Show Me Your Soul

What happens if life throws you off track? What if someone asks you to trust him, even though you know nothing about him? Would you trust him?
Cecily Martesse is a normal student in her second year at college. Just when the next normal semester starts, she meets Ace - a handsome boy that throws her life upside down. Compelled by his words, his voice, his behavior, she finds herself getting dragged into a world full of secrets, unfaithfulness and deceit.
Just when she hears some devastating news about her brother, she has to face things she never knew she could endure.
A story about love, trust and friendship. Rated Mature for adult language and hot love scenes.

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28. Fire With Fire

 

 

A/N: Hey guys! I am so, so sorry for keeping you waiting for so long! School was sucking all of my free-time and energy (*ugh*)

Hope you’re not (too) mad at me :P and still eager to know how things are going on with Cecily and Ace ;-)

Enough blah blah – enjoy the chapter!

Love, Mirette C.

 

 

~ Fire With Fire ~

 

 

CECILY

 

Where am I?

It was cold.

I tried to see something but it was too dark. Pitch-black. A darkness encroaching upon me from every corner, turning my blood ice-cold.

Where am I? And how did I get here?

Slowly, a light bulb overhead showed me the narrow street. Deserted. Silent. Endless.

I walked.

There were no stars, no moon. No wind, no clouds – just an eerie obscurity. Somehow, I knew I should walk, so I walked. I wasn’t wearing shoes and my feet hurt, but I had to get away from here.

It was getting colder. I shivered uncontrollably as I hugged my elbows.

I couldn’t tell how much time had passed. I walked and walked and walked, until my feet burned – still, I didn’t stop.

I have to get away from here, I thought, panic rising in me. How did I even get here? And why wasn’t anybody here?

Suddenly, I saw a small light in the distance and I heard splashing noises. My chest warmed up as the noise got louder.

The beach! It must be near. Relief washed over me.

I started to run toward the bright light, each step harder to take but there was no way I’d stop.

Now I could hear it clearly: the sound of waves and the smell of salt hung in the air.

Taking a few long breaths, I opened my eyes and saw the black ocean.

It was getting darker.  

The light faded and the sound of waves disappeared. My pulse quickened as I looked around for someone, but I was alone.

No, there was someone.

Even though it was foggy, I could see a shadowy person getting closer.

I tried to move, but my feet were stuck on the sand. No matter how hard I tried to move them, they wouldn’t obey me. That person was approaching me…

My heartbeat was racing, sweat starting to drip of my face. And I was still unable to budge.

Frustration engulfed me when he stood less than a foot away from me and suddenly wrapped two white hands around my throat.

I screamed or rather tried to, but his hands were choking me with such a force that I wasn’t able to say anything. I tried to remove his hands, but it was as if I’d been trying to part bands of iron with my bare hands.

He laughed and lifted me in the air, my feet hanging lifelessly in the air.

Stop! I wanted to scream but only soundless words passed my lips.

Stinging pain shot down my chest as he tightened his grip and air got expelled from my lungs. I tried to gasp for air but it was impossible.

I am going to die… The thought horrified me to the core. Fear twisted like a knife in my guts as a tremendous feeling of helplessness paralyzed me.

Warm tears blurred my vision yet the more I blinked the more I could see his face. A pair of black eyes looked at me and his features were getting clearer.

High cheekbones framed his skeletal look and a mischievous grin was on his lips. Dark ink spread over his neck, and his hair was getting a bright shade of… blue. Panic leaped into my chest and my throat dried off as I saw him staring at me with heavy-lidded eyes. Jax… that bastard was going to… kill me…

My brain was screaming for air as hot, boiling anger grew within me. I tried to kick him, yet strength left my limbs. He laughed.

His voice – his laugh was the only thing I could hear. Grave and cruel.

Help! I thought powerlessly.

Suddenly he let go of my throat and I fell on the ground just like a marionette whose strings had been cut.

I was coughing badly, desperate to get oxygen back to my lungs. My throat was burning like fire and every inhale didn’t seem to be enough.

He kneeled over me.

“Now come on, this could be fun”, he said, pulling himself over me.

Disgusted at him, I tried to shove him away from me but there was no strength left in my arms.

A scream tore from the depths of my lungs but there was no sound. Cold lips crushed violently against mine until a metallic taste burst into my mouth.

NO! I don’t want this! I yelled in vain. My head throbbed and my hands hurt under his force. I tried to move my feet but it was no use.

Tears were running down my face as his filthy mouth crashed against mine.

I don’t want this. I don’t want him to touch me!

I want Ace!

I need Ace!

Where was Ace?

Ace! Ace! Ace!

 

“Cec, baby, wake up”, a melodious voice called from the distance.

I blinked my eyes open and saw a pair of bright eyes looking at me.

“Ace”, I breathed heavily as his hand caressed my cheek.

My heart leaped into my throat and pearls of sweat rolled off my forehead. I noted my damp strands plastered around my neck as I thrusted my hand into my hair.

I sat up and looked around. I was in Ace’s apartment. The bright afternoon sun shone through the huge windows and slowly erased the coldness from my dream.

