Twisted Love (Twisted 1) - Page 28


He was furious.

He was alive with it, pulsing with it. One hand clutched the steering wheel, knuckles white, while the other rested on the gearshift, flexing and unflexing like he wanted to strangle someone. The glow from passing streetlights illuminated the beautifully carved planes of his face as we sped down the dark streets, throwing into sharp relief the tense set of his mouth and the way his brows bunched over his eyes.

When I told him about the incident with Liam outside The Crypt, I almost disintegrated from the force of his fury.

“I’m okay,” I said, wrapping my arms around my torso. My voice sounded scratchy and unsure. “Really.”

That only made him more furious.

“If you’d attended Krav Maga lessons like I’d asked, he wouldn’t have been able to corner you like that.” Alex’s voice was soft. Deadly. I remembered his face when he’d pounded Liam’s face into a pulp, and a shiver skated down my spine. I wasn’t scared of Alex hurting me, but the sight of all that coiled strength unleashed was unnerving. “You have to learn to protect yourself. If anything had happened to you...”

“I defended myself fine.” I pressed my lips together. I hadn’t seen Liam at the gala, but there had been so many people it would’ve been impossible for me to pick him out in the crowd. Bridget had finagled me an invite to the ball so I could connect with an alumnus who’d been a WYP fellow a few years ago. We’d had a great conversation, but I tired of the small talk with the rest of the gala’s guests and had been on my way out when Liam cornered me in the coatroom.

He’d been high tonight, too. I’d seen it in his dilated pupils and manic energy. He never used drugs when we were together, at least not that I knew of, but whatever he was on, it made him swing between bouts of rage and sadness.

Despite what he did and things he’d said, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him.

“This time.” Alex’s jaw flexed. “Who knows what might happen the next time you’re alone?”

I opened my mouth to respond, but before I could get the words out, images and sounds slammed into my brain, rendering me mute.

I threw a stone into the lake and giggled at the ripples that spread over the smooth surface.

The lake was my favorite part of our backyard. We had a dock that ran out to the middle of the water, and during the summers, Josh would cannonball off it while Daddy fished and Mommy read magazines and I skipped stones. Josh always teased me about not being able to swim, much less cannonball.

I would, though. Mommy signed me up for swimming lessons, and I would be the best swimmer in the world. Better than Josh, who thought he was the best at everything.

I’d show him.

My mouth turned down at the corners. There would be no more summers by the lakeside with all of us, though. Not since Daddy moved out and took Josh with him.

I missed them. It got lonely sometimes, especially since Mommy didn’t play with me like she used to. All she did now was yell into the phone and cry. Sometimes, she sat in the kitchen and just stared into space.

It made me sad. I tried to cheer her up—I drew her pictures and even gave her Bethany, my nicest, bestest doll to play with, but it didn’t work. She still cried.

Today was a better day, though. It was our first time playing by the lake since Daddy moved out, so maybe it meant she felt better. She’d gone into the house for more sunscreen—she always worried about freckles and stuff like that—but when she got back, I planned to ask her to play with me like we used to.

I picked up another stone from the ground. It was smooth and flat, the type that would make really pretty ripples. I drew my arm back to throw it, but I smelled something flowery—Mommy’s perfume—that distracted me.

My aim veered and the stone thudded onto the ground, but I didn’t mind. Mommy was back! We could play now.

I turned, smiling a big gap-toothed smile—my front tooth fell out last week, and I found five dollars from the Tooth Fairy under my pillow after, which was super cool—but I only made it halfway before she pushed me. I pitched forward—down, down, off the edge of the deck, my scream swallowed up by the water rushing toward my face.

Reality yanked me back into the present with jarring force. I bent over double, chest heaving, tears streaming down my face. When had I started crying?

It didn’t matter. All that mattered was I was crying. Huge, heaving sobs, the kind that made my nose all snotty and my stomach hurt. Thick, salty rivulets ran down my cheeks and dripped off my chin onto the floor.

Maybe I’d finally broken, split apart for the world to see. I’d always known I wasn’t normal, me with my forgotten childhood and fragmented nightmares, but I’d been able to hide it behind smiles and laughter. Until now.

My nightmares were usually confined to when I was sleeping. They had never consumed me when I was awake.

Maybe the adrenaline rush from what happened with Liam triggered something in my brain. If I had to worry about my waking hours and my sleeping ones…

I pressed the heels of my palms to my eyes. I was losing it.

A cool, strong hand touched my shoulder.

I jerked, remembering in a rush that I wasn’t alone. That someone bore witness to my sudden, humiliating breakdown. I also hadn’t noticed that Alex had pulled over to the side of the road until now.

If he’d been furious before, he was crazed now. Not in a psycho, angry way—well, maybe a little—but more in a panicked way. His eyes were wild, that muscle in his jaw jumping so fast it had a life of his own. I’d never seen him like that. Pissed, yes. Annoyed, definitely. But not like that.

Like he wanted to burn the world down at seeing me hurt.

My naïve heart sang, cutting a swath of hope through my lingering panic. Because no one looks at someone like that unless they care, and I realized that I wanted Alex Volkov to care. Very much.

I wanted him to care because of me, not because of a promise he’d made to my brother.

Talk about a terrible time to come to such a realization. I was a freaking mess, and he’d just beat the living daylights out of my ex-boyfriend.

I sucked in a shaky breath and wiped the tears from my face with the backs of my hands.

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