Crossroads: Book 1

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Chapter 17

Mike


A few hours have gone by, and she’s expelled quite a bit of vomit. I ended up throwing it all out in the backyard and washed the buckets. Her breathing has returned to normal; she has been able to drink more water and is now asleep, secure and snug under the white sheets of her bed. I can’t peel my eyes away from her while sitting at her white wooden desk. Her life was minutes away from being turned upside down. She was almost raped.

My hands run through my hair and down my face. I never should have left those two days. I should have stayed here, make amends and apologize for nearly kissing her; I shouldn’t have let it go that far in the first place. Knowing that she wanted me to kiss her made me want to explore her mouth and all the possibilities. It would have been a mistake, so I did the responsible thing and tore myself away from the temptation. It’s as if she is forbidden fruit. I obviously want something I can’t have.

Sure, Mike. Just keep telling yourself that, like that’s the only reason.

I shouldn’t have teased the poor girl into telling me her feelings in that kitchen, but I did. I wanted to hear her say it, to tell me what she wants from me, to tell me how I make her feel. I know it must have bothered her after I left that one day. I’m such an ass. The only reason I had to leave was to take care of some club business. Stupid Jace needed my help with a gun deal - after what happened with those drugs, I don’t trust him to make any deal without me again.

Jace.

I blame him for ending up right here: in this white wooden chair with this sparkly pink cushion. He’s the reason why I am enduring a room that smells like coconuts, watching an angel’s body rise and fall with steady breaths under the dim glow of her lamp.

She doesn’t know any of this. She probably thinks I was trying to avoid her - that I’m some crazy person that’s hot and cold all the time. I probably am crazy. I’m a lunatic. I’m a masochist lunatic... I know it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken this job. Knowing exactly what I do to her, fuels me - I want her. I do. I shouldn’t. But I do. Oh, all the things I want to do to her – with her...

I shake my head from that thought.

What the fuck is wrong with me? I never get emotionally attached to any woman – ever. I can’t get emotionally involved. She needs to be the one to fall in love with me so I can keep her close. I cannot develop feelings for this chick.

She is a job, Mike.

The girl makes it so damn difficult with her attitude, curiosity, the way I make her nervous, how I’ve made her laugh. Those eyes, I can stare into those beautiful eyes all day, every day. Damn, she is gorgeous, she’s too good for me...

She is a job.

If she were mine, maybe we wouldn’t have gone to that party, and none of this would have happened. Or, we would have gone together, she was so excited to go to her first party; I wouldn’t have been able to say ‘no’ to her. However, I would have never let her accept any drink given to her by anyone but me. I would have protected her. Covering my face in my hands, I groan. I should have gotten there sooner. Shit – this is all my fault. It’s not even Donny’s fault. No, it’s his fault too, she was in his care, I thought she’d be okay - lapse of judgment on my part.

Raising my gaze to her, I wonder why she was calling out for me? Who were those assholes that held her in the bedroom? The taller one looked a little familiar, but I can’t seem to place him. Whose house was that anyways? Who called the cops? Probably the jock. I’m glad I got us out of there when we did; otherwise, I’d be suffering through interrogation instead of being here, watching over her.

Perhaps I should have shot them. I should have just ended their lives, so I don’t have to worry about them coming after Elena again. No, no, Mike, we don’t just go around killing people when we feel like it – you would have ended up in cuffs for sure. I roll my eyes at my conscience and study the broken skin on my knuckles.

“No! Stop!” I hear frantic mumbles. My eyes cut from my hands to see Elena thrashing around in her bed, tangling herself up in her blankets. She’s probably having a flashback. I immediately jump off the chair to rush over to her.

Caressing her arm with the tips of my fingers, I try to calm her as gently as I can. “Hey, shh. Kitten, you’re alright. Wake up.”

“Go away!” she mumbles louder, her eyes are screwed shut.

“Wake up, Elena – please.” Enhancing my touch on her arm, I push her a bit to wake her up. Those eyes suddenly pop open wide, and her body stills when she sees me. My hands reach for her face to wipe away her sweat-soaked matted hair from her eyes so I can see them better. She’s so beautiful.

“Mike?” The girl is confused. “You’re still here?” she whispers. I nod my head as she reaches for my hand that I have resting on her cheek.

I clear my throat. “Uh, yeah.” Right away, I remove my hand before doing something incredibly stupid – like kiss her. Now is not the right time. The right time is never; my conscience is really annoying me tonight. “I just wanted to make sure that you were going to be okay... I’ll leave now.” I start to stand.

“No.” She’s quick to protest as she latches onto my hand. My chest unexpectedly feels warm. Not sure what to think of that.

