Elijah grabbed Erin by the waist and pulled her up close to his big, hard chest. His rough hand gently glided through her blonde hair and the way he was looking at her brought every nerve in her body alive. Goosebumps raced up and down her arms and down her spine. She’d never felt like this before, not with anyone, and she was desperate for it not to end. She knew from the minute she saw him that he would be trouble, and she should have run away then and there. He was the kind of man who had terrified and excited her all at once, the kind of man who came into a woman’s life once in a blue moon. The kind of man a girl didn’t want to be the one who got away.
“I want to kiss you, Erin. I want to kiss your lips and taste every part of your mouth with my tongue. I want to bite your neck and kiss and lick every beautiful inch of your body. I want to be inside of you…no, make that I want to die inside of you.”
The words were incendiary, but it was the way he said them that lit up her soul. His hazel eyes were alight with passion and his deep voice was raspy with emotion. Erin could feel the tears swimming in her own blue eyes. This kind of moment should be reserved for lovers, not for two lost souls who should have never met and would never meld into the one soul that they both ached for. “Elijah, I told William about you.”
“It doesn’t matter, Erin. Even if he looked into my eyes and gave me his blessing himself, it would never be good enough. If I can’t have you to myself, I just can’t have you. I wish that the first time I saw you I could have convinced myself it would end this way. If I had been strong enough to do that…”
“Then we would have missed out on three beautiful years of knowing, and loving, each other,” she said.
The giant of a man batted his eyelashes, trying to drive away the tears that kept filling his eyes. His voice cracked as he went on to say, “I saw that light in your eyes that I’ve waited to see my entire life, and I wasn’t strong enough to walk away. No one ever looked at me the way that you do, and it blinded me to everything else, for too long.”
“You haven’t done anything wrong, Elijah, and even if we had slept together, the only reason we even met in the first place was because your old lady wasn’t faithful to you.”
Elijah, aka “Tank,” chuckled, but to Erin’s ears it was a sad sound. He was huge, three hundred pounds of solid muscle. His bulk, coupled with his long hair and beard, and the vest that identified him as a Southside Skull, had frightened her the first time she saw him. But she’d been unable to deny that he also fascinated her as well…and slowly she’d come to know the man underneath all of it. She had seen him in every stage of emotion. She’d come to know a man who loved to laugh, and it was an infectious laugh that became like a drug to her. She had come to know a man who had once loved a woman so much that he’d allowed her to strip him of his self-esteem and making him a laughingstock among his peers. But most of all she loved him for the one thing that would ultimately tear them apart…his love for another man’s child…a child he never could, or would, turn his back on. Erin breathed him in now and thought about all the other women who thought they had seen this beautiful man naked. She would always have the knowledge that although they’d seen him without his clothes, and they’d touched his beautiful skin, they’d never seen him the way that she had. Erin had seen into his soul, and he had seen hers. There wasn’t a thought, a wish, a hope, or a dream she hadn’t shared with him over the past three years, and although he’d never seen her without her clothes either, no one had seen her so bare. “I knew from the day I took Samantha in that she could never love or want me the way I wanted her. I knew that if I tried to corral her, I’d only push her away. I did love her, Erin, I still do in a way…but not the way I love you. She needs me, the way William needs you, but mostly Macy needs me and turning my back on Sam would mean turning my back on that little girl. I’d be nothing without her.”
“But you aren’t faithful to her, Elijah. I don’t understand the difference.” He’d been honest with her about his and Samantha’s relationship. Sam was a drug addict and sometimes she’d disappear for days at a time. She had also slept with most every man in the club…including Doc Marshall…before she made her way to Tank. And he told Erin that he’d slept with others as well, the girls that hung around the club, and the ones in the porn industry they ran. It hurt her to think of him touching another woman…but, she was married herself, so who was she to judge?
“I know this doesn’t make sense,” he said, “but the only woman I’ve ever cheated on her with is you.”
Erin felt a tear roll down her cheek. “How is that possible? We’ve never had sex. We’ve barely ever touched like this, or kissed.” There had been one, long, passionate kiss in the rain that Erin initiated, and relived every chance she had. That had been the closest she’d ever come to losing all control. Tank had been the one to pull back first, and he’d never kissed her like that again.
“I’ve satisfied my needs with women who wanted nothing more from me, and whom I wanted nothing more from. But emotionally, intimately, I’ve never shared things with a woman the way I do with you. In my mind, that’s the true act of infidelity. If we crossed that last line, Erin, I’d never be able to go back. I’d lose Macy, and she’d lose the only person in her life that truly cares about her. Sam has used her as a pawn since even before she was conceived, and she wouldn’t hesitate to do so again. I can’t risk that happening. And William…he might be willing to allow it, but you have to know how badly it would hurt him. I’ve seen the look in his eyes when you’re in the room. He might not be able to satisfy you sexually any longer, but there’s nothing but pure love there. I couldn’t betray him like that, and I don’t believe you’d be okay if you did.”
He was right. She already spent so much of her time feeling guilty for falling in love with another man. Since William’s diagnosis, her love for him had become almost maternal. He needed her to care for his every need…and until Tank, no one had cared for hers. Tank went on, and the tears became so torrential she could hardly see his face through them.
“You’re my best friend, Erin, the best friend I’ve ever had, or ever would have. I thought that would be enough…but years of that has begun to turn into a physical pain that I can’t bear any longer. I can’t see you, and not touch you anymore. I can’t pretend any longer, Erin. This is killing me inside.” He let go of her and her body convulsed in a shudder. Then he drove the knife deeper into her heart, just before turning and walking away. “I will always love you, Erin and no one will ever take your place in my heart. But I don’t want to see you…ever…again.”