“I didn’t know about your family,” she says, her voice raspy, affected. As if she really gives a damn. “God, Chad, I didn’t know. I promise you, I wasn’t involved. I’ll help you. Tell me what to do and I’ll help.”
I want to believe her. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I climb into the truck and shut the door. “Don’t talk. It’s only going to rub salt in wounds neither of us need irritated right now.”
I don’t look at her. I can’t look at her. My fingers tighten on the steering wheel. “No,” I say sharply. “You do not understand.” I drive around back to a twelve-unit building, the lot deserted except for us, which is good and bad: We’re alone, but we can’t exactly get lost in a crowd, either. Killing the engine in a spot in front of our door, I grab the bags from behind the seat. “Stay here and watch for my sign. I don’t want us lingering in the open together.” I don’t wait for her reply, exiting quickly and unlocking our room before motioning her forward.
She doesn’t miss a beat, hurrying out of the vehicle with another bag in tow and the hoodie in her hand, darting past me and inside. I follow her, kicking the door shut.
“Lock it,” I order, tossing the bags on the full-sized bed with a sunken mattress and some sort of blue blanket on top. Eyeing the window beyond a wobbly-looking wooden table, I cross the cracker box–sized room, with its scuffed walls and ugly, worn gray carpet and attempt to seal the gap in the curtains that refuse to stay shut. Grabbing one of the two chairs by the table, I force the material together, using the wooden chair back to hold it in place, and then turn on the air conditioner, which roars to life like a hundred-year-old Chevy.
Hands on my hips, I stand there a moment with my back to Gia, dreading the next few hours alone with her in this room. Wondering what it is about her that makes me want to believe her. Questioning why I never doubted Meg. Why I believed she was helpless and alone, when she was a conniving bitch.
Determined to control the here and now, I grab the unused tie hanging by the curtains and turn to find Gia sitting on the edge of the bed. She gives the tie, and my expression, one look and stands up. “What’s that for?”
“I need a shower.”
“I think there are much larger towels in the bathroom.”
My lips quirk at the silly remark. “Always a smartass.”
She inhales and lets it out, folding her arms in front of her chest. “Sorry. It’s a nervous thing. My dad said my mother did it too, and, well, you’re really making me nervous.”
Her admission feels intense and sincere in a way I don’t question as authentic, real in a way I find few people I’ve known ever are real about anything, let alone their insecurities. And yet she just made it to a man calling himself her captor. It’s a level of trust I won’t give her, and that I don’t deserve to be given. I advance on her. She backs up, hitting the mattress after one step and tumbling onto it with a yelp. I’m there before she can get up, clamping my legs around her knees. She pulls herself to a sitting position, shoving against my stomach. “You’re not tying me up.”
“It’s a necessary evil. You aren’t calling Sheridan.”
“I hate that man,” she says vehemently. “I told you that.”
“Even if I believe you—”
“Stop calling me a liar.”
“Truth or fiction, it changes nothing. Safe is better than sorry.” I reach for her hands, but she keeps squirming, desperately trying to get away. “That’s it,” I murmur roughly, shackling her wrists and laying her flat on the mattress. I follow her down, straddling her hips and pressing her hands over her head.
“No!” she yells, still trying to shift or twist with zero success before giving up and glaring at me. “Get off of me. Get off!”
“Calm down, Gia.”
“Calm down? Have those two words ever been spoken to a woman successfully? You’re on top of me! I’m not going to calm down.”
“I’m not going to hurt you.”
“I don’t think you’re going to rape or murder me. I think someone could come through that door while I’m tied up, and I’ll be helpless.”
“I’ll handle whoever comes through that door.”
“Not if you’re in the shower. And you told me not to trust you.”
I stare at her. She stares back at me, and a battle of wills ensues, crackling with challenge that slowly shifts to something darker, hotter, and I reply with a low, rough tone. “Maybe I’ve changed my mind,” I murmur, and suddenly I’m staring at her lips, her full, kissable, tempting lips. A mix of adrenaline and lust rushes through me, barely contained. My mouth lowers, my need to lose myself in this moment, in this woman a fierce beast that does not want to be ignored.
“Don’t,” she whispers urgently.
“Don’t what?” I ask, lingering a breath away from touching her face, so close I can almost taste her.
“Kiss me again. Because I’ll kiss you back, and we’ll both hate me for it.”
She’s right. But I still want to kiss her.
“Please,” she whispers.
“Please kiss you? Please tie you up and fuck you like you’ve never been fucked? Please make you come so many times you’ll never forget who you fucked if you fuck me over?”
“Please don’t do any of those things.”