I made sure my face was pressed into his neck so he couldn’t see the blood I could taste in my mouth. I looked at Danny, “GET HIM THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!”

Danny ignored me and grabbed Mitch. He punched him and kicked him. “YOU FUCKING TOUCH HER! I’LL KILL YOU! I’LL KILL YOU, YOU SON OF A BITCH!” Mitch was lifting a foot off the ground with every boot. Danny grabbed him and started to punch him again. I screamed, “STOP!” I pushed Lochlan out into the hallway. Gerry grabbed Lochlan by the arm, dragging him back. I pulled Danny off Mitch as the bouncers made their way in. One grabbed Danny and tossed him. I pressed myself against Danny, pinning him as best I could, to the wall. He was vibrating and massive. I wouldn’t stand much of a chance holding him back.

“He’s not worth it. Think of the press.”

Danny shouted, “You get him the fuck outta my face or I’ll finish this shit! You fucking come near my sister again and I’ll ki…” I slapped my hand over his mouth.

I turned to the bouncer who winced when he looked at my swelling face, “I’m going to take them all out the back and wait for the police there. Take him out the front and tell some cops to come to the back. Don’t tell anyone else we went that way.”

He nodded, pinning Mitch to the floor. He was screaming at me but I didn’t hear him. All I saw was the psycho in the hallway being pinned by four bouncers and Gerry. He was winning against the other five men.

I walked slowly to him. I grabbed his face and focused his black eyes on mine, “Hey!”

He saw my face and jerked with rage, but I squeezed hard, “Stop. Think about the band, and the press, and the fact that if you kill him, I’ll miss you while you’re in jail. I need you to stay with me. Don’t leave me.”

He was shaking with savage fury, but he stopped fighting the bouncers.

I looked at the corn-fed guy next to me, “Take him out back—fast.” They dragged him down the hall. I followed, dragging Danny with me. Gerry wrapped an arm around me, “You okay?”

I shook my head, “Nope, but let’s worry about that later.”

We stood out in the cool night air. It felt like it would snow any second. Lochlan was wrapped around me, completely. The bouncers stayed with us, guarding the back door.

“I need to kill him.”

I nodded, “I know.”

He lifted my face but I pushed it down into his chest again, “Just wait, babe. The ambulance will come and clean me up and you’ll be better. Don’t look.”

Gerry grabbed Danny’s arm and dragged him over to Lochlan. “You both need to stay calm. Erin is okay, douche-bag psycho is with the bouncers. The cops will be here any second. Let’s stay calm. This is probably going to hit the press, if anyone finds out who we are.” He grabbed Danny’s crazed-looking face, “You have to give the statement, do you understand? If you want to be the manager, you have to talk to the press if they come.”

I was confused, “There isn’t really, like press here. It’s North Dakota.”

He gave me a look. I got that he was using it as means to calm them down.

A police car came around the corner, all lit up. The pair of them got out and ran towards us.

I sighed with relief when I saw them. We gave our statements, of course they’d heard of the case a few years before, with Mitch and me. Lochlan didn’t even want to let me go to give my statement, but they needed pictures of my face, arms, and shirt.

Dad’s truck parked in behind the cop car. He came running over. I started to cry when I saw him. He wrapped around me, “Shhhh. Baby girl, that boy is going away for a long time.” He stroked my head and helped me to the ambulance.

The young cop gave me a weak smile, “If it makes you feel any better, he got his ass handed to him by the bouncers. You know how men are in Grand Forks, about women getting hit.”

I frowned, “It doesn’t make me feel better. He’s a sick man; you need to put him in an institution.”

My dad shook his head, “He’s not getting the cushy insanity plea. Fuck that. He’s serving maximum time in a maximum facility. I’ll make sure—I know the judge.”

The cop winked at my dad, “We’ll make sure he resists arrest.” He turned and left. I felt sick. I looked at my dad, “That’s illegal.” Did I honestly care about my attacker being beaten? I knew the answer, I did.

His eyes were frightening, “The justice system doesn’t always touch the right spot. Sometimes you need to be outside of the system a little, to make sure someone pays.”

I was confused; my father always seemed so just. He was an honest lawyer with a strict conscience.

His look softened, “When you have kids and they get hurt, God forbid it, you let me know how this feels. I would break every law in the world to make you safe.”

I nestled into his chest and tried to forget the way Mitch’s eyes had looked.

Chapter Fourteen

Remember me

The flight home was uncomfortable. I was stressed about flying but so exhausted, I couldn’t give it the effort it wanted. Every time I fell asleep I relived the scene in the bathroom. So I stayed awake and listened as the flight attendants basically offered everything from crackers to a blow job. Lochlan was in the worst mood ever. I was wearing a pound of makeup and sunglasses to hide the fading, black eye. I leaned over to Lochlan, “You know, being with you all and wearing these glasses, I look like a junky groupie.”

