Chapter 1 - Taylor
Ten Years Ago (Senior Year)
I ran... because that’s what I did best. Run from my problems. From confrontation. From people like him, who made me feel worthless.
I knew that I lacked courage. That I was a coward, who always looked for the easy way out. But I’d never been the girl with the fast mouth and witty brain, who could think of an appropriate comeback on the spot.
I’d always been the shy, quiet one, in the corner. Hoping like hell that I’d disappear into the background so that no one would pay attention to me.
But unfortunately, that made me an easy target. A target for ruthless hunters like Trent Ashurst, who targeted easy prey and ate them for breakfast. And right now, I was his breakfast...
So I turned around, turning my back to him, feeling the rage and hopelessness washing over me, like I was caught in a current against which I lacked the strength to swim.
I could feel my bottom lip quiver, and the tears stinging in my eyes, making my throat prickle with warmth. And I hoped to God that I’d be able to get out of here without completely breaking down in tears, and humiliating myself further.
“Cat got your tongue, Dawson?” Trent mocked me again.
I balled my fists, feeling my nails digging into the soft flesh of the palm of my hands.
“Ashurst, that’s enough.” A rich voice suddenly barked behind me.
And I wanted to melt and disappear right into the road like molten ice cream on a scorching summer’s day. Because that voice was instantly recognizable. It belonged to the golden boy of Saint Thomas More High. Marcus “Mayhem” Blake. Sex god. Football star. Heartbreaker. And so damn far out of my league.
He caused mayhem wherever he went. With girls’ hearts. On the football field. Hell, just walking down the hallways at school, was enough to cause an outbreak of silent whispers and godlike worshipping stares. And for some reason, today he wanted to come to my rescue... even though the last thing on earth I wanted, was for him to witness my humiliation first-hand...
I was too scared to turn around. Too scared to look at him, in case I’d give away that I’ve had the biggest, violently deep silent crush on him since the moment I first laid eyes on him as a sixteen-year-old when he moved here with his family and started causing mayhem with my heart. Much like every other girl at Saint Thomas More High, truth be told.
Because Mayhem Blake was beautiful. He had the most intense charcoal gray eyes. Dark hair, that somehow made those eyes seem more intense. Cheekbones that could cut through paper, and a jaw that could saw through wood. He was tall and built like he was chiseled from marble, every ridge and sculpted curve designed to absolute perfection.
I swallowed visibly, and stood there frozen, with my back still turned to them both. Hoping that somehow, I’d vanish.
“Stay out of this, Blake. Mind your own business.” Trent said dismissively in Mayhem’s direction.
“It is my damn business. Now back the fuck off, Ashurst.” Mayhem countered, not intimidated in the least.
And I was wondering why the hell he was doing this. Why the hell he chose to intervene and tried to save my pathetic little life from being made a living hell by the likes of Trent Ashurst, today of all days.
“I asked you a question, Dawson. You haven’t answered me yet.”
This time, Trent’s taunt was directed at me again. I looked at him over my shoulder and saw him smirking at me. Completely unintimidated by Marcus, by the looks of it.
“I don’t have to explain my movements to you, Trent,” I said quietly, trying not to aggravate him further. Trying my best just to make a quiet exit, and disappear as quickly as possible, as far away as possible from here.
“I said, back off, Ashurst.” Mayhem stepped in again, his voice louder and more threatening this time. I was still confused as hell as to why exactly he was hanging around, to begin with...
“What’s your problem, Blake? Why do you care?” Trent was losing his temper with Mayhem, fast...
But then, Marcus stepped forward, into my line of sight. He glanced at me sideways, then focused his attention on Trent again.
“Because it’s pathetic that you get your kicks out of trying to intimidate girls. It’s wrong. If you want to pick a fight, have a go at someone like me, who can defend themself.”
I nearly died of embarrassment. Because clearly, Marcus thought that I was weak and defenseless. Roadkill, for someone like Trent.
“I can defend myself.” I croaked out the words, from somewhere. I had no idea where from. Because the cold hard truth was that I was defenseless against someone like Trent. But I didn’t want Mayhem to see me as weak and spineless... so I said it, even though I didn’t believe it.
