Prologue 4

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James stills against me. I don't let him go. Suddenly I'm more nervous than I've been at any point so far, all my rage evaporating like breath in the desert.

I try to calm the erratic parade of my heart, breathing hard, shaking with the jagged inhale and exhale.

"James." His voice is quiet, but there's no missing the threat. "I was wrong. Let go of my wife."

"No. Don't." I lock myself around James, trying not to let him disentangle from me. But he does. Going to his feet, facing Jackson, a robot ready for his next instruction.

It makes me feel very disposable, and I pull my bra cups back up, fingers trembling.

"Get out." Jackson cocks his head towards the door. James swipes his tie off the bed and heads for the exit, not sparing a glance my direction on his way out.

And why should he?

The extent to which I hated myself three minutes ago is exponential now. Orders of magnitude greater.

"What the fuck?"

Jackson's hand is pressed to the back of his neck, his head moving slightly, back and forth. Saying no to the empty room ahead of him.

Then he faces me.

He looks disgusted.

And angry.

His face pursed, eyes aflame. He comes towards me, moving slowly, and I find myself backing up, backing away from him.

He stops, directing his dagger stare at my chest, slicing to ribbons anything that might remain of our old intimacy.

Suddenly he's reaching for me, gripping my arm with cruel fingers—the first time he's touched me in two years—covering my necklace with his other hand. Making a fist around our rings, he yanks, and the chain comes soundlessly apart. He flings it away, it hits the floor with a metallic clang, the chain dragging and skittering to a stop against the wall.

"I fucking... I fucking hate you." He shakes me. "It's the only thing I thought I could feel. Besides the despair and the sick. You make me sick. How. Fucking. Could you?"

I snatch my arm away and he grabs it back.

"Do you know what I've done, Kit? There's no fucking... there's no fucking going back for me. Do you understand? For two fucking years. I thought you fucked that guy. You let me think it... and you know... the only thing worse than that. Is fucking finding out you didn't!"

His angry vein bulges, the one that cuts through his forehead.

"You didn't. You didn't. But I have, Kit. I thought maybe... you must've... something. In two fucking years, SOMETHING! Someone. And I thought. I thought, I could... make you... and I can't. Fucking. Do it."

"Is that? Is that what this is about, Jackson?"

He doesn't seem to hear me. He goes on, not answering, still jostling me by my arm.

"You fucking... lying bitch! Do you know what it's like to lose everything—for nothing? Do you?"

I nod and it enrages him.

"No. You fucking don't! Kit... you have never. Not once. Understood what love means. You think it means being happy. And you weren't!""

He punctuates the statement by releasing me with a small shove.

"You weren't." I spit back.

The room blurs around me, details collapsing into the pinprick of just his face. Rage darkened eyes, murderous under drawn brows. Hair forward, wild into his face.

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