Panic beat my chest as I tried to wake August. "Come on, August. We need to get you inside." I didn't know if Daniel's thugs were around here, waiting to get him. This was a message from that asshole. I knew it. I'd gotten too close again. But I thought I was safe inside my apartment. He must have me wired somehow.
Slowly, August moved his head and said, groggily, "Briar?"
I stroked his face, wanting to take his pain away. "Yes, August, I'm here. Can you stand?"
He nodded and I helped him as he struggled to his feet, hanging his head.
"Don't rush things," I said, encouraging him to slow down. Goodness, he was covered in blood. After Daniel beat me, I never thought I could hate him more than that moment as I looked up into his smug face.
But I was wrong.
I hated him now with a passion. Daniel knew I loved August. Somehow, he figured it out. It was Daniel's greatest desire to wound me ever since I dared to defy him. I wished I could go back to that moment of madness when I thought he'd release me. He had his whores. Why did he still want me?
Because I was his, he'd said. His woman and I always would be. He planned to marry me as soon as I graduated and then I couldn't leave his side. Didn't ask me. Just told me this was so.
I'd decided right then that I'd kill myself before I'd allow him to make me his bride. No way would I ever bring his evil spawn into the world. The thought of him not being able to control me was freeing.
Or hurt the ones I loved.
Although my whole body shouted at me in agony, I was so happy to be with Briar. To see her face. I gripped my pounding head. "Thanks," was all I could get out.
"August, I'm sorry. I know this is my fault." Her voice warbled with emotion.
"I shouldn't have let you give me guitar lessons. We've been getting too close."
Rage surged through me and I flung my hand over my face. "Ugh. Why do you let that fucking bastard control you like that?"
"Because...August...look what he did to you?"
I stroked her shoulder. "No, Briar, it was all my fault. I'm the one who started this."
"What do you mean?"
Swallowing, I argued with myself if I should confess to her, but then figured she needed to know. Tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear, I said, "I...I'm the one who...who beat up Daniel. And he just was giving me payback is all."
A tear dribbled over her cheek. "Why would you do that, August?"
Staring into her beautiful face, I was consumed by her. "I couldn't stand to see him hurt you. I was angry. He gets away with everything and no one can touch him. But I did."
She held my hands and said, "But what if he...what if he killed you, August? Do you know how...I just...couldn't live with myself. I...I love you. That's why he wants to hurt us. I'm sorry."
Her confession squeezed my heart. She loved me. It was overwhelming to hear. She loved me as much as I loved her. I'd felt our bond since we were kids. It'd never changed. "Briar. Let me get you out of here. My parents can help. You can't stay here with him anymore. Please!"
"That's...impossible," she whispered.
"No, it's not. Briar, you can't be with him anymore. I won't have it because..." I cupped her face in my hand. "I love you, too."
In an instant, our bodies crushed together and I forgot about all the pain that throbbed through me. I claimed her mouth the way I should have done the moment I moved to town. Screw Daniel. Screw the Fortners. Nothing else mattered in the world but me and Briar.
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Next chapter will be updated Monday, January 8