Text copyright © 2009 by S.C. Stephens

All Rights Reserved. This book may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the author. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. All characters and storylines are the property of the author and your support and respect is appreciated.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

CH 20

I slipped back into my room in the very early hours of the morning. Denny hadn't stirred when I carefully lay down in bed. I didn't look at him this time. I shut my eyes and drifted off to sleep with Kellan on my mind.

I awoke a short while later from a particularly good dream, anxious to see him again. Denny was still sleeping but I was positive Kellan would not be. I quickly darted to the bathroom to freshen up and then quietly dashed downstairs. As predicted, Kellan was leaning against the counter, a fresh pot of coffee brewing behind him, smiling over at me and looking completely perfect, dressed in my favorite bright blue shirt that made his eyes seem inhumanly blue.


He didn't get a chance to say more than that as I flew into his arms and kissed him deeply. He returned my kiss eagerly his hands cupping my cheeks. Between our lips I muttered, "I missed you."

"I missed you too," he muttered back.

I luxuriated in the smell of him, the feel of him, the taste of him…I never wanted him to stop kissing me when suddenly he pulled away from me and took a few steps towards the table. "We should talk about Denny Kiera…"

Just then Denny walked into the kitchen. "What about me?" he asked curtly.

Kellan and I were luckily a few paces apart when Denny had unexpectedly appeared in the entryway but my heart shifted instantly into triple time. Kellan was more composed and smoothly said, "I was just asking Kiera if you would be interested in hangin' with me and the guys today…there's this thing at EMP-"

Denny cut him off while I gaped at him. Did he come up with that on the fly or was that really his plan for today? "No, we'll stay here."

I didn't miss his inflection on the word "we'll" and neither did Kellan. His face paler he said, "Okay…come by if you change your mind, we'll be there all day." An odd tension built up in the kitchen and Kellan finally broke the silence, "I'd better go pick up the guys…" And with a final meaningful glance at me behind Denny's back, he left the two of us alone in the suddenly too quiet kitchen.

A few moments later I heard the door close and Kellan's car growl to life and drive away. And just like that he was gone and my heart dropped a little. By his final look, I knew he was giving me time to "talk" to Denny and I wasn't ready yet.

I spent the bulk of the afternoon lying on the couch sleeping…or pretending to, while Denny watched over me from the chair, the TV playing in the background purely a distraction for the overwhelming silence between us. I wasn't ready to destroy him yet. I wasn't sure if I would ever be ready for that. How do you tell someone who had been everything to you for so long that it was over?

I could feel his dark eyes resting on me all day…thinking. Denny was brilliant, the only reason he hadn't put it all together yet was pure devotion to me. He refused to see my flaws and he hated to cause me pain. Acknowledging my betrayal would force him to do both.

He may have been avoiding the words, but I saw it in his eyes; the fear, the doubt. I knew that eventually he would gather the courage to ask me that dreaded question: Are you in love with someone else?

Every look he gave me, every time he touched me, every conversation he did start with me, I was sure he was going to ask me if I was leaving him, going to ask me if I was in love with Kellan. I tensed in anticipation every time. I didn't know what I would say if he did ask.

But the questions never came…

He never once asked me about the lie he had caught me in last night. He never asked me the real reason for the awful slap I had given Kellan. On the few instances we did speak that horridly long afternoon, he seemed to be purposefully avoiding any topic of conversation that might bring up Kellan.

By the end of the day, his expression was darker, his mood introspective. Eventually all conversation dried up and I began avoiding his dark accusatory glances.

Kellan did eventually come back, late, hours after the sun set on our chilly little home. He walked into the kitchen and saw Denny and I finishing a silent dinner. Kellan glanced over to me, probably wondering if I had talked to him at all. I could only shake my head nearly imperceptibly no. He understood. His face was torn. I thought he might turn around and leave again but calming himself he put his keys on the counter and grabbed a beer from the fridge. His disheartened eyes haunted me. I couldn't help but to stare at him, even though I knew Denny was intently watching me. I so wanted to go over to him and explain, but I knew I couldn't.

