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By: Scarlett Finn

‘You want me to hurt people?’

‘No,’ Flick said. ‘Hurting them is your choice. All I’m looking for is a little attention... topless sunbathing is allowed around here, isn’t it?’

Rushe’s growl wasn’t audible, but Flick felt it all the same. Her smile spread when she knew she’d achieved her goal.

‘I’ll get the car.’

He turned and hooked her hand into his back jeans pocket. Flick bestowed her smile briefly on Rushe’s stricken almost-victim, then trotted along behind. From the strength and the breadth of his gait, Flick knew Rushe was sufficiently tormented to make every second of their next joining count.

No one would miss how dangerous Rushe was. Flick’s own first encounter with him was in voice only; she hadn’t seen his face. The deep resonance of his tone had made her stop and take notice. It was just a shame that she hadn’t heeded the instruction those words of his were giving her. Except if she had, Flick wouldn’t be with him now.

Walking into that bar, in spite of Rushe’s warning, had thrown Flick into the path of criminal depravity. But when Flick had thought her safety lost, Rushe stepped in to protect her. Until it was safe to free her from the criminals’ hideout, Rushe had kept her under his wing, and then when the time was right he cast her out. His harsh behaviour had saved her life, except the evil brought her back, twice. Each time Rushe protected her, to his own detriment, until...

Together they’d fallen in love, and at the penultimate play, they’d confessed their feelings. The truth was revealed when there was no way out; their lives were to be taken from them.

To this day Flick wasn’t sure how they’d triumphed, the odds had been against them. But liberating Rushe from his confines had ensured that she and Jansen, the undercover cop working with her, would win the day.

With most of the criminals vanquished and the others behind bars, Flick had a choice. She could remain in her mediocre life, with a sub-par job, without friends to trust, and estranged from her family, or she could be with the man she loved.

Flick was under no illusions, Rushe was a man with a chequered past, a vagrant lifestyle, and some serious trust issues. He wasn’t on any system; the system had failed him from almost the moment he was born. He’d never known who his parents were, he’d never had family, and he’d always relied on himself.

One tragic episode in Rushe’s pre-teen years had shaped everything about him. A woman he’d barely known was tortured and killed, and though Rushe had witnessed the perpetrators carry the woman away, he had been powerless to stop them.

To look at the man he was now it was difficult to believe he could ever be powerless, but he’d spent his life ensuring that he never would be again.

Flick stretched her toes in her sandals and wiggled them while trying to peek at the solid form of Rushe in the driver’s seat. He hadn’t said a word since he’d powered out of the pool parking lot. But they were nearly home now, and Flick struggled to keep her eager anticipation in check.

During the mission that brought her and Rushe together, Flick had been held for ransom. Though no one had known it at the time, Rushe had been the one to pay the demanded amount. Through the course of events, the truth was exposed. Beyond that point Flick was aware that Rushe had money. He’d told her that the job paid well, but Flick hadn’t known exactly what that meant.

His bank balance was healthy, but he lived modestly. His car wasn’t new, and while his apartment complex was respectable, he had the financial means to secure better.

When Flick had queried the abode, Rushe had told her to spend what she wanted because he didn’t care where they lived. Flick hadn’t wanted different, she just wanted to understand why a boy raised with nothing wouldn’t take full advantage of the means he now had. But his response had broken her heart.

‘It doesn’t pay to get attached to anything,’ he had said. ‘Attachment is another word for weakness.’

Men like him didn’t get attached. No matter how many times Rushe had said those words to her, he hadn’t been able to resist their bond. Once, Rushe had told her he resented their love. Flick knew he didn’t mean it. The contempt wasn’t resentment, it was fear, and men like Rushe didn’t experience fear.

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