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He yowled in pain, and then the girl was in front of me. He had let go of me, and she tried to grab me, so I punched her. She dodged, so my fist just connected with her shoulder.

Then I was off balance, and the guy grabbed me around the waist. I screamed and kicked at him as hard as I could. Apparently he got tired of that, so he dropped me on the ground.

I was on my feet instantly, but he grabbed my arm again and turned me so I was facing him. He raised his hand and slapped me harder than I had ever been hit before. Everything went white, and my ear started ringing. Then he let go of me, and I collapsed backward on the grass behind me.

“I said not to hurt her,” the girl hissed.

“I didn’t. I was subduing her,” the guy growled and looked down at me. “And if she doesn’t knock it off, I’ll subdue her again, but harder this time.”

My neck ached from the force of his hit, and my jaw screamed painfully. A throbbing spread behind my left eye, but I still tried to stagger to my feet. She kicked me then, not hard enough to really hurt, but enough so I’d fall back down.

I lay on my back, staring up at the sky. From the corner of my eye, I could see a light flick on in the window of a house behind me. We were making enough of a ruckus to wake the neighbors, even if we weren’t close enough for Matt to hear us.

I opened my mouth to scream and yell for help, but the male tracker must’ve realized what I meant to do. Little more than a yelp had escaped my lips when I felt his foot press down hard on my throat.

“If you make a sound, I’ll make this much harder for you,” the guy warned me. “I might not be allowed to snap your neck, but I can make you wish you were dead.”

I couldn’t breathe, and I clawed at his foot, trying to get it off me. When he asked if I promised to be good, I nodded frantically. I would’ve agreed to anything that let me breathe again.

He stepped back and I gasped for breath, taking in big gulps of air that burned my throat.

“Let’s just get her to the car,” the girl said, exasperated.

He bent down to try to pick me up, but I hit away his hands. I was lying on my back, and I lifted up my legs. I wasn’t really trying to kick him, but I was going to use my legs to push him back if he came near me.

In response, he hit my calf hard enough to give me a charley horse, which I gritted my teeth through. He put his knee on my stomach, holding me down so I couldn’t fight as much.

When he tried to grab me, I pushed him back with my hands, so he grabbed my wrists, pressing them tightly together with one hand.

“Stop,” he commanded. I tried to pull my hands free, but he just squeezed tighter and my bones felt like they were about to snap. “Just stop. We’re going to take you no matter what.”

“Like hell you are!” Finn barked, his voice coming from out of nowhere.

I swiveled my head so I could see Finn. I had never been so happy to see anyone in my life.

“Oh, dammit,” the girl said with a sigh. “If you hadn’t spent so much time fighting with her, we’d be out of here by now.”

“She was the one fighting with me,” the guy insisted.

“Now I’m the one fighting with you!” Finn growled, glaring at him. “Get off her! Now!”

“Finn, can’t we just talk about this?” The girl tried to sound sultry and flirty as she took a step closer to Finn, but he didn’t even look at her. “I know how you feel about duty, but there’s got to be some kind of agreement we can come to.”

She took another step closer to him, and he pushed her back, so hard she stumbled and fell backward.

“I hate fighting with you, Finn.” The guy let go of my hands and took his knee off my stomach. I took the opportunity to try to kick him in the nuts, and reflexively he whirled on me and smacked me hard again.

Before I could even curse him for hitting me, Finn was on him. I had rolled onto my side, cradling my injured face, so I could only see part of what was going on.

My attacker had managed to get to his feet, but I could hear the sounds of Finn punching him. The girl leaped on his back to stop him, but Finn elbowed her in the face. She collapsed to the ground, holding her bleeding nose.

“Enough!” The guy had cowered down, his arms shielding his face against any more blows. “We’re done! We’ll get out of here!”

“You better fucking get out of here,” Finn shouted. “If I see you anywhere near her again, I will kill you!”

The guy walked over to the girl and helped her to her feet, then they both headed down the street to a black SUV parked at the end of the block. Finn stood on the sidewalk in front of me, watching them until they got in and sped off.

A moment later, he knelt down next to me where I was lying on the ground. He placed his hand on my cheek where I had been slapped. The skin was tender, so it stung a little, but I refused to show it. His hand felt too good to push away.

His dark eyes were pained when he looked me over, and as terrible as everything had been up until this moment, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything because it led to this, to him touching me and looking at me like that.

“I’m sorry it took me so long.” He pursed his lips, clearly blaming himself for not getting here sooner. “I was sleeping, and I didn’t wake up until you were completely panicked.”

“You sleep in your clothes?” I asked, looking at his usual dark jeans and button-down shirt combo.

“Sometimes.” Finn pulled his hand from my face. “I knew something was up today. I could feel it, but I couldn’t pinpoint it because I couldn’t stay as close to you as I would’ve liked. I never should’ve slept at all.”