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Bitter Bargain BL R18

4

IV: Respite

57

 

 

Adrian Hartley lay curled on his bed, still dressed in the clothes he had worn for his failed attempt to visit the hospital. The heavy weight of exhaustion pressed down on him, his body aching with the remnants of the fever that had begun to take hold.

 

He sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes and straining to catch the familiar sound that had pierced his hazy dreams. It was a low murmur of voices, growing louder and more distinct.

 

*It’s him,* Adrian realized with a sudden jolt of hope.

 

Elliot’s back.

 

Adrian swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up, though his limbs trembled. He couldn’t afford to miss this opportunity. The servants had refused to help him, their cold indifference leaving him stranded and desperate.

 

But if he could speak to Elliot directly, perhaps he could make him understand the importance of his visit to the hospital.

 

He opened the door and stepped into the hallway.

 

He knew that confronting Elliot was risky, but he had no other choice.

 

*I can’t let this chance slip away.*

 

Adrian suppressed the rising tide of frustration and fear. The cold air bit at his skin as he hurried towards the main entrance, where the voices grew louder.

 

He caught a glimpse of the gathered staff, standing in orderly rows as they awaited Elliot’s arrival. Among them, he saw the butler.

 

*He knew I was looking for him and did nothing.*

 

Drawing a deep breath, Adrian stepped forward, his voice steady despite the turmoil inside him.

 

“Mr. Kane!”

 

The gathered servants fell silent, their eyes widening in surprise as they turned to look at him. Elliot Kane, who had just emerged from his car, looked up at the sound of his name.

 

His icy blue eyes locked onto Adrian, and for a moment, there was a flicker of something almost like recognition.

 

Adrian forced himself to meet Elliot’s gaze, ignoring the trembling in his legs and the cold sweat on his brow.

 

“Mr. Kane, I need to speak with you. It’s urgent.”

 

Elliot’s expression was unreadable as he stared at Adrian. He hadn’t seen Adrian’s face so clearly in years, and the sight of it now was both foreign and oddly familiar.

 

“What is it, Adrian? I thought we had an understanding.”

 

Adrian took a hesitant step forward, his hands clenched at his sides. He knew that he was treading dangerous ground, but he had to make Elliot listen.

 

“I need to go to the hospital. It’s in the contract. You promised I could visit my parents.”

 

“If you need anything, ask the butler. That’s his job.”

 

“I tried. But no one would help me. Please, I just need to go today.”

 

Elliot’s lips pressed into a thin line, his patience wearing thin. He was unused to being challenged, especially by someone like Adrian. The omega had always been compliant, silently enduring the demands placed upon him.

 

This sudden defiance was both unexpected and unwelcome.

 

“Are we on such intimate terms that you can speak to me like this? Know your place, Adrian.”

 

Adrian’s heart sank at the words, the brief flicker of hope extinguished.

 

He had known that this confrontation would be difficult, but hearing the rejection so plainly still hurt. His mind raced, searching for some way to make Elliot understand, to break through the wall of indifference that surrounded him.

 

But as he looked into Elliot’s eyes, he saw only cold detachment. Elliot’s time was precious, far too valuable to be wasted on the pleas of a lowly omega.

 

Adrian’s shoulders slumped. He had no more words to offer, no arguments left to make. He could see the servants watching him with a mixture of pity and disdain.

 

Elliot turned away, dismissing Adrian with a casual wave of his hand.

 

“That’s enough. Go back to your room.”

 

Adrian’s heart ached as he watched Elliot walk away, his tall figure disappearing into the depths of the mansion. The brief encounter had left him feeling more isolated than ever, his hopes crushed by the cold, unyielding wall of Elliot’s indifference.

 

The butler, who had observed the exchange with a detached air, stepped forward.

 

“You should know better than to bother Mr. Kane with such trivial matters.”

 

Adrian nodded numbly. He had tried to fight for his right to see his parents, but it had all been for nothing.

 

 

Elliot Kane stood by the window of his study, the glass of whiskey in his hand reflecting the pale light.

 

He stared out into the night. Adrian’s face, illuminated briefly by the moonlight during their earlier confrontation, lingered in his mind. It was a face he had seen countless times, usually bowed in submission after their encounters, but tonight it had been different.