It felt so real. He was… his touches…

Multiple shivers passed me in a row as images of my nightmare appeared and made me cringe in fear once again.

“What’s going on?”, Ace asked. He put his hand on my back and I involuntarily flinched at his touch.

A flash of hurt passed his face when he removed his hand. I wanted to speak but my throat felt as dry as in my dream. I flung my shivery arms around his neck, gripping his t-shirt.

“I-I had a nightmare”, I mumbled into the crook of his neck. His strong arms wrapped around my back and I buried my face into his t-shirt, ashamed that I was letting virtual images get under my skin – again.

“Sorry, I’m just being stupid to get scared over something like that.”

“No, you’re not.” Ace’s voice was kind, full of compassion. His hand ran up and down my back, bringing a sweet warmth that melted away my remaining fear.

“What was your nightmare about?”

I stiffened. Telling him about Jax would only bring back bad memories and I didn’t want to burden him with my idiotic fears. I was here. With him. And safe.

I shook my head. “Nothing special.”

Gently, he pulled away to meet my gaze. “Cec, tell me.” A frown appeared on his bruised face and his eyes pierced me with a familiar intensity. “Was it a dream about Aro? Or Jax?”

I swallowed hard, quivering once again as his malicious face clouded my view.

Denying was pointless, he figured it out. I nodded slowly.

He exhaled deeply, putting my cheeks in his palms. “He is never going to harm you, I promise”, he said with certainty. 

Not sure I could trust my voice, I smiled weakly. Several seconds passed and I was getting calmer in his arms.

“Do you think we should’ve gone to the police? That night at the frat house after he… forced himself on me.”

His arms tightened. “I don’t know. Part of me thinks it would’ve been wiser. But I was focused on you and your brother that night. Jax seemed too unimportant to me at that moment.” Ace lowered his head, resting on the top of my hair. I could hear a hint of guilt in his voice.

It ached my chest to see that he was blaming himself for what happened – or what nearly happened. It wasn’t his guilt to carry.

“It wasn’t your fault”, I whispered.

“Mm…” I felt his lips on the small vein on my temple. “Still, I would never forgive myself if something happened to you.”

His mouth traveled down to my cheek, stroking my skin as lightly as possible. My pulse picked up its pace as he gave me a sweet, warm kiss.

“So…”, he said. “What do you want to do?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Anything you like.”

The corner of his mouth curled up as he cocked his head to his side. “Anything?”

He chuckled when I gave him an aghast look. I didn’t know if I could handle thinking about the perverted things he wanted to do.

“What time is it?”, I asked.

“Half past five.”

I let myself fall back on the bed, stretching my limbs. Despite my nightmare, that nap felt good.

“I don’t care what we do, Ace. We could stay here in bed for the rest of the day and I wouldn’t mind.” Just being here with him was enough. More than enough.

His eyebrows raised. I was surprised to hear the truth behind those words, myself. Hearing me say nice things to him was still unfamiliar for both of us.

His eyes snapped at the remote. “Movie?”

I chuckled. “We don’t have the same taste, remember? I’ll definitively fall asleep if you show me some Sherlock Holmes movie.” I pressed my lips together to not point out any Sci-Fi movies. I’ve watched too many and way too often with Stefan and Noah.  

Laughing, he grabbed the remote switched on the TV. “We’ll find something we both like.”

I leaned back against the pillows. As long as it didn’t start with A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

There were several cooking shows on TV, a repeat of Big Brother and a late episode of Gossip girl. I wanted to watch that episode but after Ace’s groan and vehement complains how “girly” this was, we kept zipping until a scene of Troy caught my eyes.

“Yes, let’s watch Troy”, I said, snatching the remote of his hand.

“I thought you only like romantic and girly stuff.”

“Not true.” I stuck out my tongue. His brow arched and I sighed. “Okay, true, I like romantic movies and novels. But I’m also into action movies. Especially when they refer to historical events with ethical values.”

“Ethical values?” He snorted. “I only see blood, war and sex in that movie.”

I shook my head. “What about the love story? Or Achilles’s motives when he seeks revenge on the murderer of his cousin. Oh, and what about that scene when Hector’s father begs for the corpse of his son.” That scene always brought tears to my eyes.

Stretching his long legs, he leaned back and put his hands behind his head. “That’s not ethical, that’s just stupid. No one forced Achilles’s cousin to dress up like him and fight Hector.”

“It was brave.”

“It was silly. Hector had no clue he killed a kid and Achilles overreacted.”

Rolling my eyes, my focus was back on the movie. “Wow, you really know how to ruin a movie.”

Grinning, he wrapped his arm around my shoulders. “I’m just being honest.”

I buried my nose in his t-shirt as we continued watching the movie. However, we were rather talking than actually watching anything.

Ace’s comments made it hard to follow and after a while I told him some historical facts that I knew from school.

“You know a lot about Greek myths”, he said.

“I paid attention in history class”, I chuckled.

He laughed. “Nerd.”

“As if you didn’t pay attention at school.”

He chuckled weakly. “Not very much. You wouldn’t have liked me at high school.”

“Why?”

I felt him shifting beside me, running his hand through his hair. Telling things about himself was still hard for him, I guess. “You really want to know, Cec?”

