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Her Touch(2)

By:Alexa Riley

Pure fear shoots through me as I close my eyes and take a breath to scream. As I feel tears start to build, he’s miraculously gone. A loud crack sounds, and then I hear a thud as something heavy hits the ground.

My eyes fly open, and I see a man, his back to me. He’s breathing heavy and standing over Nick. Nick’s on the ground, holding his face as blood gushes from between his fingers.

“I think you broke my fucking nose!” Nick yells the blood runs down his shirt. He starts to get up, but the man steps toward him and Nick changes his mind. He scurries away on the ground, trying to get away from the man standing over him.

“You okay?” The deep voice has me pulling my eyes away from Nick, up to look at the broad back protecting me. When I don’t answer him, he turns his head a little, and dark green eyes meet mine. I breathe in a soft gasp when I see a dark scar running down the side of his face. “Are you okay?”

I nod, unable to form words.

The man turns away at the sound of Nick coming to his feet. Nick looks like he’s ready to murder someone. His normally laid-back expression long gone. He goes to open his mouth, but the scarred man cuts him off.

“Don’t say a goddamn word,” he growls, and I swear I can feel the chill run across my skin. “Get the fuck out of here, and don’t you so much as fucking look at her again.”

Nick hesitates for a fraction of a second before he decides this is a no-win situation and takes off running. The scarred man stands there for a moment before he finally turns around fully to look at me. His face is hard, and I can see the anger written all over it.

I take a step back, needing to get my bearings. This guy’s size is even more intimidating than Nick’s. I’ve always thought my father was big, but this man is much larger. He might be the biggest man I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying a lot having grown up around Marines. The scar on his face looks angry and red, making me think it’s new. His dark brown hair is cut military short, and I can see the dark shadow of stubble on his chin. His scar makes him look menacing, and his broad chest and arms do nothing to help ease that.

He takes a step toward me, then another. I notice a slight limp in his left leg as he walks closer to me. I take another small step back, and he stops, holding his palms out in front of him.

“Maggie?” His dark eyebrows rise in question as he says my name.

“How do you know my name?” That’s probably not the first question I should be asking, but at least words are coming out of my mouth now.

“We’re standing in your backyard. I assume you’re Maggie.” He tilts his head to the side, a small smile pulling at his lips. Some of his angry features soften, and a little of my fear washes away.

I look around us, remembering where I am. Nick was walking me to my door after he drove me home from school. I always go in the rear door, and we’d walked around to the backyard. It all hits me at once, and I inwardly groan. Oh God, I’m going to have to face him at school.

Then I try to put together why this stranger is here in front of me.

“Why are you standing in my backyard? Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful, I just—”

“I’m Eli.” His hands drop to his sides, and one goes to his pocket and pulls out a key. He turns and walks over to the back door and unlocks it. The alarm sounds, and he walks into the house and deactivates it. Then he steps back into the doorway, filling up the space.

“I’m sorry, I completely forgot,” I admit.

My dad said someone from his platoon was coming to stay with us. That a Marine had been honorably discharged due to injury and needed a place to stay for a while. But with everything that happened in the last few minutes, it had all slipped my mind.

“You going to come in?” he asks, stepping out of the way of the door.

“Of course.” I feel myself blush, heat hitting my cheeks. He probably thinks I’m a complete idiot. I’m outside getting mauled by some guy, whom he then punches, and I stand here like a statue. I move to walk past him, but his voice stops me.

“You sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine,” I lie. I’m not okay, but I don’t need this stranger my dad is helping out to know all that I’m feeling.

He studies my face for a second before nodding, but I can tell he doesn’t believe me and debates pushing for more but he doesn’t. I walk into the kitchen, dropping my backpack on the floor and sitting at the breakfast bar. “My dad should be home soon,” I tell him. I turn to see him closing the back door and flipping the lock.

“Yeah, I know. I talked to him a few minutes ago.”