God, he was going to kill me if he ever found out about the birth control.
My stomach twisted at the thought.
He didn’t loosen his grip as he walked us to the bedroom—
“Shake me off!” Drew shouted, snapping me back to the present. “I’ve got the high ground from behind. You can’t reach my eyes with the way I have your arms pinned.”
I couldn’t fucking breathe.
The memories clung to my skin like little pricks of ice.
“What do you do?” His grip tightened, and all that rage, all that panic and fear shot to the surface, right alongside everything I’d learned the past four classes.
I planted my feet, jutting my hips backward with all the power I had while simultaneously digging my fingers into his forearm and propelling him forward.
His massive body rolled forward over my back until his spine smacked against the mat.
He’s going to kill me.
My brain flashed from Rick to the present and back again.
I didn’t waste a second, my muscles almost reacting on memory as I kept hold of that forearm and spun until I pressed my knee against Drew’s hard chest.
“Good!” he said, his chin hitting my knee as he tapped the mat.
I hauled off of him, tears streaming down my cheeks. Not out of fear or anger, but a sort of cleansing as power rushed through me. At the way I’d taken down a man the size of Rick. How I’d made a choice for my body and used it to save myself. How I knew, with absolute certainty, I’d never let myself be in that position again.
“I don’t know what I’d do if you ever left me,” Rick said later that night, his fingers trailing the edge of my arm as I laid still, holding back tears. “Oh, wait,” he said. “Yes, I do.”
I swallowed hard.
“What would I do, Teagan?”
He’d told me a hundred times before. Every time I’d ever contemplated leaving.
“Come on, baby,” he said, nuzzling his chin over my shoulder. “I want to hear you say it,” he cooed as if he were asking me to sing him a song.
“I don’t need to say it,” I whispered into the dark.
“Because I’m not leaving you.” Not when he’d threatened the people I loved most. Not when I knew what the kind of money and power he had could do.
“That’s right,” he said and smoothed his hand over my tummy. “I feel like tonight was the night.”
I nodded despite knowing that it wasn’t. I’d gone to extreme lengths to ensure that.
“You know I’ve always wanted a son. I can’t wait until you give me that.”
“It’s normal,” Drew said, his deep yet understanding tenor drawing me out of myself.
I swiped at the tears on my cheeks.
“To have breakthroughs like this.” He handed me a water bottle.
“Thank you,” I said as Savannah came up beside me, her hand supportively on my back. “I can’t tell you how good that felt,” I laughed.
“I can tell you how much it hurt,” he teased, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Don’t be,” he chided me. “Never fucking be sorry for defending yourself. For owning your body and your space. That’s what our lessons are all about.”
I nodded, sucking in a breath that felt like it finally reached the entirety of my lungs.
Slowly, I was coming back to myself.
With the help of my friends, with taking steps to forgive myself for the mistakes I’d made, the blind spots I’d had...
I was healing.
“Same time next week?” He asked as Savannah and I gathered our things.
“Absolutely,” I said. “And thanks again,” I called as we exited the studio.
After a quick stop home for a shower and a change, Savannah and I met up with Liberty to shop for our Halloween costumes. The Raptors were having their annual boo-bash in a few days, and I finally felt ready to face an event again.
Not as Rick’s girlfriend.
Not as Roman’s best friend.
But as me.
The thought of Roman shot a white-hot heat through my blood. Images flashed behind my eyes—his lips on mine, the taste of him in my mouth, his strong body pinning me against the wall outside his home while the warm night air whirled around us.
God, I’d nearly came just from a kiss. Just from him touching my body in a way I’d never experienced—passionate and primal and consuming.
He’d had me pinned against that wall, his muscled body caging mine, and I hadn’t felt trapped. I’d felt safe, wild, but safe. And I wanted more.
That’s what had terrified me. That’s what had stopped me from crawling into his bed and begging him to touch me again.
Because he was my best friend, and if we crossed that line for real? Would we ever be able to go back to normal when it inevitably ended? Because it would end…I had too much baggage, and he was perfect. He deserved a woman who didn’t have flashbacks that brought on panic attacks. Deserved a woman who didn’t come with an ex-boyfriend who’d threatened to hurt him more than once, just for being my friend.