His eyes not leaving mine, Denny spoke over to Kellan, "Hey mate. I think we should all go out. How about The Shack, we could go dancing again?" His accent inflected oddly on the word dancing. My heart jumped, why would he want to go back there? I forced my eyes back to my plate.

I could hear Kellan shifting uncomfortably. "Yeah… sure," he said quietly.

My heart started to race and I kept my head down, concentrating on my food and my breathing. This was not good…not good at all.

Kellan turned and took his beer to his room. Denny and I finished our awkward meal in silence, his eyes never straying far from mine. Finishing before him I mumbled something about getting ready and stumbled my way upstairs to get ready for a night that I felt would be as equally horrific as the last time we had all gone there together.

Kellan's door was closed as I passed it and I briefly wondered if I should pop in and explain why I had chickened out in talking to Denny today. I couldn't though…I wasn't ready for that conversation either. I sighed and went to the bathroom to rearrange my hair, redo my makeup - anything to stop my mind from spinning.

Finally in the car ride over Denny broke his hours long silence. "Have you decided what you want to do for winter break?" he asked, an oddly flat tone in his accented voice. He looked over to me and his expression softened for the first time all day, moisture glistening in his eyes. "I'd really like to take you home with me…over the holidays. Will you think about it Kiera?" His voice wavered a bit on my name.

I clearly heard the real question he was asking me: Will you choose me? I could only nod at him, moisture stinging my own eyes as well. I turned to look out the window at the city flying by me. That was how my insides felt, that I was flying towards something and it was too late to stop it.

Denny and I beat Kellan there…he seemed to be delaying the inevitable weirdness, I wished I could. Denny pulled us straight through the bar to the doors leading to the beer garden in back. I noticed a sign on the door as he opened it, 'Winter fest – beat the chill', apparently we were celebrating the iciness in the air. Even though the weather was really too chilly to just sit around and drink beer in, there were a lot of people outside and Denny led me to the same table as the last fateful time we were here. I had no idea if he did that deliberately or not. My eyes flicked back to the gate, back to the espresso stand. Did he know about that night? I tried to force my stomach to stop turning. He ordered drinks for the three of us and we sipped our beers in silence, Denny looking thoughtful.

My breath inadvertently caught when Kellan walked into the bar. I hadn't meant for it to happen. I prayed Denny didn't see it happen. He was just so…breathtaking. He walked smoothly to our table, his eyes oddly at peace. He even smiled over at Denny while he took a seat by me. My heart sped a little, part nerves, part from his nearness.

The bar was busy, the music coming from speakers all around the beer garden was loud, and several people were out on the make-shift dance floor having a good time in the approaching-frigid air. I hoped Denny wasn't serious about the dancing, I didn't think I could fake that right now, the way my heart and stomach were flopping around. I watched the drunken people warming their bodies with physical movement while I started to shiver a bit from the cold. Again I wondered why Denny sat us out here and not inside the warm bar. I put my cold hands in my lap, resisting the instinct to reach under the table and grab Kellan's.

I don't know how long we sat there in silence, Kellan and I watching the crowd but studiously ignoring each other, Denny watching me intently, but eventually Denny's work phone rang. Startled, I looked over at him while he smoothly picked it up. He spoke a few sentences then closed it. Sighing he looked over to me.

"I'm sorry. They need me to come in." Looking over me to Kellan he said, "Can you take her home? I have to go." Kellan simply nodded and Denny stood to leave. I was too shocked by the turn of events to speak properly. Denny leaned down to me. "Will you think about what I asked?" he said quietly. I mumbled an okay and grabbing my cheeks in both hands he kissed me so deeply I groaned and instinctively brought my hands up to his neck. My heart raced and I was slightly breathless as he pulled away.

