Page 11


“Your girlfriend is awfully trusting of you, that’s all.”

It wasn’t all. But it was right.

“We have a relationship based on trust. Just like you and I do.”

The trust that I wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize either relationship unless I had a damn good reason. And, well, I hadn’t seen the reason yet. It needed to be full-proof.

Oh, I had no fucking idea what I was thinking about. All booze plus no meds makes Dex a crazy boy.

I felt eyes watching me every move so I looked away from her sweet face and scanned the bar. There were two idiots in their twenties sitting nearby, staring intently at Perry. It gave me a very bad feeling. First of all, one of them looked like he got chewed up by a lawnmower and hastily put back together. The other was just dripping with Perry lust. It was a little nauseating. Fuck, I hoped I didn’t look like that.

“Looks like you’re attracting some yokel’s at ten o’ clock,” I told her, trying to sound breezy but wanting her to know it wasn’t something flattering.

She observed them for a moment. They never broke their stare, even though now I was full on giving them the Dex Foray glare.

She looked back to me and I softened my face.

“Lovely pair,” she joked. “Are you suggesting I go for them?”

I twirled her around. “Only if you want to add another cut to that cheek.”

We danced for a little bit more until the song ended and then I regretfully took my hands off of Perry and left her to go to the bathroom. It had felt so good to be holding her but it was back to reality and the tawdry, beer-soaked morons of Red Fox.

When I was done I came back to the table where Maximus and Bird were talking. Max’s head snapped up the moment he heard me approaching and the look in his eyes was brilliant. As in, he was still annoyed about the ass-grabbing move. Well good. Her ass wasn’t technically mine to grab (not in the real world) but it sure as hell wasn’t his either.

Perry wasn’t at the table but I didn’t want to ask where she was in case Maximus had some stupid answer. So I just slid in the seat beside him and started talking to Bird about the history of the town. Not that I hadn’t learned quite a bit all ready, but I liked Bird and Bird seemed more relaxed when he was talking about boring shit.

I don’t know how much time had passed before it was apparent that Perry wasn’t coming back anytime soon. Max had gotten up to go somewhere, so I asked Bird.

“Where’s Perry?”

He looked over at the crowd, his stern eyes scanning every person.

“I don’t know....she-”

I didn’t hear what he said. The slight spark of panic in his eyes was enough for me to jump to my feet. I marched to the edge of the dance floor and tried to pick her out there. Then I went around the bar area, searching every table and booth. I went to the bar, still as packed with stanky people as ever and then I went to the washrooms, hanging around the woman’s one for a few minutes before I had this terrible, ball-grabbing sensation that she was in major trouble.

I hoped my instincts were wrong but when it came to Perry they never were. It was like I had some sort, I don’t know, it sounds lame to say connection, but that’s kind of what it was.

I ran away from the washrooms and pushed my way through the crowd to the front door. Outside people were smoking, puking, making out. Perry wasn’t one of them.

“Fuck,” I swore under my breath and went back inside, the wall of sweat and heat hitting me like a bum paddle.

When I looked around again, I noticed the two yokels I spotted ogling her earlier were gone. Again, my balls seized. This was not good.

Not good, not good, not good, not good.

I spied an exit sign at the back and another door and scrambled my way through the crowd. At one point my borrowed cowboy hat fell off but I wasn’t about to retrieve it.

I burst through the back doors and into the still of the night, the sounds of the bar fading as the door closed behind me.

But, fuck.

Wait.

I heard noises coming from around the side of a truck.

I saw. Oh god. I saw feet sticking out. Perry’s worn and dusty shoes.

My heart lurched, anger pulsing through my veins at the speed of light. It was a violent feeling. I shut down to everything except swift justice.

I couldn’t even think. I walked slowly toward the back of the truck. I spotted a shovel in the back of the truck with some farm equipment and quickly yanked it out. The scraping noise of metal on metal was a dead giveaway so I had two seconds to act.

I leaped around the corner and brought the shovel down like I was batting a home run. It connected with the face of the ugly bastard and he went flying backward.

It was only then that I saw Perry underneath him, blood on her hands, life in her eyes.

“Perry!” I screamed. I went for her, falling to my knees beside her. I put my hands to her cheek, seeing how hurt she was. She was still clothed, but from the way her pants were unzipped, the way her stomach was bloodied…

I could barely choke out the words, “Are you hurt?”

She shook her head. At least there was that. I slipped my arms underneath her and brought her gently to her feet.

“I got you,” I whispered. Then I remembered the other dude at the bar. “Was it just this guy?”

She didn’t say anything but she didn’t need to. I heard the crunch of gravel and saw her eyes go circle-wide. I turned on my heel, without thinking, without planning, and swung the shovel at my target.

And there I found the other guy, his face underneath my shovel as it connected with a sick crack and he went flying backward onto the ground.

