Because He Watches Me (Because He Owns Me, Book Nine) (An Alpha Billionaire Romance)

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BECAUSE HE WATCHES ME

(Because He Owns Me, Book Nine)

Hannah Ford

C
opyright
© 2016 by Hannah Ford

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

BECAUSE HE WATCHES ME

(Because He Owns Me, Book Nine)

*NOTE: BECAUSE HE WATCHES ME CONTAINS THE FIRST FOUR BOOKS OF KELLY FAVOR’S FOR HIS PLEASURE SERIES AS A BONUS — IT IS THE LENGH OF A NORMAL BECAUSE HE OWNS ME BOOK*

W
hen I finally got to
my apartment, I was completely out of breath.

I slowed down so I could open the gate that served as the barrier between the sidewalk and my apartment building, but as soon as I did, my stomach cramped into a tight knot and the back of my throat burned with acid.

I was almost to the front door before I realized I was going to throw up.

I leaned over and wretched violently into the bushes, but barely anything came up.

Gross.

After a few moments, I was left gasping for breath, my throat raw. The faint taste of blood lingered on my tongue and it scared me.

There was a bruise on my skin where Jason had grabbed me outside of the library, and the hem of my beautiful designer dress was torn at the bottom. I fingered the ruined fabric, wondering how I could have been so stupid.

Not just about the dress, but about everything.

This whole time I’d been carousing around the city with Callum, letting him push me up against walls and kiss me, letting him fuck me wherever, however, whenever he wanted, risking my job, my safety, and for what? A man who let me down over and over again, a man who would never be able to let me in, to love me the way I wanted – the way I
deserved
- to be loved.

I took the stairs down to my apartment, walked inside, then closed my eyes tight and took in a deep breath, trying to steady myself. Outside the air had been heavy and thick, dense with humidity. The air inside the apartment was cooler – Nessa must have had the air conditioning cranked -- and it helped to calm me down.

My thoughts were scattered and unfocused, and I could feel myself losing my grip on the panic that was threatening to overtake my body. I groped around my mind for the techniques my therapist in Michigan had taught me, trying to focus on my breathing and stay anchored to the moment.

Anger burned inside of me as I thought of the way Callum had taken my Ativan, the drug that helped me when I was feeling like this.

The anger actually helped – it calmed me down, helped me to get back to my body and not feel so untethered.

I took a step into the apartment.

And that’s when I heard them.

Voices.

Coming from down the hallway, near Nessa’s bedroom.

Nessa.

And a guy’s voice.

My first thought was that it was Callum – he had dug under my skin and invaded my brain so deep that everything reminded me of him.

But I would know his voice anywhere, could conjure it up almost exactly in my mind, and after the first quick moment of wishful thinking, I realized it wasn’t him.

It was Isaac.

It sounded like he and Nessa were arguing.

I took a step down the hallway, not wanting to intrude on their privacy if they were having a fight, but also not sure what else to do. It was kind of impossible not to hear what they were saying. The apartment wasn’t that big, and they were talking pretty loudly.

“…it’s fucked up…” I heard Isaac saying.

“No, what’s fucked up is letting me think you wanted something with me, when you didn’t.”

“How did I make you think I wanted something with you?” Isaac said. “Nessa, we never even slept together! And that doesn’t excuse what you did! It’s deceptive, Nessa, it’s completely -- ”

“But you
wanted
to sleep with me,” Nessa said. “You wanted to, Isaac, that night at the club, I could see how bad you wanted it. You were all over me.”

“Nessa, that was fun,” he said. “Did I like dancing with you? Yeah, sure. But we were both drinking. It was a night out. It didn’t mean anything.”

“Why do you like her so much?” Nessa demanded.

“Who?”

Time seemed to stretch through the silence as I waited for her reply. Was Nessa talking about me? About the night that Isaac had asked me out? I hadn’t told her about that. Had Isaac confessed?

“Her,” Nessa said. “It was all real, Isaac.”

It was all real? What was she talking about?

