A/N: This chapter's shorter by two pages, but I thought it was a good cut off place.

Someone poked my side. I jumped and nearly fell, but they steadied me. I smiled in thanks at Alex. He shoved his hands into his black dress pants pockets. He looked a little out of place, but so did I probably. I was just glad I wasn't the only one. I couldn't help but notice how cute he looked.

"Hey," he said uncomfortably. I smiled slightly at him. At least in heels I was somewhat at eyesight with him.

"Hey," I replied.

"Do you…want to go out back where it's quieter?" he asked. I searched the room for Axel again. "I saw him go into some office, maybe his dads." I nodded and looked at him again.

"Um, sure," I replied. He offered his arm and I graciously took it as we made our way through the crowd. I flashed his parents a smile. They smiled back.

We walked in silence through the yard. From the front of the house, I hadn't realized how large it really was, complete with its own garden, even. I couldn't see if the other houses had one, though, because of the privacy fence that surrounded three sides of the Briar's home.

Alex and I slowly walked through the garden, the sound of the party going away as we walked. I shivered slightly. I was regretting not buying a coat. The temperature had been dropping at night and the skimpy dress didn't help me much. Alex looked at me before he shrugged his coat off and handed it to me.

"I can't take that," I told him, not stopping. He took my wrist and pulled me to a stop.

"I have sleeves, you don't," he replied. "Take the coat already." I sighed and unwillingly took it. I draped it around my shoulders. I had to admit, I did find it sweet that he gave me his coat and all, but I felt bad at the same time. I didn't want him to freeze, too. "So, um, how are things going?" I glanced at him. "I mean, with you and Axel and your parents and all." I dropped my gaze.

"Fine, I suppose," I replied. He glanced at me. "It's good, great."

"You know . . . people always say that if you have to hide something, then you're afraid that it's not good," he said softly. "Do you think that this is a good idea?" He looked at me. I frowned at him.

"Of course it's a good thing, Alex. Just because my parents don't like Axel doesn't mean it's a bad thing," I told him and started walking again. He fell in step beside me.

"I know that normally parents don't approve of the boy, trust me, I know, but you barely know the guy. I mean, you have yet to officially meet his parents. How well do you really know him?" Alex asked. I shot him a look.

"Alright, Alex, just back off. It's not your personal life, so why do you need to know everything?" I asked. He shrugged.

"I'm just trying to be a friend," he muttered.

"Yeah, well, just stay out of my personal life, alright?" I asked and turned to walk away.

"Hey, Madison?" he called. I turned and looked at him. "Your personal life is my business if we're supposed to be dating." I looked away because he was right.

I searched the house for Axel and couldn't find him. I wandered around after my search, kind of just hoping that he would find me. I nibbled on a chocolate chip cookie in the dining room. I stayed in the corner, trying not to be spotted by someone that would talk to me for hours. I wanted to talk to Axel because I had so many questions to ask him.

I found myself thinking back to what Alex had said. True, I was afraid of my parents finding out that I was still with Axel, but I hadn't really figured out what it was why they hated him. Maybe I was afraid of him, too. What kind of boy didn't take you home to meet his parents unless something was going on? Maybe he was just embarrassed, but that's not what I figured it was. There was something else to it, something that I couldn't quite place my finger on.

I pushed my way through the crowd as I caught sight of Axel heading upstairs. I quickly followed, kicking off my heels and taking the stairs two at a time, all the lady like things that my mom had taught me went out the door. I looked down the hallway lined with doors, trying to figure out which one he went behind. As I slowly crept down the hall, I could hear his voice behind one of the doors to my left, growing louder as I moved closer to it.

I slowly pushed open the door and found Axel standing at his dresser, pouring a glass of scotch. His tie hung loosely around his neck, his dress shirt was untucked, and his dress coat was draped over a chair. He glanced at me as I walked in and slowly shut the door behind me, leaning against it as I watched him. He sat down on the edge of the bed, taking a sip of his drink.

"I guess I'm not going to meet your parents tonight, am I?" I asked, taking in his tired state. He looked at me, managing a slight smile.

"I guess not," he replied. I walked over to him and gingerly sat down beside of him.

"Do they really work where you told me?" I asked, staring at the carpet.

"No," he replied after a pause. I glanced at him.

"Where do they work?"

"I can't tell you."

"Why not? Is it something to do with the government?"

"No, I just can't, Madison."

"I'm trying to figure you out, Axel, but you're making it hard to do that," I said quietly.

"Yeah, well, something's in life you're better off not knowing."

"What's that supposed to mean?"I asked, looking at him sharply.

"It means that you should stop nibbing in my life."

"Nibbing? You think that I'm nibbing? That's far from it, Axel. Damn it, I'm trying to know the guy I'm dating!" I said. He was starting to irritate me with all his secrets.

"Well stop it! Something's are just best left in the dark."

"What, like me?" I asked, looking him dead in the eye.

I never saw it coming, then. My head snapped around as his hand contacted with my cheek. I bit my lip and held back the tears, pressing my hand to my stinging cheek. I turned slowly and looked at him; his eyes were blazing with anger.

"You're a bastard, Axel," I whispered and ran out of the room before he could do anything else to me.

I grabbed my shoes and ran out into the cold air, not caring how far it would be to run home. I just had to get out of there and I didn't dare ask Alex for a ride because he'd see my cheek and more than likely call the cops and have Axel arrested. I couldn't lose him. He'd messed up, that was all he'd done. He was stressed and he needed to take it out. That was all and I knew he wouldn't do it again. He just needed some time.