Copyright © 2015 Michelle Woods
All rights reserved
All rights reserved
Gabriella Davey stared at the fire watching the sparks springing from log to log, her mind a million miles away. She shifted forward in the wooden lounge chair hunching her shoulders slightly, feeling the warmth from the fire bathe her legs. She ran her hand through her hair. She was glad it was finally almost back to the length it had been before she’d been snatched by the Jackals two and a half years ago. After the kidnapping she’d been forced to cut it really short because it was so matted. Now it was almost the length it had been before they took her and it hung almost to her mid back in gentle waves that curled at the ends. Gabi hugged herself feeling gloomy. She didn’t like remembering the past, because thinking about her time with those animals sent pain roaring through her. It might have been years later, but she was still messed up by the time she’d spent in that shack they’d shoved her into.
She could still feel the hands that had held her down while the men had raped her. Her ears still rang with their sinister laughter. Gabriella had tried to escape the thoughts of those evil men, only to be reminded every time she slept. Two years should be long enough to escape the nightmares. It wasn’t. She woke less than thirty minutes ago in a cold sweat, a scream poised on her lips, and her mind ablaze with the memories of those weeks she’d spent in hell. Gabi was trying not to think about how she’d died a little inside that shack.
It was funny, before she’d been taken she had hated the shortened version of her name and had gotten mad any time someone called her Gabi. Now she felt like a different person and the name Gabriella didn’t fit anymore. She was Gabi now. Sad, damaged, Gabi.
She tightened her arms around her legs, thinking. As if the dreams weren’t enough pain for her to suffer, the fact that her brother had betrayed his club and ruined his life was still something she dealt with every day. He still hadn’t earned his previous position in the club back. It hurt her heart that Mark, who’d always loved his MC, had been forced to choose her over the club. He had fared better than most people who’d betrayed the club. Normally betrayal came with a death sentence. Bone had let him slide only because he’d been trying to protect her.
Not that she’d been saved. By the time they’d come to save her, she’d been beyond saving. Mark hadn’t known that they’d been raping and beating her, or he would have likely been killed trying to rescue her. Instead, the Jackals had told him that she was locked up and that they were taking care of her. That was bullshit of course, because those bastards weren’t capable of taking care of anything. Gabi jumped when she heard a snap. Her head turned towards the sound, and her heart began racing.
The shadow that stepped from the edge of the woods made her breaths come unevenly for a moment until she recognized who was standing there as the moonlight fell across his face. He stood silently for a moment just staring. Why he came to her every night was still a mystery to her. He had to know it was useless for him to come here, and yet he came anyway. She wondered how he always seemed to know when she needed him. It was like the man had some kind of radar that let him know she was upset or hurting. It was eerie how he always knew.
“You okay?” Pretty Boy asked, his eyes intently pinned to her face as he took another step towards her.
“Yeah, just a nightmare.” Gabi told him, trying not to sound small or pathetic.
“That’s three this week. You need to talk to the head doc again?” He asked as he took the seat next to her.
“No, I talked enough. It’s just going to be this way. Maybe in a few years the dreams will fade, I don’t know.” Gabi shrugged unconcerned. There wasn’t anything she could do about the memories, and that meant that she’d likely always have the dreams. It was the reason she didn’t take things forward with Pretty Boy. He was waiting for her to be ready. He’d been waiting for two years, and she had no idea why.
“You sure?” He asked.
“I’m sure. You know you don’t have to come here every night. I’ll be fine by myself.”
“Never said you wouldn’t be.” Pretty Boy said, propping his feet on the small table that sat between them and the fire, watching her silently. His eyes assessing her as they ran over her from head to toe.
“You need to stop showing up here. We can never be anything more than what we are right now and we both know it.” Gabi didn’t want to say it, because she honestly didn’t know what she’d do if he listened and stopped coming to see her. Hell, she wasn’t really sure of anything except her need to do the right thing and push him away. He was a good man and he deserved a whole woman who could love him, not one who couldn’t even sleep at night. Her heart clenched thinking of him with another woman, and it made her want to snatch the words back, but she didn’t.