“You want me to stay?” I ask. Shit that sounded more desperate than I’d prefer.

She pulls her hair behind a dainty ear and looks up at me. “Uhm...yeah. Please? I’ll feel safer knowing I’m not here alone.”

Nodding my head once, I move the chair closer to the bed and sit in front of her.

Elena eyes me for a moment. “Are you in short supplies of shirts?” she asks with a little curve of her lips. At least some humor has resurfaced. The question did catch me off guard, though. Looking down, I realize that I’m still shirtless from putting my shirt on her; she looks amazing in it, but now’s not the time to bring up how hot she looks in my clothes.

With a clear of my throat once again, I say, “Uh, no, I put mine on you.” I gesture towards the black Atticus shirt she’s wearing. Looking down, then back up at me, concern flashes in her eyes.

“How am I wearing your shirt?” Her voice breaks. It’s a valid question.

Shit, I don’t want her freaking out. What if she thinks that I tried to... not delaying for a second longer, I hold my hands up. “I found you without any clothes on. I didn’t look, I swear. I didn’t touch you. You have to believe me,” I strain.

She blinks. “I believe you...” Her voice trails off. Probably trying to connect the dots. Apprehensively, she asks, “Where’s my dress?”

How do I say this? “Uhm... your dress was too ruined to be able to cover you,” I say slowly, pointing to the dress that is on the floor by the bed. Her eyes widen.

“What? No!” she screeches, reaching for the wadded blue ball. She nearly falls off the bed, so I lunge to steady her.

“Be careful,” I scorn. “Your body is still trying to recover.”

A sniffle breaks through her nose; those eyes capture mine. “Thank you for saving me,” she whispers. I can feel her breath graze my skin; I am so close to her. There’s an urge to wrap my arms around her, to hold her for the rest of the night... But I can’t. I won’t. It will only lead to feelings. So, I release my grip.

“It was nothing,” I say blankly, resting back into the chair.

A sigh escapes her amongst a few more tears as she carefully strokes her dress. “I loved this dress.”

“I’m sorry. It’s all my fault, Elena. I should never have let you go – not without me, anyway.” My head drops in shame.

There’s a dusting of a touch on my arm. “No, it’s not. It’s mine.” I jolt my head up to glare at her. How dare she think it’s her fault.

“It is. I wanted to go to that party with Declan. I drank what was given to me. I shouldn’t have done that. I’ve learned my lesson,” she says, a few more tears fall as her head drops to bury it in the blue cotton she’s holding.

“If you hadn’t found me... my first time... a rape.” It’s muffled, and there are sobs in between, but I heard it: First time. First time?

“What?” No other word comes out. I need her to clarify.

Maybe I didn’t hear what I think I heard. Fuck. If it is what I think I heard and if I was only minutes too late, I would probably shoot my own damn self. No one’s first time should be a rape – ever. No one should ever be raped. Period.

There are no longer sobs; full-blown weeping has taken over her shaking body as tears soak the ripped blue fabric. Kneeling before her, with care, I place one of my hands over both of her tiny cold ones. Using my other hand to cup her soft chin, I lift her eyes to meet mine. I need to know what these tears mean. Is she embarrassed? Is she scared? Is she relieved? Is she pissed off? Probably all the above. How do I console her? Every fiber in me wants to comfort her.

“It’s okay. You’re safe now. Talk to me, Kitten, please?” I beg low and soft. What can I do, what can I say to help her not feel like this anymore?

She sniffs. I can tell she’s trying to find the courage to let me in. I’m searching into those panicked blue-grey– doe-like eyes as she bites her lower tear-soaked lip.

“I was so scared, Mike. There was nothing I could do. I never felt so helpless.” She squeezes her eyes shut and lets out a breath. “I’m... I’ve never...”

When she opens those glossy eyes again, she locks them to mine. She doesn’t need to say it. The beating in my chest nearly stops at the realization: She’s a virgin - a virgin who was nearly raped. She’s a lot more innocent than I thought, and the innocence was almost taken away from her in the most despicable way imaginable. Self-loathing takes over. I should have been there sooner.

Elena drops her head on top of our intertwined fingers, covering her dress. “I was so scared,” she mumbles into our hands. I need to punch something, someone. Red is slithering into my vision again. My knuckles are ripped open and bloody – I don’t care, I need to hit that prick-face Declan repeatedly. He needs to pay for this. Whoever those two bastards are, I need to fucking kill them too.

No, Mike – you need to take care of Elena right now. Damn conscience. The squeeze of her hands beneath mine fetches my attention.

The need to protect her from anyone and everyone is even stronger now. I really am a masochist lunatic because the only other person she really needs protection from is me.

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