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The Empire (Filthy Trilogy #3)
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Harper and Eric are now faced with trust issues. Can they survive their enemies and find a path to love and forever?
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Only moments before, I stood here in my office, in a heated conversation with Grayson, with no idea that Harper could overhear from the bedroom upstairs. No idea that I was jeopardizing our relationship. No idea that she’d confront me.
In this moment, with Harper staring at me, caging me and Grayson inside my office and demanding answers, my world shifts and spins, the ground no longer solid beneath my feet. I’m not solid without her. It’s a realization that shakes me to the core.
She stares at me.
I stare at her.
A million unspoken words fill the space between us with her pain and accusations pulsing through it all.
“Harper,” I say softly.
Her response is to cut her gaze sharply, as if her name on my lips guts her, while her attention lands hard on Grayson. “We need to be alone.” Her voice quakes and trembles. “We’ve needed to be alone and—”
“Understood,” Grayson says, and I can feel his gaze on me as he says, “I’m going home, but we need to finish the conversation I came to have.” I’m not looking at him though. I’m focused on Harper, and Harper only, the woman I want in my life and could easily lose.
Numbers punch at me and my hand goes to the Rubik’s cube on my desk. I don’t pick it up, but I mentally solve the puzzle, each block I turn, taking me down one notch and then another.
Grayson moves toward the door and Harper steps into the room and out of the archway to allow his exit. He pauses next to her and waits for her to look at him. She resists, her attention on my hand and the Rubik’s cube that I know she knows is me working more than its puzzle. It’s me trying to find a way to make this right with her. It’s me trying to find a way out of the trouble her overhearing my conversation with Grayson has created.
“Harper,” Grayson finally says, compelling her attention.
She jerks her gaze to his, and then and only then, with her focus, does he say, “It’s not what it seems at first glance. There’s a reasonable explanation for what you heard. Listen to it all before you react.”
She swallows hard and nods but doesn’t speak. I notice the delicate line of her neck in profile, which might seem like an odd observation to some, but to me, it’s about how easily it would be to those who didn’t know her well, to assume her to be as delicate as her petite, feminine body. They’d be wrong. She’s strong; strong enough to walk away from me no matter how much we might share.
Grayson grips her shoulder, a gesture of support and friendship that I appreciate in this moment. It’s him telling her that she’s family now. It’s him telling her the confession she just overheard, the secret I appear to have kept from her, means nothing and it doesn’t. It’s not as big of a deal as she might think.
I think about us upstairs, naked, fucking without a condom again. Maybe some part of me allowed that to happen because I wanted her to have a reason to stay. Because the only way I’d have a child is with her. Her child. Our baby. A beautiful little girl with her dark hair and blue eyes. It’s not something I deserve or want. My child might well be like me, a savant, a freak, and I don’t wish that on anyone, let alone my child.
The door firmly shuts as Grayson leaves, jolting me out of my thoughts, back to this room, and the confession she overheard. Harper leans against the wooden surface of the door, as if she can’t hold herself upright, as if she’s that jolted by what she overheard. Her hand goes to her belly, obviously trying to calm a reaction to the stress. She’s that affected by what she’s feeling, by her obvious belief that I’ve betrayed her. And I have. I hate it, but I have. I don’t want her to feel these things and yet, I can’t deny the pain I’ve caused her.
I step toward her, but she holds up her hand. “No.” Her voice is rough, a tremble of emotion. “No, I don’t think clearly when you touch me. Talk to me, Eric, like you should have already.” Dark hair falls over her face and I want to shove it away, but she does it herself with an angry swipe of her hand.
I want to touch her. I want to pull her to me and force her to stop fucking thinking so much but that’s not the answer. She’s right. We need to talk. She deserves honesty. “You think this is a big lie, but it isn’t. This is not some shocking revelation.”
“That’s not what you said to Grayson.”