Krit let out a hard laugh. “That’s bullshit. You got a football career ahead of you. Don’t make her promises you can’t keep.”

I was worried Krit was being too hard on Rock. I agreed with Krit, but he didn’t have to throw angry words at Rock for trying to be nice.

“I’ll gain your trust,” Rock said. “Both of you.”

Krit scowled, but behind his anger I could see the little boy who had hope. He wanted to trust in someone. He trusted me, but he needed more. We both did.

“What you did tonight was enough. Thank you,” I told him before Krit could say any more.

Rock held my gaze, and he looked like he was about to say something when a commotion outside the door stopped him. I recognized the voice immediately.


“Where are they? Did she hurt my baby?” a woman asked in a high-pitched voice as if she were panicked. “She always hurts him. I can’t control her,” she continued.

“No f**king way,” Krit growled as he stalked past me toward the door.

He looked furious. I glanced back at Trisha. I didn’t know if I should go after him.

“It’s her. Our mother,” she said softly.

“There’s my baby! Are you okay? Did she hurt you again? Did y’all check him out?!”

Was this woman serious?

“That’s enough, Mom. Trisha is beat to shit in there. No one believes your farce. She’s too damn nice to hurt anyone. Even you,” Krit roared over his mother’s voice.

“Honey, it’s okay. You don’t have to protect her,” his mother started up.

“WOMAN, ARE YOU CRAZY?” Krit yelled.

“Oh God. Please go stop him,” Trisha begged. “Please. If he tells them, we will be split up. He doesn’t understand that foster homes could be worse.”

I stared at her face, still beautiful though beaten, and swollen. I realized she was right. At least where she was she knew what to expect, and Krit was there with her. The kid was bigger than her and loved her. He could also get in touch with me if they needed me.

Nurses were trying to calm them down, and security was walking up when I stepped outside the room.

“Krit,” I called out.

He looked at me with a furious scowl. “This is it! You gonna fix it? Save her from this shit!” he challenged me.

It was time I started proving myself. I walked over to Krit and put my arm around his shoulders. “Your sister needs you. She’s asking for you,” I told him while glaring at the woman across from him.

He didn’t move at first. Finally he nodded and walked back to his sister’s room.

“Baby, don’t go in there to her—”

“Leave him alone. He’s going where he wants to be. With the sister who loves him and got hurt tonight. And you need to calm down. Too many drinks have you saying shit no one around you believes. It’s obvious Krit loves his sister and she loves him. If you want to keep your family, then you might want to act like a mother and not a drunk, deranged psycho.”

Her eyes went wide as I told her exactly how things were going to go. The painted-on makeup didn’t cover up her hard living. Her skin had seen better days. The stench on her was nauseating. Sour whiskey and cheap perfume.

“Now, you need to go sign the papers to release your daughter. She’s been treated, and she needs to go home and rest. I’ll be making sure that happens. If you f**k with her, I swear to God you’ll lose everything. Do you understand me?”

The woman’s bent shoulders snapped back as she looked at me hatefully. “Who the hell do you think you are? You don’t tell me what to do. Did you hurt Trisha? Are you some loser who she’s running wild and partying with?”

She was trying to twist it so I looked like the bad guy.”

A security guard stepped up beside me. “No, ma’am. This here is Sea Breeze High’s football star. He’ll put us on the map one day. Good kid. Watch him play every Friday. This young man don’t ever cause trouble.”

I glanced over at the man beside me and recognized him as one of the security guards who worked the games. I owed him one.

“Y’all don’t know what she’s like,” the woman started up again.

“Yeah, I do. She’s the mother your son doesn’t have in you,” I replied.

The security guard beside me patted my back. “That’s good, son. Why don’t you go on back in there with the girl? We’ll oversee her momma signing the release papers.”

I shot her one more warning glare, then headed back to the room, where I found Krit watching me from the doorway.

