Authors: Rachael Duncan
Tags: #First and Last
A voice pierces my ears that seems so far away and muffled. I pull my arm back again, but someone grabs it. With a murderous glare, I turn to find out who’s restricting my movements and see Mia holding me. Her eyes are filled with tears as she shakes her head, pleading with me to stop my assault on Xavier.
“Blake.” My name claws its way out of her throat. “Stop. Please.”
My chest rises and falls rapidly and my nostrils flare as I drag air in and out of my nose. Looking back at Xavier, I know I need to get off of him before things get even more out of hand.
“Let’s go. We’ve got to get out of here before I get in trouble.” Grabbing her hand, I pull us away from him. There’s a certain level of guilt that hits me the further we run away from him, but that’s quickly overshadowed when visions of him hurting Mia come to my mind.
“I’m sorry,” she says, her voice trembling.
I stop us and look into her eyes. “What are you sorry about?” She only shrugs and looks down. I lift her chin back up with my finger, wincing when the throbbing of my knuckles registers. “You have nothing to apologize for. No one should ever put their hands on you, do you understand me?”
She nods. “Do you think he’s going to be okay?” she whispers. The fact that she cares about that piece of shit’s wellbeing makes me want to yell and hug her at the same time. She’s the kindest person I know, which is one of the things I love about her.
“You don’t need to worry about that fucker. He’ll be fine.” I turn and continue walking, but realize she doesn’t follow when my arm is jerked back.
She shakes her head. “I’m not worried about him. I’m worried about you getting in a lot of trouble. What if he’s really hurt and tells the principal you did it to him? You’ll get suspended.”
Her concern for me is more than I can take with all of these different emotions tumbling inside me. I wrap my arms around her and pull her to my chest, holding her tight. “If he tells, then I’ll tell the truth; I was defending a friend.”
I feel her nod against my chest as she clutches me tighter.
Word spread about Xavier like wild fire around the school. Apparently, a teacher found him hunched over, sitting on the floor with blood coming from his nose. Any time I heard someone walking down the hall, my heart would stop, thinking the principal was coming to get me.
Thank God today was a half day because my hand is killing me. I open the freezer to pull out an ice pack, wrap it in a towel, and put it on my hand. I got lucky Mom wasn’t home, so I haven’t had to explain to her what happened. Placing the ice on my hand gingerly, I tense up a little from the soreness.
There’s a knock on the front door, so I walk over and answer it. On the other side is Mia who’s wringing her hands together anxiously.
“Hey,” I say as I open it wider, allowing her to come in.
“Hey.” Her eyes move to my hand. “How does it feel?” she asks.
“I’m fine.” I try to play it off, but I think I broke it. If the swelling doesn’t go down soon, I’m going to have to tell Mom and she’s going to be pissed.
Walking over to the couch, she has a seat next to me. We’re silent for a beat. It’s not awkward, but seems neither of us knows what to say. I’m still upset she didn’t listen to me and get away from Xavier, and the images in my head of him hurting her are still raw and fresh in my mind.
“Let me see.” She gently grabs my hand and uncovers it, gasping slightly when she sees it.
“It looks worse than it is,” I lie. Glancing at my hand, I see the swelling hasn’t changed; my knuckles are starting to bruise and the cuts on them are scabbing over.
“You need to go to the doctor.” Her eyes reflect so much worry.
Removing my hand from hers, I rewrap it. “Really, it’s okay. I promise.”
“I’m so sorry, Blake.” Her chin quivers and she presses her lips together to stop it.
“I already told you to stop doing that. Are you okay? Did he hurt you?” I look over her face and the small pieces of her body that are visible. I didn’t get a chance to check her over at school. She shakes her head and looks at her hands. “Let me see your arms.” Even though it’s May, she has a light sweater thrown on over her shirt, hiding her upper arms.
“I told you it’s nothing. I’m fine.”
Her refusal lets me know she’s lying just like I am about my hand.
“Take the sweater off, Mia.” I stare at her, daring her to tell me no again. With a sigh, she gives in and removes it, but I wish she hadn’t. I can see each one of that prick’s fingers embedded in her skin in the form of a faint bruise. “I’m going to kill him,” I mutter.
She rushes to put her cardigan back on, but I stop her. Gently, I grab her arm and pull her to me, examining it when she’s closer. “Does it hurt?” I ask.
“Not really. Only when I touch it.” Her voice is so soft—so vulnerable—all I want to do is hold on to her forever.
Without breaking eye contact, I lean forward and place a soft kiss on her right arm, then do the same to the left. She searches my eyes for a moment, her blues staring deep into my greens, before she grabs my face with both hands and pulls me to her.
The moment her lips find mine I feel a sense of hope. I haven’t wanted anything more since the last time I kissed her in my room. All of the emotions and feelings I’ve been locking away come pouring out and I can’t stop it. Wrapping my good hand around the back of her neck, I hold her in place as I slide my tongue into her mouth and try to show her exactly what she means to me.
