Tied (Page 46)

I can’t.

“I saw someone go into a fire once,” I say. “It was awful. It’s one of the few things from my childhood I can actually remember.” I tighten my fingers around his. “It hurts my heart to think of you being in that kind of pain.”

“The pain was horrific. It was everywhere—the searing pain. Even worse than going through the glass.”

My stomach roils just thinking about it. “I wish I could have been there…to help you somehow. Or just to love you.” The words slipped out so freely and naturally. I couldn’t have stopped them if I tried.

His breathing completely stills, and I wonder how he’ll react to my admission. The answer to that comes swiftly when his hand tilts my face to meet his. His thumb drags slowly across my bottom lip, and his eyes follow its trail then drift up to captivate mine.

His mouth opens, and the words get trapped in his throat. But I don’t need to hear him speak because I can see the depth of his feelings in his molten eyes. The space between us disappears, and he kisses me softer than he ever has, as if he’s afraid he’ll somehow break me or shatter our very existence.

I reach up and gently caress his scarred cheek as we kiss, and he leans into my hand.

“I love you.” The sweetest, ragged, whispered words drift from his lips to my ears, and I wish I could bottle them up and keep them forever.

Our lips part, but he keeps me in his embrace. We hold each other as we watch the colored flames lap the air, and I’m content and grateful in this special, private place with him, Poppy, and Boomer.

This truly has become my happy place, in every way.

His fingers slowly caress mine, and warmth floods me from my core to my thighs when I remember how they slid through my soft flesh, making me damp and quivering.

“Who was in the fire?” he suddenly asks, pulling me out of the delirium of my daydream.


“You said you saw someone in a fire?”

I shake my head to clear it. “I don’t know who he was.” The day I was abducted is filled with horrible memories, but this one is the worst. “I just wanted someone to help me. Anyone. He may have died in that fire because of me. I have no idea.”

He kisses my temple. “You’re confusing me. How could it be because of you?”

“Because I was trying to get help.”


“The day I was taken.”

“There were people around when he took you?”

“No…not at the park. But later that night, the man who took me was driving around with me in a car. He had me in the backseat with my hands tied behind my back. He pulled the car over and got out to talk to someone on a pay phone. I think they may have been arguing.” I close my eyes, trying to picture the scene in my mind. “Through the tinted windows of the car, not too far away, I could see trees and a bonfire with people around it. I could hear them laughing. The bad man was really involved in his conversation and wasn’t paying attention to me. I was able to get my hands free, and I bolted out of the car and ran for the fire.” My heart pounds in unison with the little girl in my memory, remembering how her little legs ran as fast they could.

“Holly…you got away from him?” Tyler asks incredulously. “I never knew that.”

“Almost,” I say sadly. “I was so close. I ran up to two teenagers standing by the fire, a boy and a girl, and I grabbed the girl’s hand and begged her to help me. But she laughed and pulled her hand away. I think she thought I was kidding.” Ty rubs my hand in slow circles as I talk, listening intently. “So…I grabbed onto the boy’s shirt, and when he turned and looked down at me, he was laughing too, but when he realized I was crying, he held my hand and asked me if I was lost.” I pause, remembering the glimmer of hope that flashed through me at the time. I thought I was safe. “But by then the bad man had caught up to me, and he grabbed my other arm, and he shoved the boy hard, and he fell into the fire. The man picked me up and ran with me back to the car, and he put me in the trunk and slammed the lid. Even from in there, I could hear the boy in the fire screaming. It was awful, and it was all my fault.”

Ty’s hand has stopped rubbing mine, and he’s staring off into the woods, his brow creasing.

“I just wanted someone to help me.” I wipe my eyes, not wanting to cry anymore. “I never meant to hurt anybody.”

“No, sugar.” His voice is strained. “You were just a little girl.”

“I never saw another person again after that. He was the last person I ever saw, until you found me.”

Letting go of my hand, Tyler stands abruptly. “I have to go,” he says, popping a cigarette into his mouth.