I nodded.

Sighing, he told me that he’d gotten homeschooled when his mother had married Thomas. They thought it would be the best after everything he went through, so they hired a few good teachers. It didn’t last long: he made life miserable to them until his parents gave up and he’d gone to a public school. He always liked reading and the teachers Thomas had hired made him read advanced literature at a young age. He had bought shelves full of books for Ace once he’d noticed how much he liked books.

“That’s… really kind of Thomas”, I mumbled.

He nodded, sunken in memories for a while.

“And why did you misbehave that much?”, I asked.

Scratching his head, he sighed, “Don’t know. I didn’t want to be called the geek who read in his free-time. Yeah, I know it’s fucked up but you know how teenage boys are. And I had… a certain reputation.”

I dug further. Just like he wanted to know everything about me, I wanted to understand him, too.

Taking a deep breath, he continued. “My fucking last name kept haunting me and everyone expected things of me. I wanted to prove to the teachers and my classmates that I wasn’t some high-class prick who got everything he wanted from his rich father. I didn’t even have friends in high school. My friends were some fucked up people at clubs who didn’t know my stepfather but that’s… another story.”

He paused, looking at me. “That’s why I didn’t tell you about Thomas, Cec. Now, I don’t care what people think of me anymore. I don’t give a shit about anyone but you.”

I could feel the walls he had built up crumble, one brick by another. He was showing me his true feelings, what he was thinking all this time.

It hurt me to know that he thought I would’ve changed if I had known before. But then, he just had nonserious relationships with women.

Until Victoria.

“Did you think that because you had some bad experience before?”

Rubbing his jaw, he said, “There was a reason why I didn’t want a serious relationship. Ever. The girls were superficial, so was I. And it was okay for me. Victoria was rich, so there was never the question whether she liked me or my father’s money. But then, it was wrong trusting her. She wasn’t… she just wasn’t the right one.”

The movie finished and the credits appeared yet we barely took notice of it.

Victoria was like a shadow from his past, and even though he had no feelings for her anymore, I knew she still wanted him badly.

Trying to keep my hands busy, I plucked the fluffs on the bed and twisted them between my fingers.

When Ace tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear, I looked up. “I never looked at her the way I look at you”, he said. “I never talked to her the way I am talking to you and I never had to fight for anyone the way I had fought for you, Cec. I know I wouldn’t have married her.”

Taking a long breath, I smiled at him.

Shades of orange flooded through the windows as I saw the sun setting.

“It’s getting late. Don’t you want to pick up your car?”

His eyes snapped. “Shit, yeah. I had totally forgotten about that”, he groaned.

“Wanna come along? I could drive you home from there.”

I nodded. Although, I wished I could stay a little longer with him and keep talking I didn’t want to overwhelm him with my presence. We just figured out the things between us and we had to take it slow.

Slow… how can I? He was irresistible to me; no matter how hard I tried to banish the thoughts of him at the most unfavorable moments, I ended up thinking about him.

God, I was just madly in love with him.

“So, let’s get dressed”, I said, starting to crawl off the bed. Before I could process what was happening, Ace hovered himself over me.

“Wha–?”

He cast me an askew grin on his full, kissable lips. “Let’s just stay a little bit here.” With his hands on my hips, he pulled me closer and sealed his lips with mine. Air got lost somewhere in my throat and I was left breathless.

“But we should really–”, I gasped.

“We still have time.”

My eyes closed and my lips parted, welcoming his tongue. He deepened the kiss until my reason was shutting up.

Gee, he was right, no one was rushing us. There was only us. Everything else could wait.

I moaned into his mouth as his hand yanked my burrowed t-shirt.

Oh… I didn’t put on my bra, I thought, embarrassed, yet arched my back to give him better access to… whatever he was doing.

His fingers stroked my humming skin, while my hands grasped his t-shirt. His skin was hot underneath the soft fabric. His hands fondled me from my hips slowly rising to my breasts.

I panted the moment Ace’s fingers traced the firm peaks of my nipples.

“You have beautiful breasts, Cec”, he said, kneading them as they fit perfectly in his palms.  

I sucked in a breath as a response. Opening my eyes, I soaked in the warmth his touch brought. I focused on the bright hue of his eyes, letting them mesmerize me as if they were looking deeply into my soul.

He circled his thumb over my sensitive skin, squeezing them lightly between his fingers.

“They’re perfect…”, he moaned.

Without warning, he bent his head down and pulled my t-shirt up to my chin. He mouthed over my breast, letting me feel the heat of his breath yet nothing more.

It was maddening.

On the verge of whining for more, my toes clenched.

Inching closer, his lips brushed my skin, leaving a warm trace. I dug my teeth into my bottom lip, giving myself completely to him.

“Cec?”

“Mm?”

“You’ve been quiet. Don’t want you to get bored”, he teased.

As. If. I. Could.

“Talk to me”, he whispered.

Putain, mords-moi…” 

The back of my head pressed against the pillow, pushing my breasts forward.

He lapped my hard peaks and I groaned, arching my back more. A foreign sort of energy floated through my body, my legs, as they tensed around his waist.

