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Breathe You : Breathe Me Duet
Author: C.R. Jane

Prologue

 

 

Now

_____________________________________

Carter

 

 

I pass a ten euro bill to the café clerk, and he hands me back my much needed nicotine and change. The instant I have my cigarettes in my hand, I leave the crowded establishment and go outside to light up. I lean against the wall and curse under my breath that I’m in direct view to the hotel entrance. I should have gone somewhere else, but the minute I left our hotel room, the only thing on my mind was how much I needed to pollute my soul with a different kind of poison, rather than the one Valentina is so intent on destroying me with.

After one inhale of nicotine bliss, I can feel my body relaxing. I’m on my third puff when my gaze latches onto Quaid’s imposing form as he leaves the hotel, looking just as defeated as I am. I track him as he stops mid-step and turns around to head back into the hotel. He’s halfway up the stairs when he stops again and takes a minute before turning back to the street, pulling at his hair in aggravation.

Valentina Rossi.

That’s what she does to us.

Makes us feel like we are kings among men and then crushes our crowns with her dainty hands the very next minute. I knew she was going to end up in either Quaid’s or Logan’s bed sooner or later. From the first minute they saw her in Paris, they were all over her. As much as I don’t understand how they could so easily disregard what she did to us all those years ago, I understand the poor bastards for wanting to be close to her in any way they could. Even when we were nothing but prepubescent little shits, she had always been the magnet that called to us, a beacon that summoned us with her light like a siren song. We never stood a chance then, and I fear we don’t stand much of one now.

I did my best to be cautious. I tried not to stumble into the illusion that we could all start over with a clean slate, as if she was never the instrument who tore our souls to shreds. Unfortunately with each passing day, I felt myself wavering, wanting to be close to her. To touch her. To kiss her. It took all my restraint not to give in. But seeing her naked in bed, draped all over Logan, like two lovers who should have never been separated to begin with, cracked my heart down the middle, reminding me of how it got broken in the first place.

It should have been me.

No. That’s a lie.

It should have been us.

I pinch the cigarette butt, the cancerous fumes no longer do anything to calm me as I watch one of my best friends struggle with the same pain I feel. Quaid has walked up the hotel steps three times now, only to walk back down them again. When he finally gains the courage to walk down the street for good without looking back, I know in my heart he wished he’d made a different decision.

Valentina Rossi.

Making us feel like we are foolish love-struck teenagers once again, incapable of thinking straight, let alone make the right choice to get us out of this mess. I don’t have to talk to either Quaid or Logan to know their feelings mimic my own. We are all raw, desperate, and angry.

So fucking angry.

Is this why she sent those letters to us?

To pull us all back in to her orbit just to break our hearts one more time, since the first time was so fucking astounding? What the fuck was she thinking?

If Logan was the one she wanted all along, then why go through the charade of asking Quaid and I to come on her European adventure? It makes no fucking sense, unless she’s grown to be a cold bitter woman who only takes joy from seeing others suffer.

Is that it?

Has life stolen the girl I love and replaced her with a heartless bitch?

“No. That’s not my Valentina. She’s always had her dad’s heart. Pure, good, and kind,” my heart shouts, but I’m so angry that I don’t want to hear its useless logic, nor believe in its naïve wants.

“Fuck this!” I grunt under my breath and throw my cigarette to the ground, stomping it with the heel of my boot.

If I want answers, there is only one person that can give them to me.

I run to the other side of the street, a taxi honking at me for not being careful at crossing the road to the hotel entrance. I throw him both my middle fingers and keep to my hurried pace. Valentina is all alone in the suite, therefore, it’s the perfect opportunity to demand she explain herself, once and for all. I’m done with her games. She needs to tell me just what the hell she was thinking in calling us to her side after ten years of being MIA. If it was to toy with our hearts, then she’ll never lay eyes on me again, and I’ll make it my mission to make sure Quaid and Logan stay away from her, too.

The one silver lining in all of this mess was finally seeing my friends after all this time. I might have acted like a total asshole when they were around, but it was only to keep my protective barrier up. I missed them just as much as I had missed Valentina.

How fucked up is that?

They had been my family for so long that I forgot how it felt like to even have one. But now that they are back in my life, I’ll go to the ends of the Earth to keep them. It’s what I should have done when I was eighteen, instead of pushing them away. But back then, I was licking the wounds Valentina caused us, blaming them for her turning her back on us. I did a shitty job at being the friend they needed, but like hell I’ll do that a second time. I’ll protect them, even if they are willing to go into the viper’s den just to be swallowed whole by the woman they love. They don’t see the danger, but after this morning’s spectacle, I think they are finally wising up that this trip will do nothing but end us once and for all.

I can’t let that happen.

With a new resolve setting in my bones, I push the elevator button to take me back to the scene of the crime. My anger grows stronger with each floor passing by, and when the elevator doors finally open, I’m a man on a warpath. I walk fuming to our door, passing the key card to the suite and rush inside, my venomous words ready to make an appearance. But when I pass the threshold to the room where Valentina is, the furious wind is knocked out of me.

Sitting on the floor, naked as the day she was born, Valentina’s head is bowed down, focused on a shattered piece of glass in her hand, her wrist beckoning to be sacrificed. My knees fall at her side, my trembling hands gently tearing the illicit thing away from her, but she doesn’t even register my presence.

“Baby, what are you doing?” My voice is hoarse and full of panic at the sight in front of me.

She doesn’t look up at me, but just stares at her empty hand, almost as if she still sees the shard of glass in her grasp. I inspect her body thoroughly to see if she’s hurt, her scraped up knees and bloody arms telling me all her cuts are superficial.

Thank fucking god.

Gently, I lift her chin up with my knuckles, and my heart stops when I see her gorgeous hazel gold eyes are in a daze. So unfocused and blank, I’m not sure she even knows it’s me in this room with her.

“Baby, you’re hurt,” I say, my voice uncharacteristically quivering in the end.

Again, there is no reaction whatsoever from her. It’s almost as if her soul has left her body and all there is left is an empty shell.

“Valentina…” I whisper again, my eyes prickling with despair.

When she doesn’t say anything but keeps looking at her empty hands, my stomach churns as if I’m going to throw up.

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