Twisted love by ANA HUANG ,chapter 19,AVA

IF I HAD TO DESCRIBE ALEX VOLKOV, A LITANY OF WORDS CAME TO MIND. Cold. Beautiful. Ruthless. Genius. “Patient” wasn’t one of them. It wasn’t even in the top thousand. But over the past few weeks, I had to admit I might have to bump it up on the list, because he’d been nothing but patient as he guided me through a series of visualization and meditation exercises to prepare me for my first real swimming session. If you’d told me two months ago that I would be “visualizing” and “meditating” with Alex freakin’ Volkov, I would’ve laughed my ass off, but sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. And you know what? The exercises helped. I’d visualize myself standing near a body of water, then use deep breathing and relaxation techniques to calm myself. I started small, with pools and ponds, and worked my way up to lakes. Alex also started taking me to bodies of water so I could get more comfortable near them. I even dipped my toe into a pool. I wasn’t cured of my fear of water, but I could think about it now without having a panic attack—most of the time. The thought of flying over an ocean still made me sick to my stomach, but we’d get there. The most important thing was, I had hope. If I worked long and hard enough, then maybe one day, I would finally conquer the fear that had haunted me for as long as I could remember. But that wasn’t the only seismic change in my life. Something had shifted in my relationship with Alex. He was no longer just my brother’s best friend, but my friend too, though some of the thoughts I had toward him were less than platonic. What I’d felt during our photoshoot was nothing compared to
the fantasies running through my mind now. He will take you from behind. Choke and fuck you till you see stars. Call you the filthiest names and treat you like a slut. That was the one snippet from my horrible conversation with Madeline I couldn’t forget. Every time I thought about it, my thighs clenched and warmth flooded my lower belly. I was also ashamed to admit that yes, I’d masturbated to fantasies of Alex doing…those things to me more than once. Not that he would. He’d been frustratingly composed since my pool incident—no heated gazes, no lingering touches, no trace of the desire I’d seen on his face in that photo from our shoot. I hoped that would change tonight. “I’m nervous.” Stella crouched behind the couch; she was so tall she had to bend all the way so her dark curls didn’t peek out from the top. “Are you nervous?” “No,” I lied. I was definitely nervous. It was Alex’s birthday, and I was throwing him a surprise party. There was every chance he hated both surprises and parties, but I felt compelled to do something for him. Besides, no one should be alone on their birthday. I’d asked Alex what his plans for tonight were—not letting on that I remembered it was his birthday—and he said he had business documents to look over. Business documents. On his birthday. I don’t think so. Since I didn’t know any of his friends except Ralph, our Krav Maga instructor, I’d kept the guest list small. Jules, Stella, Bridget, Booth, and a few other students from the KM Academy hid in Ralph’s living room. Ralph had agreed to host the shindig and trick Alex into thinking it was a casual Halloween get-together for academy regulars; he and Alex should arrive any minute now. I’d nixed the costume party idea—Alex didn’t strike me as a costume sort of guy—but I hoped the party itself was a good idea. Most people liked parties, but he wasn’t most people. A car door slammed, and my stomach tightened with anticipation. “Shh! They’re here,” I said in a loud whisper. The lingering murmurs in the dark room quieted. “…help me set up,” Ralph said, opening the door and flipping on the light. We all jumped out. “Surprise!”
