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  • Home > Katie Ashley > Runaway Train > Beat of the Heart (Page 55)     
    Beat of the Heart(Runaway Train #2) by Katie Ashley
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    Her lip trembled like she was about to burst out crying. “Trust me, you don’t want to know this.” Her expression then turned sour, like she had a bad taste in her mouth. Her emotions were ricocheting so fast I could barely keep up. “Dammit, we were just supposed to have that night together—then you wouldn’t have had to see me like this. It wasn’t supposed to turn into me being inadequate for yet another guy!”

    My sympathy quickly turned over to frustration, and I threw my hands up in exasperation. “Would you stop lumping me with all these assholes you’ve had the misfortune of knowing? That’s not me, Mia. Do you see me bailing or shrinking away like some pussy? Fuck no! I’m right here, right now, wanting to know what the hell just happened so I can help you—to comfort you emotionally and physically.”

    She cut her eyes over at me, pinning me with a hard stare. “Yeah, I see right through your little ‘knight in shining armor’ routine. You think I’m broken, and by giving me a few moments of your precious time, you might be able to fix me. But trust me, you can’t do shit, AJ! I’m not broken—I’m fucking shattered into a thousand jagged pieces. Pieces that will slice a perfect, pretty boy like you in two.”

    Although it probably wasn’t the best way to handle the situation, I stepped toe to toe with her and got right in her face. “Why don’t you let me be the judge of what I can or can’t handle, okay?”

    Crossing her arms over her chest, she scoffed at me. “Fine, you want the truth? Here it is, big boy. That freak-out I just had was because I spent almost two years with an asshole who used to beat the shit out of me.”

    Her words had the same effect as if she had slapped me, and I jolted back. “What?”

    With a contemptuous snort, she turned away from me. “You heard me just fine, AJ.”

    “Jesus, Mia, I’m sorry. I had no idea.” When she didn’t respond, I asked, “How old were you?”

    “Young and stupid,” she spat.

    “Just how young?”

    “Twenty-one.”

    We fell into an uncomfortable silence. Reaching out, I gently trailed my hand down her arm. I was surprised when she didn’t jerk away. I drew in a deep breath. “I know it might seem like I have the perfect life. And yeah, I’m blessed to not have any real skeletons in my past. But when someone I care about is hurting, I’m there for them. So if you want to talk about what happened, I’d like to hear it.”

    Her incredulous gaze snapped back to mine. “Seriously?”

    I gave a quick nod of my head. “I really mean it, Mia.”

    She exhaled a long, agonized sigh, like one who held the weight of the world on her shoulders. Chewing her bottom lip, I could tell at any minute she was either going to come clean with me or bolt again. I extended my hand. “Come on. You can tell me about it down by the river.”

    Almost skittishly, Mia reached out for my hand, grasping it like it was an anchor holding her sanity together. We started making our way through the high grass back down to the riverbank. When we reached the edge, I still didn’t press her for more information. Instead, I remained uncharacteristically silent, waiting for her to take the lead.

    After what felt like a small eternity, she turned to me. “Even all these years later and with time spent in therapy, I still can’t understand why I ever stayed with him. I wasn’t the girl so desperate for her father’s attention that she’d let a man abuse her. No man was, or is, a better father than Duke Martinelli.” Mia shook her head. “And even though my mother bailed, I was raised by one of the strongest women I’ve ever known—one who taught me not to take any shit from men.” A smile tugged at Mia’s lips. “Trust me, when you’re surrounded by Italian men, that’s no easy feat.”

    “I think they’re kinda as pig headed as Hispanic men, right?”

    “You could say that,” she replied. She stooped down to gather up a few pebbles along the bank. “Regardless of those two factors, there has to be some reason I completely lost my mind for eighteen months, right?”

    I shrugged. “I don’t think you need to blame yourself. Shit happens.”

    “I wish it was as easy as that.” Mia chucked one of the pebbles into the stream, sending ripples along the surface. “His name is Jason. He was the second real boyfriend I ever had—the first guy I really loved….or thought I did. At first, I thought him being possessive was sweet, even sexy. He called me constantly during the day to see what I was doing, he referred to me as his, and he wanted to spend every waking minute with me.”

    Mia threw another rock into the creek, casting greater waves across the water. “But then as the months went by and we got even more serious, things changed. At first, the abuse was just emotional. All the bullshit I have about my body—that all came from him. He was able to make me feel that because of my thicker body, I was totally undesirable to any other man and that I was lucky he stayed with me at all.” Mia shook her head. “But then when guys would give me attention, I was too fucking stupid to realize it or that I could have someone else—someone better. Then the guys’ attention would piss Jason off. If one dared so much as looked in my direction, he would freak out and threaten to kick his ass. Then he’d accuse me of flirting or dressing like a slut. Whenever I argued with him or tried to defend myself, that’s when he got violent.”

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