There was surprise in his eyes. He hadn’t expected me to stand up to her. I’d show them both over and over again I wasn’t going anywhere. Trisha’s pretty face had been what attracted me to her. I had watched her for a year, wanting to be the reason she smiled, and making her beam up at me had become a goal in life. Now that I had actually gotten to know her even a little, I wanted more.

It killed me that this beautiful girl who should be cherished and loved didn’t have parents who protected and loved her. She deserved that.

“She’s signing the papers,” Krit whispered in disbelief as he watched his mother from the doorway. “You got her to f**king shut up and sign the papers,” he repeated as he turned to look at me in awe.

It was a start. I had a long way to go to win their trust. But after tonight I was done waiting on Trisha Corbin to give me a chance. If she didn’t want to, then fine. I wouldn’t make her. I’d just be the unwanted friend she couldn’t get rid of. The girl needed someone to take care of her.

“Thank you.” Her voice washed over me. She had claimed me with just a look.

“I’m taking you home. Then I’m staying there,” I informed her. “I’ll need to get my truck back to my dad for work in the morning, so I’ll get Marcus or Dewayne to help me out. But I’m staying with you until Monday morning.”

She had just started to say something when the nurse walked into the room, followed by that bitch Trisha lived with.

The nurse smiled at Trisha, then turned to me. “Will you be giving her a ride home?” the woman asked, but it sounded more like she telling me I was going to.

I smiled. “Yes ma’am. I’ll be giving her and her brother a ride home.”

“Rick is in the car waiting on me. Papers are signed. If he’s giving y’all a ride, I’ll see you at the house,” the bitch said.

“Sure thing, Mom,” Krit said with obvious annoyance.

“You drive safe with my baby in the car,” the woman told me. I nodded that I had heard her, but I didn’t give her a glance. I was too busy watching Trisha as they helped her adjust her arm sling. I saw the nurse’s frown as she watched Fandora leave without a word to Trisha.

Trisha didn’t need her stepmother. She had me. I would be enough from now on.


When we had walked into the trailer, Fandora wasn’t there. Her car was out front, but she’d said she was with her boyfriend, Randy. So apparently he had taken her back to whatever bar they had been at when Green’s father had tracked her down. I hadn’t known Green’s dad was in the waiting room, aware of this whole mess.

“Let’s get you to the bed,” Rock said, coming in behind me. I didn’t have it in me to push him away again. He was so sweet, and he had been there through all of this and none of it had scared him away. If he just wanted in my pants, then he sure wouldn’t have faced down Fandora and stuck by me all night.

“If you need an extra pillow, you can have mine,” Krit offered, hovering around me like he was afraid I might break at any moment.

“I’ll be fine with mine,” I assured him.

“Are you sleeping in her room?” Krit asked Rock.

“She and I are going to talk about that. Why don’t you go on and get some rest. Know I’m not leaving and she’s safe,” Rock told him.

I assumed Krit would argue, but he didn’t.

“Yeah, okay,” he replied, then leaned over and kissed my head. “Rest. I need you better,” he said to me.

“I will,” I told him.

He gave Rock one last look, then turned and headed for his room.

It hadn’t taken him long to decide he trusted Rock. But then, after watching him at the hospital I was beginning to trust him too.

“Once you get comfortable I’m going to get you some water, and you need to take one of the pills the doctor sent home with you. It will help you rest easier.”

“You don’t have to stay,” I told him. He had promised that he wasn’t leaving me, but he had a life. I wasn’t his responsibility.

“No, Trisha, I don’t. But I want to stay,” he replied. “I’m going to get you some water. Time for you to take this pill.”

I didn’t respond to that. He stared down at me, waiting on me to argue, before turning and heading to the kitchen. The determined gleam in his eyes confused me. Why was he so bent on staying here? I knew from hearing Rose Mann talk in the restrooms at school that he was supposed to be with her tonight at Marcus Hardy’s party. He had also been talking to her by his locker, and I’d seen him kiss her in the hall earlier this week.

