Chapter no 40 – The Diamond

Hunting Adeline

“Let me talk to her,” I demand through the phone, plunging my trembling hand through my hair.

“Addie, I’m tired of having this conversation. It’s best you give your mother some space for now,” Dad answers, sounding exhausted.

“Then let’s stop having it!” I shout.

We’ve only been talking for one fucking minute, and it’s his own fault when he won’t give the phone to my mother. I’ve tried every day since she’s been home, and he won’t give in. I even went as far as driving there, but he wouldn’t let me in.

Teddy kept her for over a week, monitoring her and slowly nursing her back to health.

She was out cold nearly the entire time. And the few times she did wake, I don’t think she has much recollection of. She was mainly confused and disoriented, and in a lot of pain.

Dad, Zade, and I stayed by her side the entire week, while Sibby went home with her henchmen. It took them four hours to reappear, and the second they did, she was back to her old self. I’m sure they had lots of orgies while we were gone.

Once Teddy felt Mom was stable and could recover at home, Zade drove us back to their house. His team took care of the bodies and even went as far as restoring the house to its former state. I think Dad was shaken when he walked in, and it looked as if nothing ever happened.

He let Zade and I help get Mom settled in their bed and then promptly kicked us out. That was five days ago, and he still won’t let me see or talk to her.

My only reprieve is he’ll let Daya in, thinking she’s removed from my felon life or something. But now I’m unsure if he’ll even allow that anymore.

“Why? Did she say that herself, or is that a decision you’re making?”

“I know what’s best for my fucking wife,” he snaps, his anger rising. But I don’t shrink away like I normally would’ve. I told Mom that version of myself was gone, and it was the truth.

“So, what you’re saying is that I’m not good for her,” I conclude, my voice shaking with anger. My fist curls, and the urge to send it flying into the wall nearly overcomes me.

“You and that boyfriend of yours,” Dad corrects. “I’ve agreed not to go to the police about this entire situation. But that doesn’t mean I will allow you both to be in her life if this is what will happen. If you want to fuck off and become a criminal, fine, but don’t involve us in it.”

The phone clicks off a second later, and I erupt. Letting out a frustrated scream, I send my phone flying across the room, right as Zade steps through the door.

He stills, eyes tracking the phone as it crashes into the stone wall and crumples to the floor in pieces.

“Do you want me to go kidnap her?” he offers. I snap my head to him, my rage deepening.

“He’s not letting me see her because we’re criminals. And your solution is to… commit another crime?”

“Well, when you put it like that.”

Growling, I whip away from him and storm towards the balcony, needing to get away.

The warm wind whips through my hair the second I step out, sending the strands flying around my face. It only embodies how I feel, like Medusa with a crown of angry snakes.

It’s not fair, but it’s becoming harder and harder to look at Zade and not blame him, too. I’m beginning to revert back to that bitter, hateful part of myself that was convinced my life wouldn’t be such a goddamn shitshow if Zade didn’t come barreling into it.

And like Medusa, because I’m wrongly being punished, I want to punish everyone else in retaliation.

I feel Zade behind me before I hear him. Always so silent—always sneaking up on me.

“Your dad is being an asshole, Addie, but she’s going to recover, and he won’t be able to keep her from you,” Zade assures quietly.

What if he gets into her head by then? Convinces her I’m bad for her, and then she decides that I’m not worth loving after all.

And they will always feel that way while I’m with Zade. They will always see him as a bad choice, and as long as I’m with him, they won’t allow me into their lives.

Just when I get the chance to have a real relationship with my mom, it’s ripped away from me. It kind of feels like condensing my entire childhood into one day and making me relive it.

“Maybe you should leave,” I mutter.

A beat passes before he drawls, “You want to repeat that for me, little mouse?”

Clenching my teeth, I bark, “You need to leave.”

I told my mother that Zade would always love me unconditionally, but that love is what almost got her killed. He said it himself—Claire wants me so goddamn badly because of him. Because of how much I mean to him.

Accepting his love was hard, but I learned to be okay with it when I was the only one in danger. Now, I don’t know if that’s the case anymore. My parents may be assholes, but are their lives worth sacrificing for this shit?

I keep my eyes pinned to the water sparkling in the afternoon glow, but his silence is so powerful, it invades all five of my senses. All six of them, if I’m being honest. Because I can feel how enraged he is.

