“She speaks. I was beginning to wonder,” he cuts in. “You remember the job description, right? I don’t mind going over it again. You look like you’ve been through some shit since we traded emails.”
Been through some shit?
You have no idea.
He seems to read that thought on my face and his eyes flicker with grave understanding.
“Like I said in my email, I’m writing a book,” he says, clearing his throat. “It wasn’t my idea, but if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right. But there’s one small issue.”
It’s been so long since I had a good conversation. A real one. I find I’m interested to hear the rest of his problem. “What is it?”
My voice seems to throw him off, but only momentarily. “It’s fiction. That was part of the requirement. See, I could write about Afghanistan, but that would defeat the purpose. And because it’s fiction…there are female characters. Women. Not soldiers. Civilian women. And I don’t know how to write one convincingly.” His gaze traces the slope of my shoulder, a muscle bunching in his cheek. “I’ve been in the army since I was eighteen, tour after tour, until recently. Haven’t been around many of your kind. Not in the real world. Not in normal surroundings. Not…soft.”
“I’m not soft,” I correct him, pressure shifting in my chest.
He nods once, twice, watching me carefully. “I expect that’s the kind of thing I’ll find out observing you for two weeks. Researching how women behave.”
That’s it? That’s the job?
Color me skeptical.
I want to ask more questions, but they’ll make it clear I’m not the one he emailed with. “Two weeks,” I echo, hoping he’ll take the bait and keep talking.
“That’s right. Two weeks as my guest. I pay you at the end.”
Pay me. Enough to buy a bus ticket? Maybe some new clothes. Food. I could get far away from this place, get a job, have a normal life. It seems too good to be true, but maybe I’m due one tiny, little break.
Although…why hasn’t he asked me about the scratches on my face and arms?
Doesn’t he wonder why I have no luggage if I was planning on staying for two weeks?
And most concerning, what if the real intern shows up?
Then I’ll make a break for it. Hope he doesn’t shoot me.
Please let me get the chance to eat first.
The man stands, saunters to the door. “I’m sorry about the treacherous commute. These woods can be unforgiving. No roads to speak of. I’m guessing your suitcase got too heavy to carry? I’ll head out in the morning, see if I can find it.” He turns with a hand on the doorjamb. “In the meantime, you’re welcome to my shirts in the drawer. Toothbrush under the sink. Shower is down the hall.” His voice trails off as his footsteps creak down the hallway. “I’ll see you at dinner, Sarah.”
At the mention of dinner, my stomach growls loudly. Embarrassingly.
His footfalls pause before continuing.
That’s not the girl I hired.
I would never have hired someone I’d want to fuck.
And Christ, I’m tempted.
The intern who was supposed to arrive this morning was in her late thirties. An empty nester from the closest town looking to make extra money. The plan was to study the way a woman behaves, speaks, cooks. Take notes, so I could write a female with authenticity. Watching this girl will do nothing but make my dick hard. So why did I facilitate this lie?
Because she was getting ready to tell me the truth. Then what reason would I have had to keep her here? This girl with the brave, green eyes. This girl who is running from something that I instinctively want to protect. This girl whose voice sounds like I already dreamed about it.
Who is she?
My hands curl into fists as I pace the length of my study. When I removed her socks, her feet were bruised from running. No one runs through that pain unless they’re running from a nightmare. And I know what that’s like. When she challenged me, told me she wasn’t soft, I felt that, too. That denial of weakness to everyone, even myself.
How ironic that I required a woman here so I could catalogue her differences.
And one so similar to me shows up.
There are quite a few physical differences to her, though. Even caked in sweat and dirt, nicked up from tree branches, I couldn’t help but marvel over a body so supple. Her bones are so fragile, her muscles lithe and feminine. She’s younger than me, probably by a good decade, even though her eyes are those of an old soul. Her hair is an indescribable color. Brown and sandy and blonde, an earthy combination that reaches her waist.
She’s unkempt. Wild. Beautiful.
What the hell am I thinking keeping her here?
Building a foundation of lies, when my policy has always been the truth at all costs.