Tainted Saint, Chapter Forty-ThreeMature

And Cassandra ran and ran and ran...right into the arms of Hadrian.

Bursting through Hadrian's door, though she was uninvited, Cassandra let out an anguished cry and catapulted into Hadrian's arms. She half expected him to yell at her and shove her away, but instead, he wrapped her tightly against himself and tucked her head under his chin. Ignoring the pungent scent of liquor and body odor that always accompanied Hadrian, Cassandra allowed herself to be held.

After a short time, Hadrian pulled away and tipped Cassandra's chin so that their eyes met. "Cassandra," he said in the most comforting of his tones, "why are you here?"

"I need security," Cassandra swiftly responded, hiccuping through her tears.

"And why do you need security?"

Cassandra closed her eyes and leaned back into Hadrian's arms. "I've done an awful thing," she whispered.

"And what is that?" Hadrian asked, and for the first time, Cassandra heard no underlying hints of anger in his voice. He seemed perfectly gentle, perfectly caring...

"If I say, then you'll be angry with me," Cassandra replied, voice small from both fear and pain.

"You know I love you, Cassandra. If I'm ever angry with you, it's for your own good. It's because I love you."

Oh, how desperately Cassandra wanted to believe Hadrian's words! Yet she found herself still wary. Hadn't it been only a short while ago that she had borne bruises on her body from Hadrian's abuse? Hadn't it only been a short while ago that Hadrian had told her she was good for hardly anything but her body? Could a man like that truly love her?

Hadrian ran a hand through Cassandra's hair. "You doubt my love."

Yes. Yes, Cassandra did. She doubted Hadrian's love, but at the same time, she needed it. If she gave into Hadrian's base desires enough, wouldn't he finally love her completely? If he hated her, it was because she wasn't doing enough.

But Amadeo loves me, and I have done nothing for him...

Shrugging aside the disconcerting thought, Cassandra sniffed and wiped tears from her face. "I want you to love me, Hadrian," she said. "So I want you to know that I'll do whatever it takes, just as long as you love me."

"It's because I love you that I claim what you have to offer, Cassandra. I am who I am because I love you. Do you doubt that I love you?"

"I know about Lizzie."

Hadrian stiffened, but when he responded, his voice was as calm and collected as ever. "I did that to show you that I don't take it lightly when you run away from me, trinket."

"I don't like being called your 'trinket.'"

And with Cassandra's words, Hadrian's attitude changed entirely.

The End

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