“Do we know that? I think we don’t know, and we should just wait and see what happens.” Pretty Boy replied, his arms folding behind his head as he looked at her with a little smirk on his lips. Gritting her teeth at his high-handed behavior, she growled a little and glared in his direction.
“Why are you still doing this? It’s been two years Pretty Boy. If things haven’t changed by now they aren’t likely to.” Gabi felt like she was clawing out what was left of her soul by saying those words to him in such a nasty tone. She couldn’t believe that she was trying to shove away the only person, besides her brother, who cared about her wellbeing.
“No,” Pretty Boy grunted, a dark glower on his face. “Enough! We’ve discussed this. You can’t make me walk away. It’s never going to happen, even if nothing changes between us.”
“But why? You deserve to be happy and I can’t give you that.”
“I am happy, and my happiness will always be about this, about us.” Pretty Boy jerked forward, no longer relaxed in the chair. The sudden movement of his body should have scared her after everything she’d been through, but it didn’t. She knew that there wasn’t another person on the planet that she was safer with, and that included her brother.
“That’s the point, there is no us! There can’t be an us! I’m too broken, and you need to stop waiting on me to be whole.” Gabi’s voice raised, getting louder with each word until she was almost yelling at him by the end of her statement.
“You aren’t broken anymore, firefly. You never were. Yes, you were hurt and you’re still healing, but you have never been broken. Never.” He said the words like he knew, like he understood, but he couldn’t. He just couldn’t. For a moment she couldn’t speak, and she sat there staring at the fire trying to get her thoughts in order. Shaking her head with her hands trembling, she stood up and she tried not to fall apart as she found her voice again.
“I’m shattered Kyle. I am. You have to accept it because that’s not going to change. Just stop coming here every night. I’ll be fine without you,” but even as the words left her mouth Gabi felt her chest tighten. Panic teased at the edges of her mind and she shoved it back with both hands. She didn’t want him to listen to her commands to leave her alone. It actually scared her half to death to even think about it, but she knew letting him move on was the right thing to do. She would never be who she’d once been. She could never again be that innocent girl who believed in fairy tales and happily ever after’s. Her nightmares were real, and they lived and breathed, even if the men who caused them were nothing more than worm food, thanks to Pretty Boy and the other Red Devils.
Pretty Boy let out a sigh as he stood slowly to his feet, and for a moment Gabi felt panicked that he might actually listen to her, but he just walked over and lifted her in his arms before sitting down in her chair with her cradled in his lap. Gabi tried hard to force herself to push him away and stand, but her heart wasn’t in it. She wanted to be close to him, and despite her resolve to try and force him to see that she was a lost cause, she just couldn’t seem to make her body cooperate.
“You need to get some more sleep, babe.” He grunted before he settled her, shifting her around until her head rested comfortably on his shoulder, her legs arranged over the arm of the chair. Gabi closed her eyes feeling the warmth that seeped into her body from his. She had to admit that she needed that warmth almost as much as she needed air to breathe. Why couldn’t she ever manage to do the right thing when it came to Kyle ‘Pretty Boy’ Cutler? Every night that she ended up out here in the dark trying to hold off the nightmares it always ended in the same routine. She made a fire and Pretty Boy showed up to hold her till she fell asleep again. Every time she would wake up the next morning in his arms feeling guilty that she’d allowed him to keep the nightmares at bay again. Gabi wasn’t sure how it had started, but it had been the same for over a year now.
She would wake up with a scream poised on her lips, sweat pouring off her, and her heart pounding in her chest like a drum. She’d get up and pace the floor for a while until being inside felt like being in a prison. She’d find herself outside starting a fire in the little fire pit Mark had made for her a year ago, and she would sit in her lounger waiting. She never admitted to herself that she was waiting for him, but she was, and he always came.
