Page 58

"Get to the point," she said, needing to hear how he ruined her life so that she could build up a defense around her heart and hate him so the pain would end.

Connor looked away, his jaw clenched tightly as he said, "By the time I got out to the alleyway, the ass**le was trying to shove you down behind the dumpster."

"H-he didn't," she said, stopping to wet her suddenly dry lips when the words refused to leave her mouth. It didn't matter if she remembered it or not. Knowing that some guy had hurt her like that would be difficult to get over. As she waited for his answer, she hoped that Connor had gotten there in time. Please let him have gotten there in time, she prayed as dread coiled around in her stomach.

"He didn't have a chance to hurt you, Rory. I promise you that he didn't hurt you," he said softly, but wouldn't look at her.

"What aren't you telling me?" she demanded, afraid that he was lying to protect her from the truth.

"There's nothing else to tell, Rory. You know the rest," he said, shaking his head as he pushed away from the counter and moved to step past her, but she wasn't ready to drop this.

"No, I don't," she said, planting her good hand against his chest, stopping him from ending this conversation before she got the rest of her answers.

"He pulled a knife. We ended up in jail. Case closed, end of story, let it go," he said firmly, gently pushing her hand away and this time he managed to walk away from her and was halfway to his bedroom door when she asked, "And how did we land in jail and him in the hospital if he was the one with the knife, Connor? Huh?" she demanded, walking after him and cutting him off before he could make it to that door and walk away from her, taking the answers that she desperately wanted to know with him.

"How did my life get wrecked, Connor? Tell me," she demanded. When he clenched his jaw and didn't answer, she screamed it. "Tell me!"

"You wouldn't listen to me!" he snapped, grabbing her by the arms and giving her a shake, not hard enough to hurt her, but it was enough to stun her. "I told you to get your ass back in the bar, but you wouldn't listen! You should have f**king listened to me, Rory!" Another shake. "Do you have any idea how close I came to losing you that night? Do you?" he practically roared in her face as he pushed her back up against the wall and got in her face, clearly done with avoiding this subject.

"I begged you to go inside, Rory, but even drunk you're a stubborn pain in the ass!" he snapped, glaring down at her. "When that ass**le pulled out a knife, you got pissed and went to punch him. I almost didn't get between you in time! Do you have any idea how close that piece of shit came to stabbing you? Do you?" he demanded, sounding angrier and angrier with each passing second when all she could do was stand there, desperately trying to catch her breath as his words sank in.

"How did he get stabbed, Connor?" she asked, reaching out and grabbing onto him as a wave of dizziness tore through her head with the possible knowledge that she was the reason the man ended up in the hospital having one of his kidneys removed.

"He fell on the knife when I tackled him to the ground," Connor said, his tone more gentle as his grip on her arms turned supportive.

"But in the police report he said that you attacked him," she mumbled, desperately trying to wrap her mind around everything he'd told her and figure out how the hell they'd gotten off when it was the other guy who ended up in the hospital when there hadn't been any witnesses to back them up. She'd tried to get her hands on the police report a few times over the years, but because the case was closed and she wasn't a Canadian resident, her request had been denied.

"I know what he said, Rory, but his story didn't add up," Connor explained softly.

"What are you talking about, Connor? There were no other witnesses and he's the one that got hurt. How exactly didn't his story add up?"

Locking his eyes on her, he gently took her good hand off his arm and placed it on the left side of his chest. When she opened her mouth to ask what he was doing, he glided her hand over his chest. It took a moment before a small raised line registered and when it did, she shook off his hand and traced her fingers over the three inch scar that she'd never noticed before. Not that anyone would have really had a chance to see the scar with his tattoo covering the area.

When he raised his left hand, palm out, her eyes landed on a long thin scar that ran across it. Without a word, she reached up with a shaky hand and traced the thin scar that ran across his palm that she'd always assumed was from working construction.

"Defensive wound," she said numbly as she dropped her hand to her side.

"Yes," Connor said, pushing away from the wall and moving away from her. When he sat down on the edge of the bed and dropped his head in his hands, it surprised her how badly she wanted to go to him.

"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked, leaning her head back and looking up at the ceiling, desperately trying not to lose it as something occurred to her.

He hadn't ruined her life.

That was all her. She'd ruined her life by getting drunk and going off with some ass**le. She'd put them both in that situation and because of her, Connor had been hurt.

"There was no point in telling you, Rory. It was done."

"You were in the cell with me the next morning, Connor. How did you manage that if you were injured?" she asked, trying to find a hole in his story, instinctively knowing that she wouldn't find any. For all his faults, Connor was not a liar.

"I let them stitch me up and then left against medical advice when they wanted me to stay the night," he explained softly.

"Why?" she found herself asking even though she wasn't really sure that she could handle anything more tonight.

"I couldn't stomach the idea of you being in a jail cell like that, Rory. By the time the ambulance came, you were already having problems. I made them bring you to the hospital, but they only kept you there long enough to give you some fluids before they released you to the police."

"Why did my father hit you?" she asked, wondering if her father knew Connor's role in everything. She doubted it. Her father would never strike someone that protected one of his children.

"He didn't know what happened. The only thing that he knew was that I followed you to Canada and that you were arrested, facing some pretty serious charges."

"You could have corrected him on that," she said, feeling her eyes tear up once again. She hated crying, didn't want to do it, but damn Connor if he didn't have her close to crying her eyes out.

"You had enough to deal with, Rory. It was simpler for me to take the brunt of his anger."

Taking a slow, steady breath, she dropped her gaze to Connor and for the first time in years she didn't know what to feel when she looked at him. She couldn't hate him, wanted to, but she couldn't. He'd saved her, cared for her and protected her and she'd been an absolute bitch to him over the years, not that he didn't deserve some of it, but there was no way that he deserved all of it.

"Why did you come after me, Connor?" she whispered, praying that he wouldn't say or do anything else that would rock her world. She really didn't know how much more she could take.