Author: Jay McLean
Genre: NA, Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
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There was that familiar ache that I loved so much—a burn in my chest that spread to the rest of my body. There was just one other feeling I loved more. Well—two, if you included the high of sex.
A constant state of numbness was my euphoria.
You couldn't tell. No one could.
My feet thudded against the pavement. Sweat dripped from my hairline, down my neck, and onto my bare back. I shut my eyes, urging the numbness to kick in. I wanted to feel it everywhere. Not just in my body but everywhere. Maybe I should quit basketball and take up smoking weed as a hobby. I laughed to myself—Dad would love that. Another reason to kick my ass.
I rounded the corner with my eyes still shut. I knew that path in the park better than I knew my own home. Which is why I was running at two in the morning on a Saturday night. Sunday morning?
I was five steps past the corner—the numbness had just started to seep in—when I bumped into something. My eyes sprang open, and I found myself staring at someone on the ground.
"Fuck, I'm sorry," I huffed, trying to level my breathing. I rested my hands on my knees, waiting for the thumping in my heart to calm itself. My skin stung and my muscles throbbed from the impact of our bodies. I was six foot three, and my frame matched the constant training and rigorous workouts it endured. Her—I couldn't tell what she looked like—but I knew this much: if the collision had hurt me, it must've almost killed her.
She slowly came to a sitting position, resting her ass on her heels. Her head was bend, and her loose blonde hair formed a curtain around her face. She lifted her hands, palms up, and examined them. Blood.
"Shit! I'm so sorry." A wave of panic whooshed through me.
Squatting in front of her, I took her hands to study the damage. She yanked them away and sniffed, straightening her legs out in front of her. Her short-ass skirt left nothing to the imagination.
"Dammit," she whispered, her head still down.
My gaze moved from the hem of her skirt to her knees. Blood.
"Fuck, I'm so sorry," I said for the third time.
It was dark, the only light coming from the moon and a lamppost fifteen yards away. I wanted to see her face, but I sure as hell wasn't going to ask her to look at me. "Are you okay?"
Before she could answer, a rustling from the bushes interrupted us.
A guy stepped out, close to my age. He looked rough, rougher than the kids I hung out with—and I use that term loosely. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, then eyed it. Blood.
His eyes narrowed. Looking down at the girl in front of me, he seethed, "You fucking whore!"
Slowly, she stood up.
I swear I could actually hear the clicking of the pieces as it all fell into place in my mind.
Him—with his fat lip, torn shirt, and undone fly.
Her—now fully standing. The top of her tank was ripped, exposing one bra-covered breast.
I watched her lips pursed and her eyes narrowed to slits, but then fire flamed in them as she yelled, "Fuck you!"
He took a step toward her with his hand raised.
Before I knew it, I was between them, gripping his forearm, my other arm behind me, wrapped around her waist. I could feel her shallow breaths against my back.
"Who the fuck are you?" he demanded, trying to pull away from my hold.
"Blake. Who the fuck are you?"
He laughed once, a snarl on his lips and a challenge in his eyes.
"What are you, her bodyguard?"
I lifted my chin and squared my shoulders. I towered over him, eyeing him down. I knew I could take him. Easily. "I don't know, Dickface. Does she need one?"
He tried again to withdraw his arm. I grasped it tighter. Then a cynical laugh escaped him. "Good luck. She's a fucking tease—dresses like a whore but won't even suck sick." He looked around my shoulder at her. "You cock-teasing slut!"
Something in me snapped.
Blood rushed to my ears, and the numbness I'd hoped for was well and truly gone. My arm—the one previously wrapped around her—moved fast. My fingers had formed a fist and would have made contact with his face—would have—if not for the tiny blonde girl standing in front of me. Between my intended target and me. With her entire body weight, she pulled my arm downwards, her eyes widening. "Don't," she said. "It's not worth it." Her voice was quiet, but her expression screamed for me to let it go. I was so surprised by her actions that I dropped Dickface's raised arm.
Glaring at the guy behind her, I tried for an even tone as I warned, "You got three seconds to get out of here before I beat your ass."
Her warm hands were now pressed against my chest, their pressure causing me to inhale sharply. My eyes feel to hers. They were pleading.
