Tied (All Torn Up #2) - Page 42
Swallowing hard, she takes a step closer, clearly shaken. “That’s horrible. You could have died…”
“I was in the hospital for a long time. I missed my dad’s funeral.”
Her eyes brim with tears. “I’m so sorry, Ty.”
“I am too. I’ve done a lot of shitty things.”
“Just remember you’ve done a lot of good things, too.” Her voice is soft and sincere. “I’m proof of that.” Her hand raises and she touches her fingertips lightly to the scars that run down the side of my face.
I hold my breath, and I don’t move. I don’t want to do anything that will make her move away and take her soft touch with her.
“Is this… from the fire?” She breathes.
When I don’t answer, she moves her hand away, but I capture it in my own and hold onto it, gently, between us, and rub my thumb along the top of her hand.
“The fire and the glass window. I could have more plastic surgery. It might make it look a little better. But I’m afraid to get all fucked up on pills again.” I shake my head to make my hair fall over my face, but she pushes it back away.
“Don’t hide,” she says softly. “Not from me.”
With her free hand, she traces the other scars on my chest with her fingers, her eyes following as she explores each one. My chest heaves beneath her touch as I fight the urge to either hide myself from her or lean her into the kitchen counter and kiss her senseless. I lace our fingers together, and she squeezes my hand.
“I have scars, too,” she whispers, her voice shaking.
Gently, I brush my knuckles across her cheek. “Show me,” I whisper back.
Without breaking eye contact, she lets go of my hand, unbuttons the front of her sweater, and slides it off, letting it fall to the floor. A thin, cream-colored camisole barely covers her, its fabric stretching over her breasts. She steps toward the window, where the golden light of sunset casts just enough light over her for me to see her. She holds out her arms, showing me cigarette burns like the ones I’ve seen on Poppy’s ears and stomach. She bites her lip as she lifts up her camisole to show me her stomach and rib cage, and the long thin scars that slash across her, the memories of her torture etched into her flesh.
I hold my breath as her hands push the front of her jeans and panties down, and the gentleman in me wants to reach out and stop her, but its too late—she’s already pushed her clothes down to her mid-thigh. Rage, sadness, and a primal possessiveness rocket through me when I read the word carved into the delicate skin a few inches below her belly button, right above her pubic bone:
“This is the worst one.” Her voice is weak, almost apologetic.
All of it is horrific, each scar the worst in its own right, because every one signifies a moment that a little girl was tortured, and no one should ever have to endure so much pain. Especially a child.
But the word…it is the worst. It’s a brand. It’s his sick mark on her that will never let her forget what he did to her, and that he owned her.
Fuck you, motherfucker. She was never yours. She’s mine.
“Shit, baby…” I choke on the dry ache in my throat and move to pull her clothes up before I gather her into my arms, holding her tight against me as she cries, her tears wetting my chest. “I’m so sorry,” I whisper, kissing the top of her head.
Her arms slowly go around my waist, and she hugs me just as tight.
Lifting her chin up with my fingers, I gently coax her to meet my eyes again. “You’re beautiful,” I whisper. “Every part of you.”
She bursts into tears and buries her head back into my chest, hanging onto me like she’s afraid I’m going to disappear.
I lower my head and press my lips to her bare shoulder, then turn my face into her neck, breathing her in before, dragging my lips up to kiss her perfect tear-stained cheek.
“You’re not his,” I say. “Your heart, your body, every part of you is yours. And you decide who gets to touch you from now on.”
I hold her as she cries, letting her get it out, hoping it will break down more of the walls we’ve built around ourselves. This baring of souls and secrets and exposing our damages to each other is like an exorcism—expelling the demons.
When her sobs subside, without letting her go, I grab a napkin from the table and hand it to her to wipe her face.
She gazes up at me and touches my cheek, her finger caressing the grooved flesh.
“I want to be yours,” she whispers. “Please let me be.”
