Crossroads: Book 1

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Chapter 18


“Elena. Look at me,” the rescuer says. My gaze is directed up to meet his beautiful eyes with the gentle touch of his hand under my chin.

Swallowing my embarrassment and the salty tears, I do as he asks. I give him my full attention. “You are safe now. This wasn’t your fault. You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of or be embarrassed about. Understand?” he tells me.

My throat burns from all the crying. “Okay,” I croak.

His face is inches from mine, he is serious, but his eyes are soft. It’s taking everything in me not to lean into him. Mike meant every word. I could hear the sincerity in his firm voice. I want to ask him how he found me. If he knew what happened, if he knew my attacker, but my eyes are getting too heavy. The horrid events of the night have taken a toll on me; I am exhausted. My body feels like it was hit by a freight train, brittle and weak from all the vomiting as if in one move, I will shatter. I vaguely remember vomiting...he was here when I...

“Ohhh,” I groan, covering my face with my hands. This is so awful. My incredibly hot neighbor saw my insides pour out.

“What, are you okay?” An alarm is in his tone as he reaches for me.

I hide my face in a pillow. “You were here when I threw up?” I mumble.

He chuckles. “Yeah...I was. I saw it all. Every chunk. Every piece of chicken, broccoli, and rice.” He sounds mockingly proud.

“Ohhh.” This is so humiliating. A warm touch finds its way to my lower back over the cotton shirt...his shirt. Another article of clothing from Mike’s closet; it smells just like him. My heart swells at the fact that he covered me up with it like he was trying to shield me from this cold, cruel world.

“Hey, it’s okay. Nothing I haven’t seen or done myself before.” He starts rubbing my back with his open palm. The act collects every nerve ending in my body like a magnet: gluing themselves to the connection. Even though there’s the fabric between us, I can feel the warmth of his hand; it’s soothing, relaxing, and... too brief. Frowning into the pillow, I roll over to look at him when he retracts his touch. Solemnness takes over his features.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, reaching for his hand.

“Nothing,” he clips. I can’t keep up with his moods. As I reach for his hand, I notice that his skin is ripped open, there’s dried blood over his knuckles.

“What happened?” I gasp. He doesn’t pull away or even flinch from my touch. With care, I hold his hand, inspecting it, cautious not to touch his wounds.

“I had to get you out of there somehow.” He halfheartedly chuckles, probably trying to lighten the mood. He has a small cut on his lip. Did someone hit him too? Trailing my gaze up to his face, I make the mistake of looking him in the eye. I feel my cheeks turn rosy.

I am drained. I know this. I feel how faint and depleted I am. My eyes are burning, begging me to rest, but how can I when he’s looking at me like this. Those emerald eyes are blazing their way into my heart. Temporarily, I lose my breath. Removing his hand away from mine, he leans over me to rest it next to my head on the mattress. With his other hand, he cups my face, rough warm hands feel like pure bliss on my skin. His body heat radiates through me to my core; instinctively, I reach out to touch his side.

Mike’s skin is burning; his muscles are hard under my palms. Hovering over me, he places his forehead against mine. His eyes close; I adore being this close to him, I’m rejoicing in it. As he lets out a discreet sigh, I smell mint aside from the familiar pine and spice. Stretching his neck up, he places a set of warm, wet, silky lips on my forehead. He is kissing me. It isn’t a short peck, but a lingering, soft, delicate kiss—a kiss of a promise.

The moment he pulls away, a soft moan escapes my lips involuntarily, my breathing speeds up. He kissed me; it was a kiss on my forehead, but still - I can’t believe he kissed me. It may sound crazy after the hell I went through tonight, but if I weren’t incredibly spent, I would let out a fangirl scream.

Mike locks his eyes with me once more. “You should rest, Kitten. I’ll be out in the family room if you need anything,” he whispers. I nod my head in agreement; there are no words to protest with. It’s all a fog up there. He brings the covers up to my neck to tuck me in, he pushes the chair back under the desk, turns off the lamp, then walks out of the room.

Just like that, I’m alone. The only other sound in here is the rapid thumping of my heart slamming through my chest cavity. Letting out a long dragged-out sigh, I close my eyes feeling safe and protected by his presence in the next room.

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