Prevailing Love

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12. Protect You

Shane Rikers

I need to get drunk. Desperately. Fuck cleaning up my act. I need some lean and a pretty girl with zero expectations. I need whatever it will take for me to be completely numb. Numb from my wants, my fears, my stupidity. I want to drown my feelings for Raine in liquor. I can’t care for her the way I do, because everytime I care for people like this it bites me in the fucking ass.

I’m so desperate and stupid for girls and booze that I’m at a fucking frat again even though I swore off them after those assholes jumped me the last time. I can almost hear both Raine and Marcus’ voices in my head warning me that this is an idiotic idea. But it's the only thing I’ve got in ways of coping mechanisms, despite how toxic it's become. How toxic it's probably always been.

I’m currently in a corner nursing a beer by myself, becoming increasingly frustrated by the fact that I’m still alone. It normally doesn’t take long when I’m at one of these things for girls to come flocking to me. I’ve never had to actually try to find a conquest. They always find me. So what the fuck is up? I can’t be that rusty.

Sure it's been a while since I’ve been at a party because of a certain someone and Marcus busting my balls, but I can’t have the word pussywhipped written all over my face now can I? I can feel my luck changing as a busty redhead struts my way. Finally something good is happening. I chug the rest of my beer as she stops in front of me.

“What’s got you in this corner all by yourself? Are you in timeout for being a bad boy?” She asks her voice husky and sultry. She has one thing on her mind, making her a perfect distraction.

“Why? You plan on punishing me further baby?” I ask, my words already beginning to slur. Her green eyes are filled with dark promises. She was an average sort of pretty, her face done all up. Nothing about this girl screams “natural beauty”. She doesn’t shine a light to my lip gloss. Fuck. Stop thinking about her you asshat.

“Oh I plan on doing many things to you,” She smirks. Tired of the chit chat and needing to be distracted right now, I grab her hand and hurry with her down the hall and into the first spare bedroom I can find. We interrupt at least three couples before I find a gloriously empty room and bed. She surprises me by turning me around and throwing me down on the bed and immediately straddling me. She crashes her lips to mine, loud wet smacks of our lips and tongues meting permeating the air. The kiss is sloppy, and as she begins to trail her lips down my neck, my thoughts begin to wander. And instead of red hair spilling on the pillows around me, I begin to imagine brown, curly hair. When she raises her head to stare at me, I only see the flickering image of green eyes morphing into innocent brown ones that can equally flame in anger and passion towards me. Fuck. I don’t want to think about her. I can’t think about her. She wants something from me I just can’t give. I will only hurt Raine if I act on what every fiber of my beings craves.

So I sit up, flip the redhead over, and crash my lips to hers again. I try desperately to drown out my thoughts of Raine, of her glossy lips and no bullshit attitude. Her caramel skin. The way she smiles at me even when I’m being an idiot or an asshole. Shit. I need to get my clothes off right now.

“Strip.” I demand, and the redhead is almost too eager, slipping off her shirt is a rush and flinging her skirt to the other end of the room. I begin to unbuckle my pants but her hand stops me short, her long, fake fingernails gripping my wrist.

“Allow me,” She says, trying to sound sexy but she mostly just sounds out of breath. I close my eyes as she unzips me and shoves my jeans down my thighs. Her hand trails up and begins to caresses me but I frown because-

“You… your not-”

“Fuck” I curse under my breath at first, before my volume gets increasingly louder. “I can’t do this,” I mumble, shoving myself off of the bed and almost tripping over my feet. What was I doing? Trying to fuck some random girl I didn’t know the name of while having the face of another seared in my brain. I can’t have random hookups anymore. This is who I was before lipgloss, but everything is different now. Because of her. And I have royally screwed shit up with her.

“Where are you going?!” Crimson hair screeches, but I ignore her as I stumble out of the room, one destination in mind. A random hookup wouldn’t make me forget about the only girl that mattered. The only girl who saw me for who I am. For who I want to be. For her. For myself.