I can’t resist or deny it anymore. I bend down and kiss her lips, softly at first, hoping she’ll kiss me back. Her body and mouth stiffen at my touch then slowly relax against me, and her lips part, opening against mine. I cup the back of her neck with my hand and hold her gently as my tongue delves into her mouth. I tangle my fingers in her hair and tug her closer, my pulse quickening when she gasps against my lips and then sighs into my mouth. My other hand grips her thin waist and slowly travels down to her hip, pulling her against my body.
She pulls away slightly and moves her hands to rest on my chest. “I have to tell you something…”
“Anything.” I kiss the top of her head and brace myself for another blow.
“I’ve never really been kissed before.”
Relieved, I lift her chin so I can stare down into her eyes. “That’s not true anymore.” I touch my lips softly to hers once more.
A small adorable grin spreads across her face. “You’re right.” Her gaze lowers to my mouth, and I kiss her again, a little longer this time, until she pulls back.
“And…I’m a virgin. He raped me…but…not…” I capture her lips with mine, saving her from saying the words that she doesn’t need to say and I don’t need to hear.
When we part, I hold her face in my hands. “We’ll figure things out together,” I say, then I pick up her sweater and hold it for her to slip into.
Can I be good for her? I seriously don’t fucking know. The only thing I do know is I don’t know how to let her go, especially when she’s begging me to keep her.
The scent of spring is in the air, carried by the warm breeze. Perched high in this tree like a bird, I can see everything from my house, in the distance, all the way down to the river. Other than that, I don’t see much, except a few squirrels.
I’m feeling a lot, though.
Laid out in my lap is a folder filled with photocopies of Holly’s file that my brother Toren got for me from a cop he’s friends with. I know I’m not supposed to see any of this, but I need to know what happened to her, without her having to go through the agony of actually telling me.
I don’t want to hear the words “rape,” “sodomy,” and “penetration” coming from her beautiful lips. Nor do I want to see the pain in her eyes as she describes starvation, psychological manipulation, and mutilation.
Our relationship is slowly becoming sensual and physical, and I want to be able to touch her, tease her, make her feel what I want her to feel, without setting off some trigger that will ruin the beauty of every moment. To help her move past horrible memories, I have to understand what she went through.
Holly is a mirage. From a distance, she is so beautiful and sweet and, at times, adorable and silly. Just a normal girl, almost unaffected. But behind that vision is a little girl with dark, sorrow-filled eyes, forever lost, waiting for the next strike, living in expectation of fear and pain. She hides it well. Like a prey animal.
In many ways, Holly walked herself right into the arms of another, much less dangerous, predator.
The lost, tear-stained, melancholy girl is my biggest weakness, my truest fantasy. I can’t resist her. When I was younger, I hid those feelings by dating someone like Wendy, a bubbly, popular, perpetually smiling cheerleader. We all saw where that got me.
Holly’s mirage will always shimmer and fade and then surface again. No amount of time or therapy is going to fix the broken parts of her. Sad, but true. And even though I tried to brainwash myself into believing otherwise, most men won’t know how to love her.
I do, though. I’m going to love all of her—the good and the bad, the smiles and the fears, the pretty and the dirty.
My cell phone beeps with a text, and I pull it out of my pocket to read it:
Toren: I’m setting some meat in the food stations tonight. There’s a missing terrier last seen in your area yesterday. Brown and white, about 20 lbs. Can you check traps in the a.m.?
Toren: Thanks. Text me with any sightings
Tyler: Always do
Toren: How’s the file?
Toren: I figured. I could stop by tonight after I fill the traps. If you want to talk.
Tyler: Nah, I’m good
Toren: You gonna be an asshole forever?
Toren: Me and Asher are riding on Sunday. Come with us.
Tyler: I’ll think about it
Toren: Don’t be a dick. And make more bracelets, we sold out of the last ones.
Tyler: You got it.
Toren: Think about the ride. You owe me 😉
I knew the file wouldn’t come without a price, and it figures Tor would use it as leverage to try to get me to hang out with him. As much as I love to ride alone, I miss riding with my brothers every Sunday (weather permitting), which was a family ritual my dad started with us and I ended.