Author:Kristen Ashley

    I didn’t know what to make of this but it kind of irritated me. I mean, he’d made it clear he knew where I was coming from and that wasn’t the land of sunken living rooms and Aston Martins. My building might be crap and the rent relatively cheap but it was also in a relatively safe neighborhood so the rent wasn’t that cheap and thus the tenants were pretty awesome. For instance, we were walking up the stairs, there were no loud parties (unlike at his building) and all was quiet and peaceful.

    We got to the third floor and he guided me down the hall even though it was me who was leading us to my door. I chanced a glance up at him and noted his head was tipped back. Mine did too and I saw that down the corridor, three of the five overhead lights were out. The hall was thus understandably murky. I’d called about this situation four times (as I had about the elevator, security system and stairs) but nothing had been done. So I stopped calling and decided to change the light bulbs myself, eventually, when I had a free second.

    My body swayed toward my door and Knight took us there and halted us. I dug in my purse, coming out with my keys and my lips parted when his fingers closed around them. He slid them out of my hand and then, like he had a sixth sense, he picked the right one, inserted it, opened the door, swung inside and hit the light switch so my overhead light went on.

    Then he grabbed my upper arm and pulled me in, closed the door but positioned me at the side of it.

    Then, again weirdly, he looked me in the eye and ordered, “Do not move.”

    I blinked.

    He moved.

    Then I stared as he walked through my one-bedroom apartment into the kitchen that was open like his and delineated by a short breakfast bar. He switched on the light and looked around even though he could see everything (nearly) from the living room. Leaving the light on, he moved out, opened the door to the bathroom, turned the light on, swung his torso in and looked inside.

    What on earth was he doing?

    Again, light left on, he swung out and moved to my bedroom.

    My body jolted and I called, “Um… Knight?” but he didn’t hesitate, the light went on and he disappeared behind the door.

    Seriously, what on earth?

    “Knight?” I called, taking two steps into my apartment but he reappeared and prowled with his long-legged strides to me, face still impassive but eyes on me.

    He stopped in front of me and held my keys out to me.

    “You’re good,” he declared as I took them. “Nice to meet you, Anya.”

    Uh… what?

    Then his eyes went to the door, they narrowed on it strangely like the sight of my door pissed him off in a not at all vague way, he looked back at me and his eyes unnarrowed but the pissed off look didn’t go away.

    Then he muttered, “Jesus.”

    I stared at him, confused. Or, I should say, profoundly confused.

    Before I could ask, though I was uncertain I would, he went out the door, stopped in it, turned back, his eyes leveled on me and he commanded, “Lock this after me, babe. Pointless but it’s somethin’.”

    Then he was gone.

    Chapter Two

    We Slid over the Edge, Together, Holding Tight, into Nothing

    I was sitting on the wraparound balcony. The cushions on the wrought iron furniture were comfy. The view of the Front Range was awesome. The sun was warm. I had a piece of toast in my hand and was about to take a bite when I stopped and twisted my neck to look over my shoulder.

    Knight was walking to me, dark gray, drawstring pajama bottoms on, long-ish hair sexy messy from sleep, chest with its enticing array of dark hair bared, eyes on me.

    I felt my lips curve.

    “Hey,” I whispered.

    He didn’t reply.

    He walked to me, his hand gathering my hair then twisting it around, he tugged my head back. It wasn’t gentle, it was rough, a hint of pain spiking through my scalp and shooting pleasure straight between my legs. So much, I felt my lips part as I watched his strikingly handsome face coming toward me.

    I closed my eyes slowly and waited impatiently for his lips to hit mine.

    * * * * *

    I opened my eyes and I was in Mrs. Herndon’s room. Second grade. I was sitting at my desk but I was an adult so the desk didn’t fit me. There was a knock at the door, all the kids’ eyes went to it and I felt my heart clutch, my stomach drop.

    I remembered this. I’d never forget it. Not ever. Not ever.

    Not ever.

    Mrs. Herndon got up from her desk at the front of the room and walked to the door.

    Don’t go there! Don’t open that door! My mind screamed but I sat at that desk that was too small for me and just watched, not able to move, not able to do anything, just sit there, powerless, about to be cast adrift, lost in a way that felt like forever.

    She disappeared behind the door and I kept my eyes glued to it, waiting… waiting…

    She came back in and her gaze came right to me. I remembered that too. I’d never forget. Not ever. Not ever.

    Not ever.

    Her face was gentle and kind, tender, embattled, pained.

    No! No, no, no, no!

    Then he walked through. Knight. His eyes on me too, his face blank, giving nothing away. But relief washed through me.

    This wasn’t how it happened. This was different. Better. Out there in the world a child had no control over, everything was torn from me but I had him. I had him.

    Knight was there. Tall, broad, strong, dangerous. I could lean on him. He’d be there for me.

    And he was. Without hesitation he walked to my desk, bent and grabbed my hand. His fingers closing warm and firm around mine, he pulled me away from the desk.

    Right. Good. This was good. I could face this. I could face the pain. The loss. I could face this with Knight at my side.

    My fingers curled deeper into his and his hand gave me a squeeze as he walked me through the room, all my classmates’ eyes on me, Mrs. Herndon’s head tipped slightly to the side, her eyes bright, tears shimmering.

    We moved to pass her and I whispered to Mrs. Herndon, “I have Knight. It’s all gonna be okay.”

    Her head jerked slightly, her face became confused and her eyes lifted to Knight.

    He walked me through the door, taking me toward unbearable pain.

    Unbearable pain that this time I knew Knight would ease.

    * * * * *

    We walked out the door of my second grade classroom, Knight was gone and I was swept in a flood of water that flowed though the corridor. I tried to strike out toward a door knob, anything to grab on but I was moving uncontrollably toward the wall at the end of the corridor. Then the water and me broke through the wall, the bricks exploding and I was in a swelled, rushing river. Nature all around. Me careening down the river, powerless. Huge boulders rising from the water came at me but the current swept me to the side before I could crash into one and be broken to bits.

    I fought, moved my arms, my legs, trying to direct myself to the shore but nothing I did changed the direction the flow was taking me.

    I looked to the shore and saw Vivica running along it, her mouth open, her eyes terrified, shouting but no sound coming out. She tripped and fell to her hands and knees and disappeared.

    Then there was Sandrine, running like Vivica, eyes on me, fear etched in her face. But suddenly Nick was there. She stopped, looked up at him, smiled and threw herself in his arms. His head bent, her hands went into his hair and they started kissing.


    Then, weirdly, since I hadn’t seen him in years, there was my high school boyfriend, Sean. He was running along the shore too, his arms moving in a breast stroke, calling out instructions, I knew, even though no sound came out. I did what he said but nothing helped, I kept whirling and gliding violently with the stream.

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