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A little voice inside of her said Brian remembered that night, too, given the fact he was no doubt scarred from the beatdown by David.

Turning on her side, she thought about David that night, about how fierce and strong he’d been with what he’d done to protect her. They’d gotten closer after that, not sexually but just … closer. They were as connected as two people who had gone through a traumatic event together could be.

He was the one person she could talk to about whatever. He never judged, never looked down on her. Gillian wanted to spend time with him but was too afraid to broach that subject, to explain that the time she wanted to explore with him was not on “friends only” basis.

“It is what it is,” she whispered in the darkness.

If she never had David in that way, she was content to at least have him in her life as a friend. A world without him in it seemed pretty damn bleak.



“I don’t like this,” he said while looking Gillian in the eyes.

“David, I’ll be fine. It’s just a couple of friends hanging out at O’Donnell’s.” She smiled, but it didn’t ease him in the slightest. “I can send you a text once I get home.”

He nodded, not admitting that he’d be watching her, making sure no little assholes messed with her. It had been seven years since that motherfucker laid his hands on her,. He could admit that much.

But knowing she was putting herself in this situation, going to a bar on a Friday night that got rowdy, didn’t ease any of the darkness in him.

“O’Donnell’s isn’t safe, Gillian.” He leaned back in the chair. It was the morning, the sun shining through her kitchen window, but he deiced to stop by her place.

Owning a construction business allowed him to come and go as he pleased, and when he wasn’t working in the office or from home, he was making sure Gillian wasn’t fucked with.

“David,” she said, leaving a stretch of silence between them before continuing, “Is there any place that’s really safe?” She lifted a brow, clearly challenging him.

“No, not when it concerns you.” He wasn’t joking, not when it concerned Gillian’s well-being. “I thought you would realize that by now.”

She sighed. “I should, I know, but…” She was silent after that for several moments, but he didn’t push her into continuing, forced nothing from her. “I know you are worried because of what happened, David.”

He didn’t respond, just stared into her hazel eyes. Yeah, he was worried about her. He did that every damn second of every fucking day. But he didn’t want her knowing the actual lengths he’d go to ensure she was safe.

And he didn’t want to talk about what that fucker had tried to do to her—what he had done to her. That would just piss him off to the point he’d need to get his aggression out at the gym or, better yet, find someone who wanted to start shit with him.

“I know you worry about me more than you should, but I want you to know,” she reached out and placed her hand on his, “I value our friendship more than you’ll ever know. You’re my best friend, the only person I can really talk to. But I’m also a big girl and not foolish, well, not anymore,” she said and smiled. “Anyway, I just want you to know that I’m okay.”

His entire body tightened, his cock hardening, but he kept his cool. No way was he going to lose it or show her what he felt. He didn’t want to scare her off.

“I know you are, but it won’t make me stop worrying about you, Gillian. Let’s leave it at that.” His voice was thick, tight, and he didn’t mean to come off like he was upset. He wasn’t angry with her, but he was upset with himself and all the thoughts swirling inside of him, the feelings and emotions he’d never really be able to express.

So instead, I’ll stalk her and watch her because that’s the only way I can truly make sure she’s okay.

“I promise to be careful, and I’ll text you when I get home.”

He just nodded because he knew what he had to do, and it wasn’t waiting at home for her text. Yeah, he was so far over the fucking edge for her, he’d never see solid ground again.



She’d been having this weird feeling all day, a feeling like someone was being watched and that someone was her. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end, and no matter how much she glanced around, trying to see if maybe someone in the gallery was looking at her, she came up with nothing.

No, not nothing.

Just then, her focus landed on a man in the back of the gallery, his hat pulled down low, his blond hair poking out from all sides. He wore a long duster jacket, jeans, and a pair of dark boots that looked like they’d seen better days.

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