“It wasn’t real,” Isaac said. “It was all a complete lie!” Up until this point, his voice had been raised, but he hadn’t sounded angry. But when he said the part about everything being a lie, he sounded mad. Really mad.

“Isaac, please,” Nessa said, and her voice caught at the end, like maybe she was getting choked up.

“Look, Nessa, I think you need to talk to someone,” Isaac said. He didn’t sound angry anymore, he sounded like he felt sorry for her, and now I could hear the soft sounds of Nessa crying coming from her room.

I didn’t know what to do.

My instinct was to turn and walk out of the apartment – whatever was going on between Isaac and Nessa felt too intimate for me to be listening to. I should have alerted them to the fact that I was here as soon as I walked in, but now that I hadn’t, I wasn’t sure what to do.

It was awkward.

“Just leave,” Nessa said to Isaac.

“Nessa – “ Isaac said, and now his voice was softer, more sympathetic. “Let me call someone, you shouldn’t be alone.”

“Just please,” Nessa said, “Please, Isaac, just go.”

A second later, Isaac came out of Nessa’s room.

“Oh,” he said when he saw me. “Hi.”

“Hi.” I swallowed. “What’s going on?”

He shook his head and gave me an incredulous look. “You should ask Nessa,” he said. “I tried to be nice, but I’m done.”

He pushed past me down the hallway and a second later, I heard the front door shut behind him as he left our apartment.

“Ness?” I said gently as I approached her room and peeked inside.

I expected to see her sitting on the bed, maybe dressed in her work clothes, her eyes puffy from crying.

But she wasn’t on her bed.

She wasn’t anywhere.

As far as I could tell, the room was empty.

“Nessa?” I tried again.

“I’m over here,” she said, and then I spotted her.

She was sitting in the corner, wearing a long dark t-shirt. Her hair was matted, her face scrubbed clean, her knees pulled up tight to her chest.

“What are you doing over there?” I asked. “What happened?”

“It’s nothing,” she said, forcing bravado into her voice. “Just stupid Isaac. You know how men are.”

“Yeah,” I said slowly, wanting to make sure I chose my words carefully. I sat down next to her on the floor, and she pulled the bottom of her t-shirt down over her knees. “But that didn’t sound like a regular fight.”

“It was nothing,” she said. “It was just Isaac being Isaac. I’m sure we’ll work it out.”

I swallowed, and then I took in a deep breath. “Nessa, I should have told you this before, but I think… I’m not sure, but I think Isaac asked me out.”

She turned and looked at me sharply, her eyes burning with my betrayal. “When?”

“The other night. He asked me to go to a bar with him.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she demanded.

“I should have,” I said honestly. “But I wasn’t sure if he was just being nice. It was the night... um, it was the night you found out your mom was sick, and I didn’t want to upset you more.”

“You shouldn’t have done that, Adriana,” she said. “You should have told me.”

We lapsed into silence, and I watched Nessa carefully out of the corner of my eye. She was staring into space, her eyes blank. It made me nervous, the look on her face.

“Nessa,” I said slowly. “Nessa, your sister called me earlier.”

There was no reaction from her, no look of guilt. Just that blank expression.

“She said your mom wasn’t sick, that she was fine, that she’d never been in the city for a doctor’s appointment.”

Nessa still didn’t turn to look at me.

“Nessa?” I prompted. “What’s going on?”

“I lied to him,” she said softly, still with that blank look on her face.

“To Isaac?”

She nodded.

“Why did he say that you guys had never slept together?”

She bit her bottom lip, turning it over and over between her teeth. “We didn’t,” she said. “I lied to you, too.”

“You lied to me and to him?” I shook my head. “I’m confused.”

“I lied to you. About Isaac. We were never together. And I lied to you about my mom. She was never sick.” She took in a deep shuddering breath and gripped the bottom of her shirt. “Isaac, he … he wasn’t interested in me. I’m not pretty enough for him.”

“Nessa! That’s not –”

“It is true,” she said, cutting me off before I could say it. “It’s true and I know it.”

