Letting Go - Chapter 23

“Do you have anything else up your sleeve?”

Laurel almost jumped out of her skin at the voice that greeted her as soon as she emerged from her bathroom. She clutched the towel closer to her chest and glared at the figure in green standing in front of her bedroom window. Her open bedroom window.

“How did you get in here?”

He smirked. “You might consider changing the latches. They won’t keep anybody out.”

She scowled. Then what has kept him from getting inside her apartment sooner?

A lift of his shoulders. “I gave you some space.”

The bastard has lulled her into a false sense of security. That’s what he’s done. Letting her think the Arrow couldn’t get in if she kept all her windows tightly closed and the curtains drawn.

“What has changed?” she inquired.

“A lot.”

He took a step closer into the pool of light cast by the lamp on her bedside table and she saw he kept the hood down. For the first time since she’s revealed she knew his secret, he let the hood down when around her.

“I didn’t appreciate you making me think there was something between Donner and you.”

He took another step closer, but she held her ground. She wore only a flimsy towel, while he was completely dressed, but she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of moving back.

It wasn’t her fault he’d thought the worst. Shows how much he knew her. When the DEA had approached her with their plan of using her to help them get close enough to Donner to gather sufficient proof against him, she hadn’t thought about what the whole sham of pretending to have fallen for Donner might seem to others. She’d only seen the possibility of putting another criminal—the worst kind, one of those who pretended to be the good guys—behind bars. She hadn’t meant to use the ruse to push Oliver away. She had had to, because his insistence, his pursuit was ruining everything. She had to convince Donner she was into him. And Oliver was ruining her act.

“You thought what you wanted to think, Oliver,” she reminded him.

“True,” he acknowledged. “But you didn’t correct me.”

“Should I have?”

He grinned. “Yes.”

“Wrong.”

“You asked me and I told you my point of view.”

She rolled her eyes. “Really, you’re here to debate rhetoric?”

“Nope.” His eyes raked her from head to toe and back. “I’m here to talk about us.”

She scoffed. “Just give it a rest, Oliver. There’s no us.”

“So you keep telling me.” He sighed. “But, you see, there’s a difference between what you’re saying and what’s in your eyes.”

“Oh, God,” she groaned. “Not the rom-com cliché. Your lips tell me you hate me,” she said in a deeper voice, “but your eyes tell a whole different story.”

He shook his head. “You’re not saying that you hate me, you’re just saying that there is no us and there never will be again.”

“Exactly. Now, please, tell me what my eyes say.”

“That you love me. That I’m your world. You are mine. Do you know that?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Right now your eyes also tell me that you’re dying to be in my arms again,” he continued and moved closer, so close, her towel-covered breasts brushed against his chest with every breath. “That you want me to pull you close and kiss you senseless. That you want me to pull that towel off and make love to you in your new bed. On your new green sheets.”

She swallowed loudly and released a long string of mental curses. Damn the man for being able to read her so well. Because that was exactly what she wanted him to do. Grab her, kiss her, make slow and passionate love to her, make her forget the reasons why she didn’t want to let him back into her heart again.

Instead of confirming that he was right, she chuckled. “Wow, Oliver. You really should update your translating software. Maybe Felicity could help with that.”

He brushed his gloved fingers down her arm and goose bumps erupted in their wake.

“Felicity has nothing to do with this. With us. It’s just me and you. And I know you love me. I know you want me.”

“Yes,” she breathed. She leaned her chest against his. “I do.”

It was his turn to swallow, and she almost grinned.

“I want you...”

He whispered her name with such longing she almost gave in. Almost.

“...to leave,” she finished.

He groaned and looked at her with exasperation. “Why the hell do you have to be so stubborn? I love you. You love me. I trust you. God, I trust you with my life, with my heart, with everything. Why won’t you let me in?” he insisted. “Why won’t you let us be happy? We both deserve it. We both need it. We’ve waited a long time for this. And now, that’s within our grasp, you pull back. Over and over again. Why, Laurel?”

“My reasons are my own.”

“Laurel.”

She sighed. “Geez, Oliver. I’m sorry, but I don’t speak moron, so English will have to do. I don’t want anything to do with you anymore. At least not romantically, if I can classify what used to be between us as romance. Casual observers might disagree. We can try to be friends, try being the operative word here, because there’s too much history. But that’s it. I don’t know what you supposedly read in my eyes, but you got it all wrong.”

He hung his head and she just wanted to hug him. Yet she willed her arms to stay where they were and her lips to stay silent.

“Fine,” he finally said.

“What?” Did he mean it? Was he giving up? And wasn’t that what she wanted him to do? Yes. No. Not really. Sheesh, Lance, make up your mind!

“Fine,” he repeated and lifted his head. The look in his eyes didn’t speak of someone who’s given up. “You want me to stay away? You want me to leave you alone? Fine.” He leaned closer, stared into her eyes. “Keep on wanting. Keep on wishing. Keep on hoping. Because the only way that’ll happen is if I’m dead.”

A chill rushed up her spine. Dead is exactly what she didn’t want him to be. “Oliver,” she whispered.

“I wanted to die on that island. I told you this before, remember?”

She nodded.

“But I also told you there was something I wanted more. You. It was because of you that I survived. It was your photo, the one you gave me at the marina, that kept me going.”

She gasped and he smiled grimly.

“You didn’t know that, did you? Yeah, your photo.” He reached inside his vest and pulled out a rectangular object. It was the photo she’d given him that day. “It’s a little, well, a lot, worse for wear, but it survived. And so did I. And I made myself a promise that if I returned, I’d do right by you.”

She blinked against the tears. “That would mean taking into consideration my wishes.”

“True.” He nodded and tucked the photo back inside his vest. “If you told the truth about those wishes. Until then...I’ll wait.”

He turned away and she relaxed, but then he turned back, curled one arm around her back and the other hand around the back of her neck, and pulled her to him. He captured her lips with his own and slid his tongue into her mouth.

The kiss was slow, deep, long as their tongues slid warm and wet against one another. He took his time exploring her mouth, his fingers massaging her neck and back. Her knees turned to jelly and she had no choice but to place her hands onto his shoulders for support. She couldn’t breathe, but she didn’t care. She simply felt. His tongue against hers, his teeth nibbling on her lips, his breath mingling with hers, his hands on her body, his chest against hers.

She was about to crawl up his body as if it was a ladder, when he lifted his head.

“Until next time,” he said, grabbed his bow and disappeared out her window, leaving her alone to collapse onto her bed, trembling from head to toe.


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