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Taylor's Time!

And we're back to Safe Now!

I love this story. It's got all the things - passion, secrets, struggles, revenge, and oh, yes, gotta have my HFN ending! (That's Happy For Now. The things I pick up hanging around with an author...)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this return visit as much as I did!

And I'll have more from my story tomorrow.

- Kendra

Chapter Three

I stayed with him, holding his head in my lap. I felt my skin grow cold every time he closed his eyes. I kept him awake. I kept him with me, in the moment, as both of us waited for the drugs to wear off.

It’s funny what the mind will do under stress to distract itself. My eyes crawled over the room, taking in the warm colors I hadn't noticed before. The floor, like the walls, was made of a cherry red wood. The carpet beneath the bed was orange and the bedclothes rose red. There was a bathroom, too, a cozy little space. Even the bed was comfortable, the blanket silky and soft, shining in the dim light of the bedside lamps. The light reflected off the walls too, and the floors, making everything look clean. Every inch of this basement was a warm color. And I loved it despite the predicament we were in.

I want a basement like this one day, I thought.

Slowly, Avan's leg drew closer to his body. My heart leapt out of my chest, joyful, anxious, relieved.

"Avan, thank God."

His eyes focused on me. He whispered my name questioningly.

"I'm here, baby." I soothed. "You're okay."

I wasn't at all sure if that last part was true.

"Are you in pain?"

He didn't answer but rose, groggy and with a hand placed to his head. His face changed, as if realizing where we were and what had happened. He clutched my shoulders suddenly, almost angrily. I flinched, startled by the fierceness in his eyes.

"Did they hurt you?"

It took me a moment to process exactly what he meant.

Yes, they had hurt me. They had hurt me by attacking him. But that wasn't what Avan was asking. He was asking if they'd touched me. If they'd violated me. If they took advantage of me while he was down.

I shook my head. The men hadn't touched me. Why? Avan was completely vulnerable. He couldn't have stopped them even if he wanted to. The men had to have known that. Yet they didn't touch me. Why?

Avan stood, unsteady, and started searching for a way out.

Only I knew that there was no way out. The basement was windowless. The door was padlocked; I'd heard the men secure it when they'd left us here. There was no point in explaining to Avan. His determination, his will, was like a runaway train, impossible to stop. He'd argue against the concrete facts of no escape. Unlike me, his optimism would insist there waa a way out.

I got up and silently retreated to the bed. I sat cross-legged, absentmindedly pulling threads from the knees of my jeans, and watched Avan search restlessly. He looked for windows. He rummaged through the drawers in the bathroom and nightstands, coming up empty. He paced, linking his hands behind his head. He ignored my presence completely.

it was when he started yelling, when he rushed up the stairs and kicked at the door with his bare foot, that I jumped from the bed and attempted to calm him down. I ventured up the stairs and put my hands on him. His normally soft, gentle voice was vicious and hateful.

"Come on, motherfuckers!"

What the Hell was he doing? Was he not afraid of being drugged and beaten again? Or beaten even worse?

No, of course he wasn't. But I was.

"Avan, stop!"

He didn't listen. He continued kicking, yelling, slamming his shoulder into the door. This wasn't him.

"Avan, calm down!" I grabbed his arm.

He tore away from me. He paced the room again, linking his fingers through his hair, breathing so hard I was sure he was growling.

"There's no way out, Avan." I walked slowly down the stairs.

It was a harsh truth, but it was still the truth. Avan didn't accept it. He didn't want to accept it.

He made a terrible noise, a sound of defeat, before sliding his back down one of the walls and sitting on the floor, his head low. I settled beside him, sinking back on my heels. After a long moment, he wrapped an arm around me, pulling me closer. His free hand lifted to his mouth, stayed there for a short while, then slowly slid down his chin.

I knew this gesture; it was a sign of stress. Without saying anything, I took his fingers in my own, brought them to my lips and held them there, wondering what he was thinking. My eyes lingered on his bloody shirt, followed the red trail to his neck. Blood was smeared on his cheeks where I'd tried to wipe it away. Pink abrasions covered his arms. One wound stood out amongst the rest: the bloody cut to the corner of his eye.

"That looks bad."

He raised his fingers to his eye, feeling at the clot of dried blood, and my eyes found the split in his bottom lip again. I stood and held my hand out to him. He took it and rose, following me.

"Shirt off." I said when we got into the bathroom.

Avan sat on the edge of the tub, his fingers gripping the sides.

"You're awfully bossy, ya know?" he teased, smiling.

I smiled back at him, grateful for his teasing. I didn't bother looking for disinfectant. I just dampened a washcloth I'd found on the counter and sat on the closed toilet lid.

"Shirt off." I said again, tugging it over his belly.

Though I didn't need to, I helped him ease it off, then looked away without turning my head. His chest and stomach were full of dark patches, painful bruises tinted with deep purples and reds.

"Don't freak out." He said, soothingly.

I swallowed. My eyes flitted to his.

"Do they hurt as bad as they look?"

Avan shrugged, unphased.

"Nah, it's not bad. I've been through worse."

He forced a smile, causing the clot on his lip to tear and bleed. I dabbed at the blood.

In a way, he was right. He put his body on the line every time he stepped foot into the cage or into the gym for a sparring session. He was used to it, conditioned for the beating he chose to endure. Kaine's attack, as vicious as it was, was nothing compared to what Avan trained for. Even when he came out of a fight uninjured, the weeks of vigorous training left him so sore and exhausted that the act of giving him a hug required caution and restraint.

But he was wrong, too. I could sense the tension in his body, hear the tightness in his voice. The beating had affected him far more than he lead on, but Avan, being the fighter that he was, tried his best to hide it.

"What does he want with us?"

Avan lowered his eyes. He shrugged his shoulders. He looked like a little kid being forced to confess to a naughty deed. I frowned and wiped at the deep cut in the corner of his eye with a feather-light touch.

"Why you?"

Avan looked at me. Why was he looking at me? I hadn't said it out loud.

Or had I?

My cheeks felt hot. Avan's eyes seemed to melt before me. They gleamed and appeared greener and brighter than ever.

"I'm glad it was me."

I thought about what would've happened if I'd been the one who'd stood up to the men. I thought about how easily they could've drugged and beaten me instead. And how much further they would've gone. The very thought of it, the vision of it in my head, made my skin crawl. I was suddenly thankful that it had been Avan who took the beating. And, I was ashamed of that feeling.

I made a motion for Avan to give me his arm and he did. Neither of us said anything more as I tended to the abrasions and the rest of his wounds. Maybe there wasn't anything left to say.

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