I had walked away from him, and he’d let me. From the looks of it, he had moved on. Now here he was again. I didn’t understand him at all. There was a good guy under all that sexy. Not only had he wanted to help me get to the hospital, but then he had stayed and dealt with Fandora. Why would someone who had a future to think about waste time with me and this mess?

“No bottled water, and I wasn’t sure the tap water was clean, so I poured milk. I’ve seen you drink it at lunch, so I thought that was a safe choice.”

Rock was once again filling up my small bedroom with his presence, making everything seem less scary. Less hopeless. And he knew that I drank milk at lunch. My heart did a silly flutter.

“Milk is good,” I told him. There weren’t any other options but beer in the fridge. But he didn’t point that out. I was also not supposed to drink the milk, but with Rock here I felt safe. Fandora couldn’t get to me if Rock was standing between us.

He opened the two bottles of pills and shook my dosage out into his palm. “Always thought it was cute that you drank milk at lunch,” he said, flashing me a grin that made me forget that my eye was swollen shut, my wrist was broken, and my ribs were fractured.

I drank milk at school because it was healthy, and I didn’t get much of that at home. It was supposed to make your bones stronger, and I needed strong bones living in this house. I wasn’t telling him that, though.

“Thanks,” I said as he held the glass of milk and pills out to me. I quickly took my pills, being careful with my split lip. It had stopped bleeding and I wanted to keep it that way.

“Drink all the milk if you can,” he instructed me.

I didn’t argue with him.

Once the milk was gone, he took the glass from me and set it beside my bed. “Lay back,” he said, and like with everything else, I did exactly as he said.

Rock then proceeded to tuck me in and make sure my wrist was propped up and my ribs were okay. Watching him work over me with a serious expression kept me from speaking.

When he was satisfied that I was comfortable, he stepped back. “I’ve got a beach towel in the truck and a duffel with a change of clothes. I’m going to grab those and get changed, and then tonight I’m sleeping on the floor in here. I won’t get any sleep if you don’t let me. So please don’t tell me I can’t.”

The pleading look in his eyes combined with all that he had done tonight for Krit and me—I knew I couldn’t tell him no about anything right now. The idea of Rock being in my room gave me peace. I never felt at peace in this trailer. Or anywhere. But Rock was giving me that. I wouldn’t freak out now. I would just embrace it. I needed it right now.

“Okay,” I whispered, and he smiled at me.

I wanted to smile back, but it would hurt my lip. He winked at me as if he knew that, and then he turned and left my room.

Krit had a comforter on his bed he didn’t use. I’d get him to let Rock sleep on it so he didn’t have to sleep on the worn carpet.

As if on cue, Krit’s bedroom door opened and my little brother stepped into my room with a frown. “He coming back?” he asked.

“He’s getting a towel and a change of clothes from his truck,” I assured him.

Krit let out a noticeable sigh of relief. He wasn’t up for dealing with his mother again. Rock had taken that weight off Krit’s shoulders, which I always tried so hard to do.

“He’s sleeping on the floor in here. Bring him that comforter you never use so he can sleep on it.”

Krit nodded. “Yeah, I’ll bring him a pillow, too. And he can have my blanket as well. I’ll go grab a quilt out of Mom’s room.”

The door to the trailer closed as Rock came back inside. Krit walked into the hall, and I heard him speaking in low tones to Rock. I knew they were talking about me and Krit was needing reassurance from Rock. I didn’t want Rock to make any promises to my brother that he couldn’t keep. Krit didn’t need that kind of disappointment in his life. He had enough.

Krit walked back into the room a few minutes later with a pillow, his comforter, and his blanket. “He said he didn’t need anything and he was just going to sleep on his beach towel, but I ignored him. He’s getting changed in the bathroom.”

He was trying to make it easy on Rock so he would stay. But Rock couldn’t stay forever. He was a kid too, with a football career in his future. He didn’t have time to save us. “He can’t stay forever, you know. He has a life and a future. We will be okay when he walks away. We have each other,” I reminded him. Copyright 2016 - 2024