“You think that’s going to solve all your problems, don’t you?” he chuckles.

I whip around. “Maybe it would. You can kill Claire and all her minions, and I will finally be able to live in peace.”

He cocks a brow, and his eyes have never suited him better until this moment. One so ice-cold, and the other so full of darkness—two dangerous parts of him reflecting onto me.

“This is getting old, Adeline.”

I rear back. “Why, are you mad that you can’t make me obsess over you to the point where I need you by my side every fucking second of the day? Or because you can’t—”

“What, baby? I can’t what? Make you love me? Care about me? Or is it that I make you feel all those things when you don’t want to?”

He gets in my face, anger tightening his scars and amplifying the icy darkness in those yin-yang eyes.

Have you ever come face-to-face with a pissed off bear? Looked into the eyes of the beast as it seethes? Most don’t live to talk about it.

“You think I’m going to believe your little lies? As if I possess an ounce of insecurity.” He ends that last statement with a laugh, and it grinds against my nerves. I feel my face brighten while my eyes darken.

He’s laughing at me, and I want to hurt him. Not with my fists, but with my words. I want him to hate me so he will understand what it feels like to hate someone so much, yet still crave them.

For once, I want him to feel what fucking felt when he forced his way into my life.

“No, but it will bother you when you find that all your efforts have been wasted.” His smile slips, and I feel my first dose of victory. I take a step into him, enjoying the way he stiffens. “All that time spent, using my body against me in the name of love, only to never make me love you at all.”

This time when he smiles, there isn’t an ounce of amusement. It’s fierce and speaks of a man held with a rope around his neck, faced with the decision to hang himself and save his loved one from the same fate or throw her to the gallows instead.

Is he going to hurt me back in order to protect himself? Or is he going to stand here and take it?

“Oh?” he challenges. “Professing your love and begging me to carve a rose in your chest was for fun?”

He bares his teeth, and my lungs constrict. “Did you get so good at writing books that you don’t know the difference between reality and your imagination anymore?”

I narrow my eyes. “Stockholm syndrome is real. A human reaction to someone constantly threatened. It makes sense to trick our brains into thinking we love the person. If only it makes it easier to tolerate them.”

He cocks a brow, unimpressed. And that act is still just as heart-stopping as it’s always been.

“Does this feel good? Does it feel good to punish me for something your father is doing?” he asks, his deep voice merely a whisper. That small dose of victory turns into a pool, and then a flood as pain lances across his eyes.

Does he hate me yet? Does he feel what real love feels like?

You can’t truly love someone if you’ve never hated them. Two sides to a double-edged sword, and they both cut fucking deep.

“It feels like I’m finally setting myself free,” I spit. He nods slowly, his piercing gaze assessing.

“And you said you didn’t have daddy issues,” he muses, stepping away from me. It makes my heart skip, seeing him pull away.

The flood of victory has made its wave through my body, and now the tide is pulling it back, and I’m beginning to feel the ramifications.

He takes another step away and angles his body towards the doors. A crater has formed, filling with an ocean that divides us. It’s funny how this is the furthest I’ve felt from him, even when hundreds of miles separated us.

A seed of panic sprouts, but maybe that’s just adrenaline. Because the way Zade peers at me now, it looks as if he’s going to choose himself. He’s going to lash out, and I will be the one left hanging.

“Please, baby, run free then. Show me how far you get before you realize you’re only running from yourself. How long will you last when I possess everything that gives you life?”

My chest tightens, but I laugh, mocking him as he mocks me. “You possess nothing but a demon in your body.”

He ignores me. “Your heart, your soul, and your very breath. Run, little mouse. This time, no one will be chasing you.”

His last words choke me, and then he walks through my room and out of the door, softly closing it behind him.

Shit. I suck in a breath but only wheeze when my lungs refuse to work.

Shit, shit, shit.

I turn, and work to keep breathing but it feels as if I’m tightening my lungs further, reducing them to tiny metal wires that slice through my insides with every inhale.

Stop it, Addie. This is the right decision.

Is it, though?

You’re protecting your family.

Then why does it feel like I’ve alienated my very soul from my body?

Pushed it out as if it didn’t belong there.

You don’t need him to survive, Addie.

No, I don’t. I’ve proven that to be true during the months where I was forced to do nothing but survive. I can live without Zade.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t fucking hurt. That doesn’t mean I won’t live without a large piece of myself missing. Like losing a limb, I’d always

feel him even when he’s no longer a part of me. Does that make me weak? Dependent?

