“We can definitely go up on the roof,” he said. “It would even be safer than staying down here, when you think about it.”
She paused, cocked her head. “You’re smiling again.”
“You make me so happy.”
She snorted a laugh, which was quite possibly the cutest thing he’d ever heard.
“You know, I think you ran out of words,” he said, earning another small smile. “You certainly used up a lot on me today with all the constructive feedback. Which I appreciated very much.”
“Mm hmm. Happens to guys all the time. We have less words per day than women. I know this for a fact, saw it on TV once.”
Ali darted the tip of her tongue across her lips, eyes flitting between him and the world outside. Like anything was happening out there. “I don’t have a penis. In case you hadn’t noticed.”
“I had. I’m very grateful, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
“Actual y, I had.”
He nodded, shuffled a little closer. Close enough so he could see the goose pimples on the side of her neck rise when she felt his breath there. And she stil didn’t move away. “Thought you might have.”
Outside, the sun sank, slowly turning the world to gold, then gray, then black. A solid black these days, being minus electricity. The kind of darkness you only used to get out in the middle of nowhere.
The first star twinkled hopefully through the slice of life the curtains afforded.
“Make a wish,” he said.
Daniel dragged over his backpack and cracked a can of soup. She had to be hungry by now, no matter how taken she was by the scenery. He fished out a clean spoon and filled it up with the cold and gelatinous but nutritional goop. With all due ceremony, he held it in front of her pretty pink mouth.
“Time to eat. Open,” he said and she did, making him feel all sorts of good. Purring in her ear and rubbing up against her wasn’t out of the question. Though he doubted she’d appreciate it. He alternated spoonfuls, one for her, one for him. It satisfied some primal caveman thing in him to feed her.
He wanted to do all sorts of things for her but, for now, he was stuck with what she would allow. The whole quiet, meditative state seeped into him and everything was good and mellow. He could roll with this.
His girl sat, frowning out at the horizon. Little lines sat between her brows and her concentration was absolute. It seemed like she was daring herself not to blink or turn away. Forcing herself to face up to the world. During the day there had been distractions, but not so now. She struggled but didn’t back down. The least he could do was to be there for her.
When her hand strayed back to rest on his knee he stayed perfectly stil and just let her. He doubted she knew she had reached out to him. That she touched him. His dick more than realized, the hair-trigger her presence inspired kicking in.
He thought about cold water. Ice-cold water. It almost worked.
Soup gave way to bottled water. Then he cracked open a bottle of fifteen-year-old scotch he had been saving up for just such an occasion. A celebration of being alive, drawing breath, being together. A celebration of her hand on his knee. “Drink.”
She put her lips to the bottle, and he tipped, sending the very fine amber liquor straight down her throat.
Ali sputtered and grabbed at the bottle, shoving it away before covering her mouth with a hasty hand.
“Damn it, sorry. I didn’t think.” Daniel set the precious bottle aside and rose up on his knees, pried her hands from her face. Hard to see much in the darkness, but her eyes were glossy. She choked and laughed in equal amounts. At least he’d made her laugh. “I should have warned you it wasn’t water.”
“Holy shit, Dan. It sure wasn’t.”
“I’m sorry, I was trying not to ruin your Zen silence overcoming fear thing. I thought we could have a drink, you know?” He settled back on his haunches, carefully wiped away the shining trail of tears on her cheeks. Second day in a row he had made her cry. At least this time it was due to well-aged scotch firing up her throat and not a panic attack. Or he hoped it wasn’t a panic attack. Fuck it, the thought made him panic. “You’re okay right? You’d tell me if you weren’t? I mean, I know you’re spooked, but you’re not too bad, are you?”
“I’m fine. Be calm.” There was a smirk in her voice. He could taste it.
A low chuckle escaped her and her hands patted down her t-shirt, most likely an attempt to brush off the spilled scotch. He did his best not to get distracted by the lure of her jiggling tits.
He was so easy for her, so head over heels it was ridiculous.
“Be calm,” he growled. “Don’t quote me to me, missy.”
“I’m fine, Dan.” She smiled, the white of her teeth cueing him in to the fact in the dim light. “You don’t have to worry about me. I can keep myself together, despite earlier demonstrations to the contrary.”
“I know. You’re strong. Self-sufficient. I get that,” he murmured, and she looked back to him. She was close enough to kiss, and he wanted her mouth.
“Hmm?” His gaze lingered on her lips, waiting.
After an eon, he had to admit to himself, it wasn’t happening here and now. Okay. Alright. Stil , there had been ground gained today.
He could feel it.
“Dark enough now we can climb up onto the roof if you’re game,” he challenged, pushing to his feet. “Nothing to fear, remember? I’ll grab the bedroll.”
Her hands finally stopped shaking.
Ali watched as Daniel strode through the house. He was all easy grace with his long legs eating up the hallway until the shadow of him disappeared into a room.
So dark, she couldn’t see for shit, but wow, could she feel. What she felt was jumbled. Complicated. It trumped the fear hands down.
She was so tired of being afraid, tired of living the rabbit. But the rabbit had kept her alive.
There was no sight of him in the dark hallway.
Daniel was gone. She missed him. Missed the press of his arm against hers. Missed the warmth of him at her back, despite the stifling heat. Not a panic thing but more of an ache, a yearning. The man couldn’t go down a hallway without her getting clingy.
She usual y didn’t glom, no matter what certain ass**le exes might have inferred for their own nefarious purposes.
Something had to be done.
She had been working herself up to taking some constructive steps in his direction, yet here she sat. Stalled, frustrated, and thinking about sex. Dwelling on sex since the “holy shit” of being far away from her hidey-hole had eased within her. It had eased because of him.