Authors: S. M. Shade
just had to use the bathroom. I didn’t think it’d be such a journey.”
you aren’t comfortable with me helping you, we can get a nurse until you’re
really, I’ll be okay.” They’ve done too much for me already.
Before I can protest, he scoops me up, cradling me against his chest, and
carries me to bed. “What?” he asks, when I start to giggle.
it’s just…I don’t think anyone has ever carried me to bed and now you’ve done
eyes light with amusement. “Someday, you can repay me when I’m too drunk to
walk.” My snort of laughter sends a spike of pain through my chest. The man is
twice my size. “It’s time for your pain meds. You really should eat something
first. Do you think you can?”
don’t want to keep you up. I’ll eat in the morning.”
only nine o’clock,” he replies, laughing. Wow, my internal clock is way off.
“Come on.” I’m back in his arms again and deposited on the couch. Rushing off,
he returns with pillows, a blanket, a bottle of water and my pain pills.
he turns to walk away, I see a large shadow cross the front window. “Parker.”
My grip on his arm is ironclad, and I jump a mile when someone taps on the
door. “Don’t answer it!”
It’s just Jensen.”
peers out the peephole and says, “Jensen?”
Jensen replies, and Parker opens the door. “Hey man, Devon just left. I’ll be
right outside.” Jensen spots me huddled on the couch and his face falls. Kneeling
in front of me, he takes my hand. “I’m so sorry, Macy. This should never have
happened. I was supposed to protect you.”
lump rises in my throat at the sight of this barrel of a man on his knees.
“It’s not your fault. No way anyone would’ve thought he’d fit his ass in that
still don’t know how he got in. No windows were broken or pried. Is there any
way he could’ve made a copy of your key?”
“I guess it’s possible. He could’ve taken it before we were fighting.”
sighs, getting to his feet. “We may never know how he did it, but he’ll pay. I
promise you that.”
you.” All these men. They don’t even know me, but will do anything to keep me
safe. I never knew men like these existed.
weighs me down as it has from the moment I heard Macy was assaulted. I was
supposed to be the one guarding her at work, but when Mason called me, I had
him ask Jensen instead. I let this happen and all because I’m attracted to her.
After our run, I decided to steer clear of her, but she never left my mind. I
don’t know why I’m so intrigued by her, but I need to pull my head out of my
ass and do my job.
teasing smile lifts her lips as I bring her a plate. “You cook?” she asks,
raising her eyebrows at the lasagna and garlic bread. The sight of her battered
face tears a strip from my heart. I should’ve been there.
You doubt my abilities?”
she says, wincing as she laughs.
Den prepared a few meals for you, but I can make a mean grilled cheese
thank her for me.”
eat in comfortable silence, and I’m glad to see she has an appetite. “I hate
being waited on like this,” she grumbles, handing me her empty plate.
it up. You’re hurt. I’m going to take care of you, so don’t be stubborn.”
dirty look she tries to throw my way would be a lot more effective if she
wasn’t trying not to smile. “Now, would you like to watch a movie with me or
are you tired?”
not tired, but you don’t have to entertain me. I have a manuscript to work on.”
I reply, popping in a DVD. “You’re going to rest. Besides, I’ve heard good
things about this movie.”
smile stretches her injured lips as One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest starts to
play. “You remembered.”
I was kind of surprised too. I’m not the best listener when a woman talks. I
mean, they go on and on over little things I can’t give a shit about. Usually,
I just nod and smile until she shuts up, then kiss her. It’s not the same with
Macy. Our conversations are interesting even if it’s only small talk. I want to
hear what she has to say. “You still have to finish watching Fight Club,” I
the movie is over, her eyes are glassy and she’s fighting to keep them open.
She’s a lightweight and those pain pills are no joke. This time she doesn’t
argue when I carry her back to bed. “Call me if you need anything.” I pinch her
chin lightly between my thumb and forefinger making her look at me. “I mean
will,” she murmurs. “Go to bed. I’ll be fine.”
few minutes later, she’s sound asleep, and I text Jensen to let him know I’m
going to sleep. Usually, we’d have two guards alternating on twelve hour
shifts. I don’t have to stay here, but there’s no way I’m leaving her, not even
in the care of a nurse. I failed her once. It won’t happen again.
a light sleeper, and her low cries wake me a few hours later. Instantly awake,
I rush to her room to find her flailing and fighting in her sleep. Shit. She’s
going to hurt herself.
light sheen of sweat covers her body and she bolts upright, her eyes wide when
I call her name. Frantic, she tries to get out of bed, but I catch her just in
time. “No. You can’t stand on your ankle, Macy. Calm down. It was just a dream.
recognition fills her eyes and she relaxes a bit. “Al…kicking me,” she says, a
hitch in her voice.
was a nightmare. You’re safe.”
chest heaves and she gasps, breathing fast and shallow. All color drains from
her face as she presses a shaky hand to her chest. “Can’t breathe…oh god…my
doll,” I murmur, the nickname slipping out as I try to comfort her. This isn’t
a lung problem. It’s a panic attack. I should know. I had my share of them as a
teenager. Her body stiffens when I move to sit behind her. Drawing her back to
my chest, I try to talk her down. “Your lung is fine. You’re having a panic
attack. I know it’s scary, but it’ll pass.”
she gasps. “I can’t get any air.”
my arm around her, I lay a hand on her chest, gently coaxing her back so she
can feel me breathe. “Listen to me. Breathe with me. You feel that?” I ask,
taking a long slow breath.
