The Institute:Daddy Issues(116)

By: Evangeline Anderson



“Da—of course I am ser­i­ous.” He nod­ded. “I want you—I have since we first met and the Cap­tain put us to­gether.”

“But…but what about the way we ‘play’ to­gether?” I asked. “What about that?”

“I want that too,” Salt said softly. “I want you as Andi, my tough part­ner who I can trust when we are out on the streets. And I want you as mishka, my sweet Baby­girl who likes to cuddle in her Papa’s lap. I want all of you—be­cause I love you.” His voice went low and hoarse as he spoke. “I love you so much, my darling.”

“Oh…Oh, Salt…Papa…” I didn’t know what to call him. I only knew my eyes were welling up with tears and I could barely breathe I was so filled with emo­tion.

I sank down on the floor be­side him and Salt pulled me into his lap. We sat there on the dance floor to­gether with no one to judge us or say the way we loved each other was strange or wrong be­cause we were alone.

Ex­cept we weren’t alone, I real­ized—we had each other. And Salt was ask­ing me to make that a per­man­ent ar­range­ment. Be­cause he loved me—just the way I was. Flawed and needy and with enough Daddy is­sues to keep a whole team of shrinks busy for years.

He loved me.

I pressed my cheek to his and wrapped my arms around his neck.

“I love you too,” I whispered.

“Then this is a yes?” Salt asked and I real­ized I’d never answered his ques­tion.

“Yes,” I said, half laugh­ing, half cry­ing. I pulled back to look at him and saw an ex­pres­sion of pure re­lief on his face.

“I was afraid I had gone too far. That all this was too much.” He waved a hand, in­dic­at­ing the red and sil­ver dec­or­ated aud­it­or­ium.

“No,” I said, smil­ing. “No, it was just right—just per­fect.”

“You are per­fect,” he mur­mured, strok­ing my cheek.

And I real­ized that to him, I was.

“Thank you,” I whispered, feel­ing small and safe in his arms. “Thank you so much for tak­ing me to the dance. And thank you for lov­ing me even though…even though I need…what I need.”

“Do not be ashamed of the way we love each other, mishka,” he mur­mured, lift­ing my chin to look into my eyes. “You just need your Papa. And now I am here—and I swear to you, my darling, I will never leave you again.”

I let him slip the gor­geous ring on my fin­ger and snuggled close, feel­ing more safe and se­cure than I had since I was nine years old.

Other people might not un­der­stand us—they might think we were sick or wrong to ex­press our love the way we did. But I didn’t care any­more what any­one might think if they knew about us. Salt loved me the way I needed to be loved—he gave me what no other man ever had—un­con­di­tional love and the prom­ise to be there when I needed him.

Forever.

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