I wish I’d had my camera ready, because the expression on Alex’s face? Priceless. He looked like a frozen mannequin except for his eyes, which moved from the balloons I’d tied to various pieces of furniture to the handmade poster spelling out Happy birthday, Alex! in glittery blue cursive before resting on my face. “Happy birthday!” I chirped, trying to tamp down my nerves. I couldn’t tell if he liked or hated the surprise, or if he was indifferent. The man was harder to read than a Latin textbook in the dark. No response. Alex remained frozen. Jules came to the rescue, turning on the music and encouraging people to eat and mingle. While the rest of the party scattered, I edged my way toward him and pasted on a bright smile. “Fooled you, huh?” “How did you know it’s my birthday?” Alex peeled off his jacket and tossed it over the back of the couch. At least that meant he was staying. I shrugged, feeling self-conscious. “You’re Josh’s best friend. Of course I know.” He frowned. “You’ve never celebrated my birthday before.” “There’s a first time for everything. C’mon.” I pulled at his wrist. “You’re twenty-seven! That means you have to take twenty-seven shots.” His frown deepened. “Absolutely not.” “It was worth a try.” I grinned. “Just wanted to see if you were dumb enough to do it.” “Ava, I’m a genius.” “A humble one too.” Alex cracked a smile. Not a big one, but we were getting there. It took some effort, but he eventually relaxed more and more throughout the night until he was eating and chatting with people like a normal human. I’d baked him a red velvet cake since he liked red velvet, and we sang “Happy Birthday” while he blew out the candles. All normal stuff. He did, however, refuse to participate when a half-drunk Ralph broke out his karaoke machine. “Come on!” I insisted. “You don’t have to be a good singer. I’m terrible, but I do it anyway. It’s all in good fun.” Alex shook his head. “I don’t do anything unless I’m good at it, but don’t let me stop you.” “That’s silly. How can you be good at something unless you practice?”
He still wouldn’t budge, so I sighed and serenaded the party with an offkey solo rendition of Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did It Again” while they cheered me on. Alex lounged on the couch, one arm draped over the back, top few buttons of his shirt unbuttoned. A lazy smile graced his face as he watched me sing my heart out. He looked so gorgeous and at ease I stumbled over the lyrics, but everyone gave me a standing ovation anyway. The party wrapped up a few hours later, and I insisted on staying and cleaning up even after Ralph told me he’d take care of it. Everyone offered to pitch in as well, so we split into different groups—garbage duty, sweeping duty, etcetera. Alex and I somehow ended up on dish duty together. Ralph didn’t have a dishwasher, so I hand-washed while he dried. “I hope you had a good time,” I said, scrubbing caked-on sugar from a plate. “Sorry if we gave you a heart attack.” His chuckle sent the butterflies in my stomach into a tizzy. “It would take more than a surprise party to give me a heart attack.” He took the plate from me and wiped it dry before setting it on the dish rack. Seeing Alex do something as domestic as dishes sent another flutter through my system. I have serious issues. “I had a good time though.” He cleared his throat, his cheeks coloring. “This was my first birthday party since my parents died.” I froze. Alex had never brought up his parents before, but I knew from Josh they’d died when he was young, which meant he hadn’t had a birthday party in at least a decade. My heart ached for him. Not because of the party, but because he could no longer celebrate with his family. For the first time, I realized how lonely Alex must be with no relatives left in the world except for his uncle. “So what do you usually do on your birthday?” I asked in a soft voice. He shrugged. “Work. Grab a drink with Josh. It’s not a big deal. My parents made it a big deal, but after their death, it seemed pointless.” “How did—” I stopped myself before I finished the question. A guy’s birthday was not the right time to bring up the method of his family’s death. Alex answered anyway. “They were murdered.” After a beat of hesitation, he added, “My father’s business rival ordered the hit and made it look like a home invasion gone wrong. My parents hid me right before the intruders found us, but I saw…” His throat bobbed with a hard swallow. “I saw it happen. My mom, dad, and little sister, who didn’t hide in time.”
