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Damaged Like Us: Chapter 25


I FINISH BANDAGING MY ARMS, and Maximoff goes to check on Jane and make a few family calls upstairs. We can’t speak, not with security everywhere. For a full hour, I rehash tonight’s events to the Tri-Force in numb detail.

Then, they let me go.

Find Maximoff. It’s all I’ve wanted to do. Find Maximoff. Find him.

Be with him.

I head to the staircase. Passing three Alpha bodyguards, they pat my shoulder and tell me, “Good job.” Another says, “Quick hands.”

They congratulate me because the guy I pinned to the cement had a handgun on him. I had to disarm him, and most of SFA believes the two guys could’ve easily made a U-turn to Maximoff and Jane’s townhouse if they weren’t caught.

I ascend the narrow staircase, my head whirling. And not because of booze. Nothing could’ve sobered me faster than tonight’s misadventure.

I reach the second floor, the bathroom door cracked. Maximoff has a hand on the sink, his phone to his ear.

“I love you too…I know, Mom.”

I lean on the doorway while he finishes his call, and his forest-greens melt against mine. His bottom lip is split. His cheekbone starts to bruise, and beneath his eye, a reddish, purple tint forms. Almost like he was punched.

My stomach twists in brutal knots, and a rock wedges in my throat. I separated the bodyguard part of myself for one moment, and it hit me full-force tonight. That I’m seriously falling for someone whose life is threatened daily. Unconscionably. More than an actor. More than most celebrities.

He’s American royalty. Fame from birth.

A type of notoriety that incites hatred and disbelief. Where people shout, why are they famous?! Where people decree, undeserving!

Where pranks leave scars and threats verge on crimes and the cost could be lives.

And I care about him. Shit, I care whether he’s hurt or in pain or if he needs me. Unfavorable opinion time: I wish he would’ve let the cats die.

And then I don’t. Because he wouldn’t be Maximoff Hale if he didn’t run after the little bastards. He wouldn’t be Maximoff Hale if he didn’t care about Jane and his entire family.

He wouldn’t be the guy I can’t stop staring at. Can’t stop thinking about. He’d be someone else. Someone that I would’ve never even thought to kiss.

“I promise,” he says into his phone. “Night.” He hangs up, and I slip into the bathroom. I shut and lock the door behind me.

Our eyes never detach. And our arms immediately wrap around each other. I hug him to my chest as much as he hugs me. I cup the back of his head with my hand, his palm warms my neck, and his pulse pounds against my body.

He inhales, his carriage rising. My eyes burn, but I try to breathe, deep and strong.

Two minutes must pass before we lean back. Only just slightly. I hold his sharp jaw. We kiss gently, and then we pull further back. Studying one another for a brief moment.

His eyes are bloodshot.

I wonder what it must be like to be in his head. Paranoid, I’m guessing. Thoughts moving a mile a minute. Not slowing.

For anything.

“Are you okay?” I ask him finally.

He nods once. “Are you? Because I thought something seriously fucking terrible happened to you. No one could get ahold of you, and I saw Quinn and…” He swallows hard.

“I’m okay.” My brows knot. “You know what I did tonight is just part of my job?”

He licks his lips slowly. “So you don’t want me to care about you

“No.” I lower my voice. “You just need to know that I’m going to get banged up and you can’t run and save me, wolf scout. You have to let it happen.”

Maximoff daggers a glare to the ceiling, then the mirror. It finally sinks in for him too. That I’m allowed to protect him, but he can’t protect me. Not in the same exact way.

“We can’t all be heroes,” I say matter-of-factly.

His glare falls to me, but his lips inch bit by bit, our arms still hooked tight around each other. “If I’m not the hero, what am I?” Maximoff is waiting for me to call him a villain. In his comic books, that’s the dichotomy. Heroes versus villains.

He’s very far from one.

I press my lips to his jaw, his neck, and against his ear, I whisper, “You’re a prince who wants to be a knight.”


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