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Bitter Bargain BL R18

7

Chapter VII Fractured Echoes

19

 

 

Adrian Hartley lay motionless on the bed, staring at the ceiling as the events of the past two days replayed in his mind. His body felt heavy, each limb weighed down by the aftermath of Elliot Kane’s rut. His arms, free from their bindings, rested limply at his sides. The dull throb in his neck reminds him of Elliot’s bite.

 

The familiar sound of the shower running filled the room, indicating that Elliot was washing away the remnants of their shared ordeal.

 

Adrian winced as he shifted slightly, the numbness in his lower half caused by the relentless intensity of Elliot’s thrusts and the knotting that had followed.

 

This was unlike any encounter they had had before.

 

Elliot’s usual control had shattered, leaving Adrian to bear the full brunt of his unrestrained desire. The pain in his bottom, a dull, aching throb, was evidence of the rough treatment he had endured. Any thought of rushing back to his room evaporated in the face of his physical exhaustion.

 

Adrian’s eyes drifted to the door, half-expecting Elliot to walk back in and dismiss him with a cold command. But minutes passed, and the door remained closed.

 

Anxiety gnawed at Adrian’s insides, the silence stretching unbearably as he wondered what Elliot’s reaction would be now that the rut had passed.

 

*Why did he knot me?* Adrian’s mind raced with questions.

 

Knotting was a deeply intimate act, one that went beyond mere biological necessity. In the face of such a confusing and unexpected situation, Adrian couldn’t muster the energy to be angry. It seemed easier to let it pass as another inexplicable event in his tumultuous life.

 

Suddenly, a knock echoed through the room. The sound seemed to reverberate in his chest. No one had ever come knocking during these encounters before. Puzzled, Adrian turned his gaze towards the door.

 

To his surprise, Elliot, freshly showered, re-entered the room. His muscular frame, glistening with droplets of water, was a stark contrast to the tension that radiated from his every move. Adrian’s eyes, now free from the blindfold, caught sight of Elliot’s naked form for the first time in what felt like an eternity.

 

His gaze lingered on the source of his recent torment, the sight of Elliot’s manhood. But before their eyes could meet, Adrian quickly looked away, his cheeks flushing.

 

*Why would he come back?*

 

Elliot’s eyes briefly rested on Adrian before he turned his attention to the robe he hastily donned. His expression was unreadable, a mask of composed indifference that belied the turmoil beneath. Without a word, he crossed the room to the door, as if expecting some urgent matter that required his immediate attention.

 

But before Elliot could take more than a couple of steps, he paused and turned back to the bed. In a move that took Adrian completely by surprise, Elliot grabbed the blanket and pulled it over Adrian, covering him from head to toe.

 

“….?”

 

Adrian’s confusion deepened, his gaze following Elliot’s every move. The gesture was uncharacteristically considerate, a stark contrast to the cold, businesslike demeanor Elliot usually maintained.

 

It was as if Elliot was shielding him from the world outside.

 

Elliot muttered something under his breath, a curse perhaps, before striding back to the door.

 

The knock came again, more insistent this time, and Elliot opened the door with a sharp, “What is it?”

 

To his surprise, it wasn’t his secretary standing there, but the butler, his face etched with a grim expression. The air in the room seemed to shift.

 

“What is it?” Elliot repeated.

 

The butler hesitated, glancing past Elliot to where Adrian lay hidden beneath the blanket. His eyes flickered with something akin to guilt before he spoke, his tone grave.

 

“Sir, we have received a message… Mr. Hartley’s parents passed away last night.”

 

“…What?”

 

For a moment, the words didn’t register. Adrian’s mind struggled to process the butler’s statement, his world narrowing to the slow, deliberate movement of the butler’s lips.

 

*Did I hear that right?* He thought.

 

Elliot’s reaction was one of shock, his eyes widening as he took in the unexpected news. “Last night?” he repeated, his voice a low growl. “Why am I only hearing about this now?”

 

The butler shifted uncomfortably, his gaze dropping to the floor. “I received the call just before your rut began,” he explained hurriedly. “I tried to inform you, but you had already… started.”

 

Elliot’s memory flashed to the butler’s earlier interruption, the moment when he had burst into the room without waiting for an answer.

 

At the time, Elliot had dismissed it as an urgent work-related matter. Now, the truth settled over him like a heavy fog.

 

Elliot Kane stared at the butler, his expression a mix of disbelief and barely restrained fury. The man's excuse for not delivering the critical news earlier was beyond insufficient. Even under the sway of the rut, leaving an omega tied and unaware of their parents’ passing was inexcusable.

 

“Ah, you told me not to disturb you,” the butler muttered, his gaze dropping to the floor as if the truth was too heavy to bear.

 

Elliot’s eyes narrowed, his anger simmering just below the surface. The rut might have dulled his sense of urgency, but it was no justification for the butler’s lapse in judgment.

 

“You should have told me immediately,” Elliot snapped.

 

The idea that the butler had kept such news from Adrian, leaving him to suffer through the rut without knowing his parents were in their final moments, filled him with a deep sense of guilt and rage.

 

The butler flinched under Elliot’s gaze, his confidence crumbling. He seemed on the verge of speaking, perhaps to offer another excuse, but thought better of it. Elliot’s piercing stare left no room for further explanation.

 

Trying to make sense of the situation, Elliot’s eyes flicked back to Adrian, who lay on the bed, his body slumped in defeat. Adrian’s head lifted slowly, their eyes meeting for the first time without the barriers of duty or circumstance.