He smiled against my skin. “In English.”

Bringing out his teeth, he squeezed my nipple gently between them.

The sensation of his sizzling and wet tongue was beyond words. Its rawness against my oversensitive skin dizzied me.

“Mark me, Ace” I purred. “I want… to remember… what you’re doing to me.”

My fingers trembled as I looped them around his neck, spinning his hair between them. Breathing seemed suddenly so damn hard.

His touches were already carved into my skin, his fingerprints covering my whole body, but I wanted to look at my hickey later and remember this fervid tingle.

Releasing my nipple, he moved higher, his breath lingered along my skin. Tantalizingly and turning my mind to mush.

My eyelids flickered as he sucked hard. A sigh passed my mouth while the ache was boosting my taut senses, spreading like a torrent through my chest.

I pushed my fingers through his raven hair when he looked up at me. His swollen lips inched closer to my ear, his breath stirring the hair along the nape of my neck.

“Want another?”, he murmured. My breath caught as he kissed the sensitive skin behind my ear.

“N-No…”, I panted. Pressing my lips together, I tried to cut off the urge to giggle. And failed.

I cried out as he planted kisses under my ear. Somewhere between my giggles, I managed to say, “S-Stop, please. I-I…” My shoulders shook with laughter. I couldn’t hold it anymore; his lips were driving me crazy.

Thankfully, he detached his mouth from my skin and leaned his forehead against my shoulder.

He snorted. “Mood killer.”  

“You know I’m ticklish”, I panted, rubbing my moist eye.

Pity that he wasn’t. Or was he–?

Putting my fingers on either side of his chest, I started tickling him. Unimpressed eyes stared at me as I ran my fingers up and down. No reaction.

“You’re not ticklish?”, I asked incredulously, keeping on as I saw him grinning at me.

“Nope.”

His grin widened but there was no flinch or laugh. Just a small chuckle at my ineffective attempts. I tried again, even under his armpits. Nothing.

“I give up”, I sighed.

“Great.” I didn’t notice his fingers sidling to my ribs until he started tickling me.

“That’s funnier”, he chuckled.

The giggles built up inside me once again, making my shoulders shake and my belly hurt. When they hiccupped from my mouth, it sounded more like a shriek as I fought to breath.

“Please, stop!”, I cried-pleaded.

Rolling and shifting uncontrollably, I managed to free myself out of his fast hands as I landed on the floor, dragging him along.

He started laughing and I joined him. Ace looked at me and I suddenly felt exposed to the core. His fingers tensed around my thighs and I could’ve sworn I saw a longing flash in his eyes.

“We should go now. I don’t want to lose completely control over myself”, he said. My heart tripped over itself at the deep octave of his voice.

Some hidden desire within me wished to see him losing control. But we were taking it slow, I reminded myself.

Nodding, he got up and started taking off his flannel pants when I rushed to the bathroom and put on my dress.

Smoothing my hair, I looked at myself in the mirror.

I sighed, “You don’t happen to have a hair tie, do you?” I laughed at the idea but he surprised me by going to the drawer of his nightstand and pulled something out of it.

Something golden and small.

“Here, that’s… yours, anyway.”

I looked at my hair grip and remembered when he had pulled it out of my hair during the lecture. It felt like ages had passed since then.

“Huh, are you blushing, Ace Aurenglade? Could it be that you are somehow nervous?” I just liked teasing him. A habit that intensified since I had met him.

He just rolled his eyes, growling something under his breath.

“Thank you.” I kissed his cheek before seizing half of my hair up. “How do I look?” A smile flashed around his lips as I smoothed my hair and dress.

“Ready to get laid.”

He smirked, wetting his bottom lip with his tongue. With his filthy tongue!

“God, you’re just too perverted”, I said as he grabbed his black leather jacket. “How many times do you even think about sex?”

“Every time I look at you.” He shrugged his one shoulder – as if he was stating the most normal thing in the world.

I snorted as he opened the door. “Well, then it must cost you a lot of self-control not to jump at me.”

The sarcasm in my voice was evident yet the look in those blazing eyes was turning my legs into jelly.

“You have absolutely no idea how much, Cecily.”

My heart was racing, his last words crossing my mind. If my self-control was only half as big as his then he must really endure a lot.

More than I had ever thought.

 

The subway station was in fact not very far away, yet I didn’t want to walk fast. I enjoyed every minute with Ace. The way my hand fitted in his, the way my fingertips yearned to stroke his skin, to feel his warmth were enough to fill my heart with joy.

We kept talking during our walk. About random things.

He really didn’t lie when he said he wanted to know everything about me. He even asked me about my first boyfriend, Brian Smith. Not that there was much to tell. I was sixteen back then, he too. We had been sitting next to each other in history class yet he’d sleep most of the times. After he had seen my mother crying when she picked me up from school, he asked what was wrong. I couldn’t tell him it was because of my father’s affair but he was nice enough to ask me if everything was okay. A week later, he asked me out on a date.

Ace’s grip tightened and I glanced to him. His jaw was working, his eyes steely focusing on the street.