Horror suffused me at the thought of someone having to witness their own family’s murder. “I’m so sorry. That’s—I have no words.” “It’s all right. At least they caught the bastards who pulled the trigger.” “And the business rival?” I asked softly. His eye twitched. “Karma will get him.” My heart weighed heavy in my chest even before something more horrifying occurred to me. “Your HSAM—” Alex flashed a humorless smile. “Is a real bitch. I relive that day every day. Sometimes I think about whether I could’ve saved them, even though I was just a kid. I used to rage at the unfairness of it all until I realized no one gives a shit. There’s no entity out there listening to me yell at them. There’s only life and luck, and sometimes both those things deal you a crap hand.” Tears stung my eyes. I’d forgotten all about the dishes; my heart hurt too much. I stepped closer to Alex, who watched me approach with a tense expression. “Sometimes, but not all the time.” I heard the faint chatter of other guests in the living room, but they might as well be light-years away. Here, in the kitchen, Alex and I had entered our own little world. “There’s something beautiful waiting for you, Alex. Whether you find it tomorrow or years from now, I hope it’ll restore your faith in life. You deserve all the beauty and light in the world.” I meant every word. Beneath the icy shell, he was human like everyone else, and his broken heart broke mine a hundredfold. “There you go, romanticizing me again.” Alex didn’t move as I took another step toward him, but his eyes burned with intensity. “It’s too late for me, Sunshine. I destroy everything beautiful that comes into my life.” “I don’t believe that,” I said. “And that wasn’t romanticizing you. This is.” Before I could lose my nerve, I stood on tiptoes and kissed him. It was a soft, chaste kiss, but the effect was the same as a full-on make out session. Sparks consumed my skin, and the heat in my stomach flared to life. I shuddered at the sensation, my pulse beating so wildly I couldn’t hear anything else. Alex’s lips were cool and firm, his taste like that of spice and red velvet, and I wanted to wrap myself around him and devour him until every bit of him was inside me. Alex remained still, his chest rising and falling with harsh breaths beneath
my tentative touch. I pressed a firmer hand against his chest and ran my tongue along the seam of his lips, seeking entry— I gasped when Alex yanked me toward him and deepened the kiss. His hand fisted my hair and tugged, forcing my back to arch while his tongue plundered my mouth. “Not the romance you were thinking of, is it?” he growled, his grip so tight my eyes watered. He’d spun me around so the edge of the counter dug into my flesh, and he used his other hand to hitch my leg up around his waist. His thick erection pressed against my core, and I ground against it shamelessly, desperate for the friction. “Tell me to stop, Sunshine.” “No.” Tell him to stop? A herd of wild horses couldn’t drag me away. I inched my hand beneath his shirt, eager to explore the expanse of smooth skin and hard muscles beneath my fingers. My entire body pulsated with need, and the possibility of someone walking in on us any moment further heightened my arousal. It was only a kiss, but it seemed so much more illicit. Dangerous. Alex groaned. His mouth claimed mine again, and the kiss turned fierce. Wanting. Hungry. He was ruthless in his invasion of my senses, his touch so hot and possessive it branded itself into my skin, and I surrendered to him without a shred of resistance. I was on the verge of unbuckling his belt when he pulled away so forcefully I stumbled forward, disoriented by the sudden loss of contact. My core throbbed, my nipples could cut diamonds, and my skin was so sensitive even the brush of air caused me to tremble. But when the fog of sensation dissipated, I realized Alex was glaring at me. “Fuck.” He scrubbed a hand over his face, his scowl fierce enough to make grown men quake. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” “Alex—” “No. What the hell were you thinking?” he bit out. “Did you think we would fuck in the kitchen while your friends are in the other room?” Heat scorched my cheeks. “If this is about Josh—” “It’s not about Josh.” Alex pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled a slow, controlled breath. “Not entirely.” “Then what is it?” He wanted me. I knew he did; I felt it, and I’m not just talking about the massive bulge straining his pants. Yes, Josh would attempt to murder us both if he found out what happened, but he couldn’t stay mad at us forever. Besides, he didn’t return to D.C. until Christmas. We had time.
“It’s me. And you. Together. It won’t work.” Alex’s glare intensified. “Whatever fantasies you have of us swirling in that pretty head of yours, kill them. That kiss was a one-time mistake. It’ll never happen again.” I wanted to die of mortification. I wasn’t sure what would’ve been worse —Alex not kissing me back at all, or him kissing me back and saying those things. I wanted to argue, but I’d used up my boldness quota for tonight. It had taken a helluva lot for me to kiss him first, and a girl can throw herself at a guy only so many times before it becomes humiliating. “Fine.” I picked up a random dish in the sink and scrubbed, unable to look him in the eyes. My face felt so hot I thought I’d explode. “I get it. Let’s pretend that never happened.” “Good.” Alex didn’t sound as pleased as I’d expected. We worked in silence save for the clank of the porcelain. “I’m trying to save you, Ava,” he said out of nowhere, right as we finished all the dishes and I prepared to flee. “From what?” I refused to look at him, but I could see him watching me out of the corner of my eye. “From me.” I didn’t respond, because how was I supposed to tell the man determined to save me that I didn’t want to be saved?

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