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Olivia met his eyes, a look of sincerity on his face. But there was something else there, too. A troubled look. He appeared as if he was in pain, and Olivia’s heart went out to him.
She walked over to a bench and sat down, motioning for him to do the same. “Okay. I’ll listen, Simon.” It seemed as though Simon had turned over a new leaf and the least she could do was hear him out. Plus, she had the pepper spray that Carter had given her clutched in her hand so she didn’t feel threatened.
“I just wanted to apologize for my behavior all those months ago,” he started, his eyes trained straight ahead on the swan boats. “I never wanted to hurt you, Olivia.” He faced her, beseeching her to believe the words that he spoke. “I don’t know what came over me, and I regret agreeing to help those people…”
“Wait,” Olivia interrupted. “What are you talking about, Simon?” She scrunched her eyebrows, confused at what was coming out of his mouth. “What people?”
“I don’t know all the details, but this guy paid me the equivalent of two years’ salary to get close to you and see if you remembered something from your childhood,” he explained, almost avoiding her eyes.
Olivia sat there in shock.
“I know it was stupid now,” he continued when she remained silent. “You have to believe I would never do anything to hurt you again.” He lifted his head, meeting her eyes once more. “I had a lot of time in prison to reflect on my behavior, and I want to be honest with you, Olivia.” He took a deep breath before continuing, “You’re in danger.” His voice was firm as he warned her. “I don’t know what these people want. Hell, I don’t even know who’s behind any of it. Some guy bailed me out of jail and paid for my attorney, but I have no idea what his connection is to this whole mess. All I know is that they think that your dad…”
“My dad died years ago, Simon,” she interrupted, dropping her voice to barely a whisper. “Both of my parents did.” She turned her head, not wanting to talk about losing her family at such a young age. She fought back the tears as a gentle breeze rustled through the trees, making her shiver despite the warm spring air.
“I know. This guy said that they died in an accident, but was it really an accident?”
Olivia’s mind began to race, recalling her dreams. Her head spun around quickly and she glowered at him. “I was in the car, Simon,” she said, swallowing hard. “I survived. I relive that day in my dreams every night of my fucking existence. Yes. It really was an accident.”
He noticed her reaction and proceeded with caution. “I’m sorry, Olivia. I’m not trying to upset you. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. I just want you to be safe.”
She stared at him, her eyes intense. Why was Simon being so nice to her now? It didn’t make any sense. Then again, maybe he was able to gain some clarity and insight into his life while he was in prison.
“I heard you’re engaged to Alexander Burnham,” Simon said quietly, hoping she would keep talking to him if he changed the subject.
She avoided his eyes, blushing. “I am.”
“Good. He’s a good man, Olivia. He can protect you.”
“Why are you telling me all of this, Simon?” She tilted her head and eyed him suspiciously. “What’s your goal here? What do you hope to get out of it?”
He exhaled loudly, running his hands through his hair, exasperated. It reminded her of Alexander. “I don’t know,” he said quietly. “I just want to make amends for my past behavior, and maybe telling you what I know will mean the difference between life and death. These people are very dangerous so please be careful. I guess that’s what I wanted to say… And that I’m sorry.” His eyes met hers. “I’m scared for you.” He got up and began to walk away.
Olivia watched as he strolled along the path, dodging other runners out for their morning exercise. Could she trust him? He knew so much. “Simon! Wait!” she shouted, running to catch up to him.
A grin crept across his face. He paused and readjusted his expression into a solemn look before turning around. “Yes, Olivia?”
“I just wanted to say…” Her voice trailed off.
She took a deep breath. “I forgive you,” she said, knowing how difficult it must have been for him to tell her everything. The least she could do was forgive him for what had happened in the past. Maybe it would help him continue to grow. “You scared me back in August, but I’m not going to hold that grudge anymore. I hope you can move on from this and that my forgiveness gives you some peace. You did the right thing telling me what's going on. I value your honesty.” She took his hands in hers, their eyes locking, thankful that one person in her life was finally being truthful with her.
“All I ever wanted was to get to know you, Olivia,” he said sweetly. “You just made it so damn hard. You kept everyone away, and it nearly broke my heart,” he explained, his voice shaking. “I wanted you so badly, but all you were looking for was a fuck buddy. Then when this guy found out that I was sleeping with you, he came to me with a proposition and…well, I wasn’t born into money like you were. I’ve had to struggle my entire life to make ends meet. But, in the end, I know it wasn’t worth it. I ruined whatever we had going between us…”
“Simon, please…” she said, releasing his hands, glancing down at the cobblestone path.
“I just need to get this off my chest.” His unyielding tone made Olivia look back into his eyes. “The day I walked into your studio to work on that construction project, I thought you were the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on, and I still believe that to this very day. I’ll always be here for you, no matter what you need. I will never hurt you again. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I did. That’s why I need your forgiveness. I know there’s no future for us, and I’m glad that you’ve found someone who makes you happy. I just wish that you had let me in all those months ago. Maybe things would have turned out differently.” Simon turned to walk away, leaving Olivia speechless.