When he went on a run for the club she’d find Log waiting on her instead. The first time that had happened she’d been shocked, but apparently Pretty Boy had arranged things so that one of them was in Devils Falls at all times. Log was sweet and would sit with her, but she knew she’d likely freak if he ever tried to touch her. It was different with Kyle. Hell, everything was different with Kyle. He took charge and he’d been there for her from the moment they’d pulled her from that shack. Her brother had been there too, but in a strange way having Kyle near comforted her more. She should have latched onto the familiar face of her brother, but somehow since that night she felt safer with Kyle. It was odd really. He hadn’t been the only one there that night. Nearly everyone in the club was there. Ratchet was even the first one to enter the shack that night, but it didn’t matter. Something about Kyle soothed her soul.
Gabi felt her musings slipping away as his hand ran soothingly up and down her arm as he held her tightly against his hard chest. Her body recognized his and her mind was calmed by his even breathing that puffed against her hair as his lips rested on her head. He didn’t speak and he never tried to take his embrace further than just holding her, but she knew from the hard bulge in his pants that he wasn’t unaffected by her. If only she could trust herself and her desires enough to allow him to take this a step further, but she couldn’t. Even now she was scared she’d panic and fight him, knowing it would hurt him and likely her too. She didn’t have to try to let him know that she was too ruined to be his sexually, and that made her heart shatter all over again even as she slipped into a deep dreamless sleep.
Pretty Boy felt her body relax against his and he kissed the top of Gabriella’s head, his body aching as he held her tightly. He inhaled deeply taking her soft lavender and smoke scent into his lungs. She was so damned perfect and she didn’t even know it. Over the past six months she’d been trying to get rid of him and he’d been ignoring her efforts. He wouldn’t allow her to push him out of her life now, any more than he had two years ago when he’d lifted her into his arms and carried her out of that shack where they’d found her.
From that moment on she’d belonged to him. It hadn’t mattered that she’d been destroyed by what they’d done to her, or that she didn’t know him from Adam—from that first moment when her eyes had met his, she’d been his. Even with her matted hair, and her bruised and dirt covered body, he’d known that Gabi was his. He had never even questioned his ownership of her and he certainly wasn’t going to start two—fucking—years later. Gabi would just have to get used to the idea that he wasn’t going anywhere. He closed his eyes and tightened his arms around her soft body.
He heard someone approaching and lifted his head seeing Mark walking up the path from his cabin looking grim. He came closer watching Pretty Boy holding his sister close with a frown. Pretty Boy didn’t even try to hide the possessive way he held Gabi to him with her small curvy body pressed against his hard chest and her little face burrowed into his neck as she slept in his arms. Her brother watched them for a long moment before he took the seat next to him, silently staring for a long moment.
“She had another nightmare,” Mark finally stated, his voice soft, almost a whisper.
“Damn, I thought she’d stopped having them.” Mark said with a heavy sigh, his eyes haunted.
“No, she never stopped having them. She just got better at hiding them from everyone. I’ve been coming here every night to check on her, and when I can’t be here Log sits with her.” Pretty Boy shifted her slightly when she stirred seeking a more comfortable position for her. She settled after a moment sighing out a little breath against his neck that sent desire spiraling through him. He loved holding her like this, but sometimes it was torture.
“Fuck! I don’t know why I didn’t realize she was still having them. If I hadn’t stayed over at Margo’s place tonight you never would have said anything, would you?” Mark asked, glaring at him.
“You know how things are between us and you’re still asking me that?” Pretty Boy didn’t bother to deny Mark’s claim because the man was correct, he never would have told him about the nightmares. That was Gabi’s secret to tell, or not to tell and he wouldn’t have betrayed her.
