Worth fighting for, p.10
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       Worth Fighting For, p.10
 

         Part #2 of Fighting to Be Free series by Kirsty Moseley

  caress of his voice around my name made my heart stutter. I never thought I would hear this boy say my name again. Even though I didn’t want it to, the sound of it set butterflies loose in my stomach.

  I shook my head. He had no damn right to cause butterflies, not after breaking my heart, and my traitorous body should be with me on this one. Bitch. “Three years of silence, and then you just walk over and think you can pick me up and carry me around like a freaking caveman?” I pointed my finger at him, trying to even out my breathing. The anger was dissipating and I could feel my emotions swelling inside me, threatening to spill out. “You don’t get to do that, Jamie. You don’t get to pretend like nothing happened and swoop in like some knight in shining armor. You don’t get to pretend that you didn’t break my heart. You just don’t.” By the time I got to the last word, it was almost a whisper and my eyes were brimming with tears.

  I couldn’t do this anymore, I couldn’t stand here in front of him and hold it together. Tears were imminent, and I refused to show him a single one. Behind him, I could see Stacey climbing down from the podium, making her way over. I turned on my heel, my eyes finding the exit, knowing she’d follow me out. I was just about to take a step when a hand closed around my wrist and I was pulled back, my body colliding with his.

  I gasped, looking up into Jamie’s face. His eyes were heated, his jaw set as he stepped even closer to me, his grip on my wrist steely as his other hand came up to cup the side of my face, his fingertips threading into my hair. I didn’t have any time to react before his mouth covered mine.

  I squeaked, my body going rigid as he pressed against me. His warmth seeped into me as his lips brushed softly against mine. The kiss was over in an instant, but he didn’t pull back. His nose brushed against mine as his breath fanned down across my lips and chin. He released my wrist, his hand sliding to cover my hip instead, the move giving me the opportunity to step away if I so wished. But I didn’t.

  My body reacted of its own accord, my breath coming out in shallow gasps as I arched, pressing against every rock-hard inch of him. His body was so taut, firm, warm, and familiar that my heart raced in my chest. I stared at his mouth, at lips that had explored every inch of my body so lovingly, at the mouth that had whispered I love you while I was wrapped in his arms. A groan of longing built in my throat as I stared at that mouth.

  Everything was forgotten: the pain, the heartache, the tears, the club we were in, the people watching; everything was gone in an instant, and I was lost in him.

  So when his lips brushed mine for a second time, my eyes fluttered closed and I kissed him back, rejoicing in the blissful feelings a simple kiss from him could create. He groaned against my lips, his hand sliding around to my back, holding me tightly against him. A wave of longing and desperation hit me full force, so I gripped a fistful of his shirt, holding on for dear life as the kiss grew in intensity.

  My legs weakened, but his strong hold around my waist kept me in place as the passion inside me spiked to levels it hadn’t reached in years. It was an all-consuming, I need to have you inside me now passion, almost painful it was so immense. It was a passion only Jamie had ever evoked in me.

  When his lips parted and his tongue gently brushed across my bottom lip and an ache of longing built in my chest, I realized I hadn’t been kissed like this since Jamie. This want, this absolute need and desperation to be closer to someone, was something I’d only ever experienced with him. Toby had never made me feel this much, not with a kiss, not with an hour spent exploring each other’s naked bodies, not ever.

  And as soon as his name entered my head, everything was over.

  Toby. My fiancé. The guy who had given me a job and a reason to stay in England when I was so desperate not to go home, the guy who’d fixed me, the one who made me laugh when all I could see was darkness. Sweet, adorable, dependable Toby who absolutely did not deserve this.

  The passion was gone in an instant, replaced by an anger so bright it made my palms itch.

  Sliding my arms up between us, I shoved Jamie away from me, sucking in a couple of ragged breaths. Rage burned within me, heating my entire body. Without even knowing what I was doing, my hand came up and I slapped him across the face. Hard. The watching crowd gasped, their eyes wide and excited. I could see Stacey behind Jamie, her mouth open, her shock evident.

