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Made of steel (made of s.., p.43
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       Made of Steel (Made of Steel Series Book 1), p.43

           Ivy Smoak

  Chapter 34


  "Sadie." Mile's voice was gentle. "Are you okay? Did he hurt you?"

  I couldn't explain myself to him. He wouldn't understand that the emotional pain was worse than the physical pain. That all of it was in my head. No one would ever understand. "I need some air."

  He didn't say anything. I could feel his eyes on me, studying me. I couldn't look at him. I couldn't bear to make eye contact with him. His scrutiny was making me feel so exposed.

  "Okay," he said slowly. "Come with me." He didn't try to touch me. Instead, he just started walking toward the stairs.

  I followed him. I didn't know how to not follow Miles Young. When I entered the stairwell, I was surprised to see him walking up instead of down. Where was he going? I continued to follow him until he stopped in front of a door marked, "Private Use Only."

  "What is this?"

  He pulled out a lanyard from his pocket and inserted a key into the lock. "Only the best view in the city." He pushed the door open.

  The cool night air washed over me as I walked through the door he was holding open for me. If I wasn't already having trouble breathing, it would have taken my breath away. The city lights lit up everything as far as the eye could see. It was almost like looking at the stars in the sky. I blinked away the tears in my eyes. It was beautiful. We were on the top of the dorm complex. I walked over to the very edge and placed my hands on the concrete ledge.

  "And the best part," Miles said as he leaned against the ledge beside me, "isn't even the city." He pointed to the sky.

  My eyes followed his hand. The stars. I exhaled slowly. This was the kind of moment I had missed the most with him. He had always been so good at pointing out the stars to me. I let myself get lost in the sky.

  The silence seemed to settle around us. It was like he was waiting for me to say something, but I didn't know what to say. "It's not what you think," I finally said, breaking the silence.

  "You don't have to defend him. Not to me."

  I swallowed hard. "He didn't mean to hurt me."

  "That doesn't make it any better."

  "Yes it does. He's not a bad guy. It's just me. It's my fault. Nothing is ever black and white, it's more complicated than that."

  "Sadie, there is nothing complicated about what just happened. And I promise you, it was not your fault."

  I gripped the ledge of the railing as I turned to face him. He looked so concerned. Where had that concern been when I truly did need him?

  "You deserve better than him."

  "You don't even know me, Miles. And I honestly don't understand why you care."

  He put his elbow on the ledge and looked out at the city. "You remind me of her."

  My heart seemed to skip a beat. "Who?"

  "Summer. My..." he let his voice trail off. "The friend I told you about. I just...I couldn't help her."

  I bit the inside of my lip to prevent myself from crying. "I'm not her." I haven't been her for years. I had stopped being Summer Brooks long before I got my new name. That part of me died as soon as Don touched me.

  "I know. Because I can help you."

  "I'm stronger than I look. I don't need anyone to save me."

  "I don't want to save you. I'm just trying to help. You don't have to face everything alone. I'm right here, offering."

  "I can take care of myself."

  "I know, but I'm saying you don't have to."

  I shook my head and looked back up at the stars. "Why are you talking to me instead of trying to find her?"

  "Because she obviously doesn't want to be found. I don't think she ever loved me the way I loved her."

  Past tense. Everything about Miles and I needed to stay past tense. "There are plenty of women at this school that are probably willing to give you whatever it is you're missing from your life. But it's not me. Just because I look like someone you used to know, it doesn't mean we're a good fit." The Sagitta pendant felt heavy around my neck.

  "Sadie." He lightly touched my wrist.

  Home. I saw it in a flash. Laughing in his backyard. Grass stains on our knees. Love. It had always been love in his eyes, even before he held my hand. He had cherished me once. But I didn't deserve to be cherished anymore. If he knew the truth, he'd be horrified. He wouldn't be able to meet my eyes. I could barely look at myself in the mirror. He deserved the whole world. He deserved everything I could never give him. Love. Happiness. Children. I would only be able to give him half a life. Miles Young deserved a star way brighter than me. "I have to go." My voice sounded hoarse.

  "I was first attracted to you because you reminded me of Summer, yes. But it's more than that. It's not like your personalities are the same. You're reserved and deep and intriguing. I can't stop thinking about you. It has nothing to do with Summer. I like you. And it kills me that you're with someone who doesn't show you what you truly deserve. Someone that doesn't appreciate everything you are."

  I didn't deserve anything but the darkness inside of me. And it made sense that I didn't have the same personality as Summer. Because she died. She died as soon as she moved in with Don. He stole everything from her. Summer was once feisty and outgoing. Summer was so full of hope. Summer had dreams. Summer had so many dreams of Miles. Tears prickled my eyes. I shook my head. "I'm sorry, I have to go." I turned away from him. I couldn't look at the smile on the corner of his mouth or his dark brown eyes. It was torture. It was too painful.

  "When I see you, it's like I can breathe again," Miles said.

  His words made me freeze. It was like how I felt when I looked at the stars. But wasn't that because they reminded me of him? He made it feel like I could breathe again. It was always him. He was everything good. He was everything I'd never be able to have. "Try looking at the stars." I opened up the door and went back into the stairwell. As soon as I heard the thud of the door closing, I let myself cry.

  I let myself cry as I laced my Converses.

  I let myself cry as I ran through the darkness.

