Hallie has only ever loved one man, and she has never really quite given up hope on making Andreus love her back.
And there is no going back from here.
Andreus has made his choice.
Maybe it's also time for her to find someone else.
Security alerted Andreus the moment Monique arrived at the estate as his invited guest. He excused himself swiftly from his friends, not wanting to leave anything to chance. A life with Hallie was all he had ever fucking wanted in this life, and he would not let anyone - not even someone innocent like Monique - ruin this.
Dozens of guests were busy milling about and having their selfies taken by the sweeping staircase when he reached the Great Hall, and Andreus spotted Monique standing by the doorway. The way her face lit up left several male guests in the vicinity spellbound, but while Andreus himself had never been blind to her beauty, neither had it stirred anything in him.
It had always been Hallie alone who, with a mere glance from her violet eyes, had been able to easily set his body on fire.
Monique walked forward to meet him halfway, her expression unusually apprehensive. The main reason he had been able to enjoy her company over the years was how she had stringently avoided making things uncomfortable between them.
Regardless of the countless times he had politely turned down her overtures to take their relationship to another level, Monique had always been polite and gracious, and for her sake, it would be best if she remained as such, even if he was now planning to tell her that Hallie was the woman he intended to spend the rest of his life with.
Monique stood in front of him now, poised and elegant, but with worry still noticeably furrowing her forehead. "Andreus..."
Her voice was openly distraught, and Andreus' lethally powerful build went rigid under his suit. "What's wrong?"
Her lower lip started to tremble, and Andreus' instincts went haywire.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Something was wrong.
And whatever that something was, his instincts were telling him it could destroy his entire world.
"I'm so, so sorry." The unshed tears coating Monique's shaken voice drew the attention of the other guests, but Andreus didn't give a damn. He could already feel his face turning white as he gazed down at the video Monique was showing him on her cellphone.
And when he spoke, his voice was low and devoid of emotion. "How?"
"I'm so, so sor---"
Monique jumped away from him, and Andreus fought to regain control of himself when he saw the terror in her gaze.
"I'm sorry," he forced himself to say. "I---"
Monique cut him off with a shake of her head. "N-No. I s-should have expected you'd react that way, and when I tell you...w-when I tell you the truth, you'll h-have every right to get angry."
She bit her lip as it started to tremble, but seeing this only had Andreus wanting to shake the fucking truth out of her.
"I'm so sorry."
It was the third fucking time she had apologized to him, and he still didn't give a fuck. All he wanted to know was how.
How had she gotten hold of a video that the FBI had sworn to him was no longer in existence?
"I t-thought it was fake."
Andreus' whole world went dark as Monique told him of how someone had attempted to blackmail her about the video, and how she had completely dismissed the threat because she had thought the video was faked.
"I j-just d-didn't think it could be real."
Andreus could only stare at her...even as all he could see in his mind was Hallie.
"But I was wrong, w-wasn't I? It's r-real...isn't it?"
Her hands flew up to cover her mouth at his answer, but Monique's obvious shock meant nothing to him.
Nothing mattered except the only girl he had ever loved.
This was the reason he had pushed her away.
This was the reason he had hurt her again and again.
And he just couldn't fucking understand why God had allowed him to taste heaven...only for Hallie to suffer a life of hell in return.
His body reacted involuntarily when Monique tried reaching for his hand, with Andreus unthinkingly flinching and stepping back. Hurt flashed over her features, but Andreus couldn't make himself feel any kind of remorse.
He would always belong to Hallie. He knew that now, and it would never change, regardless of what would happen to Hallie and him.
"Andreus? Are you angry with me?"
"No." A monosyllabic reply for someone or anyone who was not Hallie already took too much effort, and without another word, Andreus strode past Monique and walked out of the house.
He had to think fast, and act fucking faster.
Any moment now, more and more people would see the video that Monique had been blackmailed with, and he knew in his guts that this was only the beginning.
Regardless of how Hallie would react to a video showing his teenage self sucking another man's dick, something a lot worse existed---and it was something he didn't ever want Hallie to be involved with.
Andreus was already behind the wheel of his car when the passenger door suddenly opened, and Monique had jumped into the seat next to his.
"Please let me help you."
Impatience reared its ugly head inside of him, and Andreus barely managed to control himself from telling her to get out of his car and stop wasting his time.
"You don't have to be guilty about this," he grated out. "This isn't your fault---"
"But it is my fault---"
Monique's voice faltered when Andreus suddenly swore.
"I appreciate your concern," Andreus tersely expelled, "but right now, all I care about is protecting Hallie and making sure the press doesn't think she's involved with me in any way. So if you don't fucking mind---"
Andreus stared at Monique. What the fuck was she saying?
"If you marry me, the press would target me as your wife, and they won't care about Hallie." She quickly reached for his hand and held on to it before he could pull away. "Please, Andreus. Please let me do this for you. You know...you know that what I'm offering you is the best way to keep Hallie's name out of the papers." Monique's voice took on an urgent note, with her next words tumbling out in a jittery rush. "No one will ever bother her. No one will even think of her. They'll be too busy talking and writing up things about us."
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Andreus knew what Monique was saying was true...but he also goddamn knew that while her solution would save the girl he loved from ruin, that same fucking solution would kill Hallie in a different way altogether.
If he took what Monique was offering, there could be no going back.
Andreus saw Monique's lip start trembling again when he firmly pulled his hand out of her hold. "Andreus, p-please---"
"I want you to completely understand the ramifications of what you're suggesting before agreeing to anything."
Her eyes widened as the meaning of his words hit her.
"What's happening right now...is just the beginning."
"I don't care," Monique swore. "I'm ready to face everything---"
"Even if I tell you I can't ever be a normal husband to you in any way?" His jaw clenched at the way Monique's face whitened, but Andreus didn't take the words back. Couldn't. Because that was the fucking truth, and it was a truth that would never change. "I'll always belong to Hallie---"
"You can't be so sure of that," Monique whispered.
Pain shadowed her eyes, but the knowledge that he was about to lose Hallie for good had numbed his heart, and the look of torment on her face did nothing to him at all.
"Can you...c-can you at least promise that you'll be faithful to me?"
"Yes." This required no thinking at all. Hallie was the only woman he was interested in, no one else.
"And that no one...n-no one will know I'm only your wife in name? W-Will you give me that at least?"
It was too fucking easy to read between the lines of what Monique was saying, and his chest tightened as he envisioned a day in the not-so-distant future and Hallie would look at him and cry. She would want an explanation that Monique's demand would forbid him to give. She would look at him like seeing him was killing her...and even as it did, Andreus would only be able to watch like a fucking idiot even as Hallie's heart shattered into pieces in front of him.
He squeezed his eyes shut, and the future he saw was so fucking bleak it sucked the life out of him.
I love you, Hallie.
This was the last time he would allow himself to think of her, and Andreus felt as if he had voluntarily stepped off a cliff before falling straight into an abyss of emptiness as he turned to Monique and heard himself say, "Yes."