Daniel couldn’t help but appreciate the nice thin cotton.
Not only sensible for summer but perfect for spying what lay beneath, like the val ey between her breasts and the shadow between her thighs. That he could make out the lips of her pussy was probably pure imagination.
Dark blonde hair was spread out across the pil ow, her pretty face turned away. The slow, even rise and fal of her breasts mesmerized him. Hypnotized.
He could watch her sleep for hours.
He likely would.
He had considered taking himself in hand, getting some relief, but no. For some dumb reason it felt like cheating. As if it would take something away from finding her, from waiting for her and winning her.
And he would. His commitment was total.
Apart from the moaning, things were good – body washed, bel y ful , and his girl laid out for his viewing pleasure. Tortured, but good.
The window was boarded and a chest of drawers sat in front of the door, his girl’s shotgun in pride of place on top. She had actually gone to sleep with it beside her. He’d moved it to higher ground at the first opportunity.
Besides the hundred and one locks and the bars on every window, no less than guns and barricades would have convinced her to sleep in the house as opposed to up in the attic.
He moved the drawers aside careful y, quietly, and stepped out into the dark hallway.
Ali had refused to use the main bedroom, wouldn’t even go near the closed door. It was as if she hit an invisible wall a body’s length from it and – bam! – got no further.
People had done some horrible things to survive. He knew he had, the worst of it keeping him awake at night, scared of what might come out of the dark. The virus had made monsters of everyone.
Deep down, he knew what he would find.
He didn’t go in, just stood in the hallway and opened the door. The hinges creaked ominously as it swung open. No need for the warning, the smell was sufficient. The smal flashlight he used gave him smal , tight circles of light. Sensible, since the infected seemed to find their meals by sight and sound alone.
There was a lot of blood on the floor. The human body held liters of the liquid. It had seeped into the carpet and dried, making a stain of darkness among the pale pink. An old-fashioned marble lamp lay discarded close by, its heavy base covered in more blood.
This was Ali’s secret then. She had bashed her infected, elderly neighbor’s skul in with a lamp base.
His stomach clenched. Shit, his poor girl.
A gun was much simpler and cleaner by comparison. Faster, even if the eventual toll remained no easier to pay.
He pulled the door closed and continued on with his tour, up the aluminum ladder till he reached the manhole. He doubted she could have done more than move around the tiny attic on her knees. As lodgings went, it was hot as an oven and thick with dust, way claustrophobic.
Never the fuck again would she go up there if he had anything to do with it.
Daniel descended the ladder and padded back to the guest room, rearranged the drawers against the door and tugged off his t-shirt.
Night had failed to appreciably cool off the house. It remained sweltering with the windows closed and no electricity to turn on the fans.
She had moved in his absence, rolled over onto her side so those pale plush limbs fell into alignment. She’d even tucked a hand beneath her cheek.
He might have offered to sleep on the floor as part of the giving her space and time negotiations, but he couldn’t do it.
The mattress springs made a racket as he climbed on next to her, easing an arm over her waist and settling in to spoon her warm body. They fit together just right.
She murmured something but didn’t wake.
The memories of the scene next door kept his cock under control, which was good. His poor girl. He wanted to comfort, pamper and protect her.
She needed that right now.
Being this close to her, his skin slicked with sweat in no time. He felt like he had a fever. No way was he moving.
Because, despite being this close to her, the in and out of her breathing soothed him. How she riled him up and calmed him down al at once, conscious or not, defied logic.
Weeks of exposure had taught him to block out the moaning coming from the street, to shove it to the back of his mind and not let it consume him. He could lie there and stroke her arm, breathe in the scent of whatever shampoo she had used up a bottle of and bide his time. It was all good.
For the first time in ages, he had hope.
Ali woke with a gasp, taking a moment to get her bearings.
The morning sun hadn’t woken her, Daniel’s wandering hand had. His hand and the whole body ache his touch generated. Her skin felt prickly, disturbingly alive and alert.
The hand cupping her breast would have been cause for castration, except for the fact that her hand was shoved down the front of his boxers. Her fingers curled around a hip like she owned it, with her wrist resting beside a sizeable appendage greeting the day in the usual way. Whoa boy. The head of his cock came close to peeking out from beneath the waistband of his boxer-briefs. His member matched the rest of him in size.
