The Keep Page 48

’’I long to be with you.’’ His voice was low and mellow, and it rippled over me like warm flowing waters.

’’Then why weren\ you? I needed you, and you bailed. I lost Emma, I lost Yasuo, and just vanished. You weren\ here when I needed you most.’’

’’There was something you needed more. If you let me ’’

’’Cryptic much? You\ e just thirsty.’’ I stormed inside. He could follow me or not.

He followed. ’’Are you not thirsty?’’ he asked, and he actually sounded baffled.

I stopped short. ’’Is that it? Did you come back because you craved me? Do you even like me?’’

’’I came back because you\ e mine.’’ He stepped closer, his body pressing against me as he cupped my cheeks in his hands. ’’I came back because I love you.’’

My throat clenched. He\d called me love before, but he\d never said he loved me. Could it be true? I peered hard into his eyes. He was looking so sad, so confused.

I couldn\ trust it. I stepped back, headed to my dorm room. ’’Why\d you even leave in the first place? After all we shared, all we did...’’ I tapered off, sudden chagrin choking me. It was so hard not to be insecure about the times we\d been together physically had I done something wrong? Some rookie error? Did I kiss weird? What?

He stopped me when we reached my door, putting a fingertip to my chin. ’’You are angry.’’

I cut my eyes away, fumbling with my keys. ’’You think?’’

’’I will explain everything. But first you must forgive me.’’

’’Must I?’’ I stormed into the room, shivering like crazy now. ’’You should go. I need to change.’’

’’I cannot bear this, Annelise. Please look at me.’’

I couldn\ . And yet looking at him was all I wanted to do. To look at him. To curl in to him. I was so cold. I\d missed him so much. This close, my blood sang to his. My every sense longed for him. I fought it. ’’It\s just the stupid bond. That\s the only reason you came back.’’ I made myself meet his eyes and refused to believe the bewilderment I saw there. ’’You couldn\ take it anymore. You had to come back when you got too thirsty.’’

He looked pained. From his thirst or from my words? ’’I thirst for you, yes. But your company is what I missed most.’’

Hadn\ I always credited his honesty as one of the traits I admired most? He readily admitted his thirst and to missing me. He could\ve made up an elaborate lie. Had he really left for a reason? ’’I thought you wanted to break up with me.’’

’’Never,’’ he said, his voice hoarse.

’’Then why\d you go?’’

’’I will explain everything. But it\s been so long. And to have you so close...’’ He leaned down, touching his forehead to mine. ’’Please, love. You\ e shivering. Let me hold you.’’

All I wanted was to curl in to him. I knew how much I\d missed him, but now that he\d come back, I felt how much I needed him. That tug deep in my belly, pulling me toward him like I couldn\ do anything but be by his side. But I forced myself to be strong. Hadn\ I proven to myself how strong I was? How powerful?

’’No.’’ I forced out the word.

’’Just a single kiss. Then I promise, I will do as you ask.’’

’’It\s not that easy. I needed you, Carden.’’

’’I asked Ronan to keep an eye on you. Was he not attentive?’’

The words crushed me anew. Ronan had been there for me, but not truly. It was a swell of emotions, too confusing to consider. ’’Ronan was fine. But I needed you. You were gone for so long.’’

’’Time flows differently for me. I was gone not a moment longer than was necessary. Trust me when I tell you, you are all I\ve thought about. Being apart from was as though a limb had been torn from me.’’ He slid his arms around me, and warmth spread through me, soothing me.

How I wanted to believe him. I wanted everything to be okay again. ’’You should\ve thought of that before you disappeared.’’

’’I thought only of you when I left,’’ he said. ’’I left for you.’’

’’What does that mean?’’

’’Please, love.’’ He sounded so...broken. ’’Just touch me back. Just once. And then I will tell you everything.’’

Before I knew it, before I could help it, I was in his arms. He was kissing me, and relief so profound swept through me. Rippled across my skin. Carden felt like home.

And it made me angry. I\d fought so hard to be strong, and just one look, one word, and I was weak again, huddled in his arms. He felt so good. He was so good, and so dashing and easy and handsome. Surely girls flung themselves at him wherever he went.

I pushed him away, trying to keep hold of the anger. ’’Where were you, anyway? Were you with another woman?’’

’’Aye.’’ The word was raw, as though torn from him.

That one syllable shattered me.

But then...then the world stopped as he spoke again:

’’I went in search of another woman, but not as you think, dear one. I found her. I found your mother.’’

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