“Nessa, you’re beautiful. Isaac isn’t not interested in you because of that.”

She laughed, then reached over and grabbed her phone from the white wicker nightstand next to her bed and shoved it toward me. “Then explain that.”

On the screen was a text message from Isaac.

I can’t wait to see you and kiss you.

“I don’t get it.” I frowned. “If you were never together, why was he sending you flirty texts?”

“I catfished him,” she said, reaching over and sliding her finger over the screen of her phone, sending the messages sliding by in cascade. “After that night at the club, I tried to kiss him and he… he said he thought I was amazing, but that we should just be friends, that we’d always be friends.” She swallowed. “So I started a fake profile online and contacted him.”

“Oh, Nessa,” I said, letting a breath out. I tried to think about what to say, but I didn’t have to worry about it. Now that Nessa had started talking, she didn’t want to stop.

“I just thought that if he fell in love with me online, then… then maybe in person he would change his mind, you know, if he found out it was me…” She swallowed and bit her bottom lip again, hard, until it turned bright red.

“And my mom,” she said. “I made that up, too.”

“I kind of figured,” I said. “Like I said, when your sister called, she told me your mom was fine.”

“I just… It was like I was just so sick of being me, you know? Nothing exciting ever happens to me, nothing
fun.
When I was catfishing Isaac, I could be whatever – whoever -- I wanted. I started to get addicted to the attention.”

The faraway look in her eyes was going away now, and she was starting to cry again, big racking sobs that sent tears sliding down her cheeks. “I feel like I’m going crazy,” she said, reaching over and gripping my hand tight. “Do you think I’m going crazy, Adriana?”

“No.” I shook my head. “No, I don’t think you’re going crazy.”

“I just feel like everyone’s leaving me behind.”

“Yeah, well, don’t feel bad,” I said, leaning back against the wall. “I got fired tonight.”

She turned to me. “Oh, no! What happened?”

“Callum showed up at my work event, and he started messing with this guy I was sitting with, another author.”

Nessa’s eyes got wide. “Messing with him how?”

“He tried to fight him. He’d been drinking, it was…” I could feel my own sobs starting deep in my chest, and I fought to keep them from forming. “It’s just not…Callum’s not good for me. He’s not a good person.” The words sounded hollow on my tongue.

Longing flooded my body as I thought of him sitting there in that jail, the bruises on his face from the fight he’d been in, how I’d turned my back and walked out on him just like every other person in his life.

Well. Except for Brendan, who wasn’t exactly a great influence.

But if it was true that Brendan was the only person who’d truly been there for Callum, was it any wonder that Callum had such a problem with alcohol? If it was true what he’d said, that Brendan and his family had taken him in when he was younger, how could I blame him for reverting to that kind of behavior after the trauma of Rose’s death?

The need for him was an ache that consumed my whole body, threatening to break me. I could go back to the jail, I thought. I could go back and ask to see him, I could make sure he was okay.

Stop, I told myself. Stop. He’s brainwashed you. A man who cared about you wouldn’t have done what he did tonight, wouldn’t have wanted to tie you up and make you submit to him, wouldn’t have made you sign a contract the first night you were with him that made you promise you wouldn’t contact him again.

“Oh, Adriana, I’m so sorry,” Nessa was saying. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.” I shook my head. “I thought I did, but now… now I just want to forget about this stupid night.” I stood up and grabbed her hand, pulled her up from the floor. “Come on,” I said. “I think we have a bottle of wine somewhere in the kitchen.”

* * *

W
e couldn’t find
the wine, so we went down to the store on the corner and bought a bottle of cheap red, a box of Triscuits, and some spreadable cheese.

We took everything back to our apartment and watched romantic comedies, mocking the corniness of the movies and getting tipsy on the wine.

It was three in the morning when Nessa fell asleep on the couch.

I thought about waking her, but she looked so peaceful lying there. I didn’t want to wake her and risk her getting upset about Isaac again.

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