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.