All night I’d slept with my cell phone clasped tightly in my hand. Just in case Beau texted or called. Yes, I was letting him go but that didn’t mean I wasn’t worried about him. If I could have just known he was at home in his bed.
Today I walked through the hall without worrying if someone was going to shove me into a wall. The sneers had stopped. It was as if they all had something new to focus on. I wasn’t the center of their attention anymore. Thank God. I turned to head toward my locker and my feet slowed as my eyes landed on the achingly familiar body standing in front of my locker. My heart sped up as I took in the sight of him. I could now openly admire his butt in a pair of jeans. A smile touched my lips but quickly fell away once I realized what he was doing.
Beau was snatching off the notes still stuck to my locker from the day before. I’d grown weary of taking them off and with my confrontation with Sawyer yesterday I’d forgotten all about them. Even though I couldn’t see his face I recognized the angry stance as he ripped up each note and threw it on the ground. Did he just growl? I took a slow, cautious step toward him. The tense set of his shoulders warned me not to make any sudden movements. He was strung tight as a bow and ready to pounce.
“Beau,” I said gently before reaching out and touching his arm.
The last of the shredded sticky notes drifted to the floor from his hands. He didn’t look at me. Instead he closed his eyes tightly. The tick in his jaw only made his sharp, perfect features more intense.
“It’s okay. The notes don’t bother me,” I assured him, wanting to say something. Anything to ease his temper.
“He let them do this. I’m going to kill him.” His words were so thickly laced with fury I started worrying for Sawyer’s safety again.
“No, he told them to stop,” I assured him, moving close to him. Beau finally opened his eyes and turned his head. His hazel eyes, so full of emotion, studied my face.
“When? Because they sure as hell haven’t stopped.”
I slid my hand down his arm and laced my fingers through his.
“It doesn’t bother me. Really. I don’t care.”
Beau snarled and slammed his fist against my locker door.
“I care. No one talks to you that way. No one, Ash.” He turned and glowered at the packed hallway full of students. “NO ONE,” he shouted. His hand pulled free from mine and the crowd parted as he stalked away. He was going to find Sawyer. I silently prayed he’d let him live.
Curious eyes watched Beau’s retreating back then shifted back to me. There would be no more letters on my locker. Beau was back and I was positive he’d just terrified the entire student body.
The small pieces of paper at my feet were all that was left from my week as a social outcast. I bent down to pick up the pieces. I saw two scuffed boots then Toby Horn bent down beside me.
“I’ll help you. I don’t think it was Beau’s intention that you clean this up.”
I smiled over at him. He’d watched everything happen this week from the sidelines without saying a word. I knew he was only helping now because he was trying to find some redeeming grace in Beau’s eyes.
“I don’t want the janitor to have to clean it up. It isn’t her fault.”
“He’s going to murder Sawyer if he finds out this was the least of what they’ve done to you.”
I sighed, knowing he was right. If this made Beau angry then the nail polish graffiti and the Coke incident was going to send him into a blind rage.
“I’m praying no one tells him.”
Toby paused and studied me a moment. I could tell he was trying to decide if I really meant what I’d said.
“You don’t want revenge?”
I shook my head and stood up, both my hands full of paper.
“No, I don’t want revenge. If this week was what it took to help Sawyer deal with everything then it was worth it. Beau will never see it that way of course.”
“He’ll end up blaming himself for leaving you here.”
I dropped the paper into the trash can and dusted my hands off on my jeans before turning back around to face Toby.
“He had his reasons. Both Sawyer and I know that.”
“So you and Sawyer made up?”
I let out a small laugh. Sawyer and I would never be completely healed. Too much bad water under the bridge.
“As made up as we will ever get.”
Toby nodded as if he understood.
“And Beau?” he asked, looking unsure, as if he’d gotten too personal.
“Beau and I are friends.” That was all he needed to know.
Toby nodded and slipped his book bag higher up his shoulder.
“Sorry about this week. I should’ve said something. I kept waiting on Sawyer to step in.”
“No worries. It’s all over now.”
“Beau’s back,” he agreed, then with one last apologetic smile he turned and walked away.
I needed to hit something. Stalking out I put both hands on the front doors and shoved them open hard before walking out into the parking lot. Grabbing my phone from my pocket I finally turned it on. Apparently, Sawyer hadn’t told me everything. He’d had his chance to explain what he meant by Ashton having a rough week. He’d failed to tell me that she’d been ridiculed. Why hadn’t he taken those notes off her locker himself? Where had he been? Had he enjoyed seeing her treated badly? My blood boiled and I fisted my hand tightly. I was going to beat the shit out of him.
