|photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing|
Will watched the confrontation, feeling anger rise and throb in his veins. He clenched his fists against the flow, turning them white and numb. But who was he angry with? Alexis? Robin? He had lost all faith in them and in himself, and had no one to support.
Robin was wrong for dragging her back here, for humiliating her further. It was cruel and beneath him, regardless of whether or not she deserved it. Will saw the spark of desperation in his cousin's eye, and it scared him. This was madness; it was something he had never seen in the noble, kind man before.
He could not bring himself to defend the girl yet, held back by bitterness and a sick interest in knowing just what she had done to make Robin hate her so. He was torn in two by his desire to justify the inexplicable pain and rage he felt at being lied to, rejected and betrayed, and his passionate need to love her, to defend her and wish against all odds that she could be his. No matter what he did, he could not remove the hurt from his soul, nor the strong waves of affection and pity that held him back.
He was surprised when she turned the tables, suddenly changing from the guilty, humiliated, ashamed creature he had seen moments before into something brave and strong and desperate to live. He watched the agitation shaking her white hands, the bright color filling her thin face, the shining green eyes and frail, heaving chest. Despite himself, he could not deny her beauty.
Beauty? She was not beautiful. She was thin and dirty, too tall, with a face that was unsettling to say the least: large, probing eyes, the color of the forest in summer, piercing and searching jutted out a bit too far, giving the impression of a panicked, wild animal. Her lips were thin and sharp, her nose long and crooked at the top, spattered with a galaxy of freckles. She was hunched and blood-coated from the injury to her shoulder, and a long red scar obscured her cheek. She was not beautiful in any one way Will could logically conceive, and yet the sight of her took his breath away and rustled his heart with a strange tremor.
The burning, passionate inner fire she kept so well-hidden had not escaped his curious gaze and he was enchanted by it. Her strength and her fear, her incessant will to live even when what she had could scarcely be called a life, made his fingers grow cold and his chest hot.
Oh, why had she lied? Why didn't she want his help and love when he stood ready to lay them at her feet? Why would she choose this torturous, lonely existence over what they could have had together? Why did she have to run away that night? The questions pounded with his heartbeat as he watched her.
Adam. He made the realization slowly, achingly, feeling it settle cold and hard in his stomach. Adam was the reason for her arrest, the reason for the bruises and cuts up and down her face and chest, for the broken arm hanging limp by her side. Adam was undoubtedly the reason she left. She must have been running to him. He was the one she left Will for, even after declaring how she felt. Or, he wondered bitterly, was that a lie too?
His anger returning, he saw Robin flounder in the silent wake of her last question, trapped. Will now looked at the girl with loathing, the slippery thing, always escaping, running from every punishment, any justice, never answering for the damage she had done. Not today, Will decided, seething. "Because I wanted you here." The words stung his heart with their irony as he stepped forward and spoke.
Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1