But escape wasn’t what I wanted.

I’d known this boy for so long, had seen him as my best friend, the closest person I had in my life. And I wanted that to be something more, so much more.

But I was afraid, and so I didn’t reach out and take his hand. I didn’t tell him all the things I felt, that I was scared, how I anticipated everything that could be.

Instead I smiled and gripped the handle of the door. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow?” He gave me a short nod, but slowly that stoic expression relaxed with a smile … although it didn’t reach his eyes.

“Tomorrow,” he said in a low, deep voice.

So I left Cannon in that car and headed inside, knowing that trying to hide this, fight how I felt, was becoming a losing battle.



I’d found my way back to the auto shop, and as I sat in my car and stared at the building, saw all the lights were off except the main garage one, I knew this was a bad idea.

My hands were on the steering wheel, my knuckles white as I held on to the fucker.

After I’d dropped Stella off, I should’ve just gone home, but here I was, still stewing over that motherfucker saying that bullshit to Stella.

My body was tight, the blood rushing beneath the surface of my muscles. This was a bad idea, not because I thought I’d lose if it came down to a fist fight, but because this would probably cause more issues in the long run.

But I couldn’t let it go, not when there was no doubt that asshole would try to make another go at Stella, saying more obscene and fucking disgusting things to her … maybe even try and go further.

No, I had to put him in his place, had to let him know that going anywhere near her would end up with my fist connecting with his face.

I wanted to hurt him so fucking badly.

Before I could climb out of the car, I saw the garage light click off, and another minute later, I saw that little bastard come out of the front entrance. He stuck a cigarette between his lips and lit the end, I could see the red glow as he inhaled bright in the darkness.

My heart was pumping fast from my anger, the blood rushing through my veins.

I climbed out of my car and shut the door loud enough I knew there would be no doubt he heard. He lifted his gaze and our eyes clashed. He pulled the cigarette out of his mouth and grinned, then brought it back and inhaled once more, slowly blowing the smoke out after a second.

“Hoped you’d come back, son.”

For long moments we just stood there, this distance between us, gazes locked. He knew what this was about, hell, it was clear he anticipated it like I did.

I flexed and relaxed my hands by my sides, rolled my head around on my neck, and felt the blood rush through my veins almost violently.

After another moment, he took one last hit from the cigarette, exhaled a cloud of smoke, and dropped the butt to the ground. He didn’t break eye contact as he stubbed it out, his smile still in place.

I was so fucking ready for this.

I found myself walking up to him, my focus intent, my rage suffocating. To beat his fucking ass and put him in his place for talking that shit to Stella, for implying that she would do anything with him, was like gasoline to the fire inside of me.

He was a dirty-ass bastard.

He didn’t move, just kept that damn grin on his face. I stormed toward him. My hands were already in tight fists at my side, a low sound of aggression leaving me, the sound of my blood rushing through my veins filling my ears. I felt adrenaline rush through my body.

Then we were toe-to-toe, with this bastard still grinning at me like he was itching for the fight. That’s okay, I was more than happy to give him what he wanted.

I was on him in the next second, slamming his body against the entrance of the building, a grunt leaving him at the contact.

He had his arms wrapped around me now and moved backward, the momentum propelling us down to the ground. The air left me as my back hit the gravel, his weight on top of me. He swung out and connected with my jaw. I instantly tasted the tangy, coppery flavor of blood fill my mouth.

I felt my anger grow.

I used all my force to push him off of me so now I was the one on him, bringing my knuckles down against his cheek.

I pulled my arm back again and slammed my hand into his face, feeling a surge of pleasure wash over me at the fact that he howled in pain.

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