It was hotter than hell outside, but Quinn was cold.
Almost shaking with it, he was so cold.
Way too close.
His hands had a fine tremor to them as he climbed off his bike. He stood there, staring at them. They were clean, but he could still see blood.
Still smell it.
“God, please, mister . . . don’t hurt him. He didn’t mean nothing by it.”
The girl’s words had been hard to understand, because her lower lip was bruised and swollen. As was her left eye. She had bruises ringing her arms and wrists.
Quinn had been sitting in the agency car, waiting outside for one Marc D’Angelo to leave his latest girlfriend’s apartment. D’Angelo had a nice little rap sheet, ranging from petty theft to assault. He was all of twenty-three and so far, it looked like he had the makings of a career criminal.
By all rights, Quinn could have just taken the door down. A reliable witness had seen D’Angelo entering the house. But Quinn hated doing it that way. He had seen a few little toys littering the cracked sidewalk in front of the apartment. As he had parked his car, he’d heard a baby crying from inside.
So he’d waited.
But then he’d heard a sound that turned his blood cold—a child’s cry, followed by a woman’s desperate scream, “Marc, don’t, please!”
That scream was one he already knew was going to haunt his dreams. One more guilty weight he’d have to bear. He should have gone in. Because he hadn’t wanted to take down some thug in front of kids, those kids had seen that thug pounding on their mom.
He’d gone through the door and found a child huddling by the couch, holding a crying baby in his arms and sniffling, while across the room, his mother lay on the floor, huddled in a ball.
Something had snapped. Even now, he couldn’t quite remember what he’d done. A blur—grabbing D’Angelo. Taking him down. The satisfaction of flesh striking flesh.
Then a hand on his arm—“Oh, God. Please. You’re gonna kill him . . . he didn’t mean nothing by it.”
“Does she really believe that?” he muttered to himself. Three hours later and he could still see the tears in her dark eyes as she begged him not to hurt her boyfriend. Begging him not to hurt the bastard who had hurt her.
He pressed the heels of his palms to his eyes, trying to drive the memory out, but another one replaced it. A memory even darker, even uglier than seeing a man beat on a woman.
Elaina. Lying on the ground while her blood mixed with the dirt.
A laugh shattered the spell and Quinn flinched, spinning around. But there was nobody there. The laugh came again and recognition hit. Nausea pooled inside him as he recognized it as Sara’s. Distantly, he could hear her voice, and Theresa’s.
“Shit.” He scrubbed his hands over his face and then jammed them deep in his pockets. He didn’t want to see them right now—didn’t want to see anybody, talk to anybody, not until he got his head together.
Then you need to move to Antarctica, man. You aren’t ever going to get your head together.
He slid through the door, keeping his gaze on the ground. He heard Theresa call out his name, but he ignored her. He needed to get inside. Needed to be alone. Needed to climb into a scalding hot shower and scrub the blood away. Scrub away the blood, and then maybe drink away the memory.
“No. Can’t do that.” He rubbed the back of his hand over his dry mouth. Couldn’t drink the memory away—that was how he’d started that slide down the last time, using alcohol to numb the pain. He’d just have to take it.
Have to live with it.
As he jogged down the stairs, the phone on his belt started to ring and vibrate. He grabbed it, just barely resisted the urge to crush it into the ground under his heel.
It was Luke. He didn’t bother answering. He didn’t want to talk to anybody, including his twin. Not right now.
As he pushed his key into the lock, he used his other hand to flip the phone open and turn it off.
There. Now nobody could call. Alone. He could be alone.
His hand shook as he tried to unlock the door. Shaking too bad. Gut felt like ice. Acid burned its way up his throat. Shaking. Cold. Fuck. Inside. Get inside.
He froze as Sara said his name.
Squeezing his eyes closed, he gave the key one last desperate twist and thank God, it unlocked. Without glancing up the steps, without even answering, he pushed the door open.
Blood roared in his ears as he started inside.
A hand touched his shoulder.
He reacted blindly and until he had her body trapped between his and the brick wall of the stairwell, he hadn’t even realized he’d moved. Now he found himself staring at Sara Davis, her dark brown eyes wide and locked on his. She gasped, a soft, pained sound and Quinn jerked back from her, letting her go so suddenly, she stumbled.
“What the hell is the matter with . . .” she started to demand, cradling her wrist to her chest. Then her words trailed off and she stared at him. “Quinn?”
Quinn wasn’t looking at her face. He was staring at her wrist. It was red, vibrant, angry and red already, it looked like a bruise was forming.
A bruise . . . he’d put a bruise on her. He’d hurt her—
The shaking got worse. His vision tunneled down until the only thing he could see was that mark, so ugly against her soft white skin. A harsh, rasping sound hit his ears and he realized he was gasping for breath, all but sobbing.
Tearing his eyes away from the mark he’d put on her, he looked into her eyes and snarled, “Get the fuck away from me.”
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No snippets over the weekend… sorry!