Quench Me by Amy – Chapter 23

Republisher’s Note:Michelle reacts to Danny’s refusal to tell her what’s going on.

Quench Me by Amy – Chapter 23

The gym is full of people, and for that I’m glad. The thought of disappearing into the crowd and losing myself in the activity is extremely appealing to me right now. I make my way into the women’s locker room to change clothes. I find a quiet corner and sit down, removing my sandals and tossing them to the floor. I quickly find a pair of gym shorts and tank top and lay them beside me on the bench. I pull off my khakis and my red sweater and throw them haphazardly into my bag, my sandals soon following. I put on my gym clothes and lace my tennis shoes, and I’m ready to go.

Walking out of the locker room, I take a moment to look at the schedule posted on the bulletin board. There are no more kick-boxing classes scheduled this afternoon. “Just as well,” I think to myself. “At least I won’t have to see Tanner and put up with his come-ons.”

With a determination to rid my mind of Danny Santos for the evening, I head to the weight room. Music is blaring and people are talking, and I’m as inconspicuous as I’ve ever wanted to be. I see no one that I know, which reassures me, because I don’t really want to talk to anyone anyway.

I don’t know how long I’ve been here, but the crowd is starting to thin out. I’ve used practically every piece of equipment in this room except the treadmill, so when I see it open, I take advantage of it. I’m busily jogging away, when I hear Sydney, the manager of the gym talking to me.

“Michelle,” she says. “It’s almost seven o’clock, and we’re closing a little early today.”

“O.K., Syd,” I say. “I’ll change my clothes and be out of here in a second.”

In less than ten minutes I’m changed and headed out the door. There are a few cars still in the parking lot, but no people. I didn’t realize it had gotten so late while I was inside. The sun is beginning to go down and dusk is setting in.

I’m halfway to my car when I hear a voice from behind me. “Michelle, wait up.”

Shit. It’s Tanner. I didn’t see him in the gym so I was hoping that he wasn’t here at all.

“Hi, Tanner,” I say over my shoulder, not slowing down in my attempt to get to my car.

He picks up his pace and is soon directly behind me. “Where are you headed? Do you have plans?” he asks.

Does this guy ever give up? I’ve turned him down I don’t know how many times, even told him that I was seeing someone else, and still he won’t let up.

“Actually, I do,” I answer, and it’s not really a lie, because my plan is to go home and be alone.

“Come on, Michelle,” he says. “I’ve been asking for months.”

“Tanner, I’m sorry,” I say, “but I really have to be going.”

I finally get to my car and start to reach in my bag for my keys, when he grabs my arm and spins me around to face him.

“I think I deserve a few minutes of your time, especially since you totally blew me off when you were here Wednesday,” he says, and the look in his eyes makes my skin crawl.

“I didn’t mean to blow you off,” I say. “I was just in a hurry. Besides, I told you that I’m seeing someone.”

“Yeah, I know what you told me, but I haven’t seen you with anybody, so I think you’re just jerking me around,” he retorts, his grip on my arm not loosening.

I realize that I’m in trouble. We are the only two people in the parking lot, and the gym is closed, so there won’t be anyone else coming out. He has me shoved up against the side of my Mitsubishi, completely hidden from view by another large sport utility parked next to me.

“I’m not lying to you, Tanner,” I plead with him. “There really is someone else. That’s who I have plans with.” God, please let him let me go so I can go find Danny.

“Well, I guess he’ll just have to wait,” he says, as he runs an icy finger down the side of my face. He takes the same finger and pushes a strand of my hair behind my ear, the way Danny has done several times before, and I flinch at the feeling of another man’s hands touching me.

Tanner notices the flinch and tightens his grip on my arm. “Not turned on, huh?” he breathes into my face. “Maybe we should get inside my jeep and see what we can do about that,” he says, gesturing to the black jeep parked next to me.

I suddenly realize that he parked there on purpose, so that no one would be able to see us. God, he’s been planning this. My heart is about to pound out of my chest, and I think I’ll pass out from hyperventilation if he doesn’t get his hands off me soon. “You can’t pass out, Michelle,” I say silently to myself. “If you do, there’s no telling what he’ll do to you.” Why, why did I not get my keys out of my purse before I walked out of the gym? If I had, I could set my car alarm off with the remote. If I get out of this, that’s a mistake I will never make again.

Just then, I hear another car pulling into the parking lot. Realizing that this is probably my only chance to get away from him, I say, “Tanner, someone’s coming.”