“It was really nothing special. We went to the cinema and grabbed a bite afterward.” I didn’t want to upset or hurt him by talking about my ex. Also, my time with Brian seemed so far away and insignificant.

At a response, Ace just interlaced his fingers with mine, his thumb caressing the back of my hand. “I told you I want to know everything about you. Even if it’s about your ex being a prick.”

“He wasn’t a prick. He just… wasn’t mature. On our third date, he kissed me briefly at our front porch, asking me if I would like to be his girlfriend.” We arrived at the station, walking downstairs.

“He just kissed you? After three dates?” Ace’s eyes went wide as he blinked several times.

“Are you sure he wasn’t gay?”

I busted into a laughter. “No, I don’t think so, Ace. He was just… maybe he wasn’t very interested or just wanted to have a girlfriend like his friends.”

He was actually more interested in video games and his friends. He had invited me to his birthday party which was a disaster. He and his friends tested a new game and I watched them for an hour until I dozed off on the couch. I’d woken up from their shouts. Apparently, some team from South Korea had won. I remember the smell of alcohol hanging in the air and Brian being too drunk to drive me home. The next day, I confronted him but he hadn’t shown any remorse.

“Sorry, Cec but that guy sure wasn’t straight. Three dates…”

I blushed at his way of making me a compliment. Even if it included insulting another person. “I broke up with him after I realized that he was too immature. Every time he was with his friends he ignored me or pretended that we weren’t dating.”

We waited for the subway when I noticed the knitted brows on Ace’s face.

“I’m glad he was such an asshole”, he said.

Wrapping his arms around my waist, he pulled me closer to him. I looked around as I noted some people staring at us but Ace didn’t seem to care. PDA was rather something that embarrassed me. But Ace’s indifference about what others could think seemed to have passed to me.

“Why?”

He shrugged one shoulder. “If he had been perfect, you would’ve been taken.”

I drank in the view as his eyes settled on me. Challenge flickered in them, as if he dared someone to come in between us. I leaned my head across his chest.

It was as if an eternity had passed before he spoke again, asking me if I’d been a member of some club in high school.

I couldn’t play any instrument and I wasn’t very athletic, so school band and cheerleaders were off limits for me. But I’d wanted to join the literature club.

“What happened?”

“I kind of… got into a fight with the members there. They didn’t share my opinion about a book character.” That was my biggest weakness with books: I just put myself too much in a character’s position and suffered when they suffered, I was happy when they were happy. And nothing made me more upset when I saw someone not understanding a character that was dear to me.

“What kind of book?”

Persuasion. By Jane Austen. Have you read it?”

He shook his head, snorting. “Do I look like I read Jane Austen novels?”

“It’s a very beautiful story! The protagonist gets influenced by her family and makes a fatal mistake. That was kind of annoying, but it was still a good story. Her character developed a lot during the plot.” I frowned. “And my stupid classmates just labeled the story as stupid and boring!”

Ace chuckled at my almost-fit-of-rage when I thought about the narrow-minded views of some people.

“Are you laughing at me?”

“Me? Never.” He brought his bottom lip between his teeth.

I sighed. “You don’t understand that, Ace. You were the popular quarterback in high school surrounded by cheerleaders and didn’t understand the weirdos. Or girls like me”, I huffed as we got into the subway heading to the beach. We looked for some empty seats and found two behind an old couple and next to a teenage girl with some interesting tattoos covering her bare arms. They shot us some quick glances, the old lady shocked at the view of Ace’s bruises. She whispered something to her husband, glancing out of the window.

The tattooed girl just smirked at Ace. Fantasies of me scratching out her eyes passed my mind. God, I needed to control my temper. And jealousy. And the violent fantasies in my head. Just as I finished calling her names in my head, she focused back on her phone. His bruises didn’t seem to startle her, she probably had seen worse in L.A.

Lucky for her.

Shaking his head, Ace just grinned at me as I sat next to him.

“You really think I was a quarterback?” His shoulders trembled from laughing.

I shrugged mine. He was athletic and handsome, I could imagine him being prom king or captain of the football team. The scenarios in my head weren’t unlikely.

Propping his head up on his elbow, he turned to me. “Cec, let me tell you this: I was not the quarterback or anything like that and I was definitively not popular. Most of my classmates were scared of me or hated me. My look wasn’t exactly… helping.”
“Your look?”

Sighing, his forehead wrinkled. “I had dyed my hair flaming red when I turned sixteen. My first piercing was on my left earlobe. A month later, my whole ear was covered with other piercings, a few weeks later my other ear. My first tattoo was at fifteen when I had found out my Mom had cancer. It was ‘Death’”, he added before I could ask.

“Each letter written on the back of my fingers. I know, it’s fucked up. After that, I continued almost every weekend after getting drunk that I didn’t mind the pain. I had a couple of tattoos along my arms up to my shoulder.”

I glanced at his arm, looking closely. There were some faint, almost unnoticeable scars that I never noted before. I stroked the smooth, tattoo-free skin, imagining the black ink that was once there.

Something flashed across his face as he remembered the things he had done. Things he didn’t want to tell me, I could sense that. I didn’t want to push him and I didn’t need to. He will tell me when he was ready.

