The Institute:Daddy Issues(128)

By: Evangeline Anderson

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.