Chapter Three

His arms wrapped around my waist and gently pulled me closer to him. My heart pounded, and I slid my arms around his neck. The butterflies in my stomach fluttered violently. His chest was hard and muscular. He held me in a gentle grip. It felt good to be hugged again. I relaxed and let out a long breath, trying to calm my racing heart. I'm okay…I'm okay… I chanted in my head, and then he tightened his grip on me. I suddenly felt like a caged animal that couldn't get out. He pressed a kiss to my forehead and murmured, "I missed you, 'Tana."

I gasped and began to pull away. Shane pulled me closer; I don't think he realized I was trying to get away from him. Tears welled in my eyes and I tried to pull back again.

But I couldn't get out. It was like the night at the party with Stetson all over again. "Stop! Stop, purple elephant. Damn it, Shane! I'm scared and I don't want you to touch me!"

He let go and I stumbled out of his arms, backing into the bed. I was overcome by a flashback of Stetson kissing me roughly and pinning me to the bed. I covered my face with my hands and pulled my knees to my chest. I peeked up at Shane through my fingers.

He looked so sad and worried. He looked scared, too, by my sudden outburst. I looked up to him, wiped my eyes, and then left the room. I couldn't look at him anymore. His expression was so full of pity. I didn't want his pity.

I hadn't restarted my therapy with Shane. It had been a few days. I was laying on the couch in the living room, half-paying attention to the show on the TV. Tabor was in the kitchen, making dinner. Shane walked in just as Tabor was putting the pasta in the oven.

"Hey, man, you up for Black Ops?" Shane asked as he set his stuff down. I sat up and walked to the recliner, so I wouldn't be in their way. They hooked up the game and were sucked into the world of zombie killing. As they played, they talked about the normal guy-stuff. Who they managed to score with the night before and whatnot. I looked over to the boys, who seemed oblivious of my presence. Shane was talking about who he was with the night before, some girl named Whitney.

When he said that, I don't know what happened, but if felt like my heart was stomped on. I swallowed thickly, and pulled out my phone. I hadn't been in contact with any of my friends in quite a while, so I decided to call one of my oldest friends, Fiona.

I retreated to my room and shut the door. She picked up on the second ring, "Hello?"

"Hey, Fee, it's Montana."

"Oh, hey, it's been a while. What's up?"

"I…I need someone to talk to. Want to have coffee?"

"Sure. What time?"

"Uh," I thought for a moment, "is half an hour okay?"

"Perfect, I'll see you at Mac's." I hung up the phone and looked through my wardrobe. I pulled out a few articles of clothing, frowning slightly. I slid on a pink front-tie shirt that stopped just below my navel, along with a pair of dark blue leggings with floral print that ended underneath the shirt. I pulled on my favorite blue denim vest and a pair of black flats. Satisfied with my appearance, I walked out of my room and back into the living room, stepping right into the middle of an argument.

"…you cold-hearted asshole." I looked up in shock at Shane's voice. Both Tabor and Shane looked absolutely furious. They stood a few feet apart, and were yelling at each other. I pressed against the wall, trying to make myself scarce, but also afraid that it would turn violent. I tuned most of it out, until I heard my name leave my brother's lips.

"I don't care about Montana? I'm her brother, of course I care. Why the hell do you care so much?"

"I care hell of a lot more than you do. You didn't even notice that she changed, that she's changing. And at least I took the time to notice and to try and help her through it."

"What the hell do you mean you helped her?"

"Last week, she was so excited because she was getting better. She tried to show you and you blew her off."

"I was busy!"

"Like hell you were busy! You just don't care because you're a self-centered jerk-off!" Shane said, his voice growing louder as he advanced toward Tabor. With each word of his insult, he pushed Tabor a little farther back, until Tabor snapped. His fist swung up and connected with his best friend's cheek.

"Stop!" I interjected, and both of then immediately stepped back from each other and turned to me. "What the hell is your problem," I snapped, grabbing my purse and my phone. "You think it is okay to just punch your best friend because he cares? Well, let me tell you something, bro. At least someone cares about how I'm doing. From my perspective, you don't give a rat's ass about me." Shane arched his eyebrow at my brother with a smug look, and I turned to him "And you! I'm mad at you, too!"

"For what?"

I adjusted my purse on my shoulder and snapped, "For being a jerk!" I turned away and stormed out of the house.

Twenty minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot of Mac's, a local coffee shop. I stepped out of my car and walked in, seeing Fee sitting at a table in the back. I nodded at Mac, who was working the front counter. "Just my usual, please," I said softly, and then walked to Fiona.