Kellan shifted noisily in his chair and for a second I had a horrifying image of Kellan starting something with him. He cleared his throat and shifted in his chair again as Denny said goodbye to both of us and turning left the bar. I watched him leave, my heart still racing. His beautiful face turned once at the door to give me a final glance goodbye. He nodded a little and smiled fractionally when he saw me still watching him and then he entered the bar to leave out the front doors.

I numbly turned my head to look over at Kellan. Would he be mad at me for that? Would he be mad at me for not talking to Denny today…? Surely he would understand how hard this was for me. Meeting his gaze however, I only saw love in his eyes.

He grabbed my hand under the table and started talking as if we had been on a date the entire evening and my boyfriend had not just thoroughly kissed me and left the bar.

"I was wondering…since you probably don't want to take me home to your parents yet," he paused and looked at me meaningfully, "which I completely understand…" He smiled. "Maybe you'd like to spend winter break with me here? Or we could go up to Whistler? Canada is beautiful and…" He stopped and looked at me curiously, "Do you ski?" He shook his head not waiting for a response from me, which was good since I couldn't form words yet. "Well, if not…we don't have to leave our room." He grinned wickedly at me.

I was staring at his blue eyes and I was hearing his words…but I wasn't seeing him and I wasn't absorbing what he was saying, other then he wanted to spend winter break with me. Unknowingly, he was asking me the same thing Denny just had. Kellan continued going on about what we could do in Canada and I tuned him out.

My mind started thinking about what Denny had asked in the car. Denny wanted to take me home with him to meet his parents before we moved over there…only that wasn't the plan any more. We would be over by then, we would be over soon and he would go home alone. I swallowed painfully and my mind tortured me by allowing every memory I had of him to flood through me.

I remembered our first meeting: He had been smiling at all the students as they walked in and my breath caught when I saw him. I blushed slightly and looked down when his smile turned to me. The professor had him pass out some papers to the class, and as I was sitting on the edge of the row, he handed me a large stack to pass down to the others beside me.

"Hello. Enjoying the class so far?" he said quietly and the surprise over hearing his delightful accent, and honestly having his attractive face so close to mine, had caused me to clumsily drop the entire stack of papers on the floor.

"I'm so sorry," I said as I knelt down beside him to help him pick up all the papers, my face surely red.

"It's okay," he said sweetly. When we were all finished he stuck his hand out. "My name's Denny Harris."

I blushed again and shook his hand. "Kiera…Allen," I mumbled.

He helped me stand up and carefully re-handed me the stack. "It's nice to meet you Kiera." He had said it warmly and even now I remember the thrill of hearing his accent curl around my name that first time. I hadn't been able to take my eyes off of him after that day…I had to work extra hard paying attention in that class.

I remembered our first date: He had asked me one afternoon in the quad. I had been completely surprised and definitely eager. I tried to keep a smooth face though as I casually said sure. He picked me up that night and we went to a very nice restaurant overlooking the river. He suggested something good to eat but let me make my own choice, he never even let me see the bill and we had an amazingly easy conversation all throughout dinner. Afterwards he held my hand and we walked down the sidewalk talking casually, neither one of us wanting the evening to end. When it did end, he walked me to my door and gave me the softest, sweetest kiss that anyone had ever given me. I think I fell for him on that night.

My awareness jerked back to the present when Kellan asked me a question and I didn't respond right away. I finally heard the question on his second attempt. "Kiera…did I lose you?" I blushed realizing I had no idea what he had been talking about. He was still sweetly stroking my hand with his thumb but was looking at me concernedly. "Are you all right…do you want to go home?"

I nodded, still feeling unable to speak. We stood and he led me with a hand comfortingly on my back to the side exit in the gate. Immediately upon seeing the parking lot, I looked for Denny's car where he had parked it. It was gone…he was really gone. Unintentionally I glanced over to the fateful espresso stand. Kellan noticed my gaze and squeezing my hand looked down on me, smiling softly and the gate closed behind us. But seeing the stand didn't take my mind back to Kellan and my night of tortured bliss. It took me back to a simpler, purer time…with Denny.

