Made of steel (made of s.., p.28
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       Made of Steel (Made of Steel Series Book 1), p.28

           Ivy Smoak
 

  Chapter 23

  Wednesday

  I stared at the ceiling. Kins was still out. The silence was starting to drive me crazy. I needed someone to talk to, but no one could know what I was going through. The Sagitta pendant felt heavy on my chest. I should have taken it off and thrown it away. I couldn't make myself do it, though.

  My phone buzzed again. I slid my finger across the screen and looked down at the new message from Eli.

  "I'm sorry about earlier. I took things too far. I wasn't thinking. I'm really sorry, Sadie. Please pick up your phone."

  I had told him I wasn't feeling well, but he didn't seem to believe me. And why should he? I had been lying to him since we met. Ever since I had talked to Miles, I felt on edge. For the rest of the day, the eerie feeling that someone was watching me had returned. It was probably in my head. I didn't feel safe anymore, though.

  I found Mr. Crawford's name in my phone. My finger hesitated above the call button. Call him. Why couldn't I press the button? I tossed my phone onto my bed and sat up, pulling my knees into my chest. I needed to leave. My identity had been compromised. Those were the instructions I had been given. But I didn't want to leave. I wiped my tears away with the back of my hand. I finally felt like I was fitting in somewhere. It finally felt like I could find a home.

  My phone buzzed again. "I'm outside, Sadie. Please just let me up. Please let me in. I just want to talk to you."

  I knew he meant he wanted to be let into the building. But my tired mind read it as letting him into my heart. It just made me cry harder. I was leaving. I had to leave. My finger hesitated over the call button again. Why couldn't I do it?

  I rested my forehead on top of my knees. The truth was that I wasn't ready to say goodbye. I finally had someone to hold on to, and I couldn't leave. Not yet. I hated goodbyes. I had lost everyone I'd ever loved. I needed Eli. I needed this one glimmer of hope.

  A knock on my door made my whole body turn cold. He found me. That was the fear gripping at my chest. He found me. How did he get in? You weren't supposed to let strangers into the building. He's found me. Fear was taking over my mind.

  "Sadie, it's me. Eli."

  My heartbeats seemed to slow. It wasn't a nightmare. It wasn't my past creeping up to me. It was the boy I didn't want to say goodbye to. Eli.

  He knocked again. "Sadie, are you in there?"

  I slowly climbed off my bed and wiped the rest of my tears away. My eyes were red. I was sure my mascara was smudged. But I didn't care. A part of me knew that Eli wouldn't care either. He was here because he was worried about me. It had been a long time since anyone had cared enough about me to check to see how I was doing. There was no way I was leaving. I had to stay here. I slowly opened the door.

  "Sadie, I'm sorry about earlier. I thought..." his voice trailed off as he took in my appearance. There was so much pain in his expression. "Sadie, I'm so, so sorry."

  He thought I was crying about him? He was the only reason I had been smiling recently. He was the only person that could make the eerie feeling of being watched go away.

  I quickly shook my head. "You didn't do anything wrong. I've just had a really bad day." I could feel the tears biting at my eyes again. Recently all I ever did was cry.

  I heard a door close and I glanced to my left. Miles was standing in the hallway with his arms folded across his chest, staring directly at us. He saw my red eyes. He saw my smudged mascara. And he saw Eli. He could jump to whatever conclusions he wanted to. As long as he didn't know I was crying because of him.

  I grabbed Eli's arm and pulled him into my room. The door closed with a thud. The past was out there. But the present was in here with me. I looked up into Eli's kind eyes. He exuded everything I had ever wanted. Strength. Kindness. Understanding.

  "We should talk about earlier." He set down a bag on my dresser.

  I didn't want to talk. Everything was perfectly clear to me. I was staying here because of him and him alone. I remembered Julie telling me that it took at least a few weeks to know if you loved someone. But I had never thought that was true. I had been looking for someone like Eli for my whole life. I refused to let anyone take him away from me. I was done having things stripped from me. Instead of agreeing to talk about earlier, I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around him. "What's in the bag?" I mumbled against his chest.

  Instinctively, his arms wrapped protectively around me. "You said you weren't feeling well. I brought you soup."

  He brought me soup.

  "I'm sorry about earlier. I thought when you didn't tell me to stop that it was okay. But I should have asked you."

  "I didn't tell you to stop because I didn't want you to stop." I turned my head and kissed the top of his chest that was showing through the two undone buttons. If I was ever going to get over my past, I needed to do this. I needed to love him and I needed to let him love me.

  "I came here to apologize."

  I undid another button on his shirt.

  "Sadie."

  I undid a few more buttons.

  "You were just crying. We should talk about what's been upsetting you."

  "I don't need to talk." I finished undoing all his buttons. I watched his Adam's apple rise and then fall. "I just need you." I kissed the front of his neck.

  I could feel his hands sliding down my back. I tried to focus on how good it felt, instead of the fear pulsing through my veins.