Or just someone madly in love.


I pace the balcony, panic forcing my body into a malfunctioning state. Back and forth, screaming at myself to run after him, and fear turning my body right back around.

He could reject me. I was callous, and a complete asshole when he’s shredded the world apart to get back to me. And what do I do? Push him away.

Fuck. I went from blaming myself, to blaming the one person who’s done everything for me.

I freeze for a beat, and then drop into a crouch, feeling like a bulldozer just ran through me.

“Addie, you fucking idiot,” I growl to myself.

My parents would’ve been kidnapped and possibly tortured if it wasn’t for him. He knew Claire was going to pull something, checked on them to make sure they were safe, and got us up and over there before they could take them. Who knows what Claire would’ve done to them? I don’t believe for a second that they wouldn’t have been left unharmed.

Fuck, he saved them, just like he’s done for me, and for hundreds of others.

Such an idiot.

Finally, my gears shift into autopilot, and I race towards the door. It’ll be like those cheesy romance movies, I assure myself. I’ll swing open the door, and he’ll be standing on the other side, waiting for me because he knew damn well that I was bluffing.

But when I open the door, heart on my sleeve and an apology on my tongue, I find that he’s not waiting for me at all. He’s gone.

I deflate, and my hope fizzles like helium out of a tired balloon.

No, fuck this. The last thing Zade and I are in is a Hallmark movie.

I storm out of the room, down the hallway, and head towards the steps. My feet carry me down too quickly, and in my rush, I nearly face-plant the checkered tiling, the handrail scarcely saving me. I came two inches from having to confront Zade with my front teeth chipped, and that would have been entirely embarrassing.

Like instant karma shit that only God would hex me with.

The front door obnoxiously bangs against the stopper, and before I can get wiped out by rebounding wood that probably weighs more than I do, I take off down the porch.

There. Just a hint of Zade’s back remains before he completely disappears in the thicket of trees.

“Hey!” I shout, hurrying after him. I get close enough to see his chin tip over his shoulder, only a moment before he takes off into a sprint.

I gasp, affronted by the pure audacity of this man. “Oh, you asshole.” You deserved that.

“Shut up,” I mutter to myself. I take off after him, and I just know he’s getting a sick enjoyment out of reversing the roles and making me chase after him.

He’s giving me a spoonful of my own medicine, and it tastes like ass.

I’ve gotten faster with all the running I’ve done in the past several months, and my endurance has strengthened. But I’m still no match for Zade. His long legs eat up the dirt ground faster than mine, and I become frustrated as the distance between us grows.

Soon, he disappears altogether, and I slow to a stop, panting heavily and on the verge of tears.

I spin in circles but quickly put a stop to that when I only serve to make myself dizzy. For several minutes, I wallow in my misery while I catch my breath. Tears line the edges of my eyes, and the only person I have to blame is myself.

I may be a little broken right now, but that doesn’t excuse my behavior toward Zade.

Just as I turn to find my way back to Parsons Manor, a twig cracks from behind me.

An ominous feeling rises the hairs on the back of my neck, and my stomach drops. Whirling around, a startled yelp rips from my throat when Zade is right there.

Shock paralyzes me, and before I can muster a word, he’s gripping me by the throat, lifting me, and slamming me into a tree right beside me.

I cry out, disoriented and now breathless as he leeches the oxygen from my lungs, squeezing until I’m sure he’s going to snap my neck. Despite my nails clawing at his hand, he doesn’t relent. Instead, he lifts me higher, and

out of desperation, I kick up my legs and curl them around his waist, bowing my back to alleviate some of the pressure.

My body nearly goes through the movements to dislodge his hand from my throat, but I stop myself. Whatever he has to say, whatever he plans to do—I deserve it.

Frankly, I don’t want to escape him.

He’s breathing heavily, and even in the throes of panic, I know it’s purely from excitement. His mouth strays only an inch from mine, his minty toothpaste mingling with leather, spice, and a hint of smoke, the intoxicating aromas clouding my senses. Gradually, his hand tightens, and instinct begins to take over. I thrash against him, but he only presses deeper into me.

“What’s wrong, baby? Didn’t get enough the first time and came back for more?”