“I’m not sure I do know how things are between you two. I don’t really understand who she is to you. You haven’t patched her so she isn’t your old lady, but you seem to think you have certain rights to her person that I am not sure I like.” Mark’s head titled and he watched Pretty Boy silently, seeming to assess his reaction.
“She isn’t ready for my patch yet, but every single person in this club knows she belongs to me and that isn’t going to change.” He didn’t bother to sugar coat the truth for Mark. It was high time he realized that Gabi was no longer under his care. That honor had passed to Pretty Boy the second she’d allowed him to hold her for the first time.
“That’s not something you can say without a patch.” Mark grunted, a glower darkening his chiseled face.
“Trust me it is, and you’d do well to remember that. That’s the way it is. She’s mine and has been for a long time. She just needed time to accept it.” He didn’t raise his voice, his eyes held Marks steadily.
“I made a mistake not going to Bone when those bastards took her because I thought I was protecting her. I’ve had to live with that decision every single day, since then I’ve watched my sister—who used to be a bubbly, sweet girl—fight her way aback from hell. I won’t make that mistake again by allowing you to force her into a relationship she doesn’t want. I don’t care if you are a fully patched member or not. You can’t just decide she’s yours and take what she isn’t willing to give. I won’t let you.” Mark’s voice rose with every heated word.
“You need to keep your voice down so you don’t wake her. She barely sleeps as it is.” Pretty Boy growled a dark glare directed at the other man. “I admire your need to protect her, but she doesn’t need protection from me, Mark. I will never force her into anything. I will however push her to heal. She’s had years to work through her issues and discover who she is now, but she’s been coming to me for comfort since three days after her rescue. She needs me and I won’t ever deny her anything she needs. Including the push that will make her reach out and take the life she wants. She isn’t there yet, but she will be soon, and when she is you’re going to have to let her go.” Pretty Boy didn’t raise his voice, but he tightened his hold on Gabi who nuzzled his neck like a kitten.
Damn, he loved when she did that. It always sent desire spiraling through his body leaving him a little weak in the knees. Fuck the things Gabi did to him without even trying still managed to shock him. He couldn’t help the little groan that escaped his lips as her hand burrowed beneath his shirt resting on his chest. Mark watched them silently.
“What do you mean three days after her rescue? She was barely able to communicate, or even breathe back then.” Mark looked confused as his brow furrowed and his eyes clouded.
“Three nights after we found her I went on a short run with Log because Bone needed us to check on some things. There was a nasty storm and since it was nearly one in the morning I decided to head home to change clothes before I went to Doc’s to check on her. I walked up to my cabin, soaked almost to the bone by the rain, and was shocked to find her sitting in my rocking chair with a blanket wrapped around her. She still wasn’t even talking then, other than one-word answers and nods. I climbed the steps and asked if she was ok and she nodded. Her eyes looked so haunted, but when I opened the door to my house she stood and walked inside. She slept in my bed that night, and every night for nearly six months. I held her every night and she let me. If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know then nothing I say will convince you that she’s already mine. Either she doesn’t know she belongs to me yet or she is trying to deny it, but whatever the reason, she’s nearly ready to admit that the way things are isn’t enough for her anymore. She needs more from me and even if she tries to push me away I will give her what she needs.” He watched the confusion on Mark’s face turn to shock, and then worry.
“What happened after six months that made her stop sleeping with you? Did you try to initiate sex, or did you tell her that you needed more or something?” Mark demanded, looking grim. Pretty Boy’s jaw clenched and his eyes lit with the fires of hell as he glowered at Mark.
“Hell no! I wouldn’t ever force or demand a sexual relationship she wasn’t ready for asshole! Nor would I be stupid enough to tell her I wanted another woman when she’s all I need. She overheard a conversation between two club members that set her off. They were talking about the fact that I was hanging around her and didn’t go near other women. She got it in her head that she had to learn to live on her own. It honestly pissed me off and ruined my fucking life for the last year and a half—those stupid bastards. Gabi is a little stubborn in case you hadn’t noticed.” He snorted.