 

In that brief moment of eye contact, Elliot saw a world of pain and resentment. Adrian’s gaze was a storm of emotions—grief, anger, betrayal—all directed squarely at him. The intensity of it hit Elliot like a physical blow, leaving him breathless.

 

This was the first time they had truly looked at each other, not as alpha and omega bound by contract, but as two human beings. The raw intensity of Adrian’s stare cut through Elliot’s defenses, exposing the deep chasm of unspoken suffering that had defined their relationship.

 

Elliot’s chest tightened, the weight of Adrian’s silent accusation pressing down on him. The faint scent of Adrian’s pheromones lingered in the air. The oppressive gloom of the moment felt like heavy rain, soaking through Elliot’s composed exterior and seeping into his very core.

 

“...Get the car ready,” Elliot managed to say.

 

The command felt hollow, a feeble attempt to regain control in the wake of such profound loss.

 

---

 

The funeral was a somber affair, marked by a splendid floral arrangement from the Kane family. It was a stark contrast to the heavy rain that poured relentlessly from the sky, drenching everything in its path.

 

But Elliot never came.

 

---

 

Adrian sat in the back seat of the Kane family’s car, staring out at the rain-drenched city. The luxury of the vehicle felt grotesquely out of place, a cruel reminder of the disparity between his life and the cold opulence of the Kane estate.

 

The rain had not let up for a moment, its relentless downpour mirroring the heaviness in Adrian’s heart. The sky seemed to weep in his stead, shedding the tears that he could not. As he watched the city blur past, Adrian felt a numbness settle over him, a protective shield against the crushing weight of his grief.

 

The funeral had been a lonely, desolate affair. Few people had come to pay their respects, and those who did were distant, almost perfunctory in their condolences. The memory of his brother’s funeral years ago was a sharp contrast—filled with mourners, flowers, and a sense of community. The Hartleys had been beacons of light in a city often shrouded in darkness, and their passing had left a void that no amount of sympathy could fill.

 

Now, as he stood alone in the rain-drenched cemetery, watching his parents’ coffins lowered into the ground, Adrian felt a profound emptiness. He had no tears to shed, no energy to grieve. The long, exhausting battle to keep his parents alive had drained him of everything.

 

The battle had also isolated him. The friends and well-wishers who had once flocked to support him had gradually faded away, worn down by the relentless grind of time and the harsh realities of life.

 

Those who had reached out in the early days of his parents’ hospitalization were now distant memories.

 

The rain continued to fall as Adrian watched his parents’ caskets disappear into the earth, their final resting place marked by a simple headstone. The chill of the rain seeped into his bones, matching the cold emptiness inside him.

 

In the end, the only ones to mourn his parents were a few distant acquaintances and the ever-present rain. Adrian’s eyes remained dry, his heart a hollow shell. He felt like a spectator at his own life, disconnected from the world around him.

 

As the car pulled away from the cemetery, Adrian leaned back against the seat, his gaze fixed on the grey, rain-slicked sky. The city, usually a bustling hub of activity, seemed muted, its colors washed out by the relentless downpour.

 

He was tired. Bone-weary and soul-deep, the exhaustion went beyond the physical. It was a fatigue that had seeped into his very being, leaving him feeling hollow and adrift.

 

“Umm, Mr. Hartley.”

 

Adrian Hartley turned his head slowly, the driver’s hesitant voice breaking through the fog of his thoughts. He barely registered the man’s words, his gaze unfocused as he looked up. The realization hit him with a dull thud: he was now the last of the Hartleys in the city.

 

The driver’s face was pale, his eyes flicking nervously to the rearview mirror as he tried to gauge Adrian’s mood. This was the same driver who had refused to take Adrian to the hospital just days before, the last chance he had had to see his parents alive.

 

“That… that…” The driver’s voice faltered.

 

He glanced back at Adrian, searching for some sign of forgiveness or, at the very least, acknowledgment.

 

Adrian’s eyes met the driver’s in the mirror, but he felt nothing. No anger, no sadness, just an empty void where his emotions should have been. The words of reproach he might have hurled at the driver now seemed pointless, drained of all meaning by the weight of his loss.

 

The driver’s behavior had changed since then. His usually brusque manner was now tempered with discomfort. Adrian, ever perceptive from years spent navigating the intricacies of social dynamics at the orphanage, could sense the man’s unease.

 

He knew what the driver wanted—to ease his own guilt, to find absolution in Adrian’s forgiveness.

 

But Adrian had no reason to care. The past few days had stripped him of the energy for such concerns. He turned his gaze back to the window, watching the rain-soaked streets blur by, his mind numb to the world outside.

 

The driver’s silence stretched on as the car made its way through the city. Eventually, they pulled up to the gates of the Kane estate, the imposing mansion looming in the distance.

 

The car rolled to a stop, and Adrian’s eyes fell upon the familiar sight of the sprawling grounds and the towering facade of the mansion. His heart sank. This place, which had once represented a sanctuary of sorts, now felt like a prison.

 

“….”

 

For a long moment, Adrian remained seated, his body unwilling to move. He didn’t want to step back into that world, didn’t want to face the cold, indifferent walls of the mansion that had become his cage.

 

But he had nowhere else to go. The home he had grown up in was long gone, sold to cover the mounting hospital bills. At least then, his parents had been there, even if only in a coma, providing a fragile anchor in his turbulent life.

 

But now, there was no one left to visit, no one left to turn to.

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