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Outlaw(9)

By:Amanda Lance



I think I did it ’cause I didn’t want her to be scared, wanted her to know that I would help her out if I could. I like to think I didn’t do it ’cause of all the other parts of me that just wanted to be close to her. Anyway, she was shaking like a leaf when I reached out for her, eyes shut tight; she pulled away like she thought I was gonna hit her or something, but I never coulda done that—no matter what I threatened.

Her hair was just as soft as I thought it might be, and though I tried extra careful not to touch her skin, it bothered me for some reason I didn’t understand that I couldn’t see her so good. Being real slow, so as to not scare her more, I tried to fix some of her hair back behind her ear.

I shoulda known she would have been even more pretty up close. Even when she was scared, she looked like a girl out of a magazine, and for a second I was reminded of the women in the Red Light District or maybe the cocktail waitresses in Vegas. She wasn’t like them, though, for a lotta reasons. She had the sort of young, innocent face that told me she had probably never even left her hometown, was definitely naive enough to go wandering off by herself in the middle of the night. At the same time, though, she was smart—maybe a boarding school shut-in or a book junkie.

Takin’ off my sunglasses to get a better look at her, I watched her expression change. Her eyebrows softened, and so did the frown on her pink lips. Naturally, it left me wondering what she was thinking. But then I saw her eyes wander from my nose back to my eyes. Was she smiling? What kind of crazy chick was this? She looked even more crazy, more beautiful, more wild by the tears that had melded onto her face, but I was glad to see that other than that, she didn’t appear to be bruised or marked up in any way. I wouldn’t have known how much worse I woulda felt had I hurt her.

My relief got the better of me, and I reached up one more time to peel an old eyelash off the side of her cheek. Maybe her crazy was catching on, but I could have sworn she didn’t flinch away from me that time and instead just stared at me, looking angrier and angrier by the second.

I wanted to ask her ’bout why she was so mad, but I heard Reid calling out from the front porch, sounding pissed, and I knew he probably needed to be dealt with. Sighing, I stood up and stretched my legs but immediately rethought myself. Checking to make sure she was still good and tied, it was easy to picture her chewing her arm off if she got the opportunity.

Somehow, she seemed like the type.

“Ain’t nobody gonna hurt you,” I said low, in case one of the guys was closer than I thought. “Just keep quiet.”

She looked at me like she wanted me dead.



***



“Nice nose, jackass.” Reid tested his weight against the porch pillar before leanin’ up against it. “Real classy-looking.”

“Yeah,” I said, reaching for the smokes I forgot weren’t there. “That’s what I was going for.”

He smiled but shook his head. In truth, I hadn’t thought ’bout her head-butting me since the initial pain wore off. As I reached up for it now, I could feel how much bigger the bridge was, and as I tried to breathe through it, I had some trouble.

“Don’t worry.” He laughed. “You’re still pretty.”

“Well, as long as you think so.”

“There you are, Hillbilly!”

“Damn.” Reid chuckled. “Here we go.”

Wallace came stomping around the corner, trying to act all macho or something with his military hair and ’roid rage-shrunk testicles that both me and Reid couldn’t help but laugh. We looked at each other, and Reid just kinda sighed like he does when he’s real annoyed—then again, he’s always real annoyed.

“What in the hell are you doing?” The little veins on Wallace’s neck were sticking out, and his eyes were all bugged out like his arms—a couple of stuffed pigs.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Reid asked.

“Yeah,” I said, crouching down to sit on a broken stair.

Not getting it, Wallace’s head moved back and forth between the both of us like a dog, and from the corner of my eye I saw Reid laugh again.

“He’s sittin’ pretty.”

“You damn bunch of smartasses! You’re out here, dicking around when you still haven’t taken care of that problem?”

“Problem?” Reid asks, not laughing no more. “What problem?”

“I told you about the girl.” Coming up from the drive, Yuri had his arms over his head and it reminded me that they had been doing all the heavy lifting for the last couple of hours. I pulled at the weeds by my feet, feeling Reid’s pissed off eyes on me but too tired to care much about it.

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