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Kara looked around the small space, taking in the haphazard arrangement of things. She turned around in a circle, slowly examining everything.
Adam stood just inside the door, leaning against the wall, his shoulder propped up against it.
She felt a bit unnerved knowing that he was watching her intently.
“What do you think?” He said quietly.
Kara turned around and looked into the small alcove that formed the kitchen. “I think it’s nice. Not too small, not too big. It’s just right.” She nodded her head, her eyes straying to the comfy mattress that was placed at one corner of the room.
Adam walked over to where she was. “I haven’t really set it up though. It’s going to take a while.”
Kara agreed, “Yeah, you might need to get yourself a couple of other things too.”
There was a moment of silence and she almost jumped when his fingers gently caught hers.
“Can we sit down and talk?” He held her hand in his, pulling her to him slowly.
She nodded, “Okay.”
Adam led her to the kitchen table that had two chairs near it. Pulling one out for her, he waited till she sat down and seated himself, pulling his chair closer to hers till both her knees were between his.
“Did you eat at the party?”
Kara stared at him. That was unexpected.
“I did. Did you have dinner?”
Adam nodded, his gaze focused on her completely.
Kara had to look away. The intensity with which he was watching her was too much to take.
“What did you have?” She looked around the kitchen. “There isn’t a lot of stuff in here.”
“We’re a couple now, right?”
Kara turned to him in surprise. “What?”
He was staring at her with a hint of a blush in his cheeks and that shocked her.
“We,” He pointed between the two of them. “We’re a couple now, correct?”
Kara opened her mouth and then shut it. The hesitancy in her expression made him stiffen, his eyes going wide. “We’re not?” He asked her, disbelief in his voice.
It made Kara want to roll her eyes.
She pulled her hand away and stood, moving to the counter and leaning her hip against it. “Adam, you hurt me. Really bad.” She said it flatly, knowing that she had to say this. If he hurt her in the same manner again, she didn’t know how she’d deal with it.
She saw him look away and swallow hard.
“I know that, Kara. I’m really sorry-“
She cut him off, “I know you are. And the reason I’m telling you this is not so that you apologize to me again. The reason I’m saying it is that I need you to know that you can’t treat me that way. Not again. Never again, Adam.” She was shocked to feel the slight hitch in her voice.
He must have noticed it too because he immediately stood up and made to come to her.
Kara took a step to the side and held her hand up, motioning for him to stop.
“Could you stay there?” She asked softly, observing his expression. “Having you closer makes it difficult to think clearly.” She admitted with reluctance.
She saw Adam’s eyes widen momentarily and then the hint of a smile appeared on his lips before he pursed them and stepped back, giving her space.
Kara looked down at her shoes, then up at the table and then finally back to Adam.
“If we’re to have any sort of relationship, Adam, I think it’s really important to begin with being honest with each other.” She swallowed, worried when he went still at her declaration. Kara continued, knowing she had to do this, “I can’t have a relationship with someone who doesn’t trust me,” she looked at the floor, “You can’t love me if you don’t trust me.”
A long silence followed her statement.
When she looked up at Adam, he was staring back at her with a determined expression on his face.
“It’s not you that I don’t trust, Kara.” He explained in a low voice. “It’s me.”
Before her, Adam ran his fingers through his hair, messing up the strands, making her want to comb it all back down with her own fingers.
He made a motion to come toward her, “May I?”
When she nodded, he closed the distance between them, coming close to her so that he had his arms on either side of her waist, his legs touching hers. With the lack of space between their bodies, Kara could smell the scent of his cologne. She instinctively took a deep breath.
Adam surprised her again when he gathered her into his arms and laid his cheek on the top of her head. Just holding her close.
“Are you sure you want the truth, Kara?”
She didn’t answer him and he sighed.
“Do you promise that you won’t see me differently?”
The note in his voice caught at her heart. She brought her arms that were by her side, to wrap securely around his waist, burrowing into him.
The familiar feel of safety washed over her. with Adam, she could never be afraid.
“I was fourteen when I won my first fight.” Kara went quiet, her breaths overtly loud in her ears. Adam hugged her even tighter and pulled her into him. “I made a mess of it all, Kara, and now it’s time that I need to pay for that crap.”
Kara stiffened, not liking where this was going.
“I need to lose a couple of fights for the guy I owe money to. It’s a manipulation. Daniel doesn’t like to lose and I was his best fighter.” He buried his face in her hair and continued softly. “I wanted to leave it all behind and start anew but he somehow managed to find me and someone else that I can’t leave behind. So I need to fight. I need to pay back the money he lost because of me.” He stepped away slightly and looked down at her.
“Do you understand why I have to do it, Kara?” His eyes implored hers.
Kara looked at his neck, trying to process the information he had just given her.
“I’m guessing you’re not allowed to go to the police about this?”
Adam shook his head, “No. The fighting itself is not approved by the law. But Daniel has a couple of cops on his payroll. If I approach any of them, word will get back to him and there’s no telling what he might do.”
“There has to be another way, Adam.”
He sighed, “There isn’t, Kara. I’ve tried everything.”
He gently stroked her hair, “I just need to lose the next two fights and then I’ll be able to leave it all behind.”
She looked at him incredulously, “But what if something happens to you, Adam? What if you get injured so bad that you’re hurt beyond repair?”
He looked at her mouth thoughtfully. “I won’t let that happen.”
She shook her head in disbelief, “And your willpower is supposed to make me feel better?”
“Does that mean you still care about me?”
Kara stared at him open-mouthed.
Then she punched him in the stomach.
Adam stumbled back at the sudden blow and looked at her, shock all over his face.
“Did you just-“ He couldn’t seem to form the sentence.
“Don’t humor me. You hardly felt it.” She snapped at him.
He suddenly grinned, “Yeah, I just didn’t want you to feel bad. You do punch like a girl.” He chuckled.
She rushed him again, trying to shove him away so she could leave the kitchen but he caught her fist in his palm, so easily, it made Kara want to hit him with something.
He bought her enclosed fist to his mouth and kissed the clenched knuckles.
“Stay with me, Kara.”
Butterflies broke free in her stomach at the thought of spending the night with him.
“I promise I won’t try anything funny.” He crossed his heart and raise his hand as if in surrender.
When she hesitated still, he stepped closer.
“I just want to sleep next to you.” He cupped her cheek in his palm, bringing her closer to him.
Kara chastised herself for succumbing to it.
At her acquiescence, he smiled and kissed her forehead.
Kara hoped that her heart had chosen rightly.