Looking down at my phone I had ten unread text messages. Had Ashton texted me about all this? Turning it off had been a p**sy thing to do. I’d wanted to hide from everyone and everything and wallow in my pain. While Ashton had needed me and I’d been hiding, she’d dealt with it all. My chest tightened. I scrolled through my messages.
Ashton: I love you. I’m sorry. Please come home.
Ashton: I left a note with your mother. Have you gotten it?
Ashton: I spoke with Sawyer today. He told me. Beau please come home. Please.
Kyle: Hey man. Not sure where you’re at but you might want to come back. Ash needs you.
Ethan: It ain’t pretty here. Ash is getting major shit at school. Thought you might want to know.
Kayla: A couple pics you may want to see.
I scrolled down to see a picture of Nicole shoving Ashton’s head in her locker. Another one of Ashton sprawled out on the floor with her books being poured out of her backpack onto her head.
My stomach rolled. I didn’t need to read any more. I was going to kill my brother.
I punched Sawyer’s number into my phone and waited while it rang.
“Hello.” The cautious tone in his voice told me he knew I’d just found out.
“Meet me on the field, now,” I growled.
“You know,” he replied in a weary tone.
“Yeah, you stupid fuck, I know.”
I ended the call and shoved my phone into my pocket before heading down to the field. I hadn’t wanted to hit Sawyer last time. I’d just wanted to block his blows. But now it was all I could think about.
When he stepped onto the field and walked toward me I glared at him, waiting until he was close enough. The urge to charge him was overwhelming. The fury of what had been done to Ash was making it impossible for me to think clearly.
“Did it make you feel better seeing her suffer?” I called out as he drew closer.
He didn’t respond. He didn’t need to. We both knew it had. He’d let her suffer because he was hurt.
“Now I’m about to make myself feel better, you stupid selfish shit,” I informed him in a calm, cold voice.
“Go ahead, Beau, hit me.”
I didn’t need another invitation.
I stood outside the cafeteria studying the double doors. Beau had appeared in Literature class today but he’d sat across the room from me and not once glanced my way. I know because I watched him the entire hour and a half. Sawyer didn’t show up to Physics. There were no notes on my locker and I’d gone all morning without a snide comment or someone sticking their foot out to trip me in the aisles in class. Only a few people actually spoke to me. It was as if they weren’t sure how to treat me yet. Beau was ignoring me. It was impossible to miss. At some point everyone was going to relax and one brave soul was going to test the waters. I really didn’t want it to happen during lunch. My lunch was packed and the library was upstairs, empty.
“You coming in?”
I turned to see Kayla standing beside me. Her hand on the door. My heart rate picked up and I decided no. I wasn’t ready to face the crowd inside. I shook my head. “I don’t think so.”
“Why? No one is going to harm a hair on your head after Beau’s performance this morning.”
I wasn’t ready to bank on that.
“What’s wrong?” Beau’s voice startled me and I spun around to see him standing behind me with a territorial gleam in his eyes.
“Nothing,” I stuttered and quickly stepped around him.
His hand reached out and grabbed my arm gently but firmly enough that I was forced to stop.
“Where are you going? The cafeteria is this way.”
“The library. Ever since Nicole poured a Coke over her head during lunch she’s been hiding out in the library to eat her food.” The utter delight in Kayla’s voice as she told on Nicole was obvious. I knew she wasn’t telling Beau for my sake. She was telling him so he’d react. The fire that ignited in his eyes put a huge smile on Kayla’s face before she twirled around and headed inside the cafeteria.
“You’re not hiding in the damn library, Ash. If anyone even looks at you wrong I’ll fix it.” Beau was staring down at me for the first time since this morning. I soaked up the little shred of attention. I was pathetic.
“Okay,” I replied. Telling him no was impossible.
He reached around me and pushed the door open. “Let’s go.”
I walked in ahead of him and the entire room fell silent. This might possibly be worse than the laughing and snickers.
“Do you need anything from the line?” Beau asked, taking my elbow. I shook my head, scanning the crowd for any sign of Sawyer.
“Where’s Sawyer?” I whispered when I didn’t see him anywhere.
“At home. He has a concussion.”
I froze and stared up at him. “What?” I asked, horrified.
Beau’s frown deepened. “He shouldn’t have let them harass you. It was his mistake. He knows that . . . now.”
“Beau!” I hissed, jerking my elbow out of his grasp. This was why I couldn’t have what I wanted. Because of me Beau had given his cousin—NO—his brother a concussion. I couldn’t let this keep happening. “Why would you do that? Is he okay?”
“He’s fine. You can go check on him after school.” He paused and clenched his jaw. “No, I take that back. You need to stay away from him. I’m not sure I can handle you worrying over him right now. I need time.”
“Beau, I . . .”
“Go sit with Kayla. She’s motioning you over. You’re safe, Ash.”
He turned and left me standing there, watching him retreat to the far side of the cafeteria.