Epilogue

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Early evening sunlight poured over the street, encasing Carter and Donovan in warmth. The day was cloudless and summer filled every mind. Buildings of staggering height lined the sidewalk, casting shadows down on the couple. They moved as if in a separate world, not seeing the things around them.

"I don't understand," Carter said, "why holding a guy's hand has such a strong effect on girls."

Donovan looked at her, his eyebrows raised, his lips curling into a smirk. She looked up at him. The bruises along her cheek had shifted to a yellow, brown color.

"Are you saying that this has no affect on you?" he asked.

He brushed his fingers along the inside of her palm before lacing his fingers between hers. Carter felt her heart lurch and her nerves begin to hum. Despite this, she kept her face blank, fighting against the rush of heat that was climbing into her cheeks.

"None whatsoever," she said, her voice controlled.

Donovan smiled and leaned close to her ear. "You forget, you can't lie to me."

His voice was low and touched with a teasing note. When he pulled away, Carter scowled, but didn't let go of his hand. A smile slowly overtook his face, the sight enticing one from her.

"You know, if you want to hold my hand," he said. "You can. It is your right with me being your boyfriend."

"A label that is still in question by my father, though he did give it to you."

"I plan on making it more permanent."

Carter smirked. "We'll see if that's possible."

In response Donovan squeezed her hand, his eyes intent upon her. The feel of his fingers locked in hers felt new and familiar all at once. It was a feeling she didn't plan on losing.

They were passing a dark alley when she spoke again.

"How's Link doing with being alone to-"

The sentence was never finished as a pair of rough hands grabbed and yanked her from Donovan's hold. She let out a cry of surprise. The sound was cut off as a hand clamped down over her mouth and nose. The other hand closed around her in a vise like grip, pulling her back into the alleyway.

Donovan rushed after her, but another muscular man appeared. He caught Donovan by the shoulder, hauling him back.

Carter struggled against her attacker, but the man was three times her size and she dangled from his hold. Still, she tried to kick at his legs and butt his face with her head. But all her efforts had little effect as the oxygen drained out of her.

Her lungs screamed for air and she could only watch as Donovan efficiently rendered his opponent unconscious.

Before the man hit the ground, he was racing for her. The world was going blurry and she felt her thoughts unraveling. The hand over her face was pulled away. Carter gasped, sucking in air. She leaned her head forward and Donovan took the opportunity to land a blow to her captor. The man released her. She went stumbling to the ground, fighting to get air into her lungs.

Her mind was slow to clear, her lungs working furiously. A second later, Donovan was by her side. He took her arm and lifted her to her feet. His face was tight with concern, but his eyes were blazing with adrenaline.

"Can you walk?" he asked, his tone urgent.

Behind him the man lay unconscious. Carter didn't glance at the prone figure. She nodded, the world still hazy.

"Good," he said. "We have to move."

They hurried to the mouth of the alley, Carter leaning on Donovan for support. As they hit the sidewalk, he kept her positioned away from the street, his body blocking hers from view.

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