  Jamie’s head whipped to the side with the force of the blow, but other than that small movement he didn’t react at all. Anger made my vision blurry, or maybe that was the tears that I could no longer hold at bay.

  “You asshole! I’m engaged! You can’t just kiss me like that anymore. You had your chance and you blew it! You blew it, Jamie,” I shouted. I shook my head, dropping my eyes to the floor because I couldn’t look at his wounded expression for another second. “I honestly don’t know how you have the gall to even approach me, let alone kiss me after all this time,” I said. “Just leave me alone. I have enough shit to deal with without you coming in to complicate things and stir up stuff that belongs in the past.”

  I turned and ran through the crowd, pushing my way through the gyrating people on the dance floor who were completely oblivious to any scenes that had happened at the back of the club, my eyes firmly locked on the green glowing sign with the words emergency exit on it. I ran away from him and, I thought, my problems. But as I burst through the fire escape door and into the dark, trash-filled alley at the side of the club, I realized that my problems were rooted deep within me and no amount of running would help.

  I stopped and leaned against the cold brick wall, my fury still raging as I struggled to catch my breath. But as the fresh air dried my tears and new ones replaced them, it hit me that my anger wasn’t even directed at Jamie, not really. It was directed at me. He’d just been the scapegoat because it was easier to project it than take responsibility.

  I’d kissed him back. That was what I was angry about. I’d kissed him back even though I was engaged to someone else. And I’d loved every freaking second of it. I hated myself for that.

  CHAPTER 11

  JAMIE

  I WATCHED HER back disappear into the crowd, heading toward the side door to the club. My left cheek stung. She’d given me a damn good strike, but the slight pain was nothing compared to seeing the disdain in her eyes as she looked at me. I hadn’t been prepared for how much she would hate me. Seeing that look made my whole body cold.

  “You had your chance, and you blew it,” she’d said. And I had, I really had. I’d given up the best thing that had ever happened to me. But not for the reasons she thought. She thought I’d cheated, she thought I didn’t love her, she thought I didn’t want her, and of course she did; those exact words had come from my lips. But the reality of it was, nothing could be further from the truth. I had always loved and wanted her. She was my life. I had just been trying to save her from wasting her time on someone who didn’t deserve her.

  Right now, watching her copper hair disappear through the exit door, I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake all those years ago. Maybe I should have told her the truth, asked her to wait for me, and then once I was out, we could have built a life together if she was still willing. Maybe I’d been wrong to take the choice away from her.

  I ground my teeth. I could still feel the ghost of her lips on mine, still feel the warmth of her body in my arms, her taste on my tongue. God, I’d missed her more than I’d even allowed myself to admit.

  Before I even had a chance to think about it, I was on the move, heading after her.

  “Hey!” Stacey cried behind me, her hand closing around my upper arm. I stopped and turned to look at her, meeting her icy stare. “Where the hell do you think you’re going? You’ve done enough, don’t you think?” she snapped, stepping in front of me, blocking my path to Ellie.

  I frowned, my eyes flicking behind her as I watched the door swing closed and click into place. “I just need to talk to her.”

  She crossed her arms over her chest and raised one eyebr
ow. “You have some nerve, Jamie, you really do. She doesn’t want to talk to you!”

  “Look, Stacey, you can kill me with your eyes all you want, but I’m going out there to talk to her and you’re going to let me, or I’m going to have one of my staff come over and restrain you,” I warned.

  “You really are a douchebag. I saw what you two had, how you were together. She would have done anything for you, and you just threw it all away and broke her heart. She might not want to tell you how much of an asshole you are, but I have no problem saying it. You, Jamie Cole, are a prize dick, and she’s better off without you.”

  A small laugh escaped my lips at the words and the venom that went into them. Stacey hated me—that was glaringly apparent. But she’d never be able to hate me as much as I hated myself.