I heard "fuck this" and then heavy footsteps thumping against the pavement, the sound growing gradually more distant. My eyes, though, they never left hers.
After what felt like forever, she looked away.
I blinked for what seemed like the first time.
She suddenly noticed that her hands were still on my chest.
"Shit. I'm sorry," she said, pulling them away and hiding them behind her back.
I swallowed. It was thick and embarrassingly loud, louder than the beating of my heart in my eardrums. "Are you okay?" I asked her. Bending slightly, I finally relaxed enough to catch my breath.
"Yeah, are you?"
Straightening, I studied her warily. She was a mess. Scraped knees. Disheveled hair. Shoe missing. I looked away when I caught sight of her purple bra, only exposed from her torn top.
She cleared her throat.
I returned my gaze to her once she'd crossed her arms over her chest, hiding herself. She bit the corner of her lip, but everything else was still. There was no movement, not until she slowly raised her hand and wiped her cheek. "Thank you," she whispered.
My eyebrows bunched. It'd been a while since I'd heard such genuine sincerity. "It's no problem. Really."
She tried to smile and then adjusted her top while taking off her remaining shoe. Then she just stood there, barefoot and shivering.
One arm at her side, holding her one and only heel, the other covering her breast. "Well, thanks for saving me." She laughed softly, jerking her head toward the path behind us. "I better get going."
I nodded, chewing on my thumb. Then some sense kicked in, and I stepped in front of her, blocking her from walking away.
"You shouldn't be walking anywhere alone, especially—" I cut myself off. "Dressed like that" was definitely the wrong thing to say. Instead, I opted for "especially this late at night."
Her smile was tight. "I'll be fine," she assured me, looking around at the darkness surrounding us.
She shivered again.
I pulled out my shirt, which I'd tucked into my short's waistband, and handed it to her. "It's probably wet—from my sweat—and it might smell a little funky, but you'll be warmer."
Her face relaxed, and her lips curled. "Thank you, Blake."
"You're welcome, umm...?"
She paused, searching my face. "Abby."
"Abby." I nodded in confirmation. "At least let me walk you wherever you need to go."
She seemed to hesitate before nodding slowly. "I need to find my purse and my phone." She studied me for a moment. "I don't suppose you're hiding a phone anywhere on you I can use for light?"
I looked down at my running shorts and sneakers. "No. But it's in my car..." I pointed in the direction of the parking lot. "We can grab it and come back."
She cursed under her breath. "It's okay. I don't think we'll be able to find our way back here. Not when it's this dark. I'll come back in the morning or something."
I smiled. Knowing that park as well as I did had its perks. I know where we are. It's fine."
Grimacing, she asked, "Are you sure? You're not... on your way somewhere?"
My laughter echoed through the still air. "Yes, Abby, I'm sure. Where would I be going dressed like this?"
She smiled then. Amusement danced in her eyes. "I don't know." She shrugged. "To kill someone?"
"What?" I asked, surprised at her sharp wit. I turned and began moving toward the lot.
When she caught up to me, she continued. "Think about it. How many times do you hear on the news about dead bodies being found in parks? You know who always finds them? Joggers."
I turned to her, tilting my head slightly, trying to work out whether she was serious or not. She tried to hide her smile before adding, "It seems a little suspicious to me—you joggers always being first on the scene and all. My theory is that you're all a bunch of murderers, and you get away with it, using the jogger clause. Makes me wonder if you have some underground club where you compare notes and brag about pulling off these murders."
I threw back my head and laughed. "That's one amazing theory,"
"Well," she said, nudging my side with her elbow, "at least when you murder me, you'll know that I was onto you, buddy."
"Yet, here you are—walking with me in pitch-black darkness, at two in the morning, to a more-than-likely abandoned parking lot, under the impression that I'm going to get you back to your necessities. You're not even slightly afraid of what might happen to you?" All joking aside, she had to be a little worried. Surely.
The air around us turned thick. "No, Blake. I know I'm safe with you."
She said my name as if it had a different meaning.
We walked the rest of the way to my car in silence.
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Jay is an avid reader, writer, and most of all, procrastinator. When she's not doing any of these things, she can be found running after her two little boys, or devouring some tacky reality TV show.
She writes what she loves to read, which are books that can make her laugh, make her smile, make her hurt, and make her feel.
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