Everything’s a blur. The rain pummels me, soaking me to the bone. Curled in a child’s pose on the cold, drenched pavement, I’m dazed, confused, unable to move. People clamber around me, shouting, “Get up. Get out of the way.”
I’m caught in an onslaught of footfalls and raindrops. Finally, I manage to squat and a sharp burning sensation stabs my knee. Wincing, I glance down. There’s a big rip in my tights, the hole the size of a silver dollar, and a nasty scrape shining through it. The rain mixes with the blood, creating crimson tributaries that make it look worse than it is. Hot tears join the rain and stream down my face. I hug my knees to my chest. The throb of the skinned one worsens, and I begin to sob, not caring about what people think of me because they don’t care at all.
“Get the fuck out of my way, asshole!” another voice barks, rising above the chaos. One vaguely familiar.
“Jesus, you’re hurt.” The voice is fraught with alarm. “C’mon, Butterfly, let me help you up.”
On my next shuddering breath, someone lifts me to my feet. Shivers shake my entire body, partly because I’m so cold and wet. But mostly because I’ve been rescued by my dashing, unexpected hero. Roman Hurst.
Holding a massive black umbrella in one hand, he pulls me into him with his free arm so that we’re both under its protective canopy. Face to face. So close our bodies touch.
“What are you doing here?” I stammer.
“You left your phone.”
Uh-oh. Did I accidentally leave it on and it rang? Did he uncover my real identity?
“Can you walk?” he asks, stopping me in my thoughts. Concern burns bright in his good eye.
I glance down at my bloody knee. Still stinging, it feels stiff, but it’s not anything major. “Yes, I’m fine. I need to get home.”
“There’s no fucking way you’re taking the subway in your condition. You’re bleeding and shivering.”
“It’s only a few stops,” I protest, my teeth clattering as people clamor around us, making a mad dash to the entrance of the subway. “Can I have my phone back?”
Shit. He knows who I really am. But how?
He tilts up my chin with his thumb, his touch so tender. So unlike the violent rain pellets all around us. A ribbon of warmth uncurls inside me as his gaze stays on mine.
“What happens to butterflies in the pouring rain?”
I know. Out of curiosity, I once googled that question.
“If they don’t find shelter, they die.”
“Hold on to me, Butterfly.”
On my next heartbeat, I’m leaning into him, his free arm draped around my shoulders, gimping back to his studio like a lame puppy. Every step hurts.
And so will the truth.