  He grabbed my ass and lifted my legs around his waist as his lips crashed against mine.

  I'm okay. God, I wanted him. I'm definitely okay.

  His kisses seemed more passionate as he set me down on the edge of the bed. It was like we were both freefalling into the unknown. There was no stopping me now. I pushed his shirt off his shoulders. He was strong. He'd be able to protect me. He was all that I needed. I wrapped my fingers around his biceps.

  "It's okay if you want to wait." He kissed me behind my ear as his hand slipped underneath the back of my hoodie.

  I clenched my eyes shut. It feels good. I'm okay. I'm safe.

  "You know that I'll wait for you."

  "I don't want to wait."

  "Sadie." He gently touched the side of my face.

  Fire and ice. I opened my eyes. He must have seen them shut tightly. "I want this." My fingers slid down his abs. I couldn't wait. I was done waiting. I had been waiting my whole life.

  "Is this your first time?"

  I swallowed hard. "No." It would be the first time like this. But it definitely wasn't my first time. I didn't want to be talking about this. I wanted his lips back on mine. But he wasn't moving. "I promise that this is what I want. I just need you to go slowly."

  He put his hands on either side of me on the bed without touching me. "Going slowly means stopping right now. Let's wait, okay?"

  "That's not what I meant. I just...I don't want you to hurt me."

  He lowered his eyebrows. "I'm not going to hurt you." He lightly touched the side of my face. "I care about you, Sadie. I'll never hurt you."

  "I care about you too."

  He stepped forward slightly, spreading my thighs farther apart.

  I swallowed down my panic.

  "I'll go slowly." He lightly kissed my lips. "As slow as you want." He kissed my check.

  His words seemed to calm me down. My heartbeats were slow and steady even though my skin felt like it was on fire. I'm safe.

  "I'll never hurt you." He lightly kissed my jaw.

  I let my head fall back, surrendering myself to this moment. I could let go of the past if the present felt this good.

  "You can trust me." He kissed the side of my neck and his body seemed to tense.

  Damn it. I shifted away from him and put my hand over my neck. No, no, no.

  He was staring at my hand. "Sadie, what happened to your neck? That's..."

  "It's nothing." I pulled my hoodie up higher to hide it. How had I forgotten? How had I let him see? I couldn't let him know.

  "They look like choke
marks." He wasn't looking at me like he normally did. He was looking at me like I was something damaged. Like he finally saw me for the first time. He looked horrified.

  I could feel the air leaving my lungs. I could feel his fingers clamping down around my throat. I closed my eyes. "No, it's nothing."

  "It's not nothing. Someone hurt you."

  "That's not...it's not what it looks like."

  "Sadie." He touched my knee.

  It burned. "Stop."

  "Tell me what happened." His hand was on my thigh. He was moving closer to me.

  "Don't touch me!" I pushed myself away from him on the bed. I felt terror gripping at me.

  He put his hands up to show that he wouldn't touch me. "I'm not going to hurt you, Sadie. I would never hurt you. But you need to tell me who did that."

  "No one. It was an accident."

  "Sadie."

  I could tell that my lies hurt him. I could see it all over his face. He wanted to help me. But I didn't need help anymore. I needed to think of something that would explain this away. "I can't talk about it. Please don't make me talk about it."

  "Is that why you were upset today?" His voice was getting loud like he was angry.

  "No." It felt like I was gasping for air. He sees me. He knows.

  "You can talk to me."

  "I can't." Tears were streaming down my face.

  "Please talk to me." He looked angry.

  Did he feel my pain? Or was he angry with me? Don't hurt me. "Please don't be mad at me. I'm sorry." I hugged my knees to my chest. "I'm sorry."

  "Sadie, I'm not mad at you." He ran his hands down his face. "I'm mad that someone did that to you. I'm mad that I didn't protect you from it."

  It's not your fault. "It was an accident."

  "It doesn't look like an accident to me. We should go to the cops. If someone is hurting you..."

  "No. I can't..."

  "How am I supposed to protect you if you won't tell me what happened?"

  I needed his protection. I needed him and I couldn't tell him why. I couldn't tell him how much. "Can you just hold me?" I wiped the tears away with my fingertips.

  "We really need to tell someone about this."

  I shook my head and closed my eyes. "Please don't leave me." I couldn't bear to lose anyone else. "Can you please just stay a few more minutes." My voice was laced with desperation.

  "I'm not going anywhere."

  I felt the bed sag. I opened my eyes. He was sitting on the bed, being careful not to touch me. I shifted forward and collapsed into his waiting arms. He let me cry without asking any more questions. He let my salty tears drip down his chest. He held me until I had no more strength. But his arms around me made me feel like I could keep going. I had messed everything up. They were going to take me away from him.

  "No one's going to hurt you anymore, Sadie." He ran his hand up and down my back.

  I swallowed hard. I wanted to believe him. But I had never been able to hide for very long.

 
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