I remembered our first time together…my first time ever: We had been dating for two months. For a guy in his early twenties, that was an eternity, but he never pushed me. We would kiss and do…other things…for as long as I wanted, but the second I pushed him away he happily retreated. He never once made me feel guilty about it, which of course had only made me want him more. He knew it was my first time and he made it special for me. He rented a cabin and we had spent a long winter weekend there. Our first time had been the stuff of movie magic – warm fireplace, soft blankets, and quiet music. He took his time with me, making sure I was completely comfortable with every step…which I was. He had been so amazingly gentle and tender, it hadn't even hurt. Afterwards he held me tight to his chest and told me he loved me for the first time and, of course, I cried and told him I loved him too…which promptly led to our second time.

Back in the real world, Kellan was leading me to his car. He was still talking softly to me. His topic had changed to what we could do this summer. "After high school I hitch-hiked down the Oregon coast, that's actually how I met Evan. Anyway, we should go, you would love it. There are these caves…"

I tuned him out. Step after step was barraging me with more heartfelt memories of Denny.

We took two steps towards the car; memories of birthdays, the latest being my twenty-first when he had taken me to a local bar and sweetly held my hair back when I got very, very ill. Memories of Christmases past at my parent's house snuggled on his lap watching my family exchange gifts. Memories of a dozen red roses given to me on Valentine's Day…and my birthday…and our anniversary, all with the sweetest goofy grin on his face.

Another step; memories of getting food poisoning and having him wipe my forehead with a cold rag and bring me water, memories of him trying out new recipes on me…most of them really good, a couple astoundingly bad, memories of snuggling in his bed and watching a movie, memories of studying together for school…and promptly making out instead.

Another few steps; more current memories of traveling across the country in his beat-up car, tossing fries at each other, playing the license plate alphabet game for hours, singing along with the radio and thoroughly enjoying the twangy country songs through the mid-west, taking a quick dip in an ice cold river to freshen up, making love in his car at an empty rest stop.

One more step; walking along the pier, falling asleep with him on the couch, dancing together at the bar, him sappily calling me his heart…

Another step; the soft hair along his jaw line, his warm brown eyes, running my fingers through his dark hair, his soft lips, his alluring accent, his gentle words, his goofy grin, his good humor, his good nature, his good soul…

I would never have any of that again. I stopped breathing. I stopped walking. I yanked my hand away from Kellan and he stopped walking too. The adage "you don't know what you've got until it's gone" rocked me to my very core. Abounding love overwhelmed me, threatened to drop me. But he wasn't gone. Not yet…and I knew, I knew I couldn't do it. I couldn't leave the man who had been my heart for so long that I didn't know if I even had one without him…not even for this perfect creature beside me.

Kellan took a step and then turned to face me, his face was gorgeous in the moonlight, composed and yet at the same time achingly sad. His eyes nearly broke my heart and I had to look away. It wasn't just that they suddenly glistened too much, the deep blue crystallized in what could very easily shed into tears - it was the calm resignation in them that tore my heart.

Silently he regarded my expression for a minute and then quietly he said, "That took less time than I thought it would."

I looked up at his calm face surprised – had he known me better than I knew myself, had he known that I would do this to him all along?


"I know…you can't do this. You want to stay with Denny. I know…I always knew you'd choose him." His eyes fully brimmed as he gazed at me. "I had hoped last night…"

"Kellan, I'm so sorry…please don't hate me," I whispered, my own eyes brimming as well.

His gaze sad but achingly full of love, he quietly said, "It's okay Kiera…I'm not angry. I always knew where your heart really was. I never should have asked you to make a choice…there never was a choice to make." He sighed and looked down to the pavement. "I should have left ages ago. I was just…being selfish."

