A belt? Like hell. She’d kill him first. Kill him painfully, via the soup spoon.
“I understand,” she said.
Rough hands got busy with the padlock and the chain fell free, clattering onto the hardwood floor. Her heart beat so fast as if it would explode out of her chest, like a bird taking flight. Free. She’d be free.
Warmth swelled inside of her. She could have clapped her hands for glee. Jumped around. Sung. Made clothes out of curtains or recited a sonnet. Nick would probably just look at her funny and slap the chain back on. So she kept it all inside, not wanting to spook him, delicate creature that he was.
“Come on.” He stuck his hand out to her, face not particularly happy. Who cared? His eyelids were at half mast, dark eyes dangerously bright. There were lots of sidelong glances of the suspicious sort. So giggling was right out.
She clasped his warm, calloused hand and he led her out into the sunshine. Open air. Blue sky. Gum trees waved high above her in welcome. Her head spun with delight.
He set a cracking pace, leading her across the gravel parking lot. Sharp stones hurt her socked feet, but she ignored them. His hand tugged at hers, hurrying her along. Ah, the breeze on her face. She bit back a sigh of pure pleasure. They stopped a few meters out from the tree stump and he pointed at a patch of grass. “Sit. Please.”
Due to the please, she sat cross-legged on the straggly bit of lawn. Once upon a time, the resort would have had nicely manicured native gardens, but they were reverting to wilderness now.
“Stay,” he said.
With a parting, hard-faced look, Nick meandered back to the tree stump. She sat out of range of any flying wood chips while remaining firmly at the edge of his field of vision. Never did the man fully take his eyes off her. When she leant over to snag a dandelion his head snapped round at light speed.
“Just making wishes,” she said cheerily, waving the dandelion in his general direction.
He grunted and set up a big chunk of wood. Raised the axe, then swung it.
The log split straight down the middle. It was kind of impressive. The poetry of all that lean, hard muscle being put to work made her want to fan her face. Much safer to concentrate on the view, what little of it there was from her vantage point behind the buildings. The nearest cabin sat about seven or eight meters away from theirs.
Not theirs. “Theirs” indicated some sort of coupledom.
“What’s wrong?” he demanded.
“You were frowning.”
“I was thinking of you.”
His chin rose, but he said naught. The man turned back to his wood chopping.
Maybe she should make a run for it. Now, while his back was turned. Where would she go? The driveway led straight back out to the road, but there wasn’t much out there. He’d taken some sort of higgledy piggledy route to get them here, but the truth was, there was little out here. They were a good twenty minutes drive from town. Doubtless he could run pretty damn fast. Faster than her. She could hide in one of the nearby sheds and play cat and mouse with him. Hope to find a vehicle to get her the hell out. It was worth a try.
She rubbed her socked foot against the ground, flattening some long blades of grass. No shoes. It could be a problem. Had he thought of her lack of footwear when he brought her out here? It would slow her down.
Roslyn took a deep breath.
Gravel crunched beneath Nick’s boots as he paced toward her. The noise snapped her straight out of her daydreams. He hunkered down, much closer than he needed to be, as was his want. Again, the smell of him infected her. Highly unwelcome, clogging up her brain.
Sweat dripped from his brow and trailed down the side of his face. “You’re thinking bad thoughts.”
She tensed. “No, I’m not.”
“What did I say about lying?”
“You’re not a mind reader, Nick. Don’t pretend. You’re simply not that special.”
“Ouch,” he mumbled, shuffling closer. “I’ve decided what I want for letting you come outside without the chain on.”
“You know me, Roslyn. I don’t do things for free.” His smile was hard and his eyes intent. It was his bastard face. Long, thick, dirty fingers splayed out over his jean-clad thigh. “Aren’t you going to ask me what I want?”
“Come on, you’re curious about everything. Aren’t you dying to know what’s on my mind?”
“I don’t need to be a mind reader to figure that one out.”
He snorted. “Why don’t I save you the trouble and tell you. I want a kiss.”
Her eyebrows felt ready to part from her face. “NO.”
“Yes.” He stared at her, his jaw set. “Just one kiss. Pretty reasonable of me, really.”
“I don’t want to kiss you.”
“A small, harmless peck on the lips.”
“You’d have to force me, Nick,” she sneered. “Now where would the fun be in that?”