I slap at him, my vision beginning to blacken, and I don’t need a mirror to see that my face is tomato red and seconds away from turning purple. Finally, his grip loosens, and I greedily suck in air, though he doesn’t remove his hand.

“Fucking dickhead,” I choke out, and yes, I see the hypocrisy, but fuck him anyway.

He scarcely gives me a moment to breathe, then he’s threatening to rob me of air once more. His grip isn’t as tight, leaving a kernel of space in my windpipe that allows me to inhale.

“Come on, little mouse, you know I only answer to two names,” he taunts. “Let me hear you say my name. It sounds so much sweeter when you can’t breathe.”

“Zade,” I growl, but he shakes his head.

“Uh-uh,” he tsks, voice dipped in sweet venom. “I want you to call me by my other name, Adeline.”

Tears of frustration pool in my eyes, one breaking free and slipping past my lashes. He tracks the droplet, a savage grin ghosting across his lips before the tip of his tongue darts out and licks the salty water from my face. I clench my teeth, pride rising, fueled by anger for this insufferable man.

When Zade and I are happy, it’s easy to forget how much he enjoys seeing me suffer. And I wonder if this is why I lash out thoughtlessly. Maybe a part of me likes the way he makes me suffer, too.

He drifts the tip of his tongue over the side of my cheek and to my ear, leaving a wet trail in his wake before dark whispers warm my skin instead.

“If you make me tell you again, I will strap you to this tree until the birds are ready to eat.”

God,” I bite out, my voice hoarse from the strain. “Are you happy now?”

He bares his teeth, and I realize that the fear he instills in me will likely eat me alive before the birds ever could.

“Not even fucking close,” he hisses. “I think I quite like the idea of tying you to this tree—the birds feasting on the helpless little mouse.”

Terror glides down my constricted throat and low into my stomach, morphing into an inebriating feeling that burns and burns until my eyes droop into a half-lidded state.

“Punish me then. I deserve it,” I hiss. I want him to.

As long as he’s here, touching me, hurting me—it’s better than him being another ghost haunting Parsons Manor.

“Or is the kitty cat too scared of the mouse?”

He tips his head back, a laugh working its way from his throat and sending chills down my spine. Evil. It was an evil laugh, and my excitement ramps up.

He suddenly drops me, and steps away, barely giving me time to catch myself. Just as I straighten, he tips up his chin.

“Have you come here to ask for forgiveness?” “Yes,” I whisper. “I’m—”

“Undress,” he orders, cutting off my apology.

Biting back a retort, I listen, and tear the articles of clothing from my body until I’m naked. It’s hot outside, yet I shiver beneath his blazing eyes.

My nipples harden beneath his wandering gaze, causing his nostrils to flare. Suppressing the urge to cover myself, I lean back against the tree, another shiver racking my body from the rough bark.

Licking his lips, he gazes at me like a hawk would a mouse. Predatory and full of intention. Slowly, his long fingers undo the buckle on his belt, before jerking it out from the loops of his black jeans.

A rock forms in my throat, but I don’t bother swallowing it down because I know it’ll come right back up. Especially as he strides towards

me, and then behind the tree. The trunk isn’t large by any means, so just as I go to turn my head, his hand comes up from behind me and grips my jaw, forcing it straight.

“Face forward, Adeline,” he orders, his deep voice full of warning.

His hand retreats, and my heart pounds erratically, causing my breathing to hiccup. The weight of anticipation is suffocating, and when I finally see his belt come into view, I can’t help but flinch away.

It loops across my throat and around the trunk before it tightens, the leather groaning from the force. My eyes bulge, my precious air supply cutting off for the third time as he refastens the buckle. The fucker used his belt to pin me to the tree.

He comes out from behind me and faces me once more, his devilish gaze taking in his masterpiece.

“You’re fucked in the head,” I tell him, and then cough as the leather digs into my skin.

He hums at me. “You use pretty words as sharp knives, and I think you’ve become attached to seeing me scarred. Do they make your pussy wet, baby?”

I raise my chin, deciding to take a different route and go with the truth for once.

“Yes,” I admit, as firmly as I can manage.

He stares at me, his mismatched pools as intense as the cold wind ravaging my body. The pale scar cutting through his white eye stands out proudly amongst the otherwise smooth flesh.

It hurts to look at him.

His gaze thins, and he approaches me until I can feel the blissful heat radiating from his body.

