I hesitate. Michelangelo is my best friend, and now my fake fiancée. Since I’ve already told him my darkest secret, I might as well show him everything. I push back the blanket and peel my shirt off my cold body. I hear his breath catch as he sees the white lines crisscrossing all over my torso. He reaches out a hand and grazes across my lower rib cage. There’s a permanent indentation where my ribs meet from where Dean threw me into a bookcase. I jerk back involuntarily as his fingertips slip into that spot.
“Hey, don’t be scared. I’m not going to hurt you,” he says gently, placing one arm behind me and pulling me back towards him. “Are there more?”
I turn around and show him the worse scars, the long white ropes that run across my back. “He took off his belt and hit me with it when I made his coffee wrong one morning. He was hung over, and said that it wasn’t strong enough, and the coffee maker was too loud.”
Michelangelo’s fingers trace the scars, and I hold the blanket to my chest, fighting off tears. I turn back around and face him again. Taking a deep breath, I drop the blanket and step out of my jeans. He takes a sharp breath as he sees the myriad of burn scars.
“Dean enjoyed burning my legs,” I say slowly. “I was wearing a pair of shorts, and working on a tropical flower garden outside. He got mad at me for wearing them, saying that he was the only one who enjoyed looking at my body, and that it was his, and no one else could see it.”
“I wondered why you quit wearing shorts and skirts,” Michelangelo jokes, trying to lighten the mood.
I flash a small, broken smile, and try to wipe away the tears that’ve started rolling down my face like fat raindrops.
He stands and wraps his arms tightly around me. “It’s okay, Brynne. Dean’s gone now. He can’t hurt you ever again. You’re safe.”
Safe. Is that why I’ve built a fortress out of illegal paintings?