Chapter Thirteen

Clare had let Eli put his arm around her, but she still hadn't spoken to him all throughout the taxi ride back to his apartment. Once inside the apartment, Eli tossed his keys on the stand by the door and said, "Look, you can't be mad at me forever, darling."

Clare walked past him, down the hallway, and towards the bedroom. Her lips were pursed. She knew he was just trying to protect her, but she couldn't help but be a bit bothered by that fact. Eli had been very upfront in telling her about his lifestyle, and in explaining to her that he would not change said lifestyle for anything. She couldn't help but feel as though it was a bit hypocritical that he could go off with whomever he pleased but when she did the same, he got upset and intervened. It also made no sense to her that he made her feel all these things only to have those feelings never lead anywhere. Clare knew better than to think she and Eli could ever be anything to each other. She couldn't be with him knowing that he'd still keep his lifestyle, and he wouldn't put her through that. It pained her to know that even though they would never be an item, Eli still felt as though he had the right to jump into her life.

Clare shut the bedroom door and locked it behind her before Eli could barge in after her. She felt an even bigger fight than the one that took place outside of the club coming on, and she didn't want to deal with that at the moment. How dare Eli intervene when he had made it adamantly clear that they would never, and could never, be anything to each other besides roommates. Clare's stomach churned as she sat down on the edge of the bed and cradled her head in her hands. She didn't understand why Eli felt like he had the right to jump into her life like that. She never asked for any of that. She never asked that he take her in like some charity case, and that he make her feel all these strange and new things, and that he completely turn her life on it's edge. She never asked for any of that at all! But she definitely got all of that and more. Clare wiped furiously at a tear that was currently trickling down her cheek. She had just been trying to do a fraction of what Eli'd do every weekend. She didn't understand how he could get upset, or how he would even think he had the right to.

Just as she had expected, there was a knock at the bedroom door. Clare sighed and wiped the tears off her cheeks before pushing herself up off the bed and making her way over to the door. She contemplated answering it, but instead just called through the door -

"What do you want?"

"Um, access to my room, preferably."

Clare sourly folded her arms across her chest. She knew she had no right to barricade herself in Eli's bedroom, but then again he had no right to be so protective over her when he made it so clear that she would never be anything to him. Did he not understand what he made her feel? How badly she wanted him? Only to be turned down and told that his lifestyle would never change. And how could she ask him to change? She was nothing more than a stranger to whom he showed a bit of kindness.

"And I'd like to have access to making my own decisions without you butting in and suddenly deciding you have a say in my life," Clare spat back her response. She could almost feel Eli stiffen on the other side of the door. There was a deep silence so intense that Clare could feel her pulse ringing in her ears. She felt dizzy and leaned against the wall to balance herself. She wished more than anything she could just make a break for it - take her things, what things she had, and get on the first plane back home. She no longer cared about admitting defeat to her mother, she just wanted to be home. She wanted out of this strange city and away from this strange person that excited, delighted, horrified, and angered her so much.

"I can break down this door if tempted," Clare could practically see his eyebrow raise up and disappear into his dark bangs. Despite the tension, she knew he was fighting against a smirk on the other side of the door. She let out a breath and tried to think up a response. She wished he would just go away so she could leave without any confrontation. Clare had always hated confrontation, but she especially hated confrontation with Eli. Everything was so intensified and the tension was terrifying. She longed to just melt into the floorboards and disappear.

"What gave you the right to think you could butt into my life?" Clare's face flared red as her anger boiled over, "You bring me into this life of yours and expose me to these things and make me feel these things for you that are so terrifying to me. You force that on me. Then you tell me quite frankly that it'd never work out because of your lifestyle. You're not a one-person type of person. You want to be with practically anyone and everyone. Which we both know wouldn't be fair to either one of us if we were to get together. So we shouldn't. We can't. But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt me any less to be so...drawn to you and to know nothing can come of it. You have no right, Eli, no right at all to think you can have a say in my life. You have no control in the decisions I make. I left home to become my own person. You aren't going to take that from me."

Clare paused, and heard Eli inhale on the other side of the door. She could practically hear the cogs turning in his head before he finally said, "I know. I am drawn to you too, Clare. It's terrifying to me too because I've never felt so strongly for another person before. I have been with many people, Clare, because I see beauty in everyone. My relationships are purely sexual and always have been. I've never cared so deeply about someone as I do you, and that scares me because it's making me question everything I thought I knew. I...I sometimes wonder, since meeting you, about putting all of this to bay and just being with you and you alone. I sleep with people because I see beauty in them. And I see the devil in them And beauty and the devil are both powerful things, darling. Things that can be both dominant and submissive. That's why this sexual lifestyle fascinated me so much. But then you come into my life and you're so...pure. And you fascinate me too. I've never met someone so pure and so beautiful, Clare. And I don't know what to do with that."

He paused before continuing, "There's an art behind what goes on in the bedroom behind a closed door, between two people. A beautiful art that fascinates me and I want to be a part of that art as much as I can. But then there's you, and I want to badly to be with you. And I want to be with you in many ways. And it shames me to admit that I want to be with you in that bed, to make love to you. I feel like I have those thoughts of you without your permission and everything must be done with permission. I feel like I think these things about you against your will and I am sicked and scared by that. I think how badly I want to make love to you. But I also think how badly I want to be yours and I've never seen people as belonging to other people before. People aren't supposed to belong to other people, Clare. But I want so badly to belong to you, and to have you belong to me. Do you see how confused and conflicted I am? I have all these thoughts and emotions surrounding you and I don't know what to do with them. You make a mess of my mind, and my heart, darling."

Clare felt the goosebumps prickle her skin and she had to balance herself against the wall as she heard Eli's words. She couldn't believe what she was hearing and she felt the butterflies take over her stomach. She felt dizzy and for a moment, she forgot how to make her lungs breathe.

"Can you please just open the door?" Eli's voice was heavy as he added, "I'm going crazy not being able to look into your eyes."

Clare worked up every ounce of courage she could before opening the door. They stood there staring at each other, neither of them moving except for the heaving of their chests as the heavily ordered breath into their lungs.

"Darling, those eyes are a drug," Eli finally reached forward and cupped her face in his hand. Clare the biting goosebumps take over every inch of her, "What are we going to do with each other, hmm?"

It took her a moment to remember how to speak before Clare finally said, "I...I don't know."

"Well, I think there's only one thing we can do," Eli brushed a strand of hair out of Clare's mascara-streaked eyes.

"What is that?" She asked nervously, terrified of his answer.

Eli bent forward and gently pressed his lips to her forehead before saying, "Give in, and fall in love."