I knock again on her door, feeling anxious. I sobered up slightly on the walk here, but I know that if she smells the alcohol on me that’s not gonna help my case. Not that I have much of a chance of this going well anyways. She’s probably pissed at me, and rightly so. I think any girl would be pissed if a guy kissed her outside of restaurant while both of their dates were inside, then proceeds to leave as quickly as possible without so much as a glance back or a call. Fuck. She’s gonna slam the door in my face.

When the door finally swings open I can actually feel my heartbeat in my throat. I’m still caught off guard sometimes by my body’s reaction to lip gloss. I feel like such a sap by the way my heart freaking races at the sight of her. Shits voodoo. However, one look at her face tells me something is really, really wrong.

“Fuck lip gloss. What’s wrong baby?” I can see a myriad of emotions flicker across her face: anger, sadness, hurt, mistrust. Fear. But I don’t wait for her to say anything or even invite me in. I step into the doorway and crush her to my chest. The way her shoulders shake as she cries literally shatters something inside of me.

“Shh baby girl. I got you. You’re okay now. You’re safe.”

Laying here, with Raine in my arms, her head resting on my chest, is fucking paradise. The feel of her skin, her warmth, nothing tops it. This shit is nirvana. But I know we can’t just lay here forever. Too many words are being left unsaid. I’ve been laying here, consoling her until her cries quieted down. We’ve sat in a comfortable silence ever since.

“I’m sorry,” I mumble, having to clear my throat slightly so she could hear me clearly. She turns her face towards mine, staring at me quietly for a few moments before sitting up. She goes to say something but I interrupt her.

“I’m sorry for the way I acted on that date. I’m sorry I kissed you. Not because I did it, but because of the circumstances and the way I acted afterwords. You deserved better than that. The way I feel about you lip gloss… fuck. It terrifies me sometimes. You’ve been on my mind every second since that kiss,” I confess, letting her see pieces of myself that I’m not sure what she’ll do with. She bites down her beautiful lips, making me want to groan in pure torture. She must not have a clue about what she does to me.

“My feelings for you scare me too,” She whispers, her eyes so gorgeous and vulnerable. I can’t help myself but lean forward and peck her lips gently. Nothing like the frenzy mess it was the last time, but equally as passionate. Equally as world rocking. I pull away from her, my every single instinct screaming at me not to.

“Is this okay?” I gasp in a whisper. “I know you were upset when I got here-” Now it's her cutting me off by pressing her mouth to mine, her lips caressing mine. She gasps into my mouth, little cries escaping her as I grip her hips and move her fully on top of me, her hips grinding against me, making me go insane. Her hands clutch tightly at my shoulders as she molds her mouth to mine, her tongue peeking out and tangling with mine. A deep, low growl emanates from my chest. She’s driving me crazy. She presses her chest to mine, her breasts brushing against me. Fuck.

“Lip gloss,” I groan, but she just shushes me, her little hands sliding up and under my shirt, gently rubbing the skin of my stomach and chest, causing me to moan. Her lips soon replace her hands and I swear I can feel my mind leave Earth as her kisses continue to travel dangerously lower and lower…

“Fuck Raine. That’s enough,” I growl, getting a strong grip on her hips again and flipping her over and pinning her beneath me on the mattress. She gasps, and I swear it's the sexiest noise I’ve ever heard in my entire life.

I trap her hands in both of mine, raising them above her head and pressing them into the bed. I dive down and kiss her lips again a few times before trailing kisses down her jawline and peppering her neck, sucking sweetly behind her ear and becoming unbearably hard at the sound of her moans. I continue down her body, pausing briefly at the top of her chest. My eyes meet hers and I wish I could take a picture and frame the way she looks right now. Her hair disheveled, her gorgeous brown eyes blown wide, her lips puffy from my kisses. She is the epitome of perfection. She just smiles at me, nodding her head slightly before running her hands through my hair. I continue my pursuit.