Pretty Boy found himself shaking his head at the memories flooding him of how irritated he’d been the night he’d had to go searching for her. He hadn’t found her until the next day and he’d been beyond livid when she’d explained that he deserved a whole woman and not the fractured shell of one. After that night, she’d refused to stay with him and he’d known trying to force her into it would only end up making her run. Not that he would have allowed her to get away, but he’d still been worried back then that he’d frighten her if he pushed too hard because of what she’d been through.
Now, however, he would push because she was strong enough to take the pressure without breaking. From that night on he’d just did what he’d done tonight and shown up at her place to see if she was waiting on him. Most nights she was here sitting by the fire, but on the good nights he waited for her to come outside with his arms aching to hold her. On those nights, he sat here and fought to allow her the space she was trying to put between them while everything inside him screamed for him to claim her.
“You’re telling me she came to you and not me?” Mark asked, his voice cracked.
“Mark, it isn’t because of what happened, it’s because she’s mine and she knows she was always meant to be mine, even if she is trying to fight it. She doesn’t blame you for what happened to her. You thought she was safe as long as you did what they told you to do. Yes, it was a stupid move, and if you’d told Bone what was happening from the beginning we might have saved her from some of the pain she suffered, but she doesn’t blame you. You made a mistake that cost both you and her nearly everything. Her coming to me isn’t about you, it’s about us. Our connection is strong and from the second our eyes connected it was set in stone. In that moment, we were both changed forever. I know that even if I had met her before she was taken, the bond between us would have been the same.” He didn’t bother hiding his feelings for Gabi. Over the past year and a half, he’d come to realize that denying the truth would not do either of them any favors.
Gabi leaving his bed after those two idiots had opened their mouths and said that stupid shit had taught him that he should have spoken up long before he did. He’d almost fucking killed Rock and Gator for talking shit where Gabi could hear them. At the time, he hadn’t understood what was happening between them. He should have known after watching all his friends—men he would have sworn weren’t the type—fall in love. Each one had found the woman for them and grabbed hold with both hands. It wasn’t until he’d been denied her soft body pressed against his every night, that he’d realized she was all he needed—hell, all he’d ever need.
“You don’t know that it’s not because of my mistake. I fucked up. Hell, I nearly got her killed and because of me she was repeatedly raped and beaten. Every day I fucking waited she was being hurt by those bastards! It’s why I will never forgive myself, even if Bone and the club do. I’m the reason she was in those asshole’s hands for so long. Fuck, I can barely live with myself. I almost wish Bone had killed me, but then I realize that I deserve to suffer while I watch a pale lack luster version of my sister walk around. That’s my punishment. I won’t allow you to force her into being your old lady. I didn’t protect her when I should have and I refuse to make that mistake again Pretty Boy. I will protect her.”
“I already told you that I would never force her, but I also won’t walk away. Gabi will have the final say in any relationship we have, but she needs a little push over the edge or she will try to put up road blocks that will only serve to hurt her more. I won’t allow that.” He knew he was being stubborn himself, but he needed Mark to understand that trying to stop him from being with Gabi was a lost cause.
“Are you sure you aren’t seeing what you want to see here, Pretty Boy? Maybe it’s not how you think it is and she might not ever let you touch her the way you want to. Have you accepted that she may be too ruined for what you want from her?” Mark asked.
“I’ll tell you what I told her. If nothing changes I can live with that, but what I can’t do is live without her. She’s scared and she has every right to be frightened after what she went through, but I would never hurt her. Not physically or emotionally. She made her choice a long time ago when she walked from Doc’s clinic to my front porch. She chose when she walked into my house that night and slept in my bed for months in my arms. She’s still choosing me by letting me come here and hold her every night when she’s afraid. Haven’t you noticed that she never lets anyone touch her? I have. Anyone tries and she flinches, but she’s never objected when I’ve touch her. Not even once.” Pretty Boy sounded smug, but he didn’t care.