I don’t really remember what happened next. Something in me, something I tried to keep buried and starving, it came out. It overrode my entire body and all I could think about was wanting to, needing to, kill this man. This beast. This animal. I wanted to rip his heart out and eat it in front of him for what they did to my Perry.

I didn’t rip out his heart but this got pretty ugly with the shovel there. It was only Perry’s cry, her protest for me to stop, that made me realize there was no use. He was down. She’s the one who needed me.

I dropped the shovel and ran to her. She was barely staying up right and her eyes were closing in lid-fluttering daze. I was losing her.

“Perry! Hang in there!” I yelled, holding her up. She went completely slack in my arms. I hoisted her above my shoulder, finding the strength deep inside (she was small but, fuck, boobs weigh a lot) and brought her to the door.

Just then, Bird came rushing out with Max and Rudy, a flashlight in his hand.

One look at Perry and the guys on the ground and they knew what to do.

I was ushered through the crowd toward Rudy’s office.

We did get a lot of looks from the drunk patrons, but none of concern. Just curiosity. It made me wonder if hauling bleeding women around was a part of their nightly scene. It wouldn’t have surprised me.

Luckily, being a medicine man didn’t mean Rudy relied on just flowers and hocus pocus to heal people. He had syringes, vials, antibiotics and a whole mess of clinical stuff under his desk.

He cleared it off and I laid her down on top of it. He lifted up her shirt. The wound near her belly-button...it made my skin crawl. It made that beast want to come out of me again.

I spent the next hour trying to keep the rage under control. A police officer showed up and I had Maximus show them to where the two guys were. I couldn’t go myself. I would have finished the job. They deserved death but I knew better than to give it to them.

When Perry was finally patched up, we took her still unconscious body to the jeep and gently placed her inside. I had hoped the rolling movement and noise of the car would have woken up, but whatever she was drugged with (Rudy said she exhibited all the signs) was far too powerful. She was there but not there. I wanted all of her to be there. I wanted her to be awake and know she was OK. I had her.

We brought her into the house where Will immediately started fussing and flipping out. Everyone was on edge, angry, wanting answers and justice. So was I, but I had to take care of her first.

I brought her up to the bedroom, alone. I was about to put her on the bed when she started making noises. Gurgling noises. Puking noises.

There wasn’t enough time. I made it as far as the bathroom with her before she puked up on herself. Trying to ignore the smell, I took her over to the toilet – she was walking a little now, but not talking – and held back her hair as she brought up the rest of the night.

When she was finally done, weak and dirty, I ran a bath for her, lukewarm. I took off her clothes and there was Perry below me, naked. She looked as vulnerable as a baby bird.

I gently put her in the bath and quickly bathed her myself, sponging her with a soapy shower puff, trying not to get her bandages wet. Her pajamas were next. She was now coherent enough to help me by putting her arms through the sleeves. Bird was now in the room with us, a shotgun in his hand. It didn’t make me feel all that better. It felt like the damage was done.

I scooped her up in my hands and lowered her into the bed. Her eyes opened wider, taking me in for the first time in hours. There was a flash of horror as she regained memory of the night. Then there was something else. Something reserved especially for me.

Maybe it was a thank you.

Maybe it was something more.

It didn’t matter. She was looking at me in a way I’d always dreamed. It’s too bad I had to save her in order to get it.

I’d never stop saving her.

STRIPSEARCH

“Where are we going?” Perry asked from beside me, taking in the sights of the city. They weren’t too pretty at the moment. Granville Street was Vancouver’s entertainment district, which meant street punks with suspiciously acquired dogs, pushy homeless people, jonesing drug addicts and stumbling, drunken idiots in Tap-Out shirts. Not to mention the Canucks had just won the hockey game against the Rangers, so everything was multiplied by a billion beers and douchebags.

I didn’t want to tell her where we were going. If she knew, she’d back out. I was on a mission to expose her to my world and let her hair down a little bit. I felt like a king earlier when I convinced her to wear the Canucks jersey I bought. It looked so fucking hot on Perry, barely fitting over her breasts, it was taking all of my willpower to stop me from ripping her jeans off and bending her over in the hotel room. In the bathroom. Anywhere would have done. I was getting hard again just thinking about it.

So, naturally, I decided to take her to a strip club. Fuck, the way I figured it, she needed to loosen up a little. Let her hair down, like I said. And if I walked around with an erection in there, no one would be the wiser. At least she wouldn’t think it was attributed to her, which 90% of the time it was.

And honestly, I needed the distraction like nothing else. After the news from Jenn…my mind was in dire need of shutting down. It couldn’t happen fast enough. There was no way in hell I could deal with that shit this weekend of all weekends. Call me a coward, call me weak, I don’t give a fuck. I had the rest of my life to deal with it.

Just not now.

For now, I was going to pretend.

I gave her a coy smile. “You’ll see.”

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