I start off by gently kissing the top of her breasts, her chest beginning to rise and fall more rapidly at my ministrations. I grip the bottom of her tank top and pull it down, exposing her more to me. I kiss her over her bra and she gasps, clutching my head to her chest tightly. I slide her bra strap off her shoulder slowly, before swooping down and taking her into my mouth, wanting to groan and how soft and sweet her skin feels and tastes. Her back arches off the bed, my name leaving her lips in soft gasps.

“Shane,” She breathes, her words a plea.

I suckle at her breasts, feeling myself get harder by the second. My mind is consumed by all things Raine. Her taste. The sound of her moans. The way her brown eyes lock me in at just one glance. Her body’s immediate and gratifying response to the way I touch her. Her breathless begging…

I have to stop now.

I detach myself from her, sitting up and glancing down at her beneath me, and I have to catch my breath. She’s so amazing, so perfect lying sprawled out before me. Fuck, how could I ever drag myself away from her?

“What’re you doing Shane? Come back,” She whispers, running her hands up my arms and clutching at my shoulders. I close my eyes, and I swear it takes every bit of sheer will power inside of me to grip her wrists and take her hands off of me. I move her bra back into place and re-adjust her tank top. She’s still staring up at me dubiously.

“We can’t baby,” I say, feeling every instinct of mine fighting these words. But I know it’s the right thing to do. I have to do right by this girl.

“I care too much about you to screw this up. You’re not just another hookup to me lip gloss. I don’t wanna just fuck you. You mean more to me than that. I want to do this right. You deserve more,” I say, kissing her sweetly one last time before rolling off of her. I take a few moments to myself, trying to get my raging hard on to calm the fuck down. I feel her body weight shift on the bed as she sits up. Her arms wrap around me from behind, her lips kissing softly against my neck.

“Okay,” She says simply. I turn to face her and am met by her wide grin. My heart stumbles at the sight.

“But you can at least come back to bed and cuddle me though, right?” She asks, her lips pouting at me. Damn she’s irresistible.

“I don’t think I can refuse you anything,” I mutter, laying back down and crushing her to my chest.

“You say that like it's a bad thing,” she says cheekily. I laugh.

“Stop. You’ll make me think I’m corrupting you already.” We sit in comfortable silence for I don’t know how long before the questions plaguing my mind become too insistent for me not to ask.

“Why were you so upset when I got here? And don't tell me you were crying because of me. That’ll fucking break my heart lip gloss,” I murmur, running my hands soothingly up and down her arms while pressing my lips softly against her forehead. I can’t keep my hands off of her. I don’t know how I ever held myself back from her before.

“No it wasn't you. I was mostly pissed off at you. And I could really turn this around and ask why you smelled like beer when you got here. But I won’t.” She says, cuddling closer to me. I can’t stop my curiosity though.

“C’mon lip gloss. Don’t shut me out. Tell me what’s bothering you. Also… a few weeks ago, you flinched away from me. Like, like I was gonna hurt you or something. Has someone hurt you before?” I ask quietly, my heart equal parts breaking and thunderously pumping. I can feel my fists clenched at the thought of anyone touching her, let alone hurting her…

She sighs deeply, shifting her weight before sitting up fully to face me. That fiery, sexy glow that was on her face moments ago has been replaced by a quiet, somber look that worries me. Just the thought of whatever made her so upset has completely changed her persona. She’s withdrawn.

“I don’t think I ever told you why I transferred here. ” She starts off. I grab her hand, squeezing it reassuringly. I want her to know that I’m here. That she can trust me.

“I remember overhearing you mentioning it at that party where we first met.”

“You were listening to me huh? I thought you were a bit… preoccupied that night,” She laughs while I cringe. Yeah, not one of my finest moments.

“I was trying to… distract myself that night. I just wanted to be numb. But it was impossible to not notice you though. You captivated me the moment I laid eyes on you. I didn’t even spend the night with that girl believe it or not,” Her eyebrows raise speculatively at me, but whether she chooses to trust my words or not I’ll never know, because she continues speaking.