Within moments, she’s grabbing my shirt, clutching it in her fists as she tries to get closer to me. When that doesn’t satisfy her, she moves to sit on my lap and straddles me. I freeze momentarily, afraid she’s going to feel the hard bulge in my pants, but when she deepens the kiss a little more, all my worries fly out the window. My heart is pounding against my ribs as my insides do flips. My uninjured hand travels down her back and rests on her hip. A soft moan escapes her mouth and I know I need to put the brakes on this.
As much as it kills me, I slow the kiss, peppering her face with small ones before I completely pull away. “Mia, as much as I want to keep going, we have to stop.” My breath is ragged and I squeeze my eyes shut in an effort to focus and stay strong. Because every fiber in my body is telling my brain to shut the hell up.
“Oh, God, I’m sorry.” She scrambles off of my lap and when I look back up at her I notice her cheeks are red with embarrassment. “It’s just—I mean, I thought—ugh,” she groans and hides her face.
“Mia, look at me.” When she does, I continue. “Don’t be embarrassed. Trust me, I’m not and I sorta hate myself for stopping us, but we’ve both had a rough day and I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to jump into this with me right after everything that happened with Xavier.” I want us to be together more than anything, but not like this. Not because she’s feeling vulnerable and needs that sense of security.
With a huff, she plops down on the couch next to me. “I guess you’re right.”
We both stare straight ahead, neither of us chancing a glance at the other. I would say the silence is awkward, but there’s definitely some tension there.
“I needed a distraction,” she says.
“I wish I could give that to you right now, but it’s not a good idea.”
I see her shake her head from the corner of my eye. “No, that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about Xavier.”
Turning to face her, my eyebrows pull together in confusion. “I’m not following.”
She continues to stare blankly at the wall, not focusing on anything. “I have to hear about the girls you’re hooking up with all the time. Girls asking me if I can get you guys together and the others bragging about what they’ve done with you. It gets to me. I wanted someone to distract me, someone to pay attention to me like you pay attention to them.”
Her last comment stings, especially since I’ve wanted nothing else than to be with her. Every date, every kiss, every moment spent with another girl was me wishing it was Mia instead. “Mia, my feelings for you aren’t a secret. I’m not the one that shut us down. You didn’t want me.”
She finally looks over at me, regret filling her eyes. “I know it’s all my fault. Trust me, I know. I hate myself every day for it, but I’m afraid.”
“Of what? You’ve said you don’t want our friendship to change, but there’s more to it than that. I can feel it.”
“Except for my dad, you’re all I have. What if I do something to screw up and you leave me? I’ve already been abandoned by my mom. I can’t stomach the idea of you walking away from me too.” She stares at me with a long, pained expression before breaking eye contact.
“I thought you knew me better than that.” When her focus comes back to me, I grab her hand and hold it as tight as I can with my messed up hand. “Don’t you know I have the same fears too? When you were mad and refused to talk to me, I felt so empty inside. I know what it’s like to live without you, and I never want to do it again. The only difference is I’m not letting my fears get in the way of something that could be amazing. We could be good together. Let me show you.”
She’s at war with herself. It’s written all over her beautiful face. I’m in a state of eternal limbo as I wait for her to make a decision: play it safe and torture us both, or take a chance. Finally, she gives me her answer with the smallest nod of her head, and my heart soars. Call me a sissy, I don’t care. My only response is to wrap her in my arms and hold her tight.
“So what happens now?” she asks.
I shrug. “I don’t know. I think we should do what feels natural. For now, maybe going slow will be best, but I’m just as lost as you are.” I can’t stop the smile that spreads across my face as it sets in that she’s finally saying yes.
“What are you all smiles about?” she asks with her own grin.
“I’m just happy.”
igging my forearms and elbows in to the ground, I drag my body across the dirt. The ground seems to curve downward a few yards away from the little clearing I’m in. I have my fingers crossed that it’s a hill and hope I can roll myself down it. That’s probably a terrible idea. Who the hell knows what kind of damage I’m doing to my back by moving, but it’s either this or lie up here and die.
I grunt and groan with every inch I progress. Sweat dampens my forehead and gets into my eyes, and I wipe it off on my sleeve to clear my vision. My body feels like it’s been run over by a bus several times and I know I have more than one broken bone. But I do my best to push that aside and concentrate on my goal.
Get away from the damn fire.
I could hear the crackling of burning trees above me on the cliff and knew it was closing in. With my limited mobility, I knew I had to do something before it caught me.
As I fight for every centimeter I move, I briefly think about the rest of my guys. I pray to God none of them are dealing with this shit and they got out of there before all hell broke loose.
Looking back up at where I’m going, I see I only have a couple more feet before I can tell what’s over this rounded edge. With each tear of my muscles and pop of my bones, I think of Mia. I have to survive for her. I have to see her and tell her how much I love her again. This can’t be it for us. I won’t let it be.