“I didn’t mean what I said,” I whisper before he can say whatever words are resting on his tongue. “I’m sorry.”

He pauses, and my discomfort grows as his gaze intensifies.

“I’ve given you nothing but honesty, and you continue to give me lies. Is this another attempt to bring me back in just to kick me out again?”

I swallow, my throat drier than the bark digging into my back.

“No,” I rasp, and my lip trembles from the shame burning the backs of my eyes. “You’re right. I… There’s no excuse for what I said. I don’t want you to leave. And I do love you.”

“So you’ve said,” he murmurs. He cocks his head and muses aloud, “Yet you tried to take it back. You gave me something precious and then tried to rip it away.”

I shake my head, desperation clogging my throat.

“I won’t do that ever again,” I swear, another tear burning a trail down my cold cheek. It snags his attention, and I watch his eyes zero in on it, tracking it until it drips from my chin.

When he looks at me once more, it hits me that this isn’t just a punishment. This will be a test to prove my love. To prove that I mean it when I say it.

“You cut me because you know I’ll gladly bleed for you. So now I want to see you bleed for me.”

I open my mouth, prepared to tell him that I already have, but before I can, he bends and grabs a long, gnarled twig off the ground, fisting it in his hand. Whatever I was going to say somersaults right back down my throat, and my heart stalls in my chest.

“What are you going to do?” I ask hesitantly, eyeing the branch like he’s holding a gun.

Scratch that, give me the gun. I’ve survived that before.

He responds to my question by rearing his arm back and slapping me across the thigh with it. For a blissful second, I’m too shocked to feel anything, but then the sharp, piercing pain comes racing in, and all I can do is let out a strangled scream. I look down at my thigh in disbelief, an angry red welt already protruding from my skin.

My chest heaves, watching a line of blood bead from the wound before trailing down my thigh.

I look up at him, mouth parted, eyes wide, and utter bewilderment on my face.

“You fucking whipped me,” I gasp, incapable of saying anything other than the obvious.

He crouches down, looking closely at the tiny trickles of blood staining my thigh. Lifting his hand, his fingers feather across the wound, and I hiss in response.

He looks up at me through thick, black lashes, and if I weren’t strapped to a tree, I’d collapse from the raw intensity on his face. “Are you not willing to bleed for me?”

I bite my trembling lip. I cut him deep, an invisible wound that will scar him as permanently as the marks on his body. Some days, when I’m lost in my own head, I forget how intensely Zade loves.

“Giving my heart to you was something I prayed I’d never do,” I whisper. “But you’ve always been a God, and I didn’t realize my pleas were going straight into your hands. Yet they always went unanswered.”

Seeing him now, kneeling before me, I understand why. The day I handed over my love to him was the first time a God fell to his knees, bowed his head, and prayed. He prayed because I gave him the one thing he could never control, and he never wanted to lose it.

My vision blurs, and I struggle to keep the tears at bay. “I’ll bleed for you, Zade. I’ll always bleed for you.”

His eyes shutter, and he drops his gaze before I can decipher the emotion in them.

Slowly, he stands, and by the time he raises his lids, I see nothing but my own reflection. I brace myself, but it does little to prepare for the lightning searing across my flesh when the twig lands on my stomach.

Breathing through the pain, I plead, “Let me see your scars.”

Surprisingly, he grants me that small favor and removes his hoodie from his head.

I soak in his naked torso and release a shaky exhale. Where he hit me is almost precisely the same place as the scar on his stomach. Through blurred vision, I watch him whip out his arm, landing another strike to mirror his chest wound, reopening the unhealed rose over my heart.

I told him to carve that rose into my skin because I wanted to bear the pain we endured together. When he lashes out again, replicating yet another mark, I realize he’s giving his pain to me—sharing it with me.

Steadily, the burn from each wound transcends until I feel every beat of agony in the apex of my thighs. Blood covers my body, painting my flesh in a mosaic of pain and pleasure. With each strike, my clit throbs, and I grow wetter and hotter. I’m panting by the time he drops the twig, my legs trembling and threatening to give beneath me.

His own chest heaves and his low-slung jeans only define how hard he


A deep, rumble sounds from his throat as his gaze eats up the art piece

he’s created on my body. My skin is the canvas to release his pain on, and

I’m happy to accept each angry stroke.

“I’ve only ever wanted to love you. But I think hating you tastes just as bittersweet.”

