Author: Kirsty Moseley “Why don’t we just say we’re friends?” I offered. He shook his head. “No. The reason they want me as your boyfriend is to keep the guys away from you. Apparently it’s always the guys that get you kicked out,” he countered, chuckling at something. “No, actually it’s always my temper that gets me kicked out,” I corrected, smiling weakly as I backed up another step. “Hey, we could say I’m a lesbian,” I bargained, praying he’d agree. He chuckled, watching me as I backed up again. “Let’s just stick to the brief. I just need you to know that I’m here to protect you. I would never hurt you, ever.” His eyes locked onto mine as he stepped forwards. I held my breath, wondering if he too could hear my heart racing. He stopped in front of me and held out his hand, smiling reassuringly. My eyes dropped to it, and I shook my head. I couldn’t do it. It would bring back memories of him, and I couldn’t think about him. “Please, I can’t,” I begged, swallowing the lump that was stuck in my throat. “I will never hurt you. I want to protect you,” he whispered. Oh come on, Anna, get a grip of yourself! He’s an agent here to protect you, you’re in a house full of people, he’s not going to attack you! Just move your hand and stop being such a damn wimp! My mental chastising had a positive impact on my confidence, so I raised a trembling hand and put it in his. His fingers threaded through mine, and he squeezed gently. I looked at my hand, shocked. It didn’t actually feel too bad, it was quite pleasant actually, warm and soft. Some of my stress evaporated, and I glanced up at his handsome face; a small satisfied smile graced his lips. “That’s great, Anna. Maybe if we tried to hold hands for a little a bit every day, then you’d get used to it before we start college next week,” he suggested. “You won’t be here next week, Pretty Boy,” I answered confidently. He laughed incredulously. “Anna, I don’t quit, I never quit, so you’d better get used to me. I’m going to be around for a while, whether you like it or not,” he replied arrogantly. I yanked my hand out of his and folded my arms across my chest. “I don’t need a f**king babysitter! I can take care of myself,” I stated, annoyed again. He raised one eyebrow and smiled wickedly. “Really? You can take care of yourself? So if I wanted to throw you down on the bed, I couldn’t do that?” Oh God! My heart took off in double time. “Ashton, if you touch me, I’m gonna break your pretty face,” I warned. A confident smile crept onto his lips. “You couldn’t land one punch before I pin you to the bed.” He took a step forward and I didn’t give him the opportunity to touch me. I shot my hand out to punch him in the stomach, but he knocked my hand away easily before it got anywhere near him. My stomach clenched with fear because that small move showed me that he was faster than me. Panic made my blood go cold, but I wasn’t willing to concede yet. I’d never give up without a fight again. He took another step towards me and I sent a kick towards him as hard as I could. He sidestepped it easily, caught my leg and closed the distance between us so fast that I didn’t have time to react. His free arm wrapped around my waist, and he threw us both onto the bed. As he landed on top of me, I felt the scream ripping its way up my throat as the panic took over. He put one hand over my mouth and grabbed my hands with the other, pinning them above my head, his body pressing me into the bed. I screamed and thrashed, trying to throw him off me as I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to think of anything other than Carter, but I couldn’t stop myself from returning to those memories again. In my head, I saw his brown eyes sparkling with excitement as he prepared to rape me. I heaved and turned my head to the side in defeat, letting the tears fall as I just stopped struggling. There was no point, he was too strong for me. I waited for the pain, but it never came. I opened my eyes slowly and looked up. Ashton was still holding me down on the bed, but somehow he wasn’t heavy, as if he was holding his weight off me. “I won’t hurt you, I promise. Trust me,” he whispered as he took his hand off of my mouth. My tears were still falling so he wiped them away gently. “I just wanted to show you that you need me. I want to protect you. You need me, so please don’t keep making this difficult. I won’t leave you like the others,” he said softly. I looked up into his deep green eyes, and I could see the sincerity there; they were kind, caring, and gentle eyes. They were the complete opposite of the brown eyes I’d been envisioning a few seconds before. I believed him. Ashton wouldn’t quit after a week, and he wasn’t going to hurt me. “Okay, but please get off me,” I begged, my voice trembling as I spoke. “I will, but I think this is good for you. You can’t go through life on your own, afraid to let people touch you, afraid to let people in, in case they leave you. What happened to you won’t happen again, I promise,” he said, looking pained. I closed my eyes and let