Frayed Page 83




Romeo Fairchild\s wedding has been canceled without any explanation and Tate and I have been cleaning up what we had already set up. The weather may have kept everyone away anyway. I\ve been out in the main room for a while when he calls me into the kitchen area.

As I push through the door I notice a bottle of scotch and a glass on the work area. ’’You\ e drinking?’’

’’Celebrating is more like it.’’ He grins at me.

’’The biggest wedding we have all year cancels and you call it a celebration?’’ I raise an eyebrow.

’’He wasn\ ready for marriage and neither was she. It\s the best thing for the both of them.’’

I\m actually impressed with his insight.

’’How much more do you have left?’’

’’I\m more than halfway done.’’

’’Put the flowers in here,’’ he says, holding out a bucket. ’’I\ll drop them off at my mother\s nursing home. The ladies love getting flowers.’’

’’That\s sweet of you.’’

Something flickers in his eyes that I can\ decipher.

I reach for the bucket, and his hand catches my wrist and he yanks me to him. ’’You like sweet, don\ you? I can give you sweet. Just give me a chance.’’

’’Tate, come on. We\ve talked about this.’’

’’Yes, we have and I think you need to stop fighting the attraction between us.’’

I push at his shoulder. ’’I think you\ve had too much to drink.’’

I keep trying to extricate myself from his grip, but instead he cages me. I try to remain calm because I know he won\ hurt me;he\s just had too much to drink. ’’Tate, please move out of my way.’’

’’Bell, I\m tired of this game,’’ he says with a warning in his voice.

I shove at him again, this time harder. ’’I\m not playing a game. Now let me get back to work.’’

In an unexpected move he takes my wrists and pins them to my side, pressing himself into me. I scream from the pure shock of it.

Suddenly the door swings open and Ben is standing there wearing an anger like nothing I\ve ever seen before. ’’Let her go,’’ he seethes.

Tate turns. ’’What the f**k!’’ he yells.

My eyes desperately seek his, trying to tell him I\m okay. I can practically see the hatred pumping through his veins as though he wants to kill him. With my chest heaving and my heart pounding, I scramble toward Ben but twist my ankle and stumble to the floor, hitting my head on the corner of the counter. Ben slams into Tate, who falls back but catches his footing. Tate\s eyes darken as he lunges toward Ben. He swings at him and Ben tries to duck but falls into a crate on the floor.

He yells, ’’Get out of here, Bell.’’

But I can\ move. I can\ believe this is happening.

Tate looks down at me. ’’If you want to keep your job, tell this kon*** to get out of here.’’

’’Leave her alone!’’ Ben shouts as I get to my feet.

I take a deep breath and prepare to tell Ben it\s not what he thinks, but I can see he\s not listening. His fists are clenched and he rams into Tate, who starts to fall to the floor, and Ben swiftly kicks him in the gut. Tate lands on the floor and Ben straddles him, ready to deliver a punch to his face.

’’Stop, Ben! Please stop!’’ By now I\m screaming.

He cuts his eyes toward me and looks at me for a few long seconds before he moves away from Tate.

He rushes over to me. ’’Are you okay?’’ he asks, stroking my cheek, and I can see the blood dripping down it onto his hand.

A sob escapes my throat and I suck in a breath to stop the hysteria. My heart hammers against my rib cage when he tenderly says, ’’Shhh . . . don\ cry. Shhh . . . don\ cry, Bell.’’

I look into his blue eyes and murmur, ’’I don\ like it when you call me Bell.’’

In the midst of everything that\s going on, a smile flits across his lips. He lifts my chin and finds my eyes. ’’Don\ cry, S\elle.’’

I hear a rumbling from behind as Tate approaches us. ’’You\d better get out of here before I press charges for assault,’’ he threatens.

Ben turns ever so slightly. ’’You ever touch her again and I will kill you.’’

Tate straightens his shoulders and turns around, storming out of the room.

Ben turns back to me and pushes the hair from my face. ’’Let me see your forehead.’’

’’I\m okay,’’ I whisper.

’’No, you\ e not. You\ e bleeding.’’

He reaches for a stack of clean towels near the sink and wipes my face. ’’You have a gash just above your eyebrow,’’ he says softly, and presses the towel to it.

I can see the blood soaking through it.

’’Come on, we\ e going to the emergency room.’’

’’I\ll be fine. I don\ have to go to the hospital.’’

’’Where\s your stuff?’’

’’My stu-stuff . . . ,’’ I stammer.

’’Whatever you brought in the building with you. Where is it?’’

’’In a locker in the entrance, but I can\ leave. I have to finish cleaning up. I\m almost done.’’

Applying pressure to my gash, he frowns at me. He sucks in a deep breath and squats down so that we\ e eye level. ’’You are done working for that ass**le. Do you hear me?’’ I can tell he\s controlling his tone.

’’I have to keep my job,’’ I cry.

’’You don\ have to do anything.’’

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