“Fuck man. I don’t know what to say. I never really thought about it, but you’re right. She doesn’t let anyone touch her. Even me. Fuck, I didn’t notice because you’re right, she always lets you touch her.” Mark suddenly looked god smacked by the realization.
“Like I said. I have this under control.”
“How can you be ok with her never letting you—shit. You know what I’m asking.” Mark muttered, looking uncomfortable as he shifted back and forth in his chair.
“I love her. Even without sex I will learn to deal, as long as I have her. I don’t think it’s going to be as big of an issue as you both think. Sure, it will be rough and she will likely have flash backs. It’s very likely she will end up feeling like she’s failing me before we get the kinks worked out, but we will manage it. She was repeatedly raped and it’s going to leave scars, but they don’t make me love her any less.” The conviction in his tone wasn’t faked because he could already tell that she wanted him. She just wasn’t ready to give in to what she wanted, but she would get there.
“Damn, I wish I could share your confidence but—fuck. You hurt her by fucking around with another woman and I will cut your balls off. You know that, right?” Mark said looking at him. Tired of rehashing this conversation, Pretty Boy rose to his feet with Gabi in his arms.
“I appreciate you trying to look out for her, but it’s not something you need to worry about. I will never betray her. She’s too damned important to me. Now I need to lay her down so she doesn’t end up waking up.” He started towards the house, Gabi still cuddled close as he took the stairs to her little one room cabin. Mark had followed him and opened the door for Pretty Boy.
“Good luck, man. I won’t stand in your way unless you hurt her.”
Gabi woke pinned to the bed by a heavy weight. Her heart didn’t start racing and she didn’t struggle to get away because she knew that the arm pinning her wasn’t a threat. No, it belonged to the man she was trying to set free. The man she’d told to just walk away even as she’d feared what would happen to what was left of her shattered soul if he did. Kyle, her savior, the only reason she was still able to function. Damn it, she had to convince him to stop allowing her to weigh him down. She rolled slightly, finding his handsome face turned towards her on the pillow as he held her to him possessively. His hard jaw was relaxed in a way that softened his features.
She understood why they named him Pretty Boy looking at him. It was the perfect jaw line and the hard, full lips that were parted slightly as his breath puffed out in light snores. He looked so much younger than his twenty-eight years. Her eyes traced the scruff that was starting to form along his handsome jaw, wondering what it would feel like against her skin. Gabi sighed deeply, wishing that she could be what he needed her to be. Feeling the sting of tears, she closed her eyes as she tried to get her emotions under control. When she finally opened them a few moments later he was watching her, his eyes dark with desires she couldn’t name.
Those brown pools didn’t frighten her despite their intensity, because she knew he’d never push for anything she wasn’t willing to give him. It was the reason she felt safe with him. Even when she’d been sleeping in his bed every night he’d never pushed. He shifted closer, drawing her to him slowly. Gabi knew if she’d struggled for even a second, he would have let her go immediately. She allowed him to arrange her next to him with his lips hovering over hers.
“Gabi, baby. We need to talk about this idea you have about pushing me away for my own good.” Kyle’s voice was gritty from sleep and his eyes were serious and intently focused on her. Gabi wanted to squirm away from him and climb out of the bed to avoid this conversation, but something about the way he stared wouldn’t let her.
“Kyle,” Gabi began, her heart aching at the words hovering on her lips.
“No, you aren’t going to force me to walk away and there is no way in hell I will allow you to walk away from me without a fight. You might as well face the facts and realize I’m here to stay. I know you think we can’t be together, that you will never be able to have a sexual relationship with me because of what happened to you, but I know that’s not true.” He told her, his eyes moving over her face watching for any changes in her expression.
“Kyle, I can’t give you what you want. I can’t.” Gabi pleaded with him, trying to make him understand.
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