I stand, too, and watch him pace in a small circle like a trapped animal. “What’s wrong?”

“I just remembered I have to be somewhere.”


He nods and throws a pail of regular, non-fairy-dust sand over the fire to extinguish it. “Yeah.” He points to my car. “Go. I’ll call you.”

“Go?” I repeat. My voice shakes, but he refuses to look at me. “I-I thought you wanted me to stay?”

“Please,” he croaks. “Just leave. I’m begging you.” His eyes are manic, flitting back and forth, and he sucks on the cigarette like a vacuum.

Stunned silent, I walk away from him, toward my car. Poppy tries to follow, but when Ty whistles sharply, Poppy turns and follows him, and Ty locks both dogs in the house. I look back one more time before I get in my car, but now he’s starting up his motorcycle, obviously leaving right now to go wherever it is he suddenly remembered he has to be. His bike tears out of his driveway and down the dirt road and, for a moment, I consider following him.

No. I won’t do that. When girls do that on TV, they always see something they don’t want to see, and I don’t want to see Tyler doing anything that I’m going to wish I never saw. Not today, after our perfect day, which has suddenly become completely imperfect, without warning.

Maybe sitting by the fire brought on an episode, after all. Maybe he just needed to get away from it, and didn’t want me to see him scared. Maybe he doesn’t know how to count, like I do. Maybe he remembered a lost dog needing to be found.

Whatever the reason, I do as he asks, and I leave, my heart falling to pieces as I drive away. In my rearview mirror, I can still see tiny sparks of amber glowing where the fire was, and it fills me with sorrow.



My brother Tor told me—not too long ago, during one of our very rare talks—that karma is a demented bitch.

Oh, how right he was.

I fly down the mountain road, going double the speed limit, but I don’t care. I should, though, because the last thing I need is to end up with my head through someone’s living room wall again. But right now, all I care about is how fucked up and twisted the world is.

What is that theory about the six degrees of separation? That everyone is somehow connected in some way?

The slam of memories was too much to handle. I had to get away from her. And the fire. And the fucking sick twist of truth and regret.

I always had this weird feeling of déjà vu, in my gut, that I’d seen Holly’s haunting eyes before, and I was right. They were the last thing I saw before I was almost burnt alive.

And now, I also remember his eyes. The moment he pushed me, and the moment I killed him.

Why didn’t we do something? Why did Wendy laugh in her face? I don’t even remember that. I must have been too drunk, which was rare for me, but that night I had tried a few shots of whiskey for the first time. I barely remember the little girl tugging on my shirt, or wondering what the hell a little kid was doing at a bonfire party, but it’s coming back to me in erratic flashes.

By the time I was awake in my hospital room and coherent enough to form thoughts, I had completely forgotten about her. I remember the nurses talking about the abduction, but I never made the connection. It never spurred a memory. As pieces of that night flash through my mind, I realize I had assumed at the time the guy who pushed me was her father and she was one of those little kids who was constantly running off, like Tessie used to do. I force myself to think back as I roar through the winding roads on my bike, but I’m sure I never mentioned the little girl or the man to the police, the doctors, or my parents when they questioned me. I told them some drunk friend must have bumped into me. Holly was forgotten in the mess of my brain.

How the fuck do I tell her the twisted little epilogue to her story?

Tonight, I’m going to do my best to forget all about little abducted girls who grow up to be beautifully damaged women looking for love in the way fucking wrong place. I’m going to forget all about the love and happiness I felt, just an hour ago, before it all went up in a fiery inferno of twisted coincidence.

I need to forget everything.

My father. My future. My face. My family. Holly.

I’m going to forget that everything is my fault, if it kills me.

Reaching behind me into my saddlebag, I pull out my mask and yank it over my face as I ride toward the warehouse. I need to fight. I need to hurt someone, and I need more pain to take away the agony I’m feeling. My opponent will hit me harder if he can’t see my already scarred-up face. They always do. Maybe he’ll fuck me up beyond recognition, so no one will ever know who I am. Not even me.