Turning his eyes to me, he pierced me with his look while his fingers slipped between a strand of my hair, wrapping them around his finger.

“Most girls were avoiding me, the guys sometimes picking a fight with me but it was me who started most of the times. No one wanted a scary student as the captain of the football team. Also, I’m not team-minded.”

So, he was a loner.

I’d never thought he was one of the outsiders at high school. No wonder his friends were just people from some clubs who didn’t care about him or his last name.

“And when did you become… a more… responsible person?”, I asked carefully. My instincts told me it had something to do with Victoria. Maybe she had changed him. Maybe she had made him a better person. The thought pierced my insides and my jealousy was devouring me.

“After my Mom died, I didn’t know what to do with my life. The only thing that had tied me to Thomas was gone, so I decided not to live under the name Skidmore anymore. I changed my appearance before applying to college. I also found some really good friends.”

He smiled for the first time, looking at his arms. “I had removed the tattoos before I had treated my first patient. No one would want to be treated by someone with tattoos all over his arms.”

Tattoos all over his arms…

I tried to picture an Ace that was covered with black ink over his body. Like a painting. A living painting, accentuating his muscles. An Ace that was so desperately trying to fight against expectations people had of him that he didn’t seem to care if the ones who loved him got hurt.

Running his hand in his hair, he exhaled deeply. “That’s why I don’t like talking about it. The look on your face – you’re disgusted.”

“What? No, I’m not! True, what you did wasn’t exactly what I had imagined but you were just… hurt and angry.”

I placed his chin in my hand, forcing him to look me in the eyes. It killed me seeing him like this. I didn’t want him to hate himself and he needed to believe me. “I am not disgusted with you. I could never be. I don’t judge you for your past mistakes and what matters the most is that you are a better person now.”

And Victoria McBitch had nothing to do with it.

His features softened as I gave him a warm smile.

“Also…”, I started, looking at my feet. “I wouldn’t have minded your tattoos.”

Pure astonishment was written all over his face, reflecting exactly how I should feel.

But I didn’t. I would never get a tattoo myself but I liked the view of it on handsome boys. Unfortunately, most people just have meaningless tattoos. Impersonal motives, some cliché quotes or the names of their children or lovers. But I’d seen very skillful artists whose works were awesome.

“True, the patients would have noticed them and surely would have been intimidated, especially elder people. But there are other places you could have gotten a tattoo.”

Longing to catch a glimpse at the old Ace, I asked, “You don’t have any pictures?”

“No, I don’t do pictures.”

“Everyone likes taking pictures and selfies.”

“I don’t.” He shrugged his shoulders and I rolled my eyes.

We were quiet, just the sound of the brakes filling the space with its shrill noise every time we stopped.

I fished for my phone since I heard it buzz and looked at the screen. There were a few missed calls from Marlene, probably wondering where I was. I texted her about coming home later.

Just when I slid my phone back into my purse, my fingers wrapped around something tiny.

“Huh, I didn’t know I had stuffed that lipstick in there.” I had totally forgotten about that red cream color. Ace smirked at my wonder.

His smirk disappeared bit by bit, his focus entirely on my lips as I put some of the strawberry-flavored cream on them. Unconsciously, he bit the side of his bottom lip, making my heartbeat flutter instantly. His eyes changed position up to my eyes, a suggestive expression behind their wicked glow. I sensed that he wanted to say something else but “We arrived” was all he voiced and got up.

The metro slowed down, reaching the terminus at the surface. The weather was perfect. The sun was setting, turning Los Angeles into a beautiful golden place and the horizon a line of burnt-orange. The sound of laughing children filled my ears, some people already heading to their cars after spending the day at the beach.

Just as we crossed the road, I spotted someone at the corner of my eyes.

A tall guy with blue hair.

I stopped instantly, and my legs stiffened. Just like my nightmare, my limbs wouldn’t obey me.

Yet this time it wasn’t a nightmare.

My heart sank to my boots and blood dispersed from my face. Ace looked at me, surprised that I stopped.

“Ace”, I managed to gasp. The moment, the guy turned around, I was ready to scream. My breaths became more rapid, shallower and I felt my growing fear like a cluster of wires tightening my abdomen.

Just as quick as my panic came, it washed away as relief flooded through my body. It was someone else.

It wasn’t him.

It’s not Jax… It’s not Jax, I told myself over and over.

My body relaxed at once. Ace followed my gaze and watched the boy crossing the street, disappearing from our view. 

I breathed heavily when our eyes met, Ace’s face tensing as he pulled me by my waist.

“He wouldn’t dare coming here again, Cec.”

“What did actually happen with Jax?”, I whispered once we arrived at the parking lot. Yet, somehow, I feared his answer.

“If he was lucky last night, someone may have found him and brought him to a hospital.”

I stopped before opening the door. “Oh my God… is he dead? W-What did you do, Ace?”

“No, he’s not.” His face was hard, his features getting severe. “I just beat the shit out of him and his friends. The cowards disappeared once they realized they were no match. Jax passed out in that alley.”