the tears fall. The grief, pain and disgust returned in droves. I’d been able to push the pain away for months now, refusing to acknowledge that I was forever broken, just walking around like an emotionless zombie; the only thing I allowed myself to feel was anger. “Do you need me to get off, or can you cope for a couple of minutes?” he asked quietly. I took in a shaky breath. “Please don’t hurt me,” I whispered, turning my head to the side again. “I won’t.” He let go of my hands, but I couldn’t move; it was like my body was frozen in place. I still felt sick, but for some reason I trusted him. I didn’t want to, I genuinely didn’t, but I couldn’t help myself. He didn’t move at all, didn’t even shift his weight. I kept my eyes squeezed closed. I knew he was looking at me but I wanted to stay in control, and the only thing that was keeping me in control of myself was counting his heartbeats that I could feel against my chest. After a couple of minutes, he pushed himself off me and stood up. “See, you did great. I just need you to trust me,” he congratulated, offering his hand to help me up. I rolled on to my side and pulled my knees up to my chest in the foetal position as my body suddenly racked with sobs. “Oh shit! I’m sorry, Anna! Why didn’t you say? I would’ve gotten off, I swear!” he gasped, sounding horrified, making no moves to come near me again. “Just leave, I just want to be on my own,” I begged. I didn’t want him here; he was making everything worse with his stupid, nice guy attitude and cocky, good looks. Silence filled the room for a few seconds before he finally agreed. “I’ll just be next door then. I’m really sorry.” I didn’t open my eyes until I heard the click of the door. Weakly, I crawled up the bed, pulled the soft pillow over my face, and then screamed until I lost my breath. Thoughts were rushing through my brain too fast for me to comprehend: Why did I not mind him being on top of me? Why did I let him do that to me? And most importantly, why did it upset me when he moved away? Guilt. It was eating me up inside because I’d just enjoyed another man’s touch. I felt so guilty that I wanted to vomit. Oh God, Jack, I’m so sorry! I won’t let that happen again, I promise, I mentally chanted in my head. I rolled over and picked up the photo that I had by the side of my bed. Jack’s handsome face greeted me, making me feel even worse for letting Ashton touch me. We were just fifteen when the photo was taken, merely a year before everything turned upside-down. We were at the beach. He was smiling his beautiful smile and had his arms wrapped tightly around my waist. I was laughing at something goofy he’d whispered in my ear just as the photo was taken. Everyday I wished I could remember what it was that he’d said. I rubbed my thumb across his face. I missed him so much; it was like a knife in the heart everyday. That night I cried myself to sleep – something I hadn’t done for months. I woke up screaming. I’d been dreaming about Carter again as usual. My heart was pounding in my ears as I sat up, panting, trying to get my breath back the same as I did every night. I raised my knees up and put my head between them. Suddenly my door burst open and the lights flicked on, almost blinding me. I whimpered in surprise but looked up to see Ashton in just his boxer shorts. His eyes were darting around my room. He held a gun in one hand, pointing straight out in front of him; his other arm was across his body, and he had a wicked-looking knife in his hand. His expression was totally focussed and murderously angry. He looked like a mean SWAT agent now, not a pretty boy model. He crossed the room in a split second. “Get up and get behind me. Now!” he ordered. I instantly jumped out of the bed, wondering what was going on. Was someone in the house? As soon as I was behind him, he started backing up, making me move with him. I almost stumbled and gripped my hands on his h*ps to steady myself. We backed up until I bumped into the wall behind me, making me whimper. He pressed his back against my chest, shielding me with his body as he continued to scan my room. “Shh!” he hissed. I whimpered again and clamped my hand over my mouth, pressing my face hard into his bare back to silence myself. “Where?” he whispered fiercely. “Where are they?” I pulled back so I could take my hand off my mouth. “Where’s who? I don’t know,” I whispered back, pressing into his body, trying to melt into him. “Who was in your room? Why were you screaming?” he questioned, clearly confused now too. Realisation washed over me. “Oh shit! You came in here because I was screaming?” I breathed a sigh of relief as the shock slowly faded from my stressed body. “Yeah… what?” He shook his head, still scanning my room for danger. “Nothing, it’s nothing. I was dreaming. I’m sorry.” I felt like a complete loser in that second. Everyone had moved bedrooms so that I was the only one down this end of the hall because I woke up screaming every night. I hadn’t even thought about waking Ashton up. Everyone else just ignored me now.