Home > Hold Me (Twist Me #3)(10)

Hold Me (Twist Me #3)(10)
Anna Zaires

“What is it, my pet?” he asks, smiling. His beautiful lips are fully healed now, and the fading scars on his left cheek add a dangerous, yet appealing edge to his looks. It’s as if a bit of his inner darkness is visible on his face now, but instead of repelling me, it draws me to him even more.

Probably because I need that darkness now—it’s the only thing keeping me sane these days.

“Monsieur Bernard just told me that he has a friend who’d be interested in displaying my paintings,” I say, trying to sound like world-class art instructors give me those kinds of news all the time. “He apparently owns an art gallery in Paris.”

Julian’s eyebrows rise. “Is that right?”

I nod, barely able to contain my excitement. “Yes, can you believe it? Monsieur Bernard sent him photos of my latest works, and the gallery owner said they’re exactly what he’s been looking for.”

“That’s wonderful, baby.” Julian’s smile widens, and he reaches over to pull me down into his lap. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Thank you.” I want to jump up and down, but I settle for looping my arms around his neck and planting an excited kiss on his mouth. Of course, as soon as our lips touch, Julian takes over the kiss, turning my spontaneous expression of gratitude into a prolonged sensual assault that leaves me breathless and dazed.

When he finally lets me come up for air, it takes me a second to remember how I ended up on his lap.

“I’m so proud of you,” Julian repeats, his voice soft as he looks at me. I can feel the bulge of his erection, but he doesn’t take it further. Instead, he gives me a warm smile and says, “I will have to thank Monsieur Bernard for taking those photos. If the gallery owner does end up displaying your work, perhaps we’ll take a little trip to Paris.”

“Really?” I gape at him. This is the first time Julian’s indicated that we might not be staying on the estate all the time. And to go to Paris? I can hardly believe my ears.

He nods, still smiling. “Sure. Al-Quadar is no longer a threat. It’s as safe as it’s ever likely to be, so with sufficient security, I don’t see why we can’t visit Paris in a bit—especially if there’s a compelling reason to do so.”

I grin at him, trying not to think about how Al-Quadar stopped being a threat. Julian hasn’t told me much about that operation, but the little I do know is enough. When our rescuers raided the construction site in Tajikistan, they uncovered a tremendous amount of valuable information. After our return to the estate, every person even remotely connected to the terrorist organization was eliminated, some quickly and others slowly and painfully. I don’t know how many deaths took place in recent weeks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the body count is well into the triple digits.

The man who’s holding me right now is responsible for what amounts to a mass slaughter—and I still love him with all my heart.

“A trip to Paris would be amazing,” I say, pushing aside all thoughts of Al-Quadar. Instead, I focus on the mind-boggling possibility that my paintings might be displayed in an actual art gallery. My paintings. It’s so hard to believe that I ask Julian cautiously, “You didn’t tell Monsieur Bernard to do this, right? Or somehow bribe this friend of his?” Since Julian used his financial clout to get me into the highly selective online program at Stanford University, I wouldn’t put anything past him.

“No, baby.” Julian’s smile broadens. “I didn’t have anything to do with this, I promise. You have a genuine talent, and your instructor knows it.”

I believe him, if only because Monsieur Bernard has been raving about my paintings in recent weeks. The darkness and complexity that he saw in my art early on is even more visible now. Painting is one of the ways I’ve been dealing with my nightmares and panic attacks. Sexual pain is another—but that’s a whole other matter.

Not wanting to dwell on my fucked-up mental state, I jump off Julian’s lap. “I’m going to tell my parents,” I say brightly as I head for the door. “They’ll be very excited.”

“I’m sure they will be.” And giving me one last smile, he turns his attention back to his computer screen.

* * *

My video chat with my parents takes close to an hour. As always, I have to spend a solid twenty minutes assuring my mom that I’m safe, that I’m still at the estate in Colombia, and that no one is coming after us. After I disappeared from the Chicago Ridge Mall, my parents have become convinced that Julian’s enemies are everywhere, ready to strike at a moment’s notice. If I don’t call or email my parents daily nowadays, they go into complete panic mode.

Not that they think I’m safe with Julian, of course. In their minds, he’s no different than the terrorists who kidnapped me. In fact, I think my dad believes Julian is worse—given that my husband stole me away not once, but twice.

“A gallery in Paris? Why, that’s wonderful, honey!” my mom exclaims when I finally get around to sharing my news with her. “We’re so happy for you!”

“Are you still focusing on your classes?” my dad asks, frowning. He’s less enthusiastic about my painting. I think he’s afraid I will abandon all thoughts of college and become a starving artist—a fear that’s beyond illogical, given the circumstances. If there’s one thing I don’t need to worry about these days, it’s money. Julian recently told me that he set up a trust fund in my name and also named me as the sole beneficiary in his will. This way, if anything happens to him, I’ll still be taken care of—by which he means I’ll have enough money to run a small country.

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