  I let myself cry until I couldn't cry anymore. Until my lungs ached. Until I couldn't catch my breath.

  But I kept running. I kept running until my legs felt like jelly. I leaned against a brick wall as I tried to muster enough energy to head back home. A raindrop hit my head. I looked up. The stars were gone. I knew I had been running for a long time, but there wasn't a single star in the sky anymore. Everything was dark. More raindrops hit my face and my bare arms and legs. It felt good. Smoke rose off the pavement, giving the whole street an eerie look as I relaxed.

  I shouldn't have been out so late. It was reckless. I needed to get home. But I stayed where I was. The vigilante said he followed me because I was reckless. And I needed to see him. It was like I could feel his presence. I needed to see the only other person that knew what it was like to hide behind a mask. I let the minutes tick by as the smoke from the pavement seemed to slowly encircle me. I could feel him watching me. Waiting. What was he waiting for?

  A clanging noise made me turn my head just in time to see the vigilante land in the alley behind me.

  "You came," I said.

  He kept his hood down low as he slowly approached me. "I never left," his voice rumbled seductively. "Why do you insist on putting yourself in danger?"

  "I wanted to see you."

  "Why are you running?" he asked instead of responding to my confession.

  I swallowed hard. Hadn't he told me to run home? I started running because of him. "I don't know," I said instead.

  "You do know."

  I shook my head as he took another step toward me.

  "You're running away from something, Sadie, when you should be running toward something."

  I shook my head. "I'm running toward something too. I'm training."

  "For?" His voice rumbled.

  "I want to help you."

  "I didn't ask for your help."

  "And I didn't ask for yours. But here we both are."

  He didn't say a
nything, he just stepped closer toward me until I could feel his body heat. I shivered in the contrast to the cold rain.

  I wanted him to kiss me. I wanted to live my dreams of him. "I can't stop thinking about you," I said. But it wasn't enough. He stayed complete still. "And you can't seem to stop thinking about me either." I realized I was holding my breath, but I couldn't seem to stop.

  He shook his head. "I'm only here to warn you."

  One second.

  He leaned slightly closer, placing a hand on either side of my head on the brick wall.

  Two seconds.

  "You're running out of time."

  Three seconds.

  He leaned closer still. I could feel the heat of his breath. Our lips were only an inch apart.

  Four seconds.

  "I should be telling you to leave. But I don't want you to go."

  Five seconds. "Why do you want me to stay?"

  He stayed completely still. "Because you're right about me. I can't stop thinking about you. Thoughts of you consume me." His breath was hot against my lips.

  I slowly exhaled. I wanted him to kiss me. I wanted to taste him.

  "I'll never stop."

  I swallowed hard. It was possessive. But it didn't scare me. It felt like a spark went through me. I ached for him. His lips. His touch. I watched his Adam's apple rise and then fall. I never wanted him to stop. I tilted my face up toward his.

  "Sadie." His voice sounded strained.

  The only thing between us was the falling rain. I stood on my tiptoes until my lips brushed against his.

  A growl seemed to escape from his throat as he pushed my back against the wall. His lips met mine with a force I hadn't expected. His kiss was rough and savage as if he had been dreaming of my lips and nothing else. It wasn't comforting. It didn't feel like fire or ice. It sent an electricity through me. It made me feel like I could do anything, like his superpowers were spreading to me, like his strength was contagious. I felt alive.

  He was being rough. It should have terrified me. But I felt safe in his arms. I grabbed the back of his neck to deepen the kiss and he groaned into my mouth. The noise was so carnal and raw. God, I wanted to hear it again and again.

  He told me that I was everything. But he was wrong. This kiss was everything. He made me forget about Eli and Miles. He made the pain go away. I could barely breathe when he pulled away. My panting should have been embarrassing, but I didn't need to hide in front of him. He saw me. He watched my every move. He was my protector.

  "If you want to help, then you can't run away from the darkness. You have to embrace it." He gently touched the side of my face with his glove, tracing the cut he had prevented from being worse. "But I don't want to see your light fade the way mine has."

  "It already has. It faded a long time ago."

  "It hasn't. You're stronger than you realize."

  I couldn't even protest with him. The way he said it made it seem like a fact. I am strong. He believed in me more than I believed in myself.

  "Which is why I can't accept your help. I refuse to turn you into something other than what I see in front of me. You have to go before it's too late." It sounded like it pained him to say it. Sirens wailed in the distance. His head turned toward the noise.

  But I didn't want him to leave. I wanted to convince him that I could help. I wanted him to kiss me again. I wanted him to possess me. It was the only thing that seemed to keep my thoughts at bay. It was the only thing that could take away my pain. "Why can't you stop thinking about me?"

  He leaned closer, and I closed my eyes, expecting another kiss. All my senses were overwhelmed. His expensive cologne seemed to consume me.

  "It doesn't matter. Because I'm asking you to stop thinking about me."

  I can't possibly.

  "You're putting yourself in danger, because you think I'm looking out for you. But I'm not the only one watching. I know you can sense it. The way you look over your shoulder. The smile that plays on your lips. But it's not always me, Sadie. You're running out of time."

  "Running out of time for what?" I opened up my eyes, but he was gone. I'm running out of time for what? The past few days, I had felt safe, knowing he was out there. But he was telling me that eerie feeling I got that someone was watching me was real. And that it wasn't always him.

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