All the rage, p.14
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       All the Rage, p.14

           T. M. Frazier
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  I was in the process of shaking off the two little fuckers when Rage suddenly appeared. A blank expression on her face and an eerie sense of calm surrounding her. Much to my surprise, she stepped right up to Griff.

  “Rage!” I called out in warning, but she didn’t respond. Griff wasn’t the kind who cared if she was male, female, or a fucking toddler. His mama was serving time for killing his dad. His view on women in general wasn’t the best and his hatred toward me went a lot further back than hockey and Jessica. Rage ignored me and continued to walk toward Griff. She didn’t protest or even struggle when he lunged for her, grabbing her by the arms, spinning her around so her back was to his chest, her hands pinned behind her.

  “You think you’re hot shit, Nolan? Mr. NHL? Mr. Big man on fucking campus?” Griff seethed, lowering his lips to Rage’s cheek. “You think you can take shit from me without me taking shit from you, then you’re seriously fucking mistaken. ’Cause this chick here?” Griff said, running a fat finger down Rage’s cheek. I pulled against Oben and Ward who were struggling to keep me restrained.

  That’s when I noticed something about Rage that made me stop struggling. Something that sent chills down my spine and directly into my fucking soul.

  She was looking right at me… only she wasn’t. Her eyes weren’t focused. They were shifted up in her sockets like they were about to roll back in her head.

  And she was smiling.

  Not the fake smile I’d seen her use before. And not the sweet smile like when I made her laugh. This was something else entirely.

  It was scary as fuck.

  Every hair on the back of my neck stood on end.

  “Rage,” I said, trying to get her attention as Oben kicked my feet out from under me, sending me falling to my knees in the sand. That was it. This ended now. I didn’t know what was going on with her, but I knew I had to get to her before Griff had a chance to hurt her because if he did I was going to murder the motherfucker. With a roar from deep in my chest, I summoned all my strength and determination and successfully shook off Griff’s two cronies. Delivering hard, cheek bone crushing punches to each one of them that would have made my coach proud.

  I left them moaning in the sand and hadn’t made it two steps when Rage spun around in Griff’s grip so she was facing him. With a shrill scream that had a huge circle of onlookers gathering around to see what all the commotion was about, she launched herself at him. Climbing him like he was a tree, she flipped herself around him so that she was on his back, her arms around his throat. She was squeezing. Tighter and tighter until Griff dropped to his knees in the sand. His eyes went from white to red and bloodshot, bulging as he struggled and gasped for air.

  I watched in both wonderment and horror as Rage squeezed the life from Griff. Onlookers started to shout. One grabbed a cell phone and muttered something about calling the sheriff. “Rage!” I shouted, trying to get her attention. She growled and squeezed harder, a grunt escaping Griff’s mouth along with the last bit of air in his lungs. “Rage!” I called to her again, coming to stand next to her. I placed a hand on her shoulder. Her focus floundered, just for a second. She removed one of her arms from around his neck and grabbed my wrist, twisting it painfully. “Rage, it’s me. You gotta let go. We gotta go before this get’s bad.” She was looking up at me, but her eyes were still unfocused, almost as if she was looking past me. I set my other hand on top of hers, the one twisting my wrist, and tried again. “Baby, it’s me. It’s Nolan. We have to go. Baby, can you hear me in there?” I whispered as calmly as I could with the pain radiating up through my arm.

  When she didn’t respond, her focus solely on draining the life out of Griff, I did the only thing that crossed my mind in order to stop her from killing him in front of thirty witnesses.

  I leaned in and pressed my lips to hers.

  I stayed there, my mouth on hers until I felt the flutter of Rage’s eyelashes against the bridge of my nose. That’s when I pulled back.

  Rage blinked several times in a row until a light of recognition flashed in her eyes. She dropped my wrist. “That’s it, baby. Let go, we gotta go now.” She looked to where she still had Griff in a headlock and peered around me to the crowd who was now watching in amazement as they held up cell phones and were no doubt videoing every second. She was coming back from wherever she’d gone to, but slowly. Too slowly. I wracked my brain for something to say to her to pull her all the way back, and quickly. “Do you want to go back to the cottage and go for a swim in the pool?” I asked. Rage finally released Griff, sliding off his back, down to the sand. Griff dropped to his side with a long throaty moan, thankfully still alive although a part of me was still angry enough to wish she’d finished the jon. Oben and Ward crawled to his side like the pathetic hangers-on they were.

  “Your pool is filthy,” Rage deadpanned before leaning forward and collapsing in my arms. I scooped her up and carried her past the onlookers and the whispers. I shifted her gently in my arms so I could fit us back through the alleyway between the cottages and back onto the sidewalk lining the main road.

