"Where the hell do you get off?" I yelled at Danny.
"Excuse me?" was his incredulous answer. "Where do I get off? I just put myself on the line. For you."
"Oh, butting into my business is putting yourself on the line?"
"I almost got my skull cracked open, didn't I?" he wildly gestured to his bleeding forehead.
"You just put my ex-boyfriend into the hospital!" I exclaimed.
"Oh, he needs like three stitches, Joie," he sarcastically rolled his eyes. "It's hardly a life or death situation."
"You had no right to try and save me, Danny. I didn't ask you to play the Knight in Shining Armor, did I?"
"What is your problem? He was manhandling you, Joie. You get that, don't you? He was going to hurt you. That wasn't something that you could have gotten out of with your biting and caustic tongue. He was going to hurt you."
"I'm not a victim," I reiterated. "I don't need you, or anyone, to save me."
He threw his arms up in the air in what was obviously supreme frustration.
He then stalked off, leaving me in the now empty alley where the altercation had taken place. My legs unable to support me any longer, I leaned against a nearby wall. I was more shaken up than I wanted to admit. I'd never admit out loud that I had been scared.
I was scared. I was terrified. Danny was right—Mark was going to hurt me. And if Danny hadn't done anything about it, I don't know what would have happened to me. But I hated being put in that situation to begin with. I know it's twisted, but I'd rather have been hurt than have Danny save me. Not just Danny though—I didn't want anyone to have to save me.
I was horrified to find that I was crying. I angrily wiped at the stray tears sliding down my cheeks. I was not doing this. I was not breaking down in the middle of an alley. I was not breaking down over this.
"Are you okay?"
I looked up to find that Danny had come back. I just looked at him. I didn't know what to say … what to do. So I just looked at him. I focused on him.
His features visibly softened the longer I looked at him, but he made no move to come over to me.
I was grateful for that.
"I'm fine," I finally answered. "But you're not."
"No, I'm peachy keen," he insisted.
"You're not," I firmly stated. "If you won't go to the hospital, then at least let me clean you up."
He slowly nodded his head. I wiped the leftover tears and slowly walked over to join him.
When we got back to my apartment, I instructed Danny to sit down on the couch, while I went off to fetch a bowl of water, a cloth, and some bandages. Looking at him in the light, I could see that his injuries weren't as bad as I had originally thought. A few scrapes and bruises … and he had a cut on his forehead (caused by God only know what). Other than that, he certainly could have fared worse.
I came back into the room and sat down on the coffee table in front of Danny. I couldn't tell what he was thinking, but there was something … I don't know. I don't know how to explain it. But there was something different about him. None of the patented bravado; he was being quiet and the way he was looking at me. It was so soft and … heartbreaking.
If he only looked at me like that more often, I wouldn't stand a chance in hell.
"I'm sorry for being a bitch," I finally broke the silence. When he didn't say anything, I felt as though I should continue. "I was pretty shaken up. And I know that you were the sole reason I got out of that altercation without so much as a scratch."
"But you don't like being saved?"
"No," I admitted. "I never have."
"Fair enough," he shrugged. "I don't like being beaten up."
"You didn't get beaten up," I corrected him. "You practically beat Mark to a bloody pulp. I mean, I hate to sound impressed … but …"
"He had it coming," Danny interjected. "He didn't … do anything, before I found you, did he?"
I shook my head. "No."
I dipped the washcloth into the bowl of water and scooted closer to him. He leaned forward and … silly as it sounds, I was actually surprised that he so willingly—without even thinking about it—trusted me. I wasn't exactly planning to maim him, but that sort of trust was new to me.
No one had ever trusted me. And, for good measure, I'd never trusted anyone outside of my family.
I put one hand on the side of his face to hold him in place. Feeling his skin under my fingertips was something else all together. He had a sharp and defined jawline and sharp features in general. I never expected that his skin could be so impossibly soft and smooth. Before I could stop myself, I found that I was gently caressing along his jawline.
It took a great deal of effort to shake myself out of that trance. Believe me, it was nothing short of a miracle that I managed to control myself and clean up his wounds. Wounds that were inflicted because of me. I hated that thought. Danny might not be my favorite person in the world, but I certainly didn't want him injured on my behalf.
"There. All finished," I announced.
"Lovely. I've got a band-aid in the middle of my forehead," Danny drolly commented.
I ignored him and busied myself with tidying up.
When I was finished, I came back into the room and found him still stretched out on my sofa. I didn't have the heart to order him out. Truthfully, I didn't even want to order him gone.
There was something so very beautiful about Danny. Not just physically, which is what I initially thought. But something inside of him. His ability to rush in and do whatever it took to keep me safe. I both resented him and appreciated him for that fact.
Danny, I was beginning to see, was the sort of person who would do anything for the people that he cared about. Even if it was at personal risk to himself. That was beautiful because it was selfless. Yes, Danny wanted me; he'd never denied that. But he also cared about me.
I didn't know how I felt about that.
Somehow that just further complicated things.
"I don't want to hurt you," I blurted.
Danny's dark eyes focused on me. "You haven't hurt me," he gently replied.
"But I will. I hurt people; it's what I'm best at."
"I can handle it."
"I don't want you to handle it, Danny. I don't want you to ever look at me with hatred or anger in your eyes."
"I won't," he insisted. "Believe me—I won't."
As he said this last part, he rose from the sofa and made his way over to me. I wanted to move … I wanted to run. But I was rooted to the spot.
I hitched a deep breath and closed my eyes, feeling overwhelmed. When he caressed my cheek with a feather light touch, I thought my heart would burst out of my chest, it was beating so fast.
"I hate this," I whispered.
"Hate what?" Danny coaxed.
"I hate the way I feel."
"How do you feel?"
"That's the problem—I don't know."
When Danny kissed me, I realized that this thing went far beyond a simple physical attraction. This was as real as it got … Danny was real. And it happened so quickly that I was dizzy from it.
We barely knew each other. I wasn't in love with him. He wasn't in love with me.
But I could fall in love with him.
And that's something that I never thought would happen.
A/N: See that review button? Don't resist it—go on and do it; I know you want to.
Seriously, let me know what you think.