Monster (excerpt)

“Come. Sit here,” he said, motioning toward the seat next to his arm chair.

“No,” she said, remaining in her place.

Maxim tilted his head slightly. “Please,” he said. “I’ve missed you.” Still, August didn’t move. With a sigh, Maxim said, “I’m not a monster.”

“No? What’s worse than a monster?”

He let out a short chuckle. “Me, I suppose?” August said nothing. “I’ve missed you,” he repeated. “I’m glad I got to see you again before…” His voice trailed off a moment. “Anyway, thank you. For coming.”

August glared at him. “I’m not here for you,” she spat. “The only reason I agreed to step foot in this house again was because Juliette told me that Olivia’s been having some trouble adjusting. If it weren’t for her, you would die without ever seeing my face again.”

“Well, then,” he said, seemingly unfazed by her piercing words. “I guess I’ll thank Olivia. Another time.” August grimaced. “But you’re wrong, you know,” he went on. “I see your face all the time. Every day. Every time I close my eyes, there you are.” And lowering her voice, he said, “Nothing has changed.”

With that, August was on her feet, making her way toward him. Did she see him flinch? Cower a little, if only for a moment? The possibility gave her strength, added fuel to the fire burning in the pit of her stomach. “That’s what I’m afraid of, Maxim.” She leaned over him. “If I ever find out you hurt Olivia—”

“Don’t you dare,” he shot back. “Remember, AJ, it takes two to tango.”

August recoiled as if she’d been slapped. “I was just a child!” she cried in a hushed whisper. But Maxim remained impassive.

“You were never just a child,” he said.

“Is that what you tell yourself?” she demanded. “Is that what helps you sleep at night?” He opened his mouth to reply but she took another menacing step forward and he remained silent. “You better not ever touch her. Don’t even look at her. I swear to God, Maxim, if you do, I will make Cancer the least of your problems.”

He scoffed and shook his head. “What could I possibly do to her? Look at me. I’m harmless.”

Staring him straight in the eye, she growled, “Well, I’m not.”

And still, Maxim sat unaffected, unmoved. “Like I said,” he replied. “You never were.”

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