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PETER WINCED AT the stinging pain as Maddie untied him. She unwound the loops around his chest, waist, and finally his arms. Blood rushed back into his limbs, burning like scalding water. The coppery tang in his mouth left him yearning for a drink of water. He raised a shaky hand and pointed, his index finger missing its nail.

"Your finger!" Her eyes scanned the rest of his body. "What else did he do to you?" Maddie's eyes fell on his unzipped trousers and the blood soaking the crotch of his navy-blue slacks. She gasped.

"It's not ... as bad ... as—ow-ow-ow ... it looks." He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and managed to speak less clipped. "He was more a butcher—than a baker ... though he did like it a little rough." Peter cradled his ribs and coughed, a dribble of blood running off his chin. He noticed the concern and a sparkle of interest in Maddie's eyes before she peeled away her gaze.

She blushed. He cupped her chin and looked into her eyes. "You saved me. Thank you."

Maddie helped Peter to his feet, a concerned nurse taking her time, his strength greatly diminished. She stood on the tips of her toes, and pecked him on the cheek.

This time his face warmed, and he asked, "After a visit to the hospital, and a week or two of healing, I wonder if you—eh, might—want to go to dinner, with me? Maybe catch a movie?"

Maddie's laughter wiped away his hope for any relationship forming in his mind.

"Like a movie can compare with what we just went through." She winked at him. "But I'd love dinner."


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