33. Cold, Hard Commitment

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Had I heard correctly?

Most likely not. My ears were probably playing tricks on me, or some owl was testing its ability to imitate Mr Ambrose's voice. Still, I once again felt that painful tug on my heart, and this time, it tugged in his direction. Before I knew what I was doing, I had swung my leg over the sill and was clambering outside. The moment I reached the ground, I rushed towards him. I only came to a stop a few feet away, drinking in the sight of him like an explorer in some distant land, who'd been looking for the fountain of youth and finally reached his goal.

I've been waiting for this all day, I realized. This moment is what's been keeping me going.

That realization should have worried me, probably. Up until recently, it would have scared the crap out of me to be so dependent on another person, especially a man. Now, however, I didn't give a flying fig, because I saw the same need in his eyes.

We're in this together.

He took a step forward.

And suddenly, the spell broke and I was brought back to reality with an uncomfortable jolt. We weren't together. And we couldn't be until this was over.

'Stop!' Quickly, I raised a hand and took a step backwards. 'I've got to tell you something! The doctor was here again. He said... he said that Ella...'

'I know,' Mr Ambrose cut me off.

'Then you know you can't come any closer. If you do—'

He took another step towards me.

'No!' I jumped back, my eyes wide with fear. 'Aren't you listening? I might be infected, too! Nobody knows how the sickness is transmitted! It could be through contact, and you'd be—'

I was cut off when he grabbed me, and his lips claimed mine.

It was a kiss unlike any we'd shared before. Before, every kiss had always been about need, or want, or even love. This was none of that. This was a kiss of belonging. It screamed You are mine and I am yours, and didn't brook any argument. Not that I felt in the mood to argue. My arms came up around him, clutching him to me with a force I hadn't thought my tired limbs capable of. His arms enfolded me, and they didn't feel hard and cold. They felt like coming home.

Silly girl! Do you know if he even has a home? For all you know, he sleeps on a straw mat in his office!

Well, if he did, I hoped it was broad enough for two. Because I was not letting go. I would never let go!

'You crazy, crazy man!' I whispered against his lips. 'How could you do something so stupid?'

'I prefer the word "determined", Miss Linton.'

'Sure you do.'

He silenced me by reclaiming my mouth. He kissed me hard and deep and, and crazy and determined, and a hundred other ways I wouldn't know how to name. Every second filled me with more love and desire, and most of all more pain. Because with every moment I touched him, the likelihood that he'd be infected grew exponentially. Yet I simply couldn't make myself let go. Even if his arms hadn't been like a wonderful vice around me—I needed him right now. I needed him like I needed air to breathe. So I closed my eyes and sank into the kiss, forgetting everything but him and me and us together.

Finally, he released me. When I had enough strength back in my wobbly legs to stand on my own and was able to open my eyes, I found him staring down at me, coldly and implacably. In other words—just like I loved him.

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