spent in each other's presence.

It was a blanket and it was barbed wire.

It was a helpless—hopeless hunger that infiltrated the worst parts of me, intertwining with the monster that didn't know any better and the man who thought he didn't deserve to be loved.

And God, I hated him for it.

I hated him and I hated how easily he could sway my feelings. I hated him and I hated how much I wanted him even after everything he had done to me. It was a useless need, a desperation we shared and couldn't get rid of—and now he was here, in my home and there wasn't a thing I could do to get rid of him.

From the moment he had been waiting for me outside of the pub, to the moment he had kissed me to an inch of my life, backed against the side of his car in a darkened corner of a supermarket carpark—to this. Freddie's hand rested against the small of my back even after I had slapped it away only moments ago, our bodies succumbing to our own rules of gravity as he closed in on me with no remorse.

He never seemed to care about the fear he incited within me—in fact, he seemed to appreciate it in the moments he spent antagonising me on purpose. And the more I got to learn about him, the more I was starting to understand that the reputation he hid behind was a carefully curated façade. The viciousness he performed for others always morphing into the complicated way he dealt with me, aligning perfectly with his callousness and his cruelty, but when he was with me and when we were alone together—his mask slipped ever so slightly, and his harshness always flickered away like a dying light.

"Relax." He murmured once again as he leaned into me, already playing his part so well as I felt my mother tracking our movements. His warm breath brushed against the skin of my neck as we moved together into the small space, my mother's eagle eyes watching the way I was letting him touch me.

Between his intimidating presence and her eagerness, the four walls that stood around us felt like they were closing in on me—his uttered word of comfort doing nothing to expel the tension that held me hostage as I let him into my living room.

Freddie's palm moved up the length of my spine as I stopped at the edge of the sofa my mother was sitting on, his thumb running soothing patterns over the thin material of my blouse as I tried my best not to let him lull me into the false sense of security I could already feel myself falling into.

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