"Hey, Fee," I said softly. It had been a long time since I'd seen her, and her honey brown hair had gotten considerably longer. It was a mess of natural waves and she sipped on a steaming cup of coffee. She looked up at me, swallowed the coffee in her mouth and stood up.

"'Tana! Hi, sweetheart," she said happily. I could tell she wanted to give me a hug and I smiled at her, slightly. I took a deep breath, nervous. I held out my hand, my fingers trembling slightly. She glanced down at my outstretched hand and then back to my face. She took my hand in hers, and I laced my fingers with hers, squeezing gently. I swallowed the lump in my throat and watched her face.

I remembered the last time she tried to touch me, which didn't go over too well. It was a couple of months after my near-rape, and I had pretty much been holed up in my room the entire time. I had gone over to her house for a girls night, and when she saw me, she had hugged me tightly. And I completely freaked out and had a meltdown. I was a screaming, crying mess and I told her to never touch me again. She hadn't since.

So, when she grabbed my hand, it wouldn't have seemed like much to anyone watching. But between the two of us, it was a huge deal. Her eyes brimmed with tears and my face fell. "Did…did I do something wrong?" I asked, hugging my arms to my chest.

"Oh, no, honey! Of course not!" she smiled at me, brushing tears from her cheeks. "I'm just happy," she added and then sat down, gesturing for me to sit across from her. I took my seat and watched her. "What'd you want to talk to me about, sweetie?"

So, I told her everything that had happened the past few weeks, from the beginning. "And, I don't know if I should continue working with Shane or if I should give up. I got so scared when he hugged me tightly. I don't know if I can go any farther than that because it's so terrifying."

She looked at me silently for a moment, her chin in her palm. "Quite frankly, dear, I don't think you should stop. I think you should march right into his room tonight and tell him you'd like to continue. You're getting better, Montana, and I want nothing more than to have you back one hundred percent."

I took a deep breath and nodded. "What if he says no?"

"Don't take no for an answer," she replied simply.

I nodded with a deep breath. "Okay, okay."

I walked into the apartment after a day of shopping with Fiona. Shane's car was parked outside, but Tabor's wasn't. I frowned and set my keys on the end table beside the couch. I walked to my room, hearing the shower running as I walked past the bathroom. I changed into my pajamas and tied my long auburn hair into a messy ponytail. I played on my laptop for a while before I deemed it safe to go talk to Shane. I walked out of my room and to his, smoothing my camisole across my stomach before I knocked on his door. "Tabor, if that's you, you can just—"

I threw open his door to see him reclining in his bed, in a pair of flannel pants and no shirt. "Shut up, Shane. It's me." I took a deep breath and walked into his room. His face softened and he stood up, adjusting his pants as he did. "Come here," I said, folding my arms across my chest. He walked over to me and stood in front of me. I exhaled slowly and stretched onto my tip toes. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him close to me. I squeezed my eyes shut tightly, fighting the urge to pull away. He stood frozen for a second before his arms slid around my waist and he hugged me back gently. My heart pounded against my ribcage and I forced myself to stay where I was until I calmed down.

It took a few minutes until my trembling subsided, and I squeezed him tighter. I have nothing to be afraid of, I chanted to myself, over and over again.

When I finally pulled back, I grinned at him and felt tears leak out of the corners of my eyes. He placed his hands on either side of my face and smiled at me. He wiped the tears away and said, "Why are you crying?"

"I did it, Shane. I'm just…I'm happy," I replied, laughing softly. I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. "Thank you so much, Shane," I whispered.

He laughed, "For what?"

"For being there. For helping." I took a calming breath as I pulled back. "I'm done with being scared. I want to overcome this."

"And I'll help you," he murmured, cupping my face again. "Oh, I got you something!" I watched him quietly, tilting my head slightly. He walked over to his nightstand, where a bag sat on top. He started to pull it out, but then he turned and commanded, "Close your eyes."

I did as I was told, and I heard shuffling and then footsteps. I could tell he was standing in front of me, and then I opened my eyes when he told me to. He stood before me, his hands behind his back. As I was about to ask what it was, he brought his hands forward, and held out a stuffed purple elephant to me. I threw my head back and laughed, taking it from him and wrapping my arms around his torso. He laughed with me and his arms hugged my shoulders. My heart pounded, and it wasn't because I was anxious. My stomach did weird flips and butterflies fluttered around violently. I don't know how long we stood there, but I loved every second of it.

Hi guys! I'm sorry it took so long to get this out. I had some serious writers block going on, so this one is a little longer than the rest. I'll try to update more. Thank you to everyone who favorited, followed, and reviewed. Next update will come sooner, I promise!

Much love,