That wasn’t exactly calming to hear. And I didn’t know if I should be worried at Ace’s anger management problem and longing for vengeance or worried about Jax still laying in that alley, maybe… dead. And even if he was fine, was Jax planning something? Maybe looking for revenge?

Maybe he was going to hunt Ace like he tried to find him for weeks. I shivered as that thought crossed my mind. I couldn’t bear the pain if anything happened to Ace.

“Nothing’s going to happen to you, I promise, Cec. He won’t harm you unless he really wants to die next time.”

It wasn’t me I was worried about, though. Whoa… die?!

There was no humor in his eyes. He was serious.

“Don’t say that, Ace. I don’t want you to kill anyone!”

“If he ever comes close to you, I’m pretty sure I will see red.”

If last night wasn’t already the case then I really didn’t want to know what happens if he was going to see red.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I steadied my voice and prepared my scolding tone. “You can’t just walk around punching people! You promised you wouldn’t do such crazy things anymore!”

He hesitated but knew better than to break the promise he just had made a few hours ago.

“Okay”, he sighed, getting inside his car. I was pretty sure nothing was okay. The way his eyes were glowing at the mention of Jax’s name made me uneasy. But arguing now about this would be pointless. He needed to calm down, so did I.

Taking a deep breath, I got in.

I was surprised how familiar his car had become to me although it was just the third time I was in here. His car was surprisingly neat each time I’d gotten inside and smelled like castor bean.

The radio played quietly some weird remix in the background but I focused on the road. He wasn’t driving insanely fast which surprised me after the tense situation before. I kept staring at the road, expecting to see some stars but the city lights and billboards were outshining their lights.

“So… do you have some plans this summer?”, I asked, breaking the silence.

“Nope.”

I bit my lip, trying to sound as casual as possible. “Well, what would you say if we… if we’ll spend our time together… somewhere.”

He turned his gaze to me at the next stoplight.  

“You want to go on vacation with me?”

Maybe it was too early and I was just being impatient? The last thing I wanted was push him. I’d already done that once and it didn’t go well. I kept biting my lip, nodding briefly. “Yeah, I guess.”

To my surprise his lips spread to a crooked smile. “Okay. Well, have you ever been to… Venice? Although the whole city smells like fish…”

I laughed. “No, but I didn’t mean that far away. That’s too expensive.”

“Don’t worry about the money”, he chuckled. “So, how about Thailand? The food’s definitively delicious there.” I grinned at the ridiculous suggestions across the globe.

“Actually, I don’t care where we go, Cec. You decide.” He glanced at me. “Paris would be fine, too. You could do the talking and tourist thing and I’d enjoy the rest. But you better don’t make me eat frogs or slugs. Unless you want me to puke in those restaurants.” I shook with laughter at the idea of that until tears built up at the corner of my eyes. The view of an excited Ace was new. And splendid. Maybe now was the right time to ask him.

“What about Chicago, Ace?”

His grin vanished immediately and I gulped at this sudden chance of his face expression. I could feel the shift of atmosphere in this room. The playfulness faded, replaced by a tense cloud above him.

“No.”

His hands clenched the wheel, the veins on his forearm appearing more prominently.

“But why? You’ve already been there, recently. And… and things are back normal between you and your father. I thought–”

“Nothing’s changed between me and Thomas, Cec”, he snapped. “I didn’t plan to go back to that damned city. I just did it for you and because there was no other option.”

“Why can’t you forgive him, Ace?”, I whispered. “He didn’t tell you because he thought it was your brother’s duty to do so. Can’t you see how much he cares for you, how much he loves you?”

“If he really loved me, he would have told me the truth”, he yelled. “He wouldn’t have let me clueless while she was screwing my brother! He should have told me. He should have been honest with me from the start because that’s what fathers do.” 

“But maybe he had his reasons! He’s trying to have a good relationship with you! To be a good father!” I paused, looking at his stern face. “Doesn’t he deserve a second chance? You shouldn’t be that unforgiving, especially–”

“We are not going, Cecily! End of discussion.” His shouts echoed through the tiny space of his car, leaving us both quiet.

I hate it when he gets defensive. As if my words were meant to attack him. His stubbornness was never decreasing to make me want to go up the wall. And my stubbornness wasn’t helpful, either. As if I was fighting fire with fire.

People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes. I didn’t remember who said that but that quote suddenly crossed my mind.

Folding my arms, I turned my gaze to my windshield. “Thomas invited me to Chicago. And if you’re too stubborn to get a grip and overcome your hatred, well, then I’m sorry! Because I, for one, am going.”

“You are not going, Cec.” Now, he was speeding, each stoplight almost red when he hit the acceleration. I had never seen Ace driving like this and I prayed that no cop was nearby right now.

Excuse me? Since when do you get to decide anything for me?!”

“Since… well since I’m your boyfriend.”

Great argument, but he had no better one. Sorry Ace, these weren’t the fifties and I wouldn’t let him boss me around.

“Right, but you’re acting like a possessive boyfriend. I can go wherever I want, if you like it or not.”

With a sharp turn, he steered the car to our street, slowing down.

