“How did you go through life with that name…?” Malcolm’s eyes flashed with happiness. “I mean, if I wrote it, people would crucify me. What were your parents thinking?” Summer froze. “I mean, do they love you at all?” Malcolm chuckled. Summer’s feet refused to move, and her arms lay limp at her side. “Summer?” Malcolm’s smile faded. “Sum?” The sound of her nickname spoken by Malcolm did her in. She desperately fought the mounting tears. Malcolm stared at her. “It’s not your name you’re upset about, is it?” Summer clenched her jaw and shook her head. “I’m sorry.” His voice was low and modulated. She nodded, looking at Malcolm, and wanting, for the first time ever, to have someone make it all okay. To have him make it all okay. Malcolm grew quiet. They stood there for whole minutes.“I’m sorry if I touched on a sore subject. Really.” Summer stared at him—this man who had everything except the answer she needed. How could he be so closed off? How could he care so little about the pain of another living creature? He stepped forward then, as if reading her mind, took her hand gently, and leaned over, speaking quietly into her ear. “It’s not that I don’t care.” Those few words found a place deep in Summer’s soul. Malcolm stood tall, and Summer’s eyes followed him. He reached out and stroked her cheek. “But I’ve got nothing more to give than today.”
For Mature Young Adults/New Adults:
“What if the Devil doesn’t know he’s the Devil?” I ask. Phoenix shakes his head, confused. “What?” “Why? Why does the bad I’ve done have to define me?” “Because you’re a murdering sadist,” he snaps back at me. “No, I am not.” I clench my teeth, standing my ground. I am tired of these labels I am suddenly wearing. “I never, I mean never knew what happened to those girls I led to the Lettings. I am so very sorry I played any role in this vile enterprise in which we exist, but I was clueless. Maybe I’m ignorant, or downright stupid, but I would rather have been dead than be responsible for hurting anyone. And before you go throwing malicious names around, maybe it’s time you consider maybe you’re wrong...? What if you kidnapped and tortured me in the name of a revolution that is wrong?” “It’s not,” he argues.
“But I didn’t think I was wrong, either.” I am exasperated. “Don’t you get it?” He takes a step back away from me, but I go on. “We are completely turned around. The only information we’re fed is from a corrupt enterprise. What makes you think your information is any more accurate than mine?” For the first time ever, he looks terrified. I let a moment go by before I gesture for Raven to come over, and she hurries to my side. “This is Raven,” I say, slowly, talking to Phoenix. “She’s your sister.”
He abandons my button to run his fingers across my lips once more. I try to remember to breathe. As he reaches down for the next button, my breathing becomes shallow and rapid. His eyes are locked on mine as he works my shirt. His hands are level with my breasts, and he moves his head to the side, questioning me with his glance, as if he’s waiting for me to stop him. I don’t. He moves to the next button, and I close my eyes. I feel dizzy and unsteady on my feet—but in a whole different way than before. He has me unbuttoned almost to my bellybutton, although I’m still covered. Still staring into my eyes, he finishes unbuttoning my shirt. He begins to open it slowly. “Phoenix…” I reach out and grab his hands, instinctually.
He stops. I am both terrified and enthralled. He raises his eyebrows. “No?” I don’t answer. The heartbeat pulsing in my head drowns out my thoughts. “Ron?” I let his hands go and breathe deeply. I close my eyes for a moment and then open them. I smile nervously, biting the inside of my cheek. I take another breath and manage to nod slightly. He smiles at me and reaches out for my shirt again. He opens it gently. “Phoenix…” I am sweating and my breathing is shallow, as my body waits for his touch. His eyes dart down from my eyes to my opened shirt. “You are so incredibly beautiful—”