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Letting out a long breath, she pressed the power button and waited for it to boot up. Once it found a signal, she was immediately bombarded with texts and voicemails from Alexander.
“Great,” she muttered to herself. She hated the feeling she got when she didn’t check in with him when he expected her to. He always overreacted, thinking that she wasn’t safe for whatever reason he concocted in his head. She was starting to get tired of Alexander’s hero complex. She loved him with every fiber of her being, but she still wondered whether he would love her when she no longer needed protection from whatever force he believed was threatening her.
She sat down at the kitchen island, savoring the coldness of the water as she stared at her phone. Memories of that day months ago came flooding back. She had just gotten back into town and went to Alexander’s office, begging him to take her back. He had chased her through the streets of Boston to give her the coat she forgot. A strange man approached her and attempted to hit on her, rather poorly, Olivia thought. Alexander saw it and pummeled the guy to the ground.
She recalled how it always seemed like he was trying to protect or save her from one threat or another. But she couldn’t shake the memory of his face when she told him exactly what she wanted from him while they stood on the snowy street that day: “I don’t want you to always feel like you have to come and help me, Alex. I just want you to stand by my side while I try to help myself.”
Olivia began to realize that, no matter what, he would never follow those words. He would always try to be the one to do the saving, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about that.
Her phone interrupted her thoughts, Alexander’s photo flashing on the screen. She became nervous and was hesitant to answer, not wanting to be yelled at as if she was an errant child. “Well, I either have to face this today or tomorrow.”
She pushed the button on the screen and answered the call. “Hello, Alex.”
“Olivia! What the fuck?! Where have you been?! Your phone was off! I’ve been worried sick about you! I’m in the middle of an important meeting and, instead being able to describe in detail what my company’s doing over in Afghanistan, I’m worried about whether my wife-to-be is still fucking alive!”
“Jesus Christ, Alex. I’m fine. I fell asleep after getting back to the apartment tonight. You always go overboard where my safety is concerned and it’s getting old. Not to mention that I’m pretty fucking sure the chauffeur you arranged for us was one of your trained mercenaries, even though you promised that I could have this weekend to myself!” she spat out, fuming as she paced the kitchen. “Plus, you could have just called Carter! You know he was picking me up from the airport and dropping me off at home!”
“I don’t want to talk to Carter! I want to talk to you!” The line was silent for several long moments before Alexander spoke, softening his voice. “I’m sorry, Olivia. I’m working on my overbearing tendencies. I am. I just need to make sure that you’re safe.”
“Alex, how many times do we have to go through this? I don’t want you to constantly go behind my back to try to keep me safe! I can do that on my own!” She exhaled loudly before lowering her voice. “Do you know what I was thinking about just before the phone rang?”
“What’s that?” he asked quietly.
“That day in the snow back in January…”
The line went silent.
“Do you remember what I said to you?”
Alexander let out the breath he was holding. “I do, Olivia, but I just can’t stand aside where your safety is concerned. I have control issues. You know that.”
She walked over to the couch, flopping down on it. “But it’s suffocating me, Alex. I love you, but sometimes I wish I could go back to how things were before you came into my life.”
“What are you saying, love?” he asked, his voice full of hurt.
“No!” she yelled, shooting up into a sitting position. “I’m not saying that. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you, but since I met you, you’ve been smothering me, making sure I have a protection detail with me at all times. I want my simple life back. I know I’ll never truly have that now that I’m marrying you, but I don’t always need protection, Alex, and you know that.”
Alexander sat there, reeling from what Olivia was saying. If she only knew the threats to her life that he was aware of, maybe she would be singing a different song. He didn’t know what to do. This conversation had been occurring more and more often, and he knew it was only a matter of time before she would figure it all out.
“Olivia, darling, there are things you should know,” he sighed, resigning himself to do the right thing…although it went against her father’s wishes. “I’ll be home tomorrow evening and we’ll discuss all of this then, face-to-face. We’ll come up with a compromise. I never meant to suffocate you. I just need to make sure you’re safe. Always.”
“I know, Alex, but you need to start telling me what you’re trying to keep me safe from.”
“I know, and I will. Tomorrow. I love you, Olivia.”
She smiled. “I love you, too, Alexander. Good night.”
“Good night, love.” Alexander hung up as he sat at a desk in his hotel room in San Francisco overlooking Union Square, thinking about what he had just promised. He would have to tell her, and he would have to do it the following day. He didn’t know if he was quite ready for that but, suddenly, he no longer had a choice.
TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES
“CAN YOU TAKE ME to the Starbucks by Alexander’s office building?” Olivia asked Marshall as she exited her apartment building just before four o’clock the following day.
“Absolutely, ma’am,” Marshall responded, opening the door for Olivia to climb into the back seat of the SUV.
Olivia was somewhat surprised that she made no move to contact Alexander to make sure he was okay with it. Then again, she met Kiera out for coffee quite often so it wasn’t an unusual request. This time, however, she wasn’t seeing Kiera. She had promised Adele that she would speak with her one last time and listen to what she had to say. Then, if Adele kept her word, she would never have to see her again.
After the short ride, Marshall pulled up outside of the coffee shop, the financial district bustling with activity on that warm summer day. Olivia grabbed two coffees and walked over to a table to wait for Adele, who walked through the doors a few minutes later. She spotted Olivia and began heading in her direction, the normal bitchy look on her face nowhere to be found. Instead, she looked forlorn and solemn. “Thank you for coming, Olivia,” she said, taking a seat.