Was it assault? Did I assault that sweet, beautiful, troubled girl?
The sleeping pills are supposed to stop me from having nightmares, but they’ve only made them worse. On top of the medicine making the images more vivid, more visceral, it takes time after I wake up to return to myself completely. I wake up wild, teeming with adrenaline as if I’m in the midst of battle and…there she was.
Shelter in a storm.
Softness in a world of splintering pain.
She put that innocent hand on my chest and I lost it. My cock wouldn’t be denied. All the black memories and shouts from the past went away as soon as we were skin to skin…and I couldn’t give that serenity up. Couldn’t stop. Didn’t stop to make her comfortable.
Or prepare her.
She was a virgin.
And I’m a goddamn monster.
I can’t sit there until the sun comes up, wondering if she’ll ever speak to me again. Wondering if there’s any way to repair the damage I’ve caused. I’m a man of movement, action, so I pull on jeans and a T-shirt, prowling the hallway outside of her door. It’s locked. It would be easy as breathing to kick it open, but I restrain myself. I’ve already used too much force tonight where this girl is concerned. Barreling my way in there would only make things worse.
Dammit, I don’t know anything about women.
What is going to fix this? Can anything fix this?
I just fucked her facedown without a hint of finesse. Or gentleness.
The dirty shit I said to her…Jesus, I deserve to be shot.
An apology isn’t going to be enough. I have to bring her something. But what? Flowers? That doesn’t seem like her style.
She can’t live in borrowed shirts, right? I can go out and bring her back clothing to wear. There is a hidden road that leads down to the highway. I disguised it when I bought this place, wanting total seclusion. It’s only supposed to be for emergencies, but what the hell is this if not an emergency? She’s crying in there.
I rub at my chest and pace some more, once again considering the merits of kicking down the door. Somehow I refrain. I focus on the task at hand, instead. It’s dark out, the middle of the night, but there’s a twenty-four-hour Walmart less than ten miles away. She’s not going to try and run away in the pitch black, is she? So help me God, if she’s gone when I come back, I’ll tear down every tree in this fucking forest until I find her.
I go to the kitchen and pick up my car keys, grinding the metal teeth into my forehead, my chest on the verge of caving in, and I pace the floor like a lion.
I can’t chance it. I can’t chance her leaving.
Fuck. I’m only going to make things worse between us, but what other option do I have?
My pulse clamors in my ears as I retrieve a length of rope from the shed, dragging it behind me on the way to her room. “Open the door.”
A long pause. “No. I’m sleeping.”
My brows draw together. We both know she’s awake. “It doesn’t sound like it.”
Several beats pass. And then she pretends to snore.
Something heavy turns over in my chest. I think…I think I find her pretense amusing. And adorable. Now I’m even more determined to make sure she doesn’t run from me. “One last chance to open the door, girl.”
She snores louder.
A laugh threatens, but I shake it off. Step back and kick the door in.
She screams, scrambling on the rumpled bed and shielding her nakedness with a pillow. Her mouth opens to question me, but then she spies the rope and it snaps shut. “What…what are you doing?”
“I can’t have you leaving while I’m out buying an apology.”
That calm explanation doesn’t appear to reassure her. “Don’t tie me up, Caleb. I won’t leave. I-I have nowhere to go!” she sputters.
“Can’t risk it.” I move closer, running the length of the rope through my hands. “I won’t make it tight. It’ll only be for an hour or so.”
Her eyes dart toward the window, but I’m already shaking my head. “Don’t make me tie your ankles, too.”
“Please, please, don’t. I hate being tied up.” She sucks in a breath and goes still, visibly shocked at what she’s revealed to me.
I’m shocked, too. And flooded with rage. Like someone flipped a switch.
“Who the fuck tied you up?” I ask carefully, the rope creaking in my shaking hands.
She looks up at me with incredulous green eyes. “You are about to tie me up! How can you be upset at someone else for doing it?”
“Answer me now! Who was it?”
Victory lights up her expression. “No personal questions.”
I turn and punch a hole through the wall, mash my aching knuckles against my temple. “Is this what women do? Create a series of traps for men to step in? If I don’t tie you up, you’ll run away from me. If I do, I could make you cry again. There’s no right answer.”