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Because a world without her in it was pretty fucking bleak.



Gillian juggled the groceries in her hand.

Setting the bags down at the front door, she started digging through her purse and cursed when she couldn’t find her keys. But the sound of someone pulling into her driveway had her turning around.

A sigh left her when she saw it was Gerald. He cut the engine and just stared at her through the windshield for a second before finally getting out.

“I know I should have called,” he said, and she didn’t mention that he did call, and she’d asked for space. For a moment, neither spoke nor moved, but then Gerald started messing with his keys in his hand, the jingling sound breaking up the silence but also grating on her nerves a little.

She was tired, sick of the crying and the pain in her chest, and wished things could go back to the way they were—well, not the sex part. She’d enjoyed that, felt something powerful during it.

What happened afterward was what sucked.

“I’m not feeling the greatest, Gerald. I think I just want to lie down. Maybe we can talk later?”

Please, let’s just postpone this until things aren’t so fucked up.

Gerald came closer. “Can I at least help you in with the bags?”

Her first reaction was to tell him no thanks, that she had it, but she did feel a little bad that she was being like this. He might be pushy, but it wasn’t his fault shit had gone down the way it had.

“Sure. Thank you.” She turned and unlocked the door, grabbed a bag, and looked back at Gerald. She caught him checking her ass out since she was partially bent over. It was kind of a dick move, given what she’d expressed about her emotions and the situation Gerald knew about, but she brushed it aside and pushed the door open more fully.

Once inside, she stepped to the side and allowed Gerald to move past her.

“Where would you like it?” he asked about the bag he carried.

“You can just put it on the table, thanks.”

Once the bags were on the table, she smiled, hoping he’d just leave so she could be alone.

“Have dinner with me tonight. Or a drink. Or hell, just talk.”

She exhaled, her head starting to pound. “Thank you for the offer, but I really don’t feel well, Gerald. I mean, when we spoke, I thought I mentioned that.”

“You shouldn’t be alone. You’re obviously going through some shit.” He stepped closer to her, and she shook her head, not sure why he was being so insistent.

“I want to be alone. I need to be alone. It doesn’t have anything to do with you, Gerald, and I’m sorry if I’m being rude about the whole thing.”

He moved closer, but his expression still looked stoic, as if he wasn’t really hearing her. “I want to be here for you.”

She shook her head. “I don’t want that right now. I can’t be that for you, either. I’m in love with someone, and I’m going through a lot because of all of it. I can’t be what you want.”

He knitted his brows and shook his head. “I have never had to try so hard just to have fucking dinner or a drink with a woman before you. I swear to hell, you make things so damn difficult.”

It was her turn to knit her brows. “Gerald, please, I think it’s time for you to go.” Before she knew what was happening, he was right in front of her. She took a step back, but the wall stopped her. “What are you doing?” Gillian was getting scared.

“I’m tired of working so fucking hard to get you to do a simple damn thing with me.”

“So, what, your feelings are hurt?” The look on his face had her closing her mouth so she didn’t say anything else.

Probably not smart to say shit like that.

He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her against him. She placed her hands on his chest and pushed, but he was stronger than she was.

She opened her mouth to tell him to leave her alone, hell, to fuck off, but he shushed her and shook his head. The look in his eyes had everything in her stilling. Her fear rose.

With his body pressed to hers, keeping her immobile, she felt helpless. The past flashed through her mind, and for a second, she froze. Gillian remembered her time with Brian, his body pressed to hers, his grimy hands on her holding her down, making her feel weak.

But she also felt angry. She was not about to let a guy manhandle her. She was not going to be a victim again.

“You’re so pretty. Why the hell do you have to play hard to get? Why can’t you just take a guy up on his offer?” He leaned forward and inhaled deeply right by her ear. “I shouldn’t have to try so hard to get a damn woman into my bed. I’m a renowned and famous artist. Women line up for a chance to jump in my bed, for a second of my fucking attention.” He started working his mouth down her throat and sucked at the base of her neck, his closeness and the sound of wetness from his mouth about to make her gag.

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