“Well I transferred here from the University of Kentucky as you know. It wasn’t exactly voluntary though. I loved that school. I loved every single thing about it. The professors, my classes, the location was close to my childhood home, all of my friends go there. Generations upon generations of my family members are alumni at that school. My parents met there and fell in love. I felt welcomed at that school. Safe even. But that all changed because of one person,” Raine says, a lone tear trickling down her face. I wipe it away with my thumb, feeling hopeless against whatever demon is haunting her.

“I met my ex, Miles, through mutual friends of my parents. We were both at the same charity event to raise even more money for the school, not that it truly needed it. I had no idea who he was at first, just that he was extremely handsome and charming. I remember when he first approached me, I felt so lucky. Lucky that a guy as beautiful as him would even notice someone as plain as me at an event crawling with beautiful girls. I think he must’ve sensed how awed I was by him, hell how awed every girl was.

It’s comical now to think about it. Meeting him was the worst mistake I ever made. I found out a few weeks later that he was the son of the dean, and practically loaded with cash. But I never cared about that. It wasn’t important to me.” Raine begins, and I clutch her hand tighter in mine as it begins to shake.

“Everyone thought we were this perfect couple. I guess on the outside it might’ve appeared that way. But Miles has this dark side to him that he hides from everyone. He even hid it from me pretty well before things got really bad.

It started out slowly before his behavior escalated. He started to get angrier and angrier with me. At first it was just him raising his voice at me when he thought I did something wrong or disrespectful. Then the name calling would start. If I didn’t answer his phone calls fast enough I was a cheating whore. He would say everything I did was stupid. If I ever disagreed with him I got called a bitch, a slut, you name it. I swear it felt like he changed in a blink of an eye. He used to make me so happy. Made me feel so beautiful. So loved. But he slowly but surely morphed into a monster.

But it was all behind closed doors. He was the perfect boyfriend, son, and student in everyone else’s eyes. His reputation meant everything to him. So he played it up in front of our friends and family. Was doting, affectionate, and just perfect. In those rare moments, I could almost believe that he really loved me.” Her words trail off as she gets choked up. I pull her closer to me, hopelessly praying that if I hold her tight enough it might just erase every bad thing she’s ever experienced.

“Anyway,” She says after collecting herself for a few moments, “he treated me completely different when no one was around. Before I could even comprehend his mental and emotional abuse he had resorted to hitting me to get his point across.” My breath catches in my throat at her words, and white hot fury blazes through my veins. That asshole laid his hands on her?

“The first few times he did it he was practically a sobbing mess. Swearing to me it wouldn’t ever happen again, that he loved me and hated himself for hurting me. I was scared, and I thought that what he and I had was love so I accepted his words. Accepted every lie he spoon fed me. But it kept happening. Over and over again. He never stopped,” She sobs, and I don’t think I have ever felt so much anger and sadness before in my life. Anger at that asshole for raising a hand to her, for telling her or making her believe she was anything less than absolute beauty and perfection. Sadness for her pain, her burden.

“What happened baby? Did you tell anyone? Tell me that fucking prick got what was coming to him.”

“I was too scared to tell anyone at first. He threatened me. Said he’d hurt me, my family, get me kicked out of school. Swore he’d get my parents fired from their jobs and that my brother Trey would never earn his degree. He said if anyone ever found out, or if I broke up with him, I was as good as dead,” She shudders, her doe brown eyes glasslike with tears.

“But it got so much worse. It became more and more difficult to hide from people. At first, he’d only hit me where the bruises would be unnoticeable. But he began slipping up and getting increasingly more violent. He began slapping and… and punching me in the face,” she whispers. “During one of the worst of his episodes I ended up blacking out. I woke up scared to death. I knew he would kill me if I didn’t tell anyone, or if no one ever figured it out.

The bruises became increasingly harder to hide. Makeup can only do so much. It wasn’t long before all my friends started questioning me, but I came up with so many excuses. He made me into a master manipulator. But, I knew deep down it would be impossible to hide it from my parents. Especially my mom. So I avoided going home on the weekends and Miles forced me to spend Thanksgiving with his family. But there was no way I could avoid my own family during winter break.