He licked his lips and grinned, apparently pleased by her vehemence. Though it was unlikely he even knew the word. “I don’t have to force you. I’ve seen the way you look at me.”
“Like I think you’re a sociopathic, misogynistic, kidnapping cretin?”
“Like I’m a man you’re attracted to.”
Like hell. “I prefer my version,” she said.
“I’m sure you do. But you’re still going to give me that kiss.” And he looked awful damn sure of himself.
Fuck him. She bared her teeth. “You’re insane. Better yet, you’re projecting. Do you know what that is, or shall I explain it to you?”
“I think I can figure it out.” The bastard actually winked at her.
“Bright boy. The summation of it is this: I do not want to kiss you.”
“You mean you don’t want to want to kiss me. There’s a difference.” The corners of his mouth curled upward. What she wouldn’t give to wipe the smirk off his face with the flat of her hand. “Would you like me to explain what that is, sweet?” he asked.
She held in the snarl of rage. Just. Her hands clenched into tight fists. It made the bruises from decking Neil ache. “You’re full of shit and I have no interest in touching you, kissing you or coming within fifty yards of you. Do you understand? Are those words little enough to penetrate your thick skull?”
“Oops. You said penetrate. You know what I’m thinking now?”
She blinked, stupefied.
“I want my kiss,” he said.
“I want you dead.”
He hung his head but his gaze stayed on her face. “Come on, Roslyn. Just one. Why are you putting up such a fight over one insignificant little kiss? Hmm?”
She covered her face with her hands, blocking all sight of him. Just a second to pull herself together, that was all she needed. Because lunging for his throat with her bare hands wouldn’t end well. No matter how tempting.
“Sweetheart, we were all cozy and warm last night. Every time you woke up and saw I was there, you went straight back to sleep. Just like a baby, safe and sound in my arms.”
She lowered her fingers to glower at him. “You didn’t give me any choice.”
“Mmm.” Dark eyes narrowed and he gave her an assessing look. “You prefer it that way, don’t you? Me making you do things?”
“No.” Her hands fell away and she literally saw red, a sheet of it, swamping her vision. A hot blood-red veil covered her world. How dare he insinuate such shit about her. “Absolutely not.”
“What do you think that means? That you like me being in charge?”
“I do not like you being in charge!” Birds fled from a tree nearby as her voice hit a pitch just short of shattering glass.
“Roslyn,” he groaned. “Why don’t you just give me the kiss?”
“I don’t want to kiss you because you’re holding me hostage, you idiot.”
“But besides that?”
“You’re a dickhead and an asshole and I hate you. You repulse me.”
“Really? Do I?” He laughed in her face.
Murder was too good for him. Only torture would satisfy the sick shame and anger hiding inside her.
“Yes,” she said. “You make me want to puke.”
His hand rubbed at his mouth, half smothering a smile, and he made a noise of disbelief.
“You do! You’re dirty and sweaty and you stink and—”
And then the bastard kissed her.
Roslyn did nothing for the longest time.
Nick pressed his lips against hers and waited. His hands cradled her head, holding her to him. He didn’t try to take it deeper and didn’t try for tongue.
Just kissed her, hard but chaste.
And wouldn’t she be impressed he even knew that word.
He poured all his lust for her into it, trying to show her how much he wanted her. Fuck but her lips were soft. He opened his eyes to find her staring at him with the familiar look of shock and horror in her wide eyes. But she didn’t move. She seemed to have frozen rock solid before him.
Reluctantly he stopped and pulled back, hands still in place. Silky strands of hair slipped between his fingers. He sat there on his haunches, staring at her closed mouth. Not getting distracted by the set of breasts heaving beneath her baggy sweater. Her upper lip was a perfect dusky pink cupid’s bow. Was her pussy the same color? Her nipples?
Nick sat patiently, panting, waiting for her to do something. Shit, she didn’t even seemed to be breathing and he was about ready to hyperventilate.
Suddenly her face twisted into something like grief, eyes hurt and confused. A strangled, angry noise escaped her and she shoved him hard with both hands. An action so fast and violent it sent him reeling back onto his ass. He should have been ready for it.
She sprang to her feet and was off, getting the hell away from him as fast as she could. Arms and legs pumping, she sprinted down the driveway. Gravel crunched beneath her socked feet.