I gaped at him disbelieving. He thought he was being selfish? Here, I was the one literally shuffling between the beds of two men and he was selfish? "I think I give new meaning to the word Kellan."

He smiled a little when he looked back up at me and then his face got serious again. "You were scared Kiera. I understand that. You're scared to let go…I am too. But everything will be fine. We will be fine," he whispered the last part and I could barely hear him over the loud music drifting over the fence from the beer garden.

He swept me into his arms for a tight embrace. I threw my arms around his neck and curled one hand through his wonderfully thick hair. I inhaled the scent of his skin mixed with his leather jacket, savoring every second with him. His arms pulled me in so tight that I could barely breathe. I didn't care, he could have compressed me into his body and I wouldn't have cared, I ached for his closeness so badly.

With a voice thick with emotion he whispered in my ear, "Don't ever tell Denny about us. He won't leave you. You can stay at my place for as long as you like…you can even rent out my room if you want. I don't care…"

I pulled back to look at him, tears streaming down my face now. He answered my unasked question, a tear shimmering down his cheek in the moonlight as well. "I have to leave now Kiera…while I can." He brushed a tear away from my cheek. "I'll call Jenny and have her come get you…she'll take you to him…she'll help you…"

"Who will help you?" I whispered, searching his achingly perfect face in the silver light. I knew how much he cared now. I knew what I meant to him and how extremely difficult leaving me was for him. I knew how hard it was for me and I felt like dying.

Swallowing, he ignored my question. "You and Denny can go to Australia and be married. You can have a long happy life together, the way it was supposed to be." His voice cracked on the end and another tear rolled down his cheek.

I wasn't letting it go though…I needed to know he would be okay, "And what about you? You'll be alone…"

He smiled sadly. "Kiera…it was always supposed to be that way too."

I stared at his liquid blue eyes, placing a hand on his cheek and holding back a sob. He was willing to give up everything he had ever wanted in this world - a real, deep to the bottom of his soul love - without a fight…to save Denny's and my relationship. His good heart broke mine. "I told you, you were a good man," I whispered.

"I think Denny would disagree," he whispered back.

I threw my arms tightly around his neck again as a hauntingly slow beat drifted over the fence and pounded through my body. "Do something for me?" I whispered in his ear, my heart squeezing painfully.

He pulled back and looked away to the coffee stand and then back to my eyes wistfully. "I would do anything for you Kiera."

I swallowed the sudden lump and had to look away from his longing gaze. Thinking of my question, a small wry smile touched my lips and I looked back at his slightly puzzled expression. "Can you keep it in your pants?" I asked, laughing softly once.

He blinked and stared at me confounded. Then he managed a soft chuckle and looked away, his breath making a small cloud in the chilly air. Shaking his head he turned back to look at me adoringly.

"At least, until you find someone that you actually…love?" My voice choked up on the end and I had to swallow and repeat it, new tears dripping from my momentarily dry eyes.

His smile faded and he looked at me with new tears in his momentarily dry eyes. After a moment of silence he swallowed. "It will be an eternity then because I don't see how I could possibly ever feel…" Emotion overcame him and with tears dripping to his cheeks he simply nodded in response.

I ran my fingers back through his hair and choked back another sob as he rested his forehead against mine.

"God, I'm going to miss you…" his voice cracked at the end and he swallowed loudly.

It was too much, it was too hard. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't let him slip away…I loved him too much. This was too hard…

"Kellan please don't-"

He immediately cut me off, "Don't Kiera. Don't ask me that. It has to happen this way. This is the only way Denny doesn't get hurt. If you ask me to stay…I will…and he'll eventually find out, and we'll destroy him. I know you don't want that...I don't either, my love." He spoke quickly while rocking his head back and forth against mine, his eyes tightly closed. He almost seemed to be willing himself to say the words that he clearly didn't want to say.

Pain rocketed through my body and I couldn't stop the sob, "It hurts so much…"

He kissed me softly. "I know baby…I know. We have to let it hurt…it's the only way."