My mom was already suspicious about me not being around much. I remember how I begged Miles not do do anything the week of finals, which was the week before I was gonna go back home for winter break. I tried my hardest to not upset him that week. I did everything he asked. I didn’t talk back, didn’t argue or question him. All so he wouldn’t hurt me. So I wouldn’t be forced to look into my mother’s eyes and lie to her of all people,” Raine cries, utter anguish coating her words and I just kept holding her tight. Kept trying to hold her together so she can finish letting this all go before she falls apart.

“B-but he, he,” She quivers, and I cup her chin, forcing her to look into my eyes.

“Raine, you are the strongest goddamn person I have ever met. Fuck him for all that he did to you. You never deserved that. No one deserves to be treated like that. Do you hear me? He doesn’t get your tears, or your sadness. He has no hold over you. You’re here, you’re safe, and you’re with me. I’ll be damned if he or anyone else ever lays a goddamn finger on you,” I curse, meaning every single word that left my mouth. She stares at me, and I can read the gratitude painted on her features. She takes a deep breath.

“When finals ended and nothing happened between us, I thought I was out of the woods. But I was so, so wrong. When I got finished with my last final, he sent me a text asking me to meet him at his parents house. I went without questioning him. I figured I could handle one more night with him incident free since the entire week nothing bad had happened. When I arrived he was acting different. He was being sweet. Treating me how he did when we first met, acting the way he normally did around others. I didn’t question his behavior. Hell, I didn’t want to. He was finally acting like the person I fell in love with. The person I had always prayed he’d wake up and be again.

But it was all fake. A game. Like everything was with him. He had ulterior motives that night,” She says quietly, sitting up and leaning over me to reach for something on her bedside table. Confused, I go to ask her what’s she’s doing before I see what she’s grabbed. A ring.

“He proposed to me that night. He had the fucking audacity to ask me to spend the rest of my life with him. When I refused, excuse after excuse spilling out of my mouth about how we were too young, that I wanted to finish college first, that my parents wouldn’t approve, he beat me. It was bad Shane. I woke up in the hospital the next day, bruised, bloodied, and little to no memory of what had happened the night before. Sometimes I still wish my memories of that night never returned. Maybe it all would hurt less,” She whispers.

“Lip gloss…” I trail off, at a loss for words. Who the fuck could do that to another person?

“When I woke up in the hospital, my family and friends were all there. Miles had told everyone l that I fell down the stairs. But the doctor and my parents knew that was bullshit. I tried to cover for Miles, but when my mom forced everyone to leave the room and got me all alone, I broke down and confessed everything. She held me in her arms as we both cried.

I haven’t seen Miles since that day. I begged my mom to not pressure me about pressing charges. Because what was the point? He was the fucking dean’s son and loaded as shit. He would get off with a slap to the wrist. So I unenrolled from the University of Kentucky, found out about my estranged aunt and uncle who live here in Muncie, and I transferred to Ball State. I just wanted to forget my past, forget about Miles, and pray that he wouldn’t find me. But then I got this ring today, just fucking sitting on my bedside table waiting to taunt me. And two weeks ago I got a letter that said I was being watched. I’m not safe here. I’m not safe anywhere.”

And that was the moment she fell apart, her past and her pain finally being released from her chest in the form of shuddering cries. I held her to me, never letting my grip falter. I soothed her as best as I could, staring down at the girl who I was dangerously falling for, dangerously fast. But I couldn’t stop it if I tried. Not that I would ever try again. She’s got me hooked.

“I will protect you with every piece of my being if you let me baby. I will never intentionally harm you or let anyone else do so otherwise. Know that as long as I’m around you’re safe,” She nods, and I lie back in bed, taking her with me. Shutting off her bedside lamp, I lie there wide awake as her tears quieten before falling silent, her breathing light and even. Only then do I allow myself to fall asleep too.

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