“Please,” I whisper, incapable of uttering anything else.

I’m in his arms a moment later, the belt around my throat seizing my breath. But I don’t care—hardly notice—when all I can feel is the slide of his skin against mine. He grabs the belt and lifts me higher in his arms, raising the leather strap with me to accommodate my new position. My legs wrap tightly around his waist, and I roll my hips, shuddering from the feel of his hard length sliding against my pussy, the roughness of his jeans only heightening the pleasure.

His hands skate over the marks, eliciting a sharp hiss. A sound quickly swallowed by his lips. My back arches, bliss racing up my spine as he devours me, his tongue tracing the seam of my lips before plunging through, exploring my mouth as his hands do my body.

Every touch aches, though it feeds the growing wildfire raging beneath my skin. Desperately, I tear at his jeans, the zipper barely releasing before his cock tears from the confines.

My hand wraps around his length, drawing a shudder from him that has nothing to do with the wind still ravaging Seattle. He’s hot to the touch and so fucking hard that I feel a pinch of uneasiness.

But the dark God doesn’t care if I falter. He grabs the backs of my knees and forces my legs apart, freeing him from my hold. Kneeling before me, he slings each of my legs over his shoulders and drags his mouth against my inner thigh.

I suck in a breath when his lips skate close to a welt, the pain flaring brightly as his teeth sink into my flesh. Blood drops down between his teeth, and I cry out as the agony begins to overwhelm me.

Finally, he releases me, a perfect bite mark imprinted next to the welt, dotted with saliva.

“I think I could eat you alive, Adeline. Consume every bit of you while you scream beneath me. And even in death, you would still torture me. I would die of starvation because nothing else would compare to you.”

“You will never be able to live without me, Zade,” I breathe. “If you’re my death, then I’m your fucking lifeline.”

He grins humorously, the tilt of his lips dangerous as he drags them up my thigh and towards my aching pussy. I’m drenched, and the slightest touch of his tongue will send me soaring.

“You are,” he agrees. “You’re the only thing I need to survive. I will follow you into the afterlife, little mouse. And then how will you escape me? There’s nowhere to run after you’ve been dragged to Hell.”

His mouth closes over my clit before I can think to respond. My head kicks back from the explosive pleasure that erupts beneath his skilled tongue.

I cry out, my eyes rolling as he works me with such precision; it’s as if I’m nothing more than a violin that sings for him when he strokes me just like that.

The way I scream for him could be nothing short of art.

Just as he promised, he devours me. Biting and sucking until I’m pleading for mercy, then licking me until no other words exist but his name on my tongue.

My thighs clench around his head while I mindlessly buck against him. I’m climbing a mountain, and the higher I get, the harder it is to breathe. What a dirty little trick—to fool me into danger. By the time I reach the peak, there will be no air left, and that climb will have only been for heaven.

His hands brush against my battered thighs, smearing crimson into my skin and reawakening the sharp pain.

It slams into me, sending my body plummeting off that mountain and my soul into paradise. A scream tears through my constricted throat, hoarse and strained as I grind against him, trapping him between my thighs and robbing him of oxygen.

Prying my legs apart, he grips me under my knees and lifts me a little higher as he stands, relieving some of the pressure on my throat. I place my hands on his broad shoulders, balancing myself.

My arousal glosses his wide lips, chin, and down the column of his neck. Slowly, he swipes out his tongue, collecting it like a poor man tasting a delicacy for the first time.

He hums, pleased by the taste of me. My stomach tightens in response to the near-crazed look in his eyes.

Molding his warm body against me, I shudder from the feel of his skin pressed into mine. I could never deny how good Zade feels, even when I was desperate to.

“Wrap your legs around me,” he orders roughly, his tone hushed. He removes his arms from beneath my thighs and I circle them tightly around his waist.

One hand glides up the outside of my thigh, while he anchors the other on the tree beside my head, supporting our weight. His head is bent down, nose gliding along the column of my neck.

“I’m too addicted to you to ever let you go,” he murmurs. My eyes flutter closed, another dose of relief hitting me straight in the heart.

“But I don’t know how to make you stay,” he continues, his tone darkening. My brows pinch, feeling a sense of looming danger on the horizon.

“I will—”

His chin tips up until his mouth is right by my ear. “I don’t believe you,” he whispers, cutting me off.

