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The punch caught me by surprise. I usually see violence telegraphed moments before it happens, but Alfie managed to get a solid hit on me because I let him. I rocked back as pain splintered in my cheekbone, but managed to stay standing. I braced myself for another punch, and the second one made me spin away with the force behind it. I staggered back and then straightened and faced him again.
He could hit me again and again if it meant that one day he might forgive me for what had happened. The third punch was less than before, a glancing blow to my temple, that rocked me again, and then he stopped. Hands clenched in fists at his side he stared at me.
“Hit me back,” he demanded.
“No.” Blood trickled from a cut on my forehead, sliding past my eye, and I wiped it away.
His breathing was heavy, his eyes blazing with temper, and I wanted him to hit me again. I needed him to.
“Why are you just standing there?” he shouted and then shoved me back against the wall.
“I don’t know what you want me to say, Alfie, I’m sorry, and I deserve this.”
“Where have you been all this time?”
“You didn’t fucking call me!” he shoved me again, leaving his hands flat on my chest and staring at me.
“I thought you were dead, Sacha!”
He was so close to me now that I could move one final inch and kiss him. He could kiss me or kill me. If he had a knife, he could push it into my chest, and I wouldn’t stop him because he deserved to have this for what I’d done to him. I was convinced that there was no happy ever after for Sacha and Alfie, but I had to come back to show him I was alive at least. I needed to see that famous Quebecois temper in all its glory one last time. I’d lost the right to control him, or to ask for his submission. I’d lost his love, and it hurt worse than any knife in my heart ever could.
He backed away without a kiss, but at least he didn’t hit me again.
“Why were you in Russia?”
I couldn’t tell him anything real, but I had a story rehearsed, one that was based on as much fact as I could manage to use.
“I tied up loose ends; there’s no one left to hurt you, or me, not anymore.”
He bowed his head, and I waited for so long to hear him ask me another question, not willing to interrupt his thoughts. The apartment around us was empty, but I knew he was moving on. I knew a lot about Alfie; PTSD, that he was moving back to Quebec, the place he’d bought there, and the fact that he hadn’t given up on me for a very long time. I would never have agreed to go back to Russia unless I had things in place to watch the man who held my heart.
“I just needed to see you one more time,” I began softly, when it was clear he wasn’t going to talk. He lifted his head to look at me, and I could see the tears in his eyes.
“Why?” he sounded tortured, wrecked, like he’d reached the end of things.
“To give you some kind of peace,” I offered, and moved away from the wall with one step toward Alfie. “I needed you to know I was sorry and ashamed that my old life kept pulling me back. I’m devastated that you were put in harm’s way, and I have taken steps so that no one can ever threaten you again, I wanted—”
“How many people did you have to kill this time?” he interrupted, and swiped at his eyes, the temper edging back into his voice. There was my Alfie, the strong, stubborn man who I knew would be okay on his own. Even if that thought made me want to scream. He thought I was the one who gave him peace by taking control, but the things we’d done together, the love we’d made, was just as much for me.
“None,” I said and heard his huff of disbelief. “I’m not lying, and I want you to trust me one last time.”
For the longest time we stared at each other, and I wished I could see inside his head to know what he was thinking.
“I’m going back home, to Quebec. I can’t play hockey here anymore, and I have money saved. I bought a house, and I’ll join a local team, make a gentler life for myself so I can stop jumping at every noise.” He pulled back his shoulders, and I waited for the moment he told me to leave. Instead, he kept talking. “Maybe I will meet a new man there. What do you think of that?”
My heart shattered into a million pieces, and words were hard to force out.
“I only want you to be happy.”
He nodded, then leaned down and picked up a backpack, hoisting it over his shoulder.
“I assume you have a passport?” he asked and headed for the door.
“To get into Canada. A passport.”
Hope bloomed in my chest. “I’m going to Canada?” I made the statement, but it was more of a question.
Tilting his head a little he frowned, and I waited for him to change his mind, then he held out a hand to me, and I took it, just as a tiny woman barreled in with gasped apologies for being late.
“Sorry, I’m late,” she apologized.
“Here’s the key,” Alfie murmured and passed it over. “She’s all yours to sell now.”
Then, before she could answer, he tugged me out of the house, and we headed for his car.
He shifted the weight of the bag and dumped it in the trunk. “We need to start again,” he said after a short pause. “In Quebec, in my house, with new lives, the two of us. Then see if we can’t make something better from what we had.”
“You want to do that? With me?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
He nodded, and then he gave a cautious, half smile. “I love you. It’s that simple. And I want to make it work, I want to stop having nightmares, I want to be safe with you.”
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Due to popular demand, there will be more on this story next week 🙂 XXXX