“So what Michelle?” he says snidely. “We’re just talking, right?” My arm is completely immobilized by his strong grip, and his other hand is on my shoulder, pinning me tightly to the side of my car. The look in his eyes tells me that if I scream or do anything to draw attention to us, he’ll hurt me… badly.

I’m silent as I hear the car come to a stop and the door shut. Silently, I beg God to let whoever it is walk this way and see us.

Tanner’s eyes are still on me, making sure that I don’t budge, when I hear a familiar voice say forcefully, “Does somebody want to tell me what the hell is going on here?”

My eyes dart in the direction of the voice, and I know that my ears did not deceive me. It is Danny….My Danny.

“We’re just talking,” Tanner says. “Just having a little private conversation, if you know what I mean.” He’s still holding my arm, and his other hand is still on my shoulder.

Anger flares in Danny’s eyes, and I see him place his hands on his hips, the way he’s done before when he’s mad. “Oh God, please don’t let him think I’m a willing participant in this,” I silently pray. “Please let him see the fear in my eyes.”

“Is that true?” he asks, looking directly at me.

Tanner’s eyes are still glued to me, as I turn my face toward Danny, and I know that I can’t say anything. But I can’t control my fear anymore either, and a tear escapes from my eye and falls down the side of my cheek. Luckily, Tanner can only see one side of my face, so he doesn’t know that I’ve alerted Danny to what’s happening.

Danny nods, and in that simple gesture, lets me know that he understands. He walks closer to us, his eyes never leaving mine, the purpose in his strides almost audible.

“Get your hands off of her,” Danny orders Tanner as he reaches us.

“I think you better mind your own business, buddy,” Tanner says sarcastically, still holding me tight against my car. “And get out of here.”

“I think you better take my advice, buddy, and get your hands off of her,” Danny says, and with one quick motion, shoves Tanner to the ground with his left arm, and grabs me with his right, pulling me to him, and holding me tight against him.

Tanner scrambles around trying to get back on his feet. Danny kisses my forehead and asks very softly, “Are you OK?”

I nod, and he says, “Stay right here.”

He releases me from his arm, and walks toward Tanner, who is now standing up again, still stunned.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” Tanner yells at Danny.

“I’m Danny Santos,” Danny says calmly, directly in Tanner’s face.

Tanner immediately starts backing away from Danny, but Danny doesn’t relent, and now his anger is clearly evident. “That’s right, you son of a bitch… Santos. And if you ever bother Michelle again, if you ever put your filthy hands on her again, you so much as look at her again, and I’M COMING AFTER YOU! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?”

“Hey, I didn’t mean any harm,” Tanner says, suddenly repentant for his actions. “I just wanted to talk to her. That’s all. I swear.”

“You just remember what I said,” Danny says, with one last shove, as Tanner jumps into his jeep and speeds out of the parking lot.

As soon as Tanner is gone, Danny is at my side again. He puts his arms around me and I bury my face in his strong chest.

“Did he hurt you, baby?” he asks, holding me to him tighter than he ever has.

I shake my head “no”, as I feel my knees give way, and begin to drop me to the pavement. Danny drops with me and asks, “What did he do to you? God, please tell me that he didn’t do anything to you?”

My head feels like it’s been struck with an ax. I know this feeling. It’s the onset of a migraine. I manage to look up at Danny and say, “He didn’t do anything. I’m just glad you got here when you did.” I drop my head into my hands and fall against Danny.

“Is it your head, baby?” he asks and I nod. He knows exactly what to do. My gym bag is on the ground next to my car, where I dropped it when Tanner came up behind me, and he retrieves it in a flash.

I hear him digging through it, and I hear him find my bottle of pills. “Do you have a bottle of water in here?” he asks, and I nod again.

He finds it quickly, and hands it to me, along with a pill. I swallow the pill as fast as I can, as Danny asks me, “Rick isn’t home, is he?”

My head feels like it’s about to explode, but I manage to say, “No.”

“Well, then you’re coming home with me,” he says. “And I don’t want any arguments.”

I don’t even try to argue with him. He helps me up from the pavement and walks me to his car. He opens the door and gently sits me inside. “Do you want me to lean the seat back?” he asks, and again, all I can manage is a nod.

He leans me back so that I’m reclining, and before I know it, he’s behind the wheel. I fall asleep as he drives, knowing that I’m safe with him, and that he will take care of me. I’ll deal with everything else in the morning.

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