He said the same thing to me only a couple of weeks ago, and I had asked him to carve a rose into my chest to prove my love. But then I tried to take it away, and I don’t know how I’m going to prove myself again.

My heart pounds, and I scramble for a way to convince him. I don’t exactly have a great track record—I know that. Pushing Zade away and running from him has always come so easy to me.

Too easy, if I’m being honest. But letting him slip through my fingers— that’s something I’ve never been able to accomplish.

“I knew you were going to do this to me, little mouse. I’ve always known it was going to come to this,” he says softly.

I’m a mass of confusion and heart-pounding dread. “What are you—”

Before I can finish, he tilts my hips up just enough to slam me down on his cock, driving himself inside me at the same moment. Despite how turned on I am, it’s never enough to prepare for his size.

My back bows, the leather belt holding my throat hostage just as a strangled cry releases, quickly carried away with the wind.

Zade tips his head back, a deep growl building in his chest. He presses me deep into the tree, grasping my hip in a bruising hold, steadily sinking

his cock deeper and deeper until I’m unable to take any more of him.

I let out another choked cry, sensations unfurling from where we connect and throughout my entire being. The rough bark digs into my skin, but I hardly notice when he’s invading my body so thoroughly.

The hand holding my hip slides up to my stomach, his fingers digging into my skin.

“Would this being swollen with my child make you stay?” he asks darkly, then groaning as if overcome with bliss from the thought.

My mouth parts, my attention split between his almost threatening words and the way he’s moving inside of me.

“Uhh.” Somewhat of a response but it sounded more like a moan. “Maybe one day?” I squeak out, almost coughing when the belt constricts against my windpipe.

He withdraws to the tip, then seats himself completely inside me, his pelvis grinding into mine. I choke, and my eyes nearly roll from how full I am.

Hot breath fans across my ear, and it feels like a warning. “I wasn’t asking permission, baby. Would you stay, or would you run off with my child?”

I’m so disoriented by his line of questioning; it takes me a moment to catch up. My heart drops, and I gasp both from his implication and from him grinding against me again, his pelvis stimulating my clit just the right way.

“You… I have the IUD,” I say. It would be difficult to tamper with that.

Not unless he physically pulled it from my body.

“Do you?” he murmurs, his deep voice low and challenging. He poses the question in a way that suggests he knows the answer to that question better than I do.

My nails dig into his shoulders, and when realization begins to set in, I push at him. Of course, he resists against me, a steel fortress that even a nuclear bomb couldn’t crumble.

“You didn’t,” I snap.

“You sleep so heavily sometimes,” he responds, pressing deeper into me as I try to shove him back. He slides out again before slamming into me once more, drawing a mix between a moan and an enraged gasp.

“Zade,” I warn, voice shaking.

He groans against me, now steadily fucking me.

“Will it make you stay?” he questions again. I turn my head toward him, training my glare on him, despite the cyclone of pleasure swirling deep in my stomach. Taking in my expression, the fucker has the audacity to smile.

“You’re not asking if a baby will make me stay. You’re asking if I’d stay if you forced a pregnancy on me,” I bite out.

The hand supporting our weight against the tree slides down until it’s leaning on the belt strap, causing it to tighten and cut off my air supply.

I choke, but he doesn’t let up. His eyes are wild, and it’s now, I wonder how my words could affect him so deeply.

He does the worst things sometimes, and yet here I am, wrapped around him even as he threatens me.

“Am I still worth loving, little mouse?” he asks through gritted teeth. I attempt to swallow, but it gets stuck in my throat.

Fuck, the asshole really brings out the worst in himself. And he does it without any remorse, baring all those dark parts on a silver platter, challenging me on if I’m going to accept it or not.

Darkness licks at the edges of my vision, but I give him the truth. I nod my head, answering both of his questions. He is worth loving. And I would stay.

He relents on the belt, and I cough, sucking in air desperately, though it’s useless. Any oxygen I collected in my lungs is punched out of me when he increases his pace, the hand on my stomach gliding down until his thumb reaches my clit, circling the bud until my eyes roll.

I’m not ready to have children. I’ve never been ready for anything Zade throws my way. Yet, it doesn’t stop me from meeting his thrusts, an orgasm forming low in my belly.

“You’ll never escape me, little mouse. Do you think anyone could ever make your pussy cry the way I do?”

