"Stay down," Ryan ordered, watching Stanfield walk off, not one damned look back. He kept his hand on Elise's shoulder, slid it up through her hair, taking a deep fistful of her hair and clenching his hand around it. She was shaking. She landed a good one across his back, something he was going to feel tomorrow, something he was already feeling, but she'd fallen hard, and hearing that asshole rip into her, he knew it had taken whatever breath she had.
Mel knelt down, quietly questioning her, something Elise didn't appear to understand or hear. "I'm all right," she said it in a strange thin voice, and shifted, trying to get to her feet. "I have to go. I have to explain."
"We need to talk about that." He lifted her easily and held on, and she let him hold her, blank, boneless.
"Ryan," Mel began carefully, "we need to go."
Elise put her hands against his chest and pushed back, pushed hard, smacking against him. No way she could shove him aside but her intent was clear, and, stung, he let go. "Get away from me!" she hissed.
She started to get into the car, stumbled and leaned against it with a long gasp, Mel coming up beside her, Elise shaking her head. "Leave me alone. Both of you, leave me alone."
He knew her, knew every little move, knew she wasn't anywhere near fine, moved in and blocked her from getting in the car. She wasn't getting past him. Trying to get through, she was upset but he had to try, "Where the hell do you think you're going? Come on Elise, he doesn't give a shit about you! Don't go running after him, give me a chance to work something out, but damn it don't chase him down!"
Leaning back against the white fender of that expensive car, mud on her dress, right up in his face, yell first and then walk it back, that was his girl, yelling at him now. "Back off, Ryan! I told you we're done and I meant it then and I mean it now! Get out of my way and stay out of it!"
Elise yanked open the door, staggered into the car, rain all over the dash and seats and the key, she kept her head down and started the car. Backed it up, hitting the wall on the way out, and burned rubber, headed in the wrong direction, accelerating the wrong way down a one way street.
He wanted to go after her, make her see how wrong she was, take her somewhere, wrap his arms around her and keep her safe. He wanted to hunt down Stanfield and kill the son of a bitch. He'd waited so damned long, knew it was coming, but he'd underestimated how hard it would be when he saw it tear her apart. His shoulders hurt, pain climbing up through his neck, misery so powerful he had to fight to stand there..
Mel placed a cool hand on his arm, and Ryan leaned into her, torn, trying to hang on, trying to convince himself she'd be back, she needed him. She'd be back. Despite the heat, he shivered, and stood there, stuck, speared, pinned and bleeding.
"Ryan," Mel urged again gently, "this isn't your fight. Come on, we have to go."