  “Yes, it is, baby. Yes, it is,” I whispered to a barely conscious Rage.

  I’d never seen anything like the girl in my arms.

  Beautiful. Strong. Fierce and Fiery.

  A force greater than any storm and twice as destructive.

  In some ways, she was naive. Innocent even. In other ways, she was the devil himself.

  I’d never wanted anyone more.

  I didn’t know how deep her secrets ran, but I had a feeling that if they were as deep as my own, there was a different kind of storm coming. One I hoped we could weather.

  Together.

  Somewhere between when she showed up at the cottage and the attempted murder, I’d started to think of her as not just someone who was staying at my house. Not just someone I wanted to fuck either.

  I started to think of her as mine.

  I carried her back to the cottage. Along the way, I decided it was damn time we stopped skirting around our truths. It was time to share some secrets.

  Both of us.

  Rage

  Never before had I crashed so hard after an episode. My eyes were closed, my breaths even. Anyone who saw me would just think I was sleeping, but I wasn’t. I felt every footstep underneath me, every flex of Nolan’s biceps as he carried me back to the cottage and laid me down on the couch.

  The blue digital clock on the stove read two thirty a.m. by the time I was strong enough to embrace consciousness again.

  I sat up slowly, rubbing my temples. My head throbbed like a bad hangover as I recalled what happened at the truck pulls. It was fuzzy at first but then suddenly it all came back. The sea turtles. Being recognized by Pinto. The trucks. The almost kiss.

  Griff.

  RAGE.

  I covered my mouth with my hand to quiet my gasp. Nolan had seen me.

  The real me.

  I was compromised.

  Professionally. Personally. He knew too much.

  Not just last night, but this entire situation had gotten out of control way too fast.

  It was over.

  All there was left to do now was leave.

  When I heard the shower running I seized my opportunity. Sliding the door open, I stepped out onto the deck as quietly as I could. The door screeched as it ran across the rusted old track. When I closed it behind me, Murray was there, sitting on the other side of the glass, whining through his nose and staring up at me with a frown on his grey hair smattered face. “Shhhhhh, I can’t let you out,” I told him. “Go lay down, boy.” I pointed to his dog bed on the other side of the room. Murray turned around like he actually understood what I was pointing to. “Good boy,” I said. When Murray sat down and wagged his tail, I knew it wasn’t his bed that he was so happy to see.

  Nolan.

  Wet hair. Water droplets shone on his hairless chest and abs. A white towel wrapped low around his trim waist. The hint of whatever back tattoo I’d never actually s
een ran over his shoulders. Shadows of what looked like ghostly fingers wrapped around his triceps. “Rage?” Nolan asked. I shook my head and took a step back.

  Realization crossed over his face, followed by a flash of hurt in his eyes.

  He knew.

  “Rage…wait,” he called out, stepping around the couch, his voice muffled by the glass separating us.

  By the time I heard the door screeching open, I’d already leapt off the deck and was running barefoot down the sand. It seemed like a lifetime had passed from the day I met Nolan and a lifetime more that I’d been running. Not just from Nolan.

  From life.

  Thunder boomed in the distance and although I hated storms, thankfully the bellowing of the clouds drowned out the blood rushing through my ears, as well as the voice in my head telling me to turn back around. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t stop. It was too late.

  I planned on running until I could no longer hear Nolan calling my name down the beach, or until the foreign wetness streaming down my cheeks stopped.

  I had a feeling I would be running for a very, very long time.

  It wasn’t long enough.

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  Nolan

  Thunderstorms were a comfort for me. Always had been. Gramps and I used to watch them roll through off the water, waiting until the very last second when the rain grew from tiny droplets to total downpour, before we’d even consider going inside. Which was well after Gran had first yelled at us to “get our asses up in the house before we catch our deaths.”

  When Rage hopped off the deck and ran down the beach, the storm clouds rolled in over both the shore and my mind. I felt anything but comfort. Lighting lit up the dark sky in flashes, illuminating the ominous clouds. The storm grew larger, more intense, the thunder boomed, rattling the earth like a cheap car speaker rattling a trunk.

  The rain turned sideways, pouring down so hard, it stung my skin as I tried to chase her down the beach. I was a fast runner, but not in a towel, and not with a bum leg. For not being very tall, Rage’s legs moved at a pace that wasn’t human. I lost sight of her through the wall of rain.

  The second our eyes had connected through the glass, I knew she was leaving.

  What Rage and those sexy ass legs of hers didn’t know was that her speed was no match for my determination.

  Rage

  Thunderstorms suck. I’ve never been a fan. When I was younger, it was the only thing that made me want to hide under my bed or seek my parents out for comfort. My parents rejoiced in this bit of normality, but I hated it. Being afraid. Inflicting fear was amazing. Feeling fear was a shit load of no fun.

