Page 53 of Starlit Skies

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“But that night when he smashed his boot down on my wrist, I decided to leave him. It was the last straw.” It wasn’t the first time Craig had been physically violent toward her. Over the year they’d been together, his drunken outbursts had slowly become more and more frequent. But that was the first time he’d broken a bone.

“The problem was, it took me another year to finally work up the courage to walk out the door. I kept thinking he was going to change, you know?”

“But they never do, do they?” Nash still held her hand, his thumb tracing comforting circles on her wrist.

“No,” she answered softly.

“So, you never told anyone about how Craig treated you? Not even your family?” Nash asked.

“No. When we broke up, I told them he left me for another woman, and I didn’t want to talk about it. And they respected that.”

“They never suspected anything? You seem close to Dale. You didn’t confide in him?”

“No. I especially didn’t want him to know.”

“Why not?”

Skylar had never told anyone about how Craig had raped her as revenge when she finally left him. She’d buried it, along with all the other terrible things Craig had done to her, deep in a box within her mind, never to see the light of day again. It was just one more thing amongst a whole litany of assaults—both verbal and physical—he’d rained down on her.

“Lots of reasons. The main one being because I didn’t want Dale to avenge me. If he knew Craig raped me, he’d probably try and kill him. I couldn’t have my brother go to jail for me.”

“Wait.” Nash straightened and looked her directly in the eye. “Craig raped you?”

Shit. The word had slipped out. That was the problem when you let yourself get too familiar with someone. You said things you shouldn’t.

“Um…” She withdrew her hand from his, the mood well and truly broken now. She raised her eyes to the ceiling. What should she tell him? In for a penny, in for a pound, is that how the saying went? And was raping a woman really a worse act than breaking her bones? Sometimes she didn’t know. “If I tell you, will you make me a promise?”

“Yes, of course. Anything you want.”

“I want you to keep the information to yourself. And I don’t want you to talk me into reporting it to the police…to you,” she said hurriedly. “And most importantly, I don’t want you tracking down Craig and harassing him, or taking some sort of revenge out on him. I want you to leave him alone.”

He hadn’t been expecting that, she could see the shock written in his eyes.

He hesitated, before finally saying, “Of course, I’ll honor your wishes, if that’s truly what you want. But you never told me he raped you. That changes things.” There was a slightly accusingtone in his voice. “That makes me want to…” He curled his fist into a ball.

Skylar sucked in a breath. Why did all men react in the same way? With violence. Clearly, in Nash’s mind at least, the rape was the worst of Craig’s crimes. But why did he want to repay violence with more violence?

“I won’t ever break your confidence, Skylar. But, Jesus, you should report this bastard. He needs to pay for what he did to you. I can help you to get him locked up. Get him off the streets, where he can’t hurt anyone else.”

She shut her eyes. That last comment hurt the most. Didn’t he realize how many times she’d thought the exact same thing? Because of her weakness, other women might be hurting, as well.

He hadn’t realized that she’d become as still as a statue next to him. “Please let me help you, Skylar. You can’t keep something this big a secret.” He was a cop. It was what cops did. They put bad people in jail. But this wasn’t so clearly black-and-white for her.

Nash was sitting up in bed, a frown marring his handsome face. He’d moved away, no longer touching her, as if trying to understand how she could be so ignorant. Not able to comprehend why she refused to turn Craig in.

A sob tried to burst loose from her constricted throat, but she swallowed it down.

She’d broken something fundamental between them. The connection she thought she’d had with Nash was gone. She knew he felt he could no longer trust her. That this secret was too much for even him to bear.

And she could no longer trust him. Even if he never brought the topic up again, she’d know that he’d be frustrated with her lack of courage, would be constantly wondering why she didn’t just grow up and report this monster.

“I’m going to sleep in my room,” she said flatly, slipping out of bed and gathering up her clothes.

“What? Skylar, wait. Stay. Please. I’m sorry.” The entreaty in his voice hurt her heart. “Don’t walk away.” He got out of bed, but stumbled as soon as his wounded leg hit the floor. He grabbed for the corner of the bed to steady himself. “Don’t shut me out, please. I shouldn’t have pushed you.”

“Sorry.” It was the only word she could force through her frozen vocal cords.

“Please don’t run away. Take a chance and stay with me. We can sort this out.” His voice followed her down the hallway.

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