 

The desperation, the raw plea in Adrian’s eyes had struck a chord in him that he couldn't easily dismiss.

 

*Why did he look so desperate today?* Elliot wondered.

 

*I should have listened to what he had to say.*

 

Elliot prided himself on his detachment, on his ability to remain unaffected by the needs and emotions of those around him. Yet, tonight, he had felt a pull, an urge to understand what had driven Adrian to break his usual silence.

 

He laughed bitterly at himself.

 

*Ridiculous,*

 

He had more important matters to attend to than the whims of an omega. The company, Kane Corporation, thrived on his decisions, demanding his focus and precision at every moment.

 

Elliot ran a hand through his disheveled blond hair, trying to clear his mind. The rut period loomed like a dark cloud, a biological imperative that would render him vulnerable and irritable.

 

He needed to prepare, to ensure that the corporation continued to function smoothly in his brief absence.

 

Yet, despite his attempts to refocus. The blue eyes, full of silent suffering, haunted him. Elliot poured himself another drink, the ice clinking softly as he swirled the amber liquid. But even in the depths of his glass, he saw Adrian's reflection.

 

*Omegas are trouble,* Elliot reminded himself.

 

They were ruled by their instincts, their bodies and minds. He had always kept his distance, preferring the cold clarity of his alpha status. The butler managed the details of Adrian’s care. Elliot had entrusted him with that responsibility, confident that everything was handled without his direct involvement.

 

*Adrian is being taken care of,* Elliot told himself firmly.

 

The butler had managed the mansion and its inhabitants for years. There was no need for Elliot to concern himself with such matters.

 

Yet, a nagging doubt persisted.

 

Elliot shook his head, trying to dispel the uneasy thoughts.

 

---

 

The following morning, the mansion was eerily quiet. The usual bustle of the servants was subdued, their whispers filled with a tension that Adrian could feel even from his secluded room.

 

He lay in bed for a moment.

 

He had cried himself to sleep. It had been a long time since he had allowed himself that release. By the third year of his confinement, his tears had dried up, replaced by a numb resignation.

 

But last night, a few stray tears had broken through, leaving him with a hollow ache and a small, creeping fear that he was becoming completely empty inside.

 

When he finally rose from bed, Adrian noticed that the usual breakfast tray had not been delivered. The mansion’s rumors had spread quickly, and his failed confrontation with Elliot had not gone unnoticed.

 

The servants’ disdain had escalated into outright neglec.

 

Adrian’s hands trembled as he dressed, the thin fabric of his clothes offering little protection against the cold that seeped into his bones. The money from his contract had all gone to cover his parents’ medical bills. Food, clothing, shelter – all provided by the manor under the strict terms of his agreement.

 

Adrian Hartley shivered as he stepped out into the cold morning air. The vast expanse of the Kane estate stretched out before him.

 

*I have to get to the bank,* he thought.

 

He knew he had a small reserve of emergency money stashed away in his account, just enough to cover a taxi ride to the hospital. It wasn’t much, but it was his only option.

 

The past few days had driven home the reality of his situation.

 

The daily provisions that were supposed to be his due had dwindled to almost nothing. Meals were sporadic, clean clothes were a rare luxury, and he often had to tidy his room himself.

 

It wasn’t that the Kane family lacked the means to care for him; it was Elliot’s sheer indifference that left Adrian in such a state.

 

*Elliot doesn’t care,*

 

He had seen the disdain in Elliot’s eyes, the absolute certainty that Adrian’s problems were not worth his time. Any hope Adrian had that Elliot might listen to his plea had been dashed.

 

Adrian began his long walk towards the city.

 

“It’s so cold,” Adrian muttered.

 

The late autumn air was sharp and damp, the kind that seeped into his bones and made his limbs ache. The misty rain had started again that soaked through his clothes and made the ground slippery underfoot.

 

Each step was a struggle. Adrian’s left ankle throbbed with each step. He hadn’t walked this far in years. But today, he had no choice.

 

*I can do this,*

 

The rain grew heavier as Adrian trudged on. He wrapped his arms around himself, trying to conserve what little warmth he had.

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