He angles his hips, hitting that spot inside of me that has me clenching around him. I shake my head, incapable of speech. The only thing I can do is claw at him, scraping my nails across his back and gouging deep, red cuts into his skin as he has done mine.

Growling deep in his chest, he gnashes his teeth,

“I dare you, Adeline. Deny that my name isn’t carved into every star you see when I make you come, and I will show you that a God can create them

just as easily as he can destroy them.”

The knot in my stomach tightens to its breaking point, and my moans turn into hoarse screams as he brutally fucks me against the tree, continuing to circle my clit with his thumb. The belt around my throat digs into my skin, confining my windpipe just enough to send blood rushing to my face.

“Only you,” I mumble, the words lost inside the sounds of pleasure tearing past my lips.

“That’s it, Adeline. Now take my cum like a good little girl.”

My back bows, and I erupt, crying out from the sheer force of the orgasm tearing through me. I feel myself clench around him, his cock spearing through my tightening pussy with a force that rivals the pleasure consuming me.

My vision snuffs out like the sun behind a moon during a solar eclipse. His darkness devours my light, and I decide I’m content living in the shadows.

His palm slams next to my head, and with one final thrust, he explodes with a deep growl. Grinding his hips against mine, he empties himself inside me, cursing beneath his breath until the last drop is wrung out of him. Several minutes pass, and both of us slowly come back down and catch our breaths. Well, he’s catching his breath. I’m still struggling for mine due

to the belt around my throat.

He grins when he notes how red my face is—I can feel it burning beneath his stare. Reaching around, he unclasps the buckle, and the belt drops a second later.

My rib cage protrudes from how deeply I inhale, feeling like I’m taking the first breath after drowning for so long.

That was how I once described what Zade’s love felt like, and it’s never felt truer until now.

As I’m still drinking in the precious oxygen, he grips my jaw between his fingers and forces my gaze to his.

“Never again, Adeline. I could take you pushing me away when you were still discovering how you felt for me. But not anymore. That was your last time. Understand?”

I nod, shame reigniting. “Yes, never again. I’m sorry,” I croak, wrapping my arms tightly around his neck. “But I hope you know I’m always going to run from you. I like the way you chase me.”

He bites his lip, the heat in his eyes flaring. Leaning forward, I kiss him softly, praying he can feel just how much I mean it.

His hand dives into my hair, amplifying the sweetness to something more savage. But too soon, he’s pulling away. I chase after him, stealing one more before he sets me down, supporting me while my legs grow accustomed to holding my weight again. They shake fiercely, and I just know the dickhead’s ego is ballooning again.

“Need a wheelchair, baby?”

I sniff and mutter, “No,” affronted by his big-ass head. “They’re just tired from you making me run.”

He chuckles, knowing damn well how untrue that is. But I smile back, and I realize that I like the way Zade laughs as much as I like the way he punishes me.

“How are they going to feel when you’re nine months pregnant and I’m chasing after you?”

I tighten my lips, but then smile with victory when I realize I’m not even ovulating. When I tell him so, he only smirks.

“I didn’t take out your IUD,” he says, bending to gather our clothes. My mouth drops open. “Then what the fuck was all that?”

He shrugs, still grinning as he pulls on his jeans and glances at his phone before tucking it away again.

“I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m fucking relieved. But what the shit, Zade?”

“I needed to be sure you’re one hundred percent in this with me. A baby is the only thing that could permanently tie your life to mine. Legally, at least. Ethically… well, I will always be in your life, whether you know I am or not.”

Shaking my head, I tug my jeans up my body, the coarse fabric rubbing painfully against the welts on my legs. My shirt doesn’t feel much better.

“Yeah, whatever,” I mumble. “You’re a dick.”

He laughs again, accepting that statement without even a hint of shame. He pivots to walk back toward Parsons Manor, but I grab his hand, turning him back to me.

“No more lies,” I say. “From either of us.”

“Baby, I never lied. I never actually said that I took out your IUD.” “You still made me believe that you did,” I argue.

He grins wickedly at me, one side of his lips tipping up.

“When I do get you pregnant, you will know about it,” he promises, though it sounds like another threat. “You will watch me pull the IUD from your body myself.”

That… oddly makes me feel better. And I need therapy.

I sigh, “You’re always going to be a creep, aren’t you?”

“And my being a creep is always going to make your pussy wet. Let’s get back. Jay tried calling and it might have something to do with Claire.”

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