Filthy English (English #2)(15)


by Ilsa Madden-Mills

No! It was all I had left of my dad!

“I’ve never killed anyone for a stupid piece of jewelry, but you’re a different story.” His face was livid with rage.

“Don’t,” I gasped out. “Please.”

Everything I’d been consumed with for the past two weeks: my mother’s disappointment, Hartford’s jilting, school—all stupid, stupid, stupid.

This. This is what mattered. Life.

Savoring each moment because you don’t know when it’s your last one.

Being mindful and present for the small things.

The color of the sky. A daisy. Falling snow.

Don’t let me die, I prayed.

I wanted to eat new kinds of donuts.

Get a tattoo.

Dance.

Fall in love.

In a blink, Chad disappeared, his body colliding with the metal dumpster like a bag of dirt.

I turned my head toward the door.

Dear God. Dax.

He rushed Chad, shoving him to the concrete where they tangled on the ground, both of them grunting and punching. Vicious sounds of skin meeting skin reached my ears. I tried to move, to get up and help. Something!

I hoisted myself up to my hands and knees and crawled in their direction.

Please don’t let Dax get hurt.

Broader and more muscular, Dax snapped out hits, but Chad recovered, wiry and quick as his lean body scrambled away.

He flew at Dax and jumped on him, landing a sharp jab to his eye, making Dax’s head snap back.

Dax roared and stumbled backward, resting against the brick wall of the neighboring building, chest heaving as they faced off. Chad leaned down, scooped up a rock from the ground, and advanced.

No!

Feebly gasping out for help to anyone who might be listening near the street or inside, I made my way to them, gravel digging into my knees and palms.

Dax inhaled and jumped at him, but Chad evaded and swung the rock, aiming for Dax’s head. He missed and backed up to avoid Dax’s fist.

A car drove by the street and I called out again, but my voice had vanished.

Closer. Closer. I crawled to them.

Chad’s back was to me, and if I could get there . . .

Dax’s eyes met mine for a second, sending me an almost imperceptible shake of his head. I ignored him. No way was he doing this by himself.

Chad, obviously giving up on hitting Dax by using the rock, threw it instead, hammering Dax in the arm.

Dax’s face tightened, his fist clenching as he dashed at Chad again, only this time instead of using his hands, he sent two fast kicks to Chad’s chest. Bam! Bam!

Chad folded in and gasped for air.

Dax advanced closer, circling him, banked rage on his face, an insane look in his eyes I’d never seen.

Abruptly, Chad hopped up, pivoted, and ran for the main road.

Dax flipped around and grabbed his shirttail, but Chad came out of it, buttons flying as he jerked away. He cursed at us both and disappeared across the street and into the darkness of the next alley.

The fading of his footsteps was the best sound I’d ever heard.

I pulled myself up to standing and leaned against the neighboring building as Dax jogged over to me. My entire body heaved in great gulps of air.

He halted within inches, eyeing me like a hawk, his face rigid with fury. His hands were clenched, his body drawn up in a tight wall of muscle. “God, Remi. You okay?”

I nodded and only then did he relax, his shoulders dropping as he bent down to lift my chin up toward the lamppost light. His teeth clenched. “Your throat is bruising.”

“I’m fine,” I managed, my voice rough as sandpaper.

“What the hell happened? I saw you come out, but I must have missed him following you. I got nervous that you were alone . . .” He trailed off and raked a hand through his hair. “Dammit, I’m sorry I didn’t come out sooner.”

“Not . . . your . . . fault . . .” I sucked in more air and kept my words brief. I clutched my wrist, missing my bracelet already. “Robbery. Took my jewelry.”

He gently eased me in his arms and held me like I was a piece of china. “You’re shaking all over, Remi. I’m so sorry, love. I’m here. You’re okay. I’m okay. Everything’s okay.”

Warm tempered steel enveloped me, and I dissolved into the safety of his arms, my face buried in his chest. My voice wobbled. “I thought he was going to kill me—” I stopped and closed my eyes as hot tears fell, for once unable to stem the tide. “I hate crying in front of people. It’s stupid.”

“Shhh, let it all out. You’re crashing. I got you. I promise.”

Snippets of the attack rushed at me. “He—he got the bracelet my dad gave me the day he died. I—I can’t imagine not having it. I need it. It keeps me centered . . .” I stopped, unable to say more without losing my shit.

He took a step back to better meet my eyes, his hands cupping my shoulders with care. “But you’re alive. That’s all that matters, right? If anything had happened to you . . .” His mouth thinned, and his chest heaved as he took a deep breath. “I wanted to go after the wanker, but I couldn’t leave you here on the ground alone . . .”

I nodded, wiping at my face. “You scared him good, I think. You have moves I’ve never seen.” My eyes flicked over his shoulder, part of me still paranoid.

He touched my cheek, his voice soft yet deadly. “He’s not coming back, but if he does, I’ll bloody kill the bastard.”

I nodded, feeling just as bloodthirsty. My beloved bracelet was gone.

He adjusted the neckline of my dress, and I looked down. Part of the bodice and shoulder had been ripped and were barely hanging on. Sequins were dangling by threads. He took the ends of one side and tied them in a soft knot, arranging it so you couldn’t see my bra.

“Perfect. Money I need down the drain.” I sighed, rubbing my arms. “It would have been wrong to return it anyway after wearing it.”

He paused, his eyes concerned. “Remi? Maybe this isn’t the time, but if you need a loan, I can help.”

My mouth parted.

He continued to surprise me. The cocky Dax I knew from Whitman had a whole different side to him.

“You’re—you’re sweet to say that, and I didn’t mean to hint that I needed help. I’m fine.”

A furrow lined his forehead. “I’ve been around long enough to know that when a girl says she’s fine, she’s usually lying. Why are you worried about returning a dress? I want the truth.”