Adam held Kara for a long while after their heated session, stroking her hair with his hand and gently rubbing her back in slow motions. Her even breaths against his neck told him that she was probably falling asleep. She had her arms loosely wrapped around his waist, her fingers slightly tucked into the waistband of his jeans that were undone.
“I can practically hear the gears shifting in your mind.”
Kara’s voice jerked him out of his thoughts.
Adam bent his head to kiss the top of hers. “Hush, little raven. Rest now. We have a bit of catching up to do.” He teased her.
She laughed into his shoulder, turning her head and then lifting it up to look at him. It gave him a clear line of sight into her shirt and he liked the press of her soft breasts against his side, her nipples hard against his skin. One of her legs was hooked around his thigh, opening her up to him. If he wanted to, he could easily slip his fingers down there, caress her between her legs and watch her lovely eyes as they turned a darker shade of forest green when she came for him.
Her fingers reached out to touch the center of his forehead and she gently rubbed the spot, frowning a bit. “You look like you’re in pain. Mentally.” She observed with a slight hint of accusation in her voice.
Adam stared into her face, loving the way her expressions so easily displayed to him what she was thinking. He could read her like an open book.
The thought made him smile and he leaned in to kiss her forehead. “Did I tell you that you’re beautiful?”
Kara rolled her eyes but he saw the light pinkening of her cheeks. He fucking adored that. He’d tell her that a million times if she always had that lovely expression as a response. He traced her jaw with his fingers and then moved toward the shell of her ear.
“Adam, you’re avoiding the point I’m trying to make.”
He sighed. Guilt ate him from inside, but he didn’t think there was anything he could do about it.
He knew he had to fight. He had just another five days before Daniel wanted him in the ring, losing the round this time. Adam felt the sickening lurch in his stomach at the very thought of losing on purpose.
He could remember with distinct clarity, the verbal abuse he had suffered all those years ago, at the hands of the guardians who were supposed to protect him from the world and keep him safe. Megan’s parents were decent human beings when money was on the line. But for some reason, having Adam as an extra mouth to feed in their household was something they couldn’t stomach very well.
As a child, he hadn’t been able to understand the reason for their dislike toward him in the beginning. He just thought that if he worked harder, was more perfect, then maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe they’d see that he wasn’t so bad. And just maybe, they could love him, like they did their children.
But those hopes had only lasted for a short period of six months. The snide comments, the mockery, the ignorance had eaten away at his self-esteem consistently and then had begun to dig into his reserve of indifference. There was only so much of a façade that he could pull off.
When the kids at the school had picked on him, he had used that as an opportunity to fight back. He had been beaten once.
And it had been the last time. He had been a big kid and had always seen it as a disadvantage at first. He hadn’t made the same mistake after he had won that first fight.
Daniel had approached him after school one day. Word had gotten around about Adam and he had done nothing to stop it. When Daniel had offered him a chance to redeem himself, earn a sizable chunk of money if he fought for him, in his ring, he had taken the offer and never looked back.
The bloodshed that he had first reveled in, now made him sick. He couldn’t pinpoint when exactly the shift had taken place. He hated how hungry he had been for it before he had come to his senses. He had craved it. The chanting of the crowds, the crunch of bones beneath his punches; it had all served to give him a temporary reprieve from the knowledge that he had never been worthy of love, of being accepted by another for who and what he truly was.
The forceful exhale of breath on his chin made him come back to the present.
And now, here he was, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, telling him that she wanted him- a man with nothing to his name- more than anyone else in the world. And his heart believed it. It basked in her mere presence and it scared him shitless to let Kara know that. What if he didn’t measure up to her standards? Would she leave him then?
The tiny hint of sadness in her voice erased every other thought in his mind.
He gave her a tight smile. “I’m sorry, Kara. I’m just thinking about something that I need to do soon.”
Her eyebrows knit in confusion.
“Is it the fighting that you participate in?”
Adam looked away and blinked before returning her gaze. “Yeah, that.”
She nodded her head and looked at his chest. Lifting a finger, she slowly traced the outline of a swirl of ink he had there.
“Do you like it?” She asked in a quiet voice.
Adam stared at her bent head. “No.”
Her eyes met his and he saw surprise in them, “Then why do you do it?”
He swallowed and began to sit up, gently but firmly setting her away and off him. She immediately folded her legs together, covering herself up.
He ran his fingers through his hair, gripping the strands before letting go. “It’s not that simple.”
She was quiet for a moment before she asked, “Why not?”
Adam gave out a frustrated sigh, “Because, Kara. Can we drop it?”
He knew he was being unfair. He had to. If he got her involved in any way, there was no telling what Daniel could do to her. Or Megan.
When he looked at her, her eyes were wide with surprise and an inkling of hurt but she shrugged her shoulders. “Sure, I didn’t mean to pry.”
Then she grabbed a pair of shorts lying on the corner of the bed and pulled it on, her eyes on the floor.
Adam felt like a jerk for being short with her. He reached out to her, “Kara, I-“
She slipped away, straightening her shirt on her way out. “I’m going to go get something to eat. The food is probably burnt anyway.” She smiled tightly at him and left the room.
Adam let out a low curse when she was gone, dropping his head to his hands. He was fucking this up.
He raised his head to the ceiling, a sense of helplessness coming over him.
He didn’t know when the issue with Daniel would be completely done with.
Adam could walk away. He could leave it all behind and let it all go to hell.
But Red would never survive. And if anything happened to him, Adam would never forgive himself.
Standing up and buttoning his jeans, he went into the bathroom and cleaned himself up.
When he came back to the room, he walked over to the window and rested his hand on the glass. He could see the pink skin of his knuckles that was just beginning to heal better.
He had promised Kara that he’d do anything it took to be what she needed.
And that would have to begin now.
He had to sort the crap with Daniel and get himself and Red out of that bastard’s grip.
He knew he couldn’t have Megan and Kara involved in any way. He was going to make damn sure of that.
Which meant he needed to move out.