He gave me a fake smile.

I sighed, “Can you calm down, please? You aren’t the one who got beat, so you have no right to be this shitty about it.”

He looked sick. It was wearing thin on me. I sighed and laid my seat back and ignored the world.

When we got home he had to run off and deal with the band business. I was forbidden to leave the apartment, and he’d called three times already to check on me.

I pulled my laptop out and started to check out my emails and random stuff. I had notifications about being tagged in pictures. I clicked the link. My hand shot to my face. Serena and the mean girls had tagged me in about ten photos. Each one was Lochlan and Gerry and the girls. I leaned forward, zooming in to see that as Lochlan was signing Serena’s breasts, his phone was lit up. I could see the word PRINCESS on it from the angle the shot was taken.

My stomach sunk. He was signing boobs and I was being assaulted. It made me think about the thing Mitch had said, my pictures with Lochlan on the net.

I Googled Lochlan Barlow and clicked images. I sat there in the weak moment and scrolled down, one after another of him signing, kissing, and rocking the crowd.

I knew they existed, I knew how it was. I had no right to be angry. I wanted to stop looking but it was impossible. I Googled Lochlan Barlow Girlfriend. The images filled the screen. Me with no makeup, out for a sweaty run. The blogger actually had the decency to add that “Must be able to suck a watermelon through a garden hose to land a hottie bad boy like Lochlan” and then pasted perfect pictures of him everywhere else. He was posing and dressed nicely.

Air got harder to get all the way into my chest, as the pictures got worse. Me eating in my bathing suit at the pool at my parents’ country club when I was fifteen; me eating a whole sub in a window of a deli; me screaming at Loch in an alley; my stomach hanging out a little bit as we left a restaurant with a caption that said “Lochlan trapped by pregnancy”. I gagged. There were few pictures that looked nice. Mostly they were hideous. I Googled my name, Erin Benson. But every page that came up was Lochlan Barlow’s girlfriend, Erin Benson.

I got up and pulled on my sweats. I tied my hair back in a ponytail and threw on my runners, transferring my mace from my jeans to my sweats, and left the apartment.

My feet hit the pavement with fury. I wasn’t an ugly girl, I was a normal girl. My long, silky, blonde hair was my best feature. My pale skin that never tanned and my short stature were not my best features. At the wrong angle my nose could look big and my lips were a bit too fat for my small face. But there wasn’t anything so hideous as the cameras suggested, was there? Was I that horrid girl in the alley, screaming at him and raging like a jealous bitch? Was I not worthy of him?

I shook my head and ran harder along the Charles River Reservation. It was my favorite five-mile run; I always ran to a park along the way and turned around. But this time I paced, catching my breath. The air was cold and the day was ending. I sat on a bench overlooking the water.

I was vanishing. A montage of images floated through my mind. I was vanishing. I wasn’t Erin Benson, law student and soon-to-be lawyer. I was Loch’s girl, what was her name again? Who knows, but she treats him like shit and eats too much…

I saw the irrational thoughts for what they were. But the petty bitch inside of me, that hated the self-conscious, little sniveler I could be, took over. She pointed out that I wasn’t a weak little bitch. I needed to see myself the way Serena had in school. I had fought back when Mitch attacked me. I had called Dad for help. I was out for a run, against Loch’s orders, and not even letting Mitch take my safety from me again. I knew he was locked up tight. My safety came from inside of me. I was strong and no asshole, crazy guy was going to take that from me. But neither was a bad-boy lead singer. It was me that controlled my universe.

I grabbed at my curly hair, and hated the fact I’d become his fucking doormat. My first instincts about him had been right. He served me up, ordered my drinks, but drank from them, like he was letting me know he owned them. He owned me. He was charming and beautiful, and I didn’t believe I deserved a boy like that, not a normal girl like me.

Was he really so perfect though? His behavior was possessive and psychotic. He was a playboy and I was buying into it all. I was convincing myself I was lucky to have him, because he was magical at something. Like the pied piper, he could lead all women to their ruination.

In my mind, my strength and courage were nothing, compared to the star he was becoming.

A horrid resolve and a terrible attitude started to form in my mind. I got up and walked home, not a new person but an old one. When I got to the apartment, they weren’t back. I took the time to grab all his things and move them out of my room. I needed my space back. I needed a backbone. The reflection of the huge ring on my finger in the mirror, made me stop. I ran my finger over it and pulled it off. I placed it on my bedside table, and pulled on a cute black skort and a white blouse. I did my makeup, straightened my hair, and walked down to the bar. The bouncer gave me a funny look, “We don’t open for a couple hours,”