A moment later, his hand settled on her head…and started stroking her hair.

Thornton heard the breath she expelled, and despite everything, he couldn’t help feel the tiniest bit exasperated and amused. “You thought I’d strike you.”

Blake winced. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “It’s stupid, I know. But it’s only because…I know you know.”

With her face pressed against the crook of his neck, her voice came out slightly muffled, but the way the fingers threading through her hair stilled told her Thornton understood her just fine.

Her guilt grew, and her eyes started stinging.

“You do, right You know I was lying a while ago. D-Don’t you?”

The fingers started moving again, and when she felt his lips brush the top of her head—

Blake burst into tears.

“Baby…”

But this only made her cry harder.

“Blake.”

Perfect, she thought, sobbing hard. He’s perfect, and I don’t deserve him for making him feel stupid things he doesn’t deserve to feel.

“I k-know you have the wrong idea about me and Curt—” She felt him stiffen slightly at hearing her say the other guy’s name, and pain welled up inside of her. “It’s not what you think!” She hugged him as tightly as she could. “I swear to God, Thorn, I swear—”

“Blake—”

“I’m not lying,” she swore between sniffs. “So please—”

“Blake.”

Why did his voice sound somewhat strangled?

“You’re choking me, baby.”

Oh!

She quickly let go and was aghast to see how his face had changed color due to lack of oxygen.

Oops.

“I’m so sorry!” Her voice wobbled as she fought against the urge to burst into another embarrassing bout of tears. Could this night get any worse? Not only had she made a perfect boyfriend like Thornton feel jealous or betrayed even, she now had to add attempted murder to her list of growing sins—

Just the thought of it proved too much, and before she knew it, she was crying again.

“It’s alright.”

But the gentleness in his voice only made her cry harder and hate herself more.

Thornton stroked his girlfriend’s back but when her tears still showed no signs of stopping, he carefully reached up to disentangle her arms from around him.

Blake jerked when she realized what Thornton was doing. “T-Thorn?” But he kept moving, and in the next moment he had succeeded in getting her off his lap, and a tremendous wave of despair and empty loneliness threatened to swallow her up when she suddenly found herself seated on the chair opposite him.

He’s going to break up with me, she thought hysterically. He’s going to ask for an explanation, and I won’t be able to say a word, and he’s going to think I’m lying, and by the time I can tell the truth, it’s going to be too late, and—

“Blake.”

She shook her head jerkily. “I don’t want to hear it.”

“Baby—”

“No!” She covered her ears. “That’s not going to make me listen to you either, and no matter what you say, we’re not going to break up—”

“We’re not.”

“We’re going to fix this—”

“We are.”

“Do you hear me?”

“I do.” Thornton reached for Blake’s hands and forcibly pulled it down with gentle firmness. “Question is,” he drawled. “Have you heard anything I said?”

She stared at him in shock as the past thirty seconds began replaying in her mind.

Oh. Oh. OH!

“You’re really not going to break up with me?” she asked in a small voice.

“No.”

“Even if I tell you…if you ask me who Curt is, I won’t be able to tell you the truth?”

Thornton’s lips tightened, but after a moment, he said curtly, “Even then.”

“And that I promised to meet with him tomorrow…alone?”

His jaw clenched, and a longer amount of time had to pass before he said finally, “Even then.”

“And—”

Anger blazed in his dark eyes. “Don’t push it—”

“I’m just joking.”

He stared at her.

She flashed him a peace sign with a weak smile. “I’m really sorry. I couldn’t resist—holy sheep!” He suddenly jerked to his feet, and she nearly fell out of her chair in shock. She looked up, and the sight of him towering over her had Blake gulping. Oh no. Oh yes. She was once again a confused mass of fear and excitement, with the way one part of her found Thornton’s aura of danger terrifying while the other part was undeniably aroused by the menacing feel of his power.

“So you think you could make a joke out of this…”

Umm.

When he put it that way…

Sheep.

“I’m so sor—ah!”

Blake suddenly found herself lifted like a sack of potatoes and thrown over Thornton’s shoulder.

“Thorn!”

But her shriek only earned her a slap on the butt, and she half-choked, half-gasped with laughter. “What in the—”

SLAP!

“People are typically afraid of me for no reason, and I’ve become used to being avoided and living alone.”

Blake stopped trying to wriggle free at Thornton’s words.

“But you…”

Blake held her breath and barely noticed Thornton opening the door to his unit.

“You were different from the start.” Thornton carefully lowered Blake to her feet as he spoke. “People tend to see all sorts of things when they look at me, but you…you saw perfection.” His hands settled on her waist and tightened. “You were never once afraid.” He slowly pulled her close until he was seated on the edge of the bed and she was standing between his legs. “And that was what fucked me up.”


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