  “Straight to the point, no mincing your words. I always liked that about you,” I replied. I bent to look in her eyes before she could make the bitchy comeback I could see brewing. “Look, you’re a good friend, and Ellie is lucky to have you, but I told you I’m going out there to talk to her whether you like it or not.”

  I signaled Ed, who had begun walking over to me earlier but had stopped a few feet away, and nodded toward Stacey. “Hold this one for five minutes. In five minutes you can let her go,” I ordered, sidestepping as Ed instantly reached for her, wrapping his large hands around her upper arms, holding her in place as he whistled for one of the security guards to come over and help restrain her.

  Ignoring Stacey’s roar of protest and struggles behind me, I headed for the door, stopping next to Carl and digging into my pocket for my car keys. “Get my car and bring it to the side alley. There’ll be two girls out there in a few minutes who will need a ride. I want you to drive them and make sure they get home safely. Understand?”

  He nodded, so I dropped the keys into his outstretched palm and pushed on through the door and into the alley. I squinted into the darkness, letting my eyes adjust to the dimness of the night. I heard her before I saw her. She was on the other side of the alley, leaning against the wall, crying softly.

  My heart sank at the sound. I hated the fact that she was sad and that I’d been the cause of it. She looked up as the door opened, her posture stiffening as she reached up to swipe at her eyes.

  “I told you to leave me alone,” she snapped, anger still fizzing in her tone.

  “I just wanted to come and see if you were okay. I didn’t want to leave things like that,” I said. “We have too much history for those to be the last words between us.”

  She sniffed and looked down at her hands, but didn’t say anything else. I’d never seen her so low. Ellie was usually such a bright spirit, soaring high, but now it was like her wings had been clipped. All I wanted to do was close the distance between us and wrap my arms around her, shield her from all the hurt, be there to support her. My whole body ached seeing her so sad.

  “This is kinda awkward. I mean, what are you supposed to say to the guy who cheated on you and left you to fend for yourself in a foreign country?” she asked, her voice sarcastic as she stared at the floor.

  Her words cut like a knife because none of it was true. I cleared my throat, hoping my voice would work. “Um...how about, ‘Hi, how are you?’ ” I joked, just trying to lighten the atmosphere a little.

  She laughed softly, but it was humorless, not one of her heartfelt laughs or the little giggle that I loved to death. The weight of the world was inside that laugh, and all I wanted to do was lift it off her.

  I sighed and walked to her side, leaning on the wall next to her. I wished I could close the gap, take her hand, stroke the back of it, raise it to my mouth, and kiss her fingertips. I missed the closeness we used to have, even with just the simplest contact. I hadn’t had that intimacy with anyone else. Since her, it just didn’t appeal. It was Ellie or nothing.

  “It is awkward,” I admitted. “Look, I’m sorry I kissed you, all right? I was shocked to see you. I hadn’t ever expected you to be in my club and I just...I don’t even know...you were there, and I hadn’t seen you in so long, and you looked so beautiful, and you were walking away from me, and I couldn’t let you. I just...” I stopped talking, frowning down at the floor because I couldn’t express myself properly. I always rambled and said the wrong thing when I was around her.

  Silence hung in the air and stretched on for what seemed like forever, the only sounds the muted music creeping through the door, until finally she spoke. “Red’s is your club?” she questioned, obviously choosing to ignore my “you looked so beautiful” remark.

  “Yeah,” I replied, waving my hand at the posters stuck on the side of the building, advertising upcoming themed or party nights. The logo of the club blazed from the top—a redheaded girl in a white crop top and red shorts, holding a tray of drinks while winking seductively. Ellie didn’t say anything, and I wondered if she picked up the significance of the name or the beautiful red-haired girl I’d had drawn there. “I have a few bars across town and couple in Queens too, but this one is my favorite,” I said.

  She licked her lips slowly, seeming to be deep in thought. “So you’re not into stealing cars anymore, then?”

  “Not tonight,” I answered, sidestepping the truth.

