“Once we come to an agreement, that’s exactly what I plan on doing.”
Shock lights her eyes, but so does skepticism.
“Do you think you can be reasonable this time?” I ask her, feeling I have the upper hand via the element of surprise.
“You fucking kidnapped me,” she scoffs, the control leaving her in an instant. I watch as her knuckles turn white from how she grips the book so damn hard.
I take another stride forward to the end of the bed, and now only a few feet and a puddle of cotton linens stands between us.
Bethany takes a half step back, but when she tries to take another, her heel hits the balled-up curtain on the floor behind her. The wall is next.
“You tried to shoot me.” My words cut through the air, leaving no room for negotiation as I add, “You should be dead for trying something so stupid.”
At my last word, she steps behind the bundle of fabric at her feet, pressing her back to the wall. Her body trembles even as she utters the words, “Fuck you.”
“I’m sure a well-read woman such as yourself has a wider vocabulary to choose from,” I taunt and then nod to the book in her hand. “What is it?”
She breathes in and out, staring at me and refusing to speak.
“What book are you reading?” I ask her with less patience.
“I don’t know,” she answers, not taking her eyes from me.
“Now you’re deliberately pissing me off,” I tell her without any attempt at hiding the irritation.
“I don’t know,” she repeats, raising her voice, and her words come out hoarse. All that screaming she did caused more harm than good.
“Bullshit,” I grit out and reach for the book, pissed off that she’s being so stubborn, so resistant. With a single lunge forward, I grip the book in my hand, the other finding her hip to pin her against the wall.
“No!” she screams out at me, ripping the book away, and the thin pages on top nearly rip off without the cover to shield them. She turns her small body away from me as I press my chest against her. Barely managing to turn herself to face the wall, she cradles the book against her chest with both hands, concealing it from me. “It’s my sister’s.” Her words are more of a cry than anything else, but the tone of them holds her explanation. “It’s the last thing she gave to me,” she bellows against the wall.
“I just got it yesterday; I don’t know what book it is.” Her voice lowers as her shoulders shudder. “There’s no cover and I don’t know what it is.”
So this is what it takes to make her cower? An attempt to steal a book from her?
She’s a trapped, scared, wild creature with nowhere to run and not sure how to fight, holding on to defiance because she has nothing else. I see her so clearly.
One breath, and then another. I stand there and just let her breathe.
“I believe you. Calm down.”
“Calm down?” she shrieks at me, her voice wavering.
“Lower your voice or you’ll stay in this fucking room until I feel like letting you out.” I practically hiss the low threat, backing away slightly, but still remain close enough that she doesn’t turn around. “Let me see it,” I demand, holding out my hand. “I’ll give it back.”
She’s still and quiet for a long moment as my hand hovers in the air.
“There are times to fight and times to give in,” I say calmly and then add, “I might know what book it is.”
Thump. My heart pounds in my chest as she still doesn’t react. Hope starts to wane, but before I have to decide what to do with her, she turns to face me, and hesitates only a second more before giving me the book.
“Do you read a lot?” she asks me as I skim the first page and then turn it over to examine the back.
Before I can reply, a small sigh of amusement erupts from her lips and then she covers her mouth. I can’t help but to watch as her fingers trail down her lips before she lets her hand fall to her side. “Sorry,” she says. “That’s a ridiculous question.”
“It’s a ridiculous situation, so it’s a fair question,” I answer her evenly, letting her see how easy it could be if she just gives in.
Holding the book out to her, I shake my head and say, “I don’t anymore, and I don’t recognize it either.”
Her fingers barely brush against mine as she takes the book back, and the heat in her touch is electrifying. So magnetic, I nearly slip my hand forward, desperate for more. Her lashes flutter as she moves away from me, pulling back as much she can and wrapping her arms around herself. “What do you want from me?”