Breathe when I do. In.” Her small chest expands slowly. “And out. That’s it.
Good girl. See, there’s plenty of air.”
even breaths eventually give way to heartbreaking sobs. “I’m sorry. I hate
this. This isn’t who I am. I’m never afraid.”
and rage at the man who did this surge through me. She’s such a tiny thing. And
so sweet. How could anyone hurt her? I’m pissed because I realize, even if she
doesn’t yet, that this experience will change her, harden her.
I can tell she’s not the same woman who teased me in Striking Back’s kitchen.
She’s broken. Gently turning her in my arms, I whisper, “Shh.” Hot tears soak
my shirt as she cries. “It’s okay to be afraid. We’re all afraid sometimes.
You’ve been through hell. It’s traumatic and your emotions will take time to
heal as well as your body.” What I don’t tell her is it takes a hell of a lot
longer to let go of that pain, if you ever do. Some things hurt forever.
gradually fills the room and she peeks up at me, embarrassment coloring her
cheeks. “I think I can go back to sleep now. Do you think you could stay with
me just a few more minutes?”
she’s reaching out for the comfort she needs. “I’m staying right here.” With a
grimace, she moves to lie down, and I scoot down beside her. Before I can ask
if she wants me to put a few pillows between us, her head lands on my chest.
is not the way I’m supposed to handle this, but the hell with it. She needs me.
“I’m safe with you,” she murmurs.
safe with me.”
next week passes much the same way. We watch movies, play cards and a monster
of a Monopoly game that lasts three days. Macy learns to get around on the
crutches and grudgingly allows me to help.
she’s healing, but the panic attacks persist. As stubborn as always, she
resists seeing a therapist or taking medication for her anxiety. I do my best
to get her through her attacks, holding her until she regains control, and plotting
the violent death of Allen Pearson.
setting sun paints the sky a vibrant red while we sit on the back patio, as we
do most evenings. My eyes are drawn to her. Relaxing in a lounge chair, her
ankle propped on a pillow, she reads a book, completely oblivious to my perusal.
shouldn’t be tracing her curves with my gaze, imagining her soft skin beneath
my fingers. A little pink tongue darts out, licking her lips and I’m hard
again, damn it. I haven’t spent this much time beating off since I was sixteen.
a pig. I know. This woman has put her life in my hands, gave me her absolute
trust, and I keep picturing her naked. It’s not really about her beauty.
There’s something else, some deeper attraction that makes me want things I
can’t have. The words off limits beat inside my head, but I’m not trying to
fuck her. I just enjoy spending time with her. True, I’ve never had a female
friend before, but it doesn’t mean I’m not capable of it.
it. I just have to protect her until she heals. If Al isn’t found, she’ll
probably agree to be relocated to a safe house out of state. The thought makes
my chest tight and I know I have to do something to stop this infatuation with
her. I need a night at Hype. She’d be fine with Devon for a night.
staring at me,” Macy orders, frowning.
Busted. “Sorry, I was daydreaming.”
She digs her fingers around her cast. “I can’t wait to get this damn thing off
tomorrow. It itches.”
get a nice stylish boot,” I tease, helping her off the chair as night drops around
better to stick up your ass,” she retorts with a grin.
want to get out of the house for a while tomorrow? Mason is hosting a Fourth of
July cookout. Everly will be there.”
drenches her features. “You think it’s safe?”
wouldn’t take you otherwise. Mason’s house is secure, and he and Alex will be
there.” Absently, I tuck a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “You’ve had a
rough week. It’ll do you good to hang out with your friend.”
rewarded with a shy smile. “Sounds good.”
you like me to call Ms. Den?” She’s been coming by to help Macy shower.
if you help me wrap some plastic around my ankle, I can manage alone this
if you need me,” I tell her after wrapping her foot.
wish,” she teases, heading off to take her shower.
Back to my room to fire off some knuckle children.
* * * *
winces as the orthopedist straps a large blue boot onto her ankle. “Use the
crutches if you need them, but it’s okay to walk on it a bit if it isn’t too
painful,” the doctor says.
thanking him, she grabs her crutches and we head back to the car. “Do you want
to try to walk on it?” I ask.
guess I should.” My arm finds its way around her warm waist, supporting her
while she puts weight on her injured ankle.
too bad. It’ll be nice to take a bath tonight. He said I could take it off to bathe.”
Great, now all I can see is her supple little body, slick with suds. “Are we
going to Mason’s?”
He promised food. Don’t tell him I said so, but he can grill the hell out of a
can feel Mason’s eyes on me while I get Macy settled into a lounger on his back
patio. The sight of her in a little bikini isn’t helping my dirty thoughts.
“What’s going on there, Park?” Mason asks when I grab a beer and join him by
getting better,” I reply.
bright eyes study me. “Not what I meant. You haven’t left her side since she
got hurt. She’s getting around without help. You don’t have to stay with her
warning is implicit in his tone. “She’s afraid, having panic attacks. She
shouldn’t be alone,” I defend.
don’t want her getting too attached to you. It’ll be harder for her later.”
to the fucking point, Mason. What are you trying to say?”
I see the way she stares at you and damned if you don’t look at her the same
way. She came to us for protection. Don’t fuck her. When you get bored and move
on, you’ll set her back and she won’t trust us.”