He kissed me again and then pulled back to look at me, his eyes as wet and pained as mine must be. He reached a hand into his jacket pocket and grabbed something. Holding his fist out to me, he gently pried open my hand with his other one. Very slowly he opened his fist and placed something in my palm.

Through my blurry vision I looked at what he had given me. It was a very delicate looking silver chain. Attached to the chain was a silver guitar and in the center of the guitar was a round diamond that had to be at least a carat. I inhaled sharply and couldn't speak, my hand started to shake.

"You don't have to wear it…I'll understand. I just wanted you to have something to remember me by…" He cocked his head to the side and gazed at my tear streaked face. "I didn't want you to forget me…I'll never forget you…"

I looked at him barely able to speak through the pain. "Forget you?" The very idea was ludicrous. As if he wasn't seared into the very fabric of my soul. "I could never…" I grabbed his face in my hands, the necklace still laced in my fingers. "I love you…forever."

He brought his lips to mine, kissing me deeply. The music behind us swelled along with my heart. Again I doubted that I could do this, that I could let him leave me. Surely the withdrawals of a permanent separation would break me to pieces – I missed him already, even with his lips pressed firmly to mine I longed for him. We savored every second we had together. I felt like the pain would bring me to my knees. A sob broke through my lips and he clutched me tighter to his chest. He placed a hand on my cheek and a second later a sob broke through his, and I deepened our heartbreaking final kiss. I never wanted this moment to end…

But of course, nothing lasts forever.

The sound of the gate behind me smashing forcefully closed forever changed the way I would remember this last tender moment with Kellan.

Terrified, I immediately broke contact and stared at Kellan's wide eyes. He was looking past me at the figure at the gate, but I could not make myself turn to look. I didn't need to look anyway. There was only one person on this Earth who could have caused the intense look of fear, sorrow and guilt on Kellan's face. My whole body started shaking.

"I'm so sorry Kiera…" Kellan whispered to me, never once taking his eyes from the gate.

Denny had just entered our small circle of private Hell and there was no going back for him, for any of us.

"Kiera… Kellan…" My name came out like a question, Kellan's like a curse. Denny moved closer to where Kellan and I were quickly stepping away from each other. His face was confused and at the same time livid, he had seen that all too tender moment.

"Denny…" I tried to come up with something but I couldn't. I suddenly realized that Denny had lied…he had never been called away. He had orchestrated this, tested us…we had failed.

He ignored me and glared at Kellan. "What the hell is going on?"

I ran through some excuses that Kellan could say in my head but dropped my mouth in shock as Kellan simply told Denny the truth. "I kissed her. I was saying goodbye…I'm leaving."

I fought back my despair at that statement as I watched anger flare in Denny's dark eyes. "You kissed her…" I thought for a moment he would leave it at that but then he blurted out, "Did you fuck her?"

Shock again flared through me at Denny's conclusion to Kellan's simple statement…he had known, or at least suspected. I looked over at Kellan, silently pleading with him to lie.

He didn't.

"Yes," he whispered, cringing a little at Denny's crudeness.

Denny's mouth dropped open as he glared at Kellan. Both men seemed to forget I was even there. "When?" he whispered harshly.

Kellan sighed, "The first time was the night you broke up."

Denny's eyebrows rose along with his voice, "The first time…how many times were there?" I closed my eyes hoping this was just a nightmare.

Kellan answered very calmly. "Only twice…"

My eyes flashed open at his statement. Why would he lie about that? But at a meaningful look from him, I understood. Our last few days together had in no way constituted what Denny had crudely asked him. It wasn't a lie, simply a half-truth. Even in my horror for the situation my heart warmed a little at his omission.

He calmly finished his thought, looking back towards Denny, "…but, I wanted her…every day."

The small warmth in my heart froze and my heart squeezed painfully. My breath completely stopped. What was he doing? Why would he tell Denny that? I must be dreaming. This couldn't be real. It wasn't real.

