XV

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"Charlie," Fury said, finally catching her at the bar, slowly drinking her glass of whiskey. She looked at him from the corner of her eye, setting her glass down and sighing heavily. 

"What do you want?" she spat venomously. After their fight, the two had been ignoring each other. Well, Charlie had been ignoring Fury. 

"Can we please just talk? I don't want to be on bad terms with you."

"Nothing you say is gonna change anything, Fury, you made it clear already," she spoke, turning to face him, glaring at him with a fire in her eye. "Your club will always be first on your list. I get it. There's no other explanation needed."

"That's--"

"Not true?" she cut in, her eyes burning with rage. "Don't lie. You've known these men longer than me, we're only bound by blood."

"Charlie, that's not true--"

"Would you stop!" she finally snapped, the bar going quiet as she stood to her feet. "Then what is it? What's the truth?"

"Quit with your tantrum and sit down," he grumbled, taking a seat in the barstool beside hers, waiting for her to sit as well. Slowly she sat, Ryan quick to pour them both a drink. "You don't know the real reason I left home." She wanted to bash his skull in but remained calm, drinking her whiskey slowly. "Dad had caught me sneaking out a few times, he'd yell at me, threaten me, give me a kick and a slap and that'd be it so I kept doing it. Every time I snuck out I tried to find a way to leave, for both of us to leave. So we could be somewhere safe. I was so damn close to finding a place, but dad caught whiff of what I was doing and he threatened me, he kicked me out."

He downed the entire glass of whiskey, his eyes filling with sorrow and guilt as he stared into the empty glass. He turned his head to look at her, his eyes filled with tears. She stared at him wide-eyed, never once witnessing his brother cry. "He told me that if I didn't leave that night, he was going to kill you, Charlie. Trust me, everything in my body told me not to leave that night but I was so damn scared. I didn't want you to die, I didn't want to be the reason you died. I was supposed to leave that night and I did but I snuck into the house to give you my cell number after I bought the thing that night and I left."

He grabbed her drink and downed it as well, sighing at the burn. "I didn't want to leave you Charlie," he said quietly, his voice breaking as he fought back the tears. "I should've told you, but I was scared he'd find out, I didn't want to risk you getting hurt. I shouldn't have left. I'm sorry, for that. And I'm sorry for not going after you myself, I should've gathered a larger group of men and gone with Frank but, in that moment, I trusted him more with you than I did myself."

They sat beside each other, dead silent for a moment. Charlie was slowly processing everything, her eyes pooling with tears and then spilling down her cheeks. She sniffled harshly, choking back sobs. Swiftly, she leaned over and hugged him tightly, wrapping her arms around his neck and trying desperately not to make a scene. "I'm sorry," she whispered, feeling extremely awful about the entire situation. She acted like a spoiled brat without even hearing him out first.

"Don't apologize. I'm sorry I left you with dad, I'm sorry I left you to fend for yourself. I was a coward."

"You probably saved my life, dad wouldn't have gone back on his word," she said, pulling away and looking him in the eye. "You should've said that from the beginning, jackass. That's kind of important information to share."

He chuckled lightly, blinking his tears away and smiling his usual smile. "You're right, I'm not sure what stopped me. I guess I just wanted to be a macho man."

They both laughed together, enjoying yet another round of whiskey.

"So," he said, nudging his elbow into her shoulder. He wiggled his eyebrows at her. "You got a crush on Frank?"

She couldn't help the sudden heat that erupted on her ears. More like I'm insanely in love with the man. She cleared her throat. "What makes you say that?"

"I see the way you look at him," he commented, growing serious. "I see how he looks at you, through that damn mask. He ain't ever acted the way he does around you with anyone else."

"I'm sure you're overthinking it," she chuckled lightly. "He's probably one of the types that's like you deserve better and then will reject me. I'd rather save myself from the heartache."

He chuckled too, nodding his head in agreement. "True, he is. But, if anyone's stubborn enough to change his ways, it's you."

She only chuckled, no longer sure of what she should say. It was true, she could no longer deny her feelings, even after all the troubles she's had with men in the past, even after all the promises to herself, she still managed to fall for him. 

After downing three more rounds, Charlie stumbled over to the Garage. "Bonjour, Frank! The Charlie-train has arrived," she cheered, leaning on one of the cars for a long time, trying to find her balance.

"Are you drunk?"

She looked up at him and smiled goofily, hiccuping. "No, of course not," she slurred, trying to make her way towards him but losing her balance.

Frank was at her side in an instant, catching her before she could even begin to fall. "The hell are you doin' woman?" he grumbled.

"Don't be so mean," she groaned, leaning her full weight on him, but, to him, she was light as a feather. "Me and Fury...are okay."

"Good to hear," he said insensitively. "Go to your room already, I got work to finish."

"You ever been in love...Frank?" He nearly dropped her at the question, his heart rate suddenly quickening. 

"Get up, will ya?" he grumbled, trying to let go of her so she would stand on her own, only to catch her yet again as she began to fall over. "Hey--" he stopped, looking down at her to see she had knocked out completely.

Sighing heavily, he picked her up as if she was a piece of glass, carrying her gently in his arms bridal style. He practically cradled her to his chest with one arm, using the other to shut the lights off, close the garage, lock the doors, and climb up the stairs. His heart was bounding, threatening to burst out of his chest. He was careful not to disturb her, taking his steps carefully and being as quiet as he possibly could. 

He entered her room and gently laid her in her bed, removing her shoes and pulling the covers over her. He stared down at her sleeping face, finding that she looked even more breathtaking than ever before. 

He turned to leave but stopped when he heard her shuffle. "You're a good person, Frank."

He left quickly, saving himself from any further embarrassment. It was already irritating enough he had to be feeling this way.


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