I follow a little behind him so I’m only able to see his broad back and shoulders. Not that I even come up to his shoulders. He’s big. Like, really big. It’s even more noticeable as we walk through a doorway and he takes up most of it. He’s easily double my size and could overpower me so quickly. This is how all those stupid horror movies start, and now I’m realizing there’s no one to hear my screams. Even the girls I came with are long gone by now. How did I get myself into this mess?

“Maybe I should—”

“I’ve got you,” he says, cutting me off. “Besides, the women you came with left you. You shouldn’t be out at night all alone in the dark.”

I try to swallow the knot that begins to form in my throat. He’s more right than he realizes. I’m always alone. Even when living in a home filled with people.

“I don’t know if being with a complete stranger in their house is any safer.”

His grip on my wrist tightens for a moment, then he loosens his grip.

“You’ll stay,” he commands again.

It seems like everything that comes out of his mouth is an order. The silence that falls between us makes me uncomfortable and unsteady. I run through my mind, trying to think of something to say.

“Well, they know I’m in here,” I blurt out, reminding him he can’t do something crazy.

This is the first place they’ll come looking for me. If they come looking for me. I’m sure if I don’t show up for classes, someone will know I’m missing. Right? Oh my god. It would probably take a week before someone even noticed I was gone. I swallow hard again.

He only makes a grunting sound like he doesn’t care. I tug on my hand, but he doesn’t let go of it.

“Be careful. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.” He stops in front of a set of double doors and opens them before guiding me inside. How is this man scary and tender all at the same time? That doesn’t even make sense.

When we enter the room, my mouth falls open. Every wall is covered in bookcases. Leather-bound spines fill every space. There’s even a spiral staircase leading to the second level. It’s something I’ve only ever seen in movies. It’s breathtaking.

“Wow,” I whisper. “I could live in this room.” The hand on my wrist tightens again, and he makes a sound of approval.

“You like it?” he asks, and I feel his thumb brush across my wrist. It sends a thrill up my spine.

“Like is putting it mildly.”

He releases my wrist and I feel strange about not having him hold on to me anymore. But I swear I can still feel his touch on my skin lingering like a brand. I use my other hand to rub the place where he touched me and it’s warm.

When I look back I see he’s moved all the way across the room. With a flip of a switch the room is plunged into darkness, but within seconds the fireplace comes to life. It fills the room with a warm glow and makes me feel peaceful. The man visibly relaxes after he’s done this, and it somehow calms the whole room.

“I’ll go get the first-aid kit,” he says before he bolts from the room and closes the doors behind him.

How did he move so fast? I’m left standing there, torn between wanting to explore the room and also thinking that maybe I should get the heck out of here. I close my eyes to get myself together the best I can. But before I’ve taken a step, he’s coming through the double doors with a transparent case in his hand. His head is down so I can’t see his face.

“Come sit down.” He motions me over to a seat.

My feet are rooted to the spot as I watch him move across the room. I’m unable to look away from him. I’m frozen in place because I don’t know what to do. Should I let him take care of me? Something inside of me is telling me that he’s safe, but my mind isn’t so sure.

“Now,” he commands, and this time my feet move on their own.

I go to him and sit down in the chair he motioned to. He falls to his knees beside me and finally I get a little view of his face. It’s not much, and as I try to get a better look at it he reaches out and touches my arm. I suck in a breath as his fingers glide across my skin.

“Sorry. Did that hurt?”

I shake my head and he continues. The cut doesn’t hurt, but his touch is something altogether different. It’s like he’s warming me from the inside, and it tingles in a good way.

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