Warmth surrounded me and I closed my eyes. Outside, my smile was content yet inside, it was bitter. Why did he always find me in these situations?
Weak… Alone… Vulnerable…
He was the strongest person I know so why did he have to put up with the most pathetic person I know?
"Is this coincidence again or did you really look for me?" I whispered as I kept my head bowed, my arms wrapped around me. His arms were over my own ones, his upper body molded to the shape of mine.
"I looked for you, cariad," he whispered back in his deep, usually seductive, voice. But all that was gone as he just held me under the rain, ignoring the fact that he, too, was getting wet.
"Why?" I asked timidly. His hold tightened slightly…
I watched with anxiousness bordering on terror as the feared three-year high school drop-out slowly turned towards me. I tried to ignore the tall, lean yet muscular body – a body both teenage girls and grown women would die for – and the way his clothes fit him perfectly, showing off what he had to offer… if anyone dared to take the risk.
Those dark, liquid brown eyes looked bored as they gazed down at me. I knew I swallowed in nervousness but I stood my ground. I had to do this.
"What can I do for Saint Valentine Hale?" he purred. I focused on his face, trying to ignore my trembling. That infamous scar – the cause of which still wasn't known – that ran from his temple to his jaw reminded me what a danger he could be to me.
"I know your brother Max," I began, grateful that my voice didn't shake. But before I could continue, he interrupted smoothly.
"I know that, little Saint," he said in amusement. "I also know that you are close to Devon Shawn and her four popular brothers. I also know that you are friends with Gale Scharden, the richest boy in town and I also know that Karen Si has been having problems with one Bert Doug."
I felt shock grab me. But I quickly gathered my thoughts.
"You're the only one who can help me," I quickly pleaded. "Since you're a friend's brother, I thought you might-"
"You thought wrong," he interjected. "I'm not supposed to be fighting anymore. Most people may think it's fun but I would like to graduate so I could go to college, believe it or not."
He turned to walk away but I made a desperate – and foolish – grab for his arm. He whipped around so suddenly I thought he was going to hit me. When he didn't I tried again.
"But breaking rules has never slowed you down before," I begged. "Please! I don't-"
The amusement returned to his eyes though there was still some hardness. "Am I hearing right? Valentine Hale wanting someone to break rules?"
"Please," I begged again, looking up at someone much bigger and three years my senior. "I'll do anything! I'll pay you!"
His eyes became distant. I knew he was thinking things through. I was grateful for this and allowed him to think. But I wouldn't relinquish my grip.
"So it will be like paying me to be a bodyguard…" he said slowly.
Money? Money was not an issue… Not if it would protect Karen.
"I'll pay you," I said eagerly. "Just please-"
He suddenly looked back down at me and I stopped talking. A slow smile appeared on his face – a smile that made me wary and want to run far, far away.
"Oh, no, darling," he crooned. "I can get money whenever I want…" I didn't want to know the source. "…No… I have a different thing in mind."
Dread settled at the pit of my stomach but I forced myself to ask, "What is it? Do you want me to do your homework?"
His eyes glinted. "No. Try again."
The dread grew. "I-Is it going to be one of those s-slave for a w-week thing?"
He chuckled darkly and I shivered. "Tempting but no…" I sighed in relief and his amusement grew. "You're very close though." And I stiffened once more.
"What is it?" I asked almost breathlessly, my eyes wide.
Within a few seconds, he pulled his arm out of my grip, grabbed my waist with it, while his other hand tilted my chin up so I could meet his gaze. I gasped, stunned.
He brought his face close to mine and he had to bend a bit even though I was already tip-toeing. "I don't want money or school favors from Valentine Hale… If you want me to be your bodyguard, you have to spend a night with me."
My eyes widened. No matter what people say, I wasn't as innocent as they thought. I knew the implications of his words…
…and it terrified me.
I could try someone else… I could ask one of the Shawns…
But none of them went to my school. It would be impossible for them to watch over me…
…and everyone else was too scared of Bert.
What was better? To have Bert continually torment Karen…
…or for me to promise one night to the most dangerous guy to ever walk the halls of PMP?
I knew the answer.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, then opened them again.
I looked at him straight in the eye. "If that's what it takes, then I'll give you one night."
For a second, his eyes widened in surprise but they quickly returned to the normal glint.
"Really?" he asked, bringing his face even closer – to the point that I could feel his breath on my face.
"Yes," I said firmly. "It's a promise."
He slowly let go of me and I refrained from stepping back. His eyes were alight with something I couldn't quite name.
"Then it's settled," he announced. "I'll watch over you and your friend from now on…" He smirked and I became unsettled once again. "But let me warn you… Once you've spent a night with me, you'll never be satisfied with anyone else ever again."
Bold and arrogant words…
But I almost believed him.
I still haven't paid him… I still haven't given him that one night.
"How did we end up in the same place?" I asked him, the bitter smile now showing on my face. But he couldn't see… But I knew that he was imagining it.
"You haven't paid me yet," he replied, game enough. "Did you really think I'd let you go so easily, Valentine Hale?"
Of course he wouldn't. He told me so many times already.
This new place… I knew a lot of things would change with this new place…
It was like plunging myself into a new high school even though it isn't…
"They tried to break me…" I murmured.
"Did you cry?" he asked just as quietly.
I shifted so that I could look at his face… His hair was longer now but he still looked very much the same.
"It's the sky that's crying," I told him and I knew my eyes were blank. "What they did… was predictable… What amateurs."
That slow, seductive and familiar smile lit on his face. "So what are you planning to do next, Saint Valentine Hale?"
With his help, I defeated and outwitted the biggest bully and gang in PMP. I kept my best friend safe. Now, in this new school, this new place, there were also bullies…
Only, they were richer, more arrogant and more powerful…
But I could take them all.
I knew my eyes were distant as my thoughts flew. "You'll help?"
Miguel Sierras gently took my hand in his bigger ones and kissed my knuckles.
"You know it, cariad."
After all, he taught me how to stand tall…
He taught me how to take a fall without making it seem like one…
He taught me how to defend myself…
He taught me how to fight back…
He taught me how to win.
Miguel Sierras taught me the rules of intimidation.