Just before ten, I slipped out the back door. Impatience quickened my steps—quickened my pulse. I couldn’t wait to see her.
Mom and Lara had cornered me a couple of hours before, ambushed me with questions about my eye, demanding answers there was no way in hell I was going to give. I’d made up some convoluted story that was barely believable about some guys I’d never seen before at the next town jumping me when Blake and I had stopped for gas. Only after I’d convinced my mom and Lara that I was fine and I’d spent the next two hours listening to them chat over hot tea was I able to escape. I imagined the late hour was my only salvation.
Besides, I figured this town had enough gossips that either of them could have just asked and they’d find the answers to their questions. As it was, I was wondering why they hadn’t already heard. I guessed since the only ones who had been there last night were Blake and his small group of friends and that fucking coward Troy, no one had uttered a word. A part of me wanted the whole damned town to know what Troy had done, even if it meant I would bear the consequences of it, while the other part of me wanted to protect Maggie from any more shame.
I tried to push those thoughts aside, told myself, it’s over…it doesn’t matter. Maggie was mine. Now I just had to figure out how to get her out of that house so she’d be completely safe.
Maggie was already there when I emerged at the outskirts of our refuge. Her head snapped up when she heard me approach, that smile lighting her face when our eyes met. There was no hesitation as I rushed to her. I sank to the ground and pulled her into my arms.
“Hi,” I mumbled between our frantic kisses.
Maggie gasped then giggled against my mouth when I spun her and pressed her into the cool grasses.
“Hi,” she said, grinning when I finally pulled away to let her up for air. The moonlight seeped through the ceiling of leaves and illuminated the joy on her face. That joy faded when she focused on the mark above my eye. She reached out and ran her fingers over it.
I grabbed her hand and brought her fingers to my lips before she could say anything.
“It was worth it, Maggie…you’re worth it. I need you to believe that.” I’d do it a million times over if what happened last night had set her free.
I watched as disbelief and uncertainty twisted her face, and she closed her eyes and seemed to struggle against her past before she nodded her head as if maybe she understood.
Her eyes fluttered open. “I love you, William.”
“Do you know how long I have been dying to hear you say that?” I almost teased as I settled myself between her legs and hugged her closer. I felt the heavy breath ease itself from her lungs and her spirit sink into mine as she relaxed beneath me. She smiled at me, her eyes wide and awakened. I loved the way she looked right then, like the girl I’d fallen in love with over the last three months, although now exposed and without the barriers she’d erected between us.
“I think I’ve known it for a long time,” she finally said, her fingers playing with the hair at the nape of my neck. “I don’t really know why I felt like I couldn’t admit it.” Maggie wet her lips, glanced into the distance before bringing her attention back to me. “I’m scared of this, of finally having something I’ve wanted so badly, but I’m more scared of losing it.”
I squeezed her, a gentle encouragement. She was never going to lose me.
“I’m not a normal girl, William.” When she said it, her eyes burned into mine, as if warning me, giving me an out.
I brushed the bangs from her face. “You think I don’t know you, Maggie?”
Yeah, I knew she was broken, knew no matter where she ended up in life, her past would always be there to haunt her, knew she had so much to overcome. But I also knew, underneath it all, she was strong. I saw it in her eyes and felt it in her spirit. I knew she was kind and good, knew she was beautiful. And I knew I was never going to stop loving her.
“I fell in love with you.”
A tremor of a smile tugged at one side of her mouth. “I guess that’s the part I really don’t understand.”
“Maggie,” I said as a whisper as I leaned down to kiss her. I pulled back. “You deserve to be happy.” And I’d do whatever it took to be sure she was.
Cupping my cheek, she ran her thumb beneath my eye. “You make me happy.”
I didn’t even try to contain the smile that spread over my face.