It happened so fast that I didn't have time to comprehend it. Denny's fist flew around and connected with Kellan's jaw, the blow staggering him backwards. Recovering slowly, Kellan stood straight and faced Denny again, blood trickling down his cut lip. "You fucking whacker!" Denny yelled and hit him again.

My mind wanted me to scream at Denny to stop. My body wanted me to pull him away. Aside from shaking with fear and an aching coldness that pierced me to my very bones, I couldn't move. Shock froze me in place, gaping like an idiot. I stood there silently.

"I gave up everything for her!" Denny struck him repeatedly. Kellan did nothing to block the blows. In fact he seemed to be turning into them, giving Denny the best possible angle to hurt him. Blood oozed from a cut on his cheek, his lip and over his eye. "You promised me you wouldn't touch her!"

I wanted Denny to yell at me, to blame me, to hit me, to at least look at me as being equally responsible for this mess, but all his rage was focused on Kellan. I had stopped existing to him. Inside I was sobbing, screaming for it to end. But I just stood there silently.

Eventually Kellan's strength wore out and he fell to his knees in a pant, his blue shirt stained with his blood. "I trusted you!" A particularly brutal knee to his chin knocked him to his back.

My mind couldn't comprehend. I started rejecting this reality. I was dreaming, that had to be it. This was just a nightmare, my worst nightmare. Soon I would wake up. But still, I just stood there silently.

Denny now began kicking him with his heavy boots repeatedly, screaming obscenities with every kick. A vicious one landed on Kellan's arm, more out of luck then Kellan making any attempt to defend himself, causing a sickening snap that even in my stupor I could hear. Kellan cried out in pain but Denny didn't stop. "You said you were my brother!"

My stomach rose. My body shivered uncontrollably. Tears flowed down my cheeks. I desperately wanted to pull Denny away, hit him if I had to, but listening in horror, I still just stood there silently.

Another swift kick to Kellan's side and another audible crack as a rib or two broke. Kellan again cried out in agony, spat out blood, but did nothing to defend his body, said nothing to defend his actions. He still seemed to be turning towards Denny between each blow, giving him the largest target he could. "She is NOT one of your whores!"

Reality was shifting to me. Was I going mad? Was that why I couldn't move, couldn't shout for help? Still, I stood there silently.

If my sanity was slipping, Denny's was completely gone. He was a different person viciously beating the life from Kellan's weakening body. Denny was beyond angry, beyond enraged. He was screaming viciously at Kellan, a stream of vile things I had never heard him utter. He seemed to have completely forgotten I was there, frozen in shock and horror as I was.

Kellan still never moved to defend himself. He just let the hits continue, crying out in agony, coughing up blood.

Denny paused, panting in his rage. Kellan weakly raised himself up on one elbow, body crumpled and bruised in pain, blood stringing from his mouth and freely flowing from a cut above his eye. He looked dreadfully resolved and something Kellan had told me once leapt into my head and froze my tortured heart, "Better me than you, Kiera".

I knew then what he was doing – he was trying to spare me Denny's rage by absorbing all of it into himself…no matter the cost. And then I saw Kellan close his eyes and exhale slowly and I knew, stronger than any burst of intuition that I had ever had, I knew…he wanted this. A part of Kellan was done with the pain, heartbreak, betrayal and the unending torment. He wanted Denny to end this for him; he had no intention of trying to stop it.

He looked up to meet Denny's enraged eyes. "I…love her…" he panted.

I could literally see Denny snap. Glaring wildly at Kellan he shifted his weight and aligned his foot for what I could clearly see would be a disastrous blow to Kellan's head. Besides panting in pain, Kellan made no move.

Without any conscious thought, I screamed "No!" and finally able to move, I dove to the ground to shield Kellan. The surely fatal blow meant for him connected with my temple instead. I thought I heard Kellan shout my name and then the whole world went black.