Wicked thoughts drove her silly. She needed to calm down. Do the deep breathing. Which was a mistake because he smelt good, warm skin and clean male sweat.
She inhaled him, just to double-check. He smelt amazing. A girl could get high on him. She wanted him. She did. Wanted to feel him inside her, wanted this ache to end. Desire owned her, and it was leaving her a big, wet mess. What a terrible power to hold over someone. He didn’t even have to do anything to turn her to shivers, her own mind and body could run riot just fine.
But it was a natural urge, nothing to worry about. It had been a while, and a stressful situation and curiosity being what they were, blah, blah, blah. All the old clichés.
Curiosity. What a lame ass excuse. She could do better.
Thank god he wasn’t watching her now. Her cheek rested on one sun-burnished pec and God help her if she had drooled on him in her sleep or something. How special would that be?
Someone so hard-bodied shouldn’t have made such a comfortable mattress. She needed to get the hell off him.
Ali averted her gaze, pulled her mind out of his pants, then extricated her hand from his boxers one cautious millimeter at a time.
“You awake?” he murmured.
She whipped her hand from his underwear like her fingers were singed.
He chuckled, chest shuddering beneath her cheek. “I’l take that as a yes.”
“I’ll have my breast back now.”
“Mmm.” His fingers uncurled ever so slowly, but his other hand, the one resting on her lower back, moved not at all. “Heard a motorbike close-by earlier.”
“What?” She scrambled up into a sitting position, startled wide awake, as if he had doused her in coffee. Her heart pounded, and every hair on her body stood erect. “When?”
“Hour or so back. Nothing since.” He stretched both hands up, tucked them behind his head. How the hell could he be so relaxed?
“Be calm,” he said.
She shook her head in wonder. “Be calm? I haven’t seen any uninfected around here in over a month. Bit of a coincidence them turning up the day after I fire the shotgun. They were searching for us.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. Might be you’re just feeling a bit paranoid, babe. Which, I would add before you rip my head off, is fair enough. Either way, unless you’ve put out a welcome mat they’re not going to find us. Have you?” he asked, mouth twitching. “Is there some sign out there that you’re in residence? No spray-painted announcement on the door? Another pair of these cute cotton panties left hanging from the mailbox, perhaps?”
Her face heated. The asshole. “No. Of course not.”
He yawned and scratched at the short spiky dark hair pointing every which way. He was al over the morning appeal. In comparison, she probably looked like she had been tumble-dried. But he had a whole charmingly disheveled thing going on with his bed hair. If she hadn’t been balancing scared shitless and embarrassed there might have been time to stop and appreciate it.
“Then, be calm,” he said. “We’re okay.”
Ali bit at the inside of her cheeks, gave the smal bedroom a detailed once over. The old chest of drawers still barricaded the door.
The windows were still boarded and the shades still drawn. Everything was where it should be. The filtered light gave no clue as to the time of day or how long she had slept with him beside her. Beneath her. Bloody hell.
Things were heating up. Her skin was sticky, no matter the water wasted last night. Sticky and sweaty and she had been spread al over Daniel like honey on toast. Her fingers knotted themselves up in the top sheet. Over and over.
Alex had hated her clinging. Clinging being his term for any touching taking place outside of sexual congress. Oh, no, Alex had preferred to be adored from afar. Made it much simpler for her sister to slip on in and have him.
What a beautiful moment their wedding was. It had truly brought new lows to family awkwardness.
Ouch, a year on and still she felt the sting.
And why that old wound had chosen to pop up and nip her on the ass here and now she couldn’t say. It fit with her flurried, messy state of mind. Hell, she didn’t even know if any of her family were alive. Being betrayed dwindled in importance in the face of cold, hard death. Her insides felt strangely empty, as they always did when she thought of her family. She’d well and truly been left alone. Alone, except for the giant in her bed.
Daniel yawned again, cracked his neck and watched her. The other people out there wanting who knew what didn’t seem to concern him. That made her want to thump him. Hard.
Right on his big, fat, pretty, patient head.
“Talk to me, babe,” he said gently. When she didn’t reply, he raised an arm, pointed a lazy finger toward the chest of drawers. “Your gun’s up there. I didn’t want you accidentally blowing my head off during the night. Because that would be sad, right?”
She smiled and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “Right. Sad.”
“I get the need to be cautious, Ali. I do. But you’re assuming everyone’s out to do harm before you have proof. Shoot first and ask questions later.”