“I don’t want to go back there and I don’t want to build up my relationship with Thomas. We had not just little father-son-differences, we hated each other for a very long time. And I don’t want to go back there and see our fucking house where everyone thought we were a happy family although my mother was dying more and more in there!” His voice was rough when he finished, his jaw tense.

I was speechless. I knew he held many bad memories in Chicago, but I never thought that his mother’s death was even linked to their house. I didn’t want to picture the hard times they all had seeing her suffer, seeing her dying bit by bit in her own house.

He turned to our driveway, shutting the motor off. We were quiet, both of us looking to our garden through the windshield.

I cleared my throat, bringing my hand to his knee. “I’m… I’m sorry. I didn’t know… with your mother…”

His jaw was still working, but at least he put his hand over mine. “I just… I just wanted to see where you used to live and get to know at least one of your parents.”

Saying it aloud made it sound so dull and incredibly selfish. He tried to erase the memories yet I was making him relive his pain. He knew the deepest secrets of my family and I didn’t regret a second for telling him anything. But I wanted to be there for him the same way he had been for me.

“My parents are dead, Cec”, he said matter-of-factly. His tone was more sad than harsh, leaving a bitter taste. I tightened my grip but he just opened his door.

Outside, I fumbled for my keys when we stopped in front of our door. He was looking down at me and I up at him, our eyes both longing for something that the other didn’t want.

“Don’t get filled with bitterness. You could have beautiful memories there, too”, I whispered carefully.

Eyes narrowed on me into thin slits, but he said nothing.

“Our conversation is not over”, I stated.

“Oh baby, the conversation is more than over.” He snatched the keys out of my hand.

“Hey, give me–” I reached for them but just held them higher.

“Very mature, Ace. That is not funny!” I was on tiptoes but my hand wasn’t even near to his fingertips.

“Give me my damn–” He just let them fall on the ground and pushed me against our door. His body pressed to mine, knocking the breath out of my lungs. Before I could protest, his lips swept over my lips.

He was using the only way to silence me against me. What a cruel man.

I clenched my hand into a fist, trying to release my body from his but it was no use. My tries were getting weaker as my hands seized his shirt, pulling him closer to me. The strawberry flavor of my lipstick mingled between our lips, changing into another one. A mix of his scent and mine. A sheer perfect combination.

“You’re… so… stubborn”, he panted.

“So are you… and it is… not over…”, I managed to say before his tongue slid into my mouth, shutting me up.

My legs trembled under the force of his kiss but his strong grip around my back caught me. Why was it always like that with us? We fight, we yell at each other, we drive each other insane but then the passion in our lips increased every time we kissed, making me want to forget every fight we ever had.

“End. Of. Discussion”, he decided. His teeth caught my bottom lip, pulling back.

My legs intertwined with his, there was hardly more than half an inch space between us and my fingers yearned to thrust through his silken hair.

Moans fled his lips. The sound rolled shivers of excitement through me.

His hand reached the hem of my dress, yanking it up to caress my bare thigh.

I was running out of air but I didn’t want to stop for one second. I was never addicted to anything, to anyone but Ace made it hard to withhold myself. I could’ve continued forever if there hadn’t been a noise, bringing us back to reality.

Just when he cleared his throat a second time, I recognized the voice of my father.

My father… holy…  

Explosively, I wrested myself from Ace’s embrace as I looked at my father’s raised eyebrows.

There was no warmth in his expression when his gaze shifted to Ace. I risked a glimpse at him: His usual poker-face would’ve been very convenient for once but the word Fuck was written all over his face.

“Papa, um… hey, nice to see you.” I hope my voice didn’t sound as squeaky as to my ears.

“You too, chérie.” He managed a to give me a soft smile before his gaze fixed back on Ace. I could see my father’s eyes snap at the purple bruises on Ace’s cheekbones, the suture over his eye and maybe even his bruised knuckles when Ace brought his hand to his hair.

Dad was glaring at him, confusion meddling with disgust.

Clearing my throat, I said, “Papa, that’s Ace. Ace, my father.”

Ace shook Dad’s hand. At least I heard no cracking sounds.

“Nice to meet you”, Ace said.

Dad smiled humorlessly. “You have some of my daughter’s lipstick on your lips, young man.”

I gulped, screwing my eyes shut when Ace dropped his hand. I couldn’t imagine a worse situation.

“Fuck”, Ace sighed, brushing the rosy color from his lips.

Dad eyes went wide as he sucked in a sharp breath; there was nothing he despised more than swearwords. “You better watch your mouth. I won’t allow such a filthy language in my house.”

“Papa–”

“Well technically I’m not in your house, Sir.”

Is he out of his fucking mind?!  

Dad arched his eyebrows at me, like he was saying And you just let this filthy tongue slip inside your mouth?

Shaking his head, he walked past us and reached for the door knob. “Well, it was… nice to meet you, Ace.”

“You, too, Mr. Martesse.”

Like any seconds had been nice. After one last glance at him, my father disappeared behind the door.

Ace grinned. “Now that was funny.”

“I'm glad that you find it entertaining.” I rolled my eyes.

“My pleasure.” Tilting his head, he gave me a brief kiss on my cheek. “Good night, Cec.”

“Screw you”, I muttered and watched him chuckle all the way to his car.

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