Marcus looked at me and arched his brows. And I thought I was going to die. Because he looked right at me. Into my eyes. And it felt for a moment as though he was looking into my soul, because he really saw me, for the very first time...
“Sweetheart, no offense. But I’ve noticed Ass Hurts over here likes to give you a hard time. And it shits me to tears that he’s picking on innocent prey, like you.”
I sucked in a breath. Because my first conversation with Mayhem Blake had already taught me two things. One: he had no idea who I was. I’d been invisible to him, he didn’t even know my name. Two: he saw me as weak, innocent prey. An underdog who was completely defenseless. A hopeless girl without a backbone or fighting spirit. And it crushed me...
So, I decided to grow a freaking spine, just then. To show him that he had me all wrong. And perhaps, give him a little something to remember me by...
I took a deep, shaky breath for courage, turned to face Trent, then stepped closer to him. Right up to him. He was way taller than me, and we stood chest to chin, but I looked up to him, eyes blazing. And then I lifted up my hand and slapped him across the face, making him stagger with surprise.
“Don’t think about ever giving me shit again, Ashurst. Because I’ve had it with you. Now back the hell away and let me pass, asshole, or I’ll rip you another one in a second.”
And Trent, still rubbing his cheek that was no doubt stinging from the unexpected meeting between my palm and his skin, actually stepped away, looking confused as hell.
But there was a different expression in his eyes. One that I hadn’t seen before in my life. A look of admiration, and respect. And with another burst of courage that I dug out from somewhere deep inside of me, I flipped the bird at him as I walked past, making my way out the school gate, not taking a second to look back.
But on the inside, I felt like a champagne bottle, shaken up and ready to pop. Because I’d bluffed, and it worked. I finally found the backbone to stand up to the bane of my existence. The bully who had made my high school career to date a living hell. And I knew that I had Mayhem Blake to thank for that...
I heard fast footsteps behind me, and fear tugged at my heart. Because I immediately thought that it was Trent again, seeking revenge, calling my bluff, and making me pay for what I’d just done to him...
‘Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit! Keep walking, legs, quickly!’
I upped my pace, my heart thundering in my ribcage. I was shaking with each step...
“Wait up... Taylor.”
My heart nearly ripped from my chest. Because Mayhem Blake knew my name. And he chased after me... I was no-one in the grand order of things at Saint Thomas More High...
I swallowed visibly and came to a standstill on the sidewalk, turning around to face him, but he clearly wasn’t expecting that, as he rammed right into me, catching me in his arms right as I was tripping over him, jerking me right into his tight, hard chest, and stealing my breath away completely.
His breath fanned warm into the shell of my ear, his hands on my back burning through the fabric of my dress, making me feel light-headed, shaky, and tingling all over. And I couldn’t get a word out...
Our eyes locked, and I could almost hear the click in my mind, as that lock snapped right into place.
I realized that I had my hands on him, too. Resting on that granite-like muscled chest like I was an artist, sculpting him from clay. And for a moment in time, we just looked at each other. Lost in each other’s eyes. And there wasn’t one, single, coherent thought left in my head...
‘Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. Mayhem Blake is touching me...’
“Are you okay?” He finally spoke, still holding me firmly in place, his voice gentle.
I nodded, afraid that my voice would fail me if I tried to get a word out.
His lips curved into a smile. And all I could think about, was those perfect lips kissing mine... I could feel the heat radiating off him in waves, crashing into me and trying to swallow me whole.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog...”
His words smashed against my heart...
“But you’re no underdog, Taylor Dawson. You’re a silent assassin.”
I stopped breathing, just then...
“And what you did back there with Ass Hurts...” He leaned closer to me, our faces mere inches apart so that we shared the same oxygen existing between us... “...was sexy as hell.”
And he slowly moved his lips closer to mine... my heart was about to seep right through my burning skin... I closed my eyes, because he was so, so close to me... and then his lips ghosted over mine, like a feather...
And then all of a sudden, I felt the warmth disappear against me, and I opened my eyes. And Mayhem Blake was no longer standing in front of me.
I wondered if I’d been hallucinating... if I’d imagined the whole thing.
But the feel of his lips still burned on mine, leaving an imprint. And I knew... if before I’d been slightly astray, now I was completely lost. Because Mayhem Blake didn’t just steal my breath. He also stole my heart away.