  It was stupid really. I’d seen so much. I’d done so much. And yet the second the clouds roll in, I turn right back into the six-year-old version of me, except I didn’t have a bed to crawl under and hide anymore.

  Mother nature unleashing its fury on the earth should have been a comfort to me. A kindred spirit of sorts. Out to wreak havoc upon the earth much like myself.

  The thunder crashed overhead so loud and so bold it was like the storm clouds descended onto the beach and were surrounding me on all sides. I was drenched from the torrential downpour, my hair wet and cold, sticking to my neck and face. My heart was racing in my chest as I tried to outrun the storm. I ran until the force of the rain and wind blinded me and the sand turned to mush under my feet. I tried to set up an abandoned beach umbrella and take shelter, but it flew away when I opened it, careening down the beach.

  It was around four a.m. Late, or early, depending on how you looked at it. There wasn’t a person around as far as I could see although the rain obscured my view and I could only see fifty feet in either direction until it started coming down so hard I couldn’t see more than ten and then five. I was hoping against hope for the sun to come out early and miraculously chase away the storm.

  No such luck.

  I trudged through the wet sand. That’s when I realized that when I didn’t take my shoes or my bag.

  Or even my scooter.

  Never in my life had I ever been so careless. So reckless. Not just with my stuff, but with a job, with Nolan. I should have told Smoke I was done with the second I realized something was different about this job. That something was happening between us.

  On top of hating being afraid, I also didn’t like feeling weak.

  I leapt over a small concrete barrier and leaned up against the wall of a tall building. I slid down and sat on the sidewalk, my bare feet still getting soaked as the rain came in at an angle. I don’t know how far I made it from the cottage, but all I knew was that it wasn’t far enough.

  It would never be far enough.

  I’d messed up. How stupid was I to think I could control my nature around Nolan. It had already been weeks. A practical record for me to go for so long without having an episode. How long did I think I could keep it up?

  It didn’t matter anymore. None of it did.

  I wanted to feel relieved that it was all over, but I couldn’t get there. All I kept thinking about was the look on Nolan’s face when I took off. The hurt. The way he called my name as I ran from him.

  The one person I ever had real feelings for. Real attraction toward.

  A person who didn’t know me at all.

  As much as I wished that the anxiety and the sweaty palms and the racing heart were because of a pool-caused, brain-eating amoeba. They weren’t.

  It was him.

  I pulled my legs up to my chest and dropped my head onto my knees. My hands shook and my teeth chattered so hard, I could hear them knocking together. My dress was soaked through, keeping the cold rain pressed against my skin like an ice pack.

  It turned out that germs and thunderstorms weren’t the only things I was afraid of.

  I was also afraid of Nolan Archer.

  While one of my fears was still blowing around on the beach in front of me. The other rolled in riding an ATV, emerging from a curtain of rain only a few feet away. By the time I heard the engine over the storm and lifted my head off my legs, he was right in front of me. I reared up, sitting back on my knees. Nolan glared down at me with a downright evil look in his eyes that had me shaking for a completely different reason.

  “What the fuck did I tell you about being on your knees?” he seethed.

  There was nowhere left to run.

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  Rage

  Nolan’s wet hair fell into his eyes. Water dripped from his chin onto the front of his black wife beater. His eyes were impossibly dark. His chest rose and fell hard with his quick breaths. His nostrils flared and he looked damn feral as he glared hatred down at me. The soaking wet cotton of his shirt clung to every inch of muscle on his broad chest down to his abs.

  “Go back home, Nolan,” I said, looking back down to the ground. I let my shoulders fall. “I can’t do this anymore. For the first time in my life I’m tired. So fucking tired.”

  Nolan growled from deep within is throat. His fists clenching and unclenching. He cracked his knuckles. “If you’re tired, then I’ll take you to bed. But either way, we ARE doing this right now,” he said. “But first, you need to fucking listen because I’m not going to say this again. Get off your fucking knees.” Nolan reached down and picked me up off the floor by my waist, holding me tightly against his hard chest.

  I pounded my closed fists against him, struggling to get out of his arms, but he didn’t move. “That’s not what I meant when I said I was tired. I don’t need sleep. I’m tired of pretending. I did it once. I can’t do it again,” I shouted. “I WON’T.”

  Nolan cocked and eyebrow. “Who exactly is it that you’re pretending to be?”

  I shook my head “I can’t tell you! I can’t tell you any of it,” I screamed, struggling to free myself and getting nowhere. “It will ruin everything I’ve built.” I pushed against his chest. Nolan released his hold long enough for me to dart around him and back out into the rain where a sudden clap of thunder boomed ove
rhead, echoing between the buildings.

 
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