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It was time to go.

Again.

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

THE RIGHT THING

ALEXANDER went to the office on his way home to brief the security team that would be assigned to Olivia. There were a total of six people assigned to her, with Carter taking the lead in assigning jobs and duties.

“Sir, if it’s okay, I think it might be best if we have a female look after her at night. It just might make more sense, especially considering we would be staying in one of her guest rooms.”

“Yes. That will only be necessary on the nights that she is not with me. But absolutely. And you’re one of my best agents, so you’ll be on this full time, if you’re okay with that. I don’t want anything to happen to her.”

“Of course not, sir,” Marshall replied, the other agents nodding their heads in agreement.

“Okay then. I think we’re all set here. Carter, you’ll take the first shift tomorrow. Thompson is over there now, but since she’s comfortable with you, I’d like for you to arrange a time for her to meet the rest of the team.”

“Yes, sir,” Carter replied as Alexander walked out of the conference room. A few minutes later, he was on his way to his penthouse, looking forward to seeing Runner.

He was nearly knocked over when he opened the door to his home. “Hey, buddy. Happy to see me?” Runner kept jumping up, trying to lick Alexander’s face, his tail wagging. “Easy buddy. Let me unpack and then we’ll go for a walk, okay?”

Runner heard the word walk and started running around like crazy. “Silly dog,” he said, bringing his suitcase upstairs into the master bedroom. He threw it on the bed and slowly started to unpack.

When he was almost done, an envelope caught his eye. It had his name written on it in Olivia’s handwriting. He looked at it, confused. His heart sank as he read the letter contained in the envelope.

Alexander,

I hate that I’m writing this letter, but I now know that it needs to be written. First, let me say that the few months I’ve known you have been the best in my life. You have opened my eyes to new things and my heart to new feelings. And I treasure every moment that I was able to spend time with you. My only regret is not spending more time with you.

I realized something over the weekend. Something I wish I hadn’t come to terms with. But, the truth is, I will never be able to make you happy. And I wish that wasn’t true. I have so much baggage and I know in the end I will only hold you back. I want you to be happy, but you will never have that with me. I will always be pulling away from you, scared that you’ll leave me. It’s hard enough for me to write this letter knowing that my heart is aching. But this heartache is nothing compared to what it will be when you have to move past me.

When I look at you, I see this beautiful, normal human being. And then there’s me with all my craziness. And I know at some point, you won’t be able to handle all the crazy anymore. I’m just preventing you from wasting your time, waiting for me to sort out my issues. Because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to.

I just have one wish and that’s for you to move on. Forget about me. I know it will be hard. It will be painful for me. I may not be able to forget about you. But one day, eventually, the sun will shine a little brighter and someone new will walk into your life that can make you happy. Who will fill that missing piece of your heart. But it isn’t me.

This is more than just good-bye. I know I will never gaze into those eyes of yours again. Those beautiful green eyes that have haunted my dreams since we met. I need to let you go. Those eyes are no longer mine to gaze into, your lips not mine to kiss, your heart not mine to possess.

What we had was beautiful. But then I come and make a mess of everything with all my baggage. And that’s what this all is. One big beautiful mess that I need to walk away from. Call it self-preservation.

I wasn’t lying when I said I would see you in my dreams. It’s where I can always hold you close and dear and never let go. And from now on, I will cherish those dreams.

Olivia

Alexander sank onto the bed. Why was she doing this? It wasn’t her decision to make. How could she try to control his happiness? He was happy with her. And he didn’t care how many times she closed up or tried to push him away, he would never leave her. Why couldn’t she believe that?

He ran downstairs and grabbed his cell phone off the kitchen island. He pressed Olivia’s contact, his heart beating rapidly as the phone rang. After several rings, the voicemail picked up. “Shit!” he yelled. He grabbed Runner’s leash and called for the dog to follow him. After descending down to the garage, Alexander ran to his car, Runner close behind. He knew it was a desperate move, but maybe if Olivia saw Runner, she would reconsider.

Alexander sped through the rush hour downtown Boston traffic and slammed on the brakes outside of Olivia’s house. He grabbed Runner. Thompson ran out of the black SUV, catching up with his boss.

“Everything okay, sir?” the ex-marine asked.

Alexander had a grim look on his face. “I’m not sure, but you’re free to go. I’ll take over for now.” He took the steps up to the front door, banging on it.

“Olivia!” he yelled. “Open up! We need to talk!” He listened. Nothing. He knocked again. Still nothing.

He punched the numbers into the keypad on the door and then disarmed the security system.

“Olivia? Are you home?” He scanned the house, letting Runner loose. He ran up to the master bedroom. It looked as though someone left in a hurry, clothes scattered all over the place and hangers thrown on the ground. He ran back downstairs before throwing open the door to the basement. He had never been down there. Dashing down the stairs, he saw how she had gotten away unnoticed by the protection detail sitting out front. Opening the back door, he looked into a small back alley that ran behind the entire block.

“Fuck!” he screamed as he ran back upstairs and looked for Nepenthe. She wouldn’t abandon an animal, no matter how desperately she wanted to disappear. His heart sank when he saw that his food and bowls were missing. He walked into the kitchen and let out a loud sob when he saw her cell phone sitting on the counter.

He fell to the floor, leaning against the kitchen cabinets. Runner came up, nuzzling into him. “She’s gone, boy. The only woman I’ve ever loved and she’s gone.” He pulled the dog close to him and they sat there processing what had just happened for what could have been seconds or hours.

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