Robert Maxim's smirk feels a little like home, like the scary exciting basement steps with their shadows and hints of unnatural powers.
A cold wind rushes across the fallow corn field, pulling at my cargo pants and dipping into the open neck of my long overcoat.
It's too large for me, drooping off the shoulders and buttoned around my son, James, as he sleeps against my chest in his baby carrier.
Blue's nose taps my hip. My son's breath warms my chest. This is home. They say you can’t ever go home again–but I think they're wrong. No matter where I stand, as long as I have these two with me, I am home.
Robert Maxim, on the other hand…I know I don't belong with him although he doesn't agree. The man is richer and more powerful than anyone should be. He holds as much sway over our world as the basement steps over the imagination of a child—it's a death grip that makes no sense.
Here he stands now, the same cold wind bracketing me, teasing his hair—sable but silvered at the temples, just like a real villain. His ebony coat fits him perfectly, the material the kind of soft black that absorbs light.
When we are ten feet away, Robert stirs, moving forward to meet us. "Sydney," he says in that voice of his, looking at me with those oceanic eyes, smiling with that smirk. Robert's gaze drops to Blue. "Blue," he says, nodding a greeting.
Blue's tail wags, and he lets out a warble. Robert's smirk spreads into a smile. Blue doesn't hate Robert Maxim. Which is a point in Robert's favor. But there are too many checkmarks in the "this guy is a dangerous psychopath column" to totally trust Blue's assessment that he shouldn't be mauled on sight.
"Robert," I say, tilting my chin up.
His gaze shifts to the bulge under my coat. My arms circle James. The black wool coat reaches past my knees covering James's body, keeping him hidden and warm. "He's asleep."
"I've so looked forward to meeting him."
I spent James's entire life—all eleven months of it—hiding. Not just from Robert Maxim, but he was one of the key components that made me want to bury myself away from the world.
I may believe you can find home no matter where you are…but that also means you can't ever run away from yourself. Wherever you go, there you are…and in my case Robert Maxim is there too
"I left you, Robert. You must realize that I'm not going to let you be in my son's life."
"No?" His gaze drops to the top of James's head. He leans forward to get a peek at his face, and the emotion that steals over Robert Maxim breaks off a piece of my heart and runs away with it. "You can have it all," Robert says. "Any thing or person you desire." He throws the word desire at me like it's mine, like I should own it. "All of your wants and needs can be met. You just have to allow yourself to have them." His eyes come back to mine. "Can you do that, Sydney? Let yourself have everything you want?"
"How do I get you to just leave me alone?"
His nostrils flare, and the skin around his eyes tighten.
"You can have that too. I'm not here to force you into my bed, Sydney. I'm here to save your life."
P.S. The dog does not die.
**Beware: If you can’t handle a few f-bombs, you can’t handle this series.**