  Her nose scrunched up, her lips twisted in thought. “What happened to you, Jamie? You wanted out of all this stuff. You said you wanted to go straight...or was that just a lie, too?” she asked, her eyes meeting mine.

  You happened. Brett happened. Everything happened. Nothing happened.

  I shrugged. “I guess I lost my reason to change.”

  Her forehead creased with a frown, and she studied me carefully before speaking again. “Why did you come over and batter that guy? I was handling it myself. You didn’t need to jump in and go all macho like that. Now you’re bound to get in trouble for it.”

  I shrugged, not looking away as I answered truthfully. “I was jealous.”

  Her mouth popped open. “You have no right to be anymore.”

  “I know.”

  “I’m engaged,” she continued.

  “I know.”

  She swallowed awkwardly. “He’s a really good guy; he takes care of me. I...I love him.”

  I nodded slowly, trying to keep the hurt from showing. “I know that, too.”

  Her eyebrows knitted together at my responses. “How could you possibly know that?”

  I smiled ruefully, unsure how to admit that I was basically her stalker and that I had people check in on her to make sure she was happy. Thankfully, as if someone was sending me some sort of reprieve, the side door to the club squeaked open and I turned to see Ed standing there.

  “It’s been five minutes, Kid,” he said.

  I held up one finger. “I just need another minute or two,” I answered, silently telling him to keep Stacey inside for a little longer. He nodded and went inside again, closing the door behind him.

  I turned my attention back to Ellie. “I never thought I would see you again. You were traveling for so long that I figured you’d never come back.”

  She kicked at the wall with the heel of her sneaker, a small sob hitching in her throat. “Yeah, well, I had to come back.”

  Sighing, I reached up and dragged a hand through my hair, wanting to keep my hands busy because they were itching to touch her. “Yeah, I heard about what happened on the news. I’m so sorry about your dad.” Loss and sadness swelled inside me. “He was one of the good guys.”

  She raised her chin, her eyes flicking up to the sky as she blinked a couple of times, probably trying to quell her tears. “Yeah. Sucks,” she croaked.

  I turned my head, watching her, taking in every mesmerizing inch of her, committing her to memory. If possible, she looked even more stunning than she had three years ago.

  “How’s your mom?” I asked, even though I already knew. I’d made a few calls, asked around, had people everywhere. I reached out, brushing my little finger against hers, reveling in that small touch of skin on skin, wishing
I could steal more of it, but she whipped her hand away quickly, hugging herself across her middle.

  Ellie scowled over at me. “As if you care. You never liked her.”

  I recoiled from her anger. She was like a little feral cat, poised and ready to strike. “I care, Ellie,” I replied firmly. No, I had never liked the woman and the feeling was mutual, but I cared because she was important to Ellie. I would always care about things that had the power to hurt someone I loved.

  She stared at me for a few seconds, her hard eyes locked on mine before they softened and her lip trembled and she closed her eyes. “She’s in the hospital still. There’s a ventilator helping her breathe. It’s bad.”

  “I’m sorry,” I whispered.

  “Everyone always says that. Like it’s their fault or something. Every person I called up and told about my dad today said sorry to me, every single one. I’m kind of sick of the word,” she said.

  I sighed and edged closer to her, noting how she didn’t move away this time and how my arm gently pressed against her side. “Is there anything I can do to help you?”

  She shook her head, the movement making our bodies brush against each other where we were so close. “I’ve done everything and arranged the funeral. There’s not much left to do.”

  “You’ve made the funeral arrangements?” I questioned, hating that she had to do that and take responsibility for something so morbid.

  “Yeah.”

  “When is it? I’d like to come, if that’s okay.” Michael Pearce had meant a lot to me, had always shown me kindness and treated me like I was one of the family. He’d never thought I wasn’t good enough for his daughter.

  She gasped and pushed away from the wall, rounding on me, her eyes furious again. “No. It’s not okay. Toby will be there and everything else is going to be hard enough already.”

 
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