She did. Noisily. “My head hurts.”
“I bet it does.”
“It wasn’t fair, leaving me here like this. What was it, some kind of emotional manipulation?”
“No.” Lots of lines creased up his forehead. “Course not. I just needed to grab a few things in town.”
“What if you hadn’t come back?”
“I was always coming back,” he said in no uncertain terms. His overconfident tone of voice peeved her no end.
“You might not have.”
“Roslyn, trust me. I was always coming back. I will always come home.”
“This isn’t home.” She sniffed again, so he selected a new piece of shirt and held it to her face. “No, I’m okay.”
He sighed and set the shirt aside. She sat on his lap, snuggling against his bare skin. The man felt like a heater.
“Don’t do it again.” Her ear pressed against his chest where his heart thudded away. Very evenly. Strong. Maybe he wouldn’t be dying anytime soon. Still, she couldn’t risk it. Right now, her life depended on his.
“I mean it.”
“I know you do,” he said. “But I don’t want to make you any promises I can’t keep.”
“Bullshit.” She sat up, looking into his face. He was awfully close, his hand firm against her back. “You break your word to me all the time. You’re always pushing for more. Trying to manipulate me …”
His mouth opened and widened in a pained expression. “But …”
“No. You owe me,” she insisted, pressing the point. This couldn’t happen again. It wouldn’t.
His dark brows drew close.
“I know,” he said. He licked his lips, looked away. But his eyes darted back to her, assessing. “I hate seeing you upset.”
“You left me chained to a bed thinking I was going to die here if I didn’t cut off my foot. It happens, Nick.”
The idiot lowered his face and set his forehead against hers. “So you’ve forgiven me for the kiss?”
She pulled back. “You see why I hate you? This is why.”
“I’m not convinced you do. Deep down.”
“Oh, I’m pretty damn sure I do.”
“No. I think you just think you do. “ He sighed and stared at her. “But deep down, I think you’re afraid.”
“Yes. I am afraid. Afraid you’re going to die and leave me chained up to starve to death.”
He rolled his eyes. “Ros, we’re talking about feelings.”
“Fear is a feeling.”
“Like my headache because I’ve been crying for hours because you left me chained up and I thought I was going to die horribly?”
Nick’s brows danced high. “Alright. Alright. I give in.”
He gently began to remove her from his lap and place her back on the floor. Something horrible tore through her, scarily akin to panic. Her hands clutched at him in a white-knuckled grip. No fucking way could she let go.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“Hey, easy.” He covered her cold hands with his own, warm and strong. “I was just going to find you some aspirin. Somewhere in this mess. I’ll be right back.”
“Because you won’t leave me alone again.”
“Promise.” She demanded. Pleaded. Whatever.
He set his hands on the floor and moved in close, much closer than before, going nose-to-nose with her. “Do you really hate me?”
Her poor, tired mind dithered. “It’s beside the point.”
“Nick, how can I feel differently when you’ve got me chained to the furniture?”
The man actually snarled. “Ignore the chain.”
“I can’t. It’s around my ankle. Mine. Not yours, Nick.”
“Do you hate me?”
She groaned and sighed and winced. Being cornered didn’t suit her. “I don’t know. Okay? I don’t know.” The tip of his nose brushed against hers and she half-heartedly swatted at him. “Stop it.”
He sat back on his heels, his dark gaze steady on her. “I promise I won’t leave you on your own again.”
“This isn’t like the other promises where you change your mind when it suits you, is it?”
He didn’t even blink. “No.”
“Oh.” She sucked in a deep breath and felt good for the first time in a long time. Her lungs expanded gratefully as relief flowed through her. “Thank you.”
He nodded. “I did leave a key hidden here. You would have found it eventually.”
“Yes,” he said. “You don’t really hate me.”
“How do you know?” she asked, genuinely curious. He sounded so sure of himself. That need to know was her one very real fault, or at least the main one. God, the trouble it had gotten her into, curiosity.
The side of his mouth slowly curled into an untrustworthy smile. He sat there on his haunches, bare-chested, just like the day before when he’d kissed her. She’d been so mad. Now she simply lacked the energy.
“Right there,” he said. “That look.”
The other side of his mouth rose until he was giving her a smile to level mountains. Or at the very least move them. Her heart did some awful fluttery thing she didn’t appreciate. Probably a result of all the upset he’d caused her.
“The look you give me before you remember to be pissed at me.” He leant forward and she resisted the urge to shuffle back. “You don’t hate me, Roslyn. Not even a little.”
“Nope.” He shook his head. “You don’t.”
“That’s what you think,” she said, because she needed to say something and that was the best her absent brain could do.
With a wink the bastard rose to his feet. “I can’t believe how you trashed the place.”
“Mm,” she said.
He bitched some more about the mess.
She ignored him.
Because he was wrong; she did hate him.
Nick wasn’t usually the type to hang about in bed. Or at least, not without a damn good reason.
His good reason lay half across him, sound asleep. Roslyn was sprawled over him, her cheek on his chest. Their cuffed wrists sat on his stomach and he lay on his back, reading. The position made holding the notebook tricky, but he was determined. It seemed more of a diary than a notebook and it had been jam-packed full of Roslyn’s thoughts on pretty much everything.
How she hated red wine, but loved gin. The names of the many romance books she’d read and what she thought of them, in excruciating detail. Her tiffs with her mum and worries about her job. Some concerns regarding the size of her ass and how her breasts didn’t sit as high as they used to. Which wasn’t right, because her tits and ass were perfect. Judging from what little he’d seen of them, of course. A closer look would help him reassure her.
Fuck, he wished. She would have to be asleep or hysterical to let him near her.
Ros snuffled on his chest. Her fingers flexed against his ribs, the short nails scraping over his skin grabbing his immediate attention. Hard not to be hard with a hot woman all over you, and this woman in particular, she felt just right. He stroked her crazy red hair, crooning nonsense to her for a moment. She seemed to like that. Her body relaxed against him, soft and sweet.
Despite the room being closed up, enough daylight peeked through here and there for him to read by. There were complaints about her father in the diary, a fair few of those. Seemed her dad had been quite the army man, moving them around, handing down orders. In truth, he sounded a bit of a jerk. No wonder she wasn’t impressed with Nick’s choice of career. Those days, however, were gone. But they had left him with the ability to protect and care for her. Ideally, it’d score him some points, but she wasn’t that easy.
She had dated. A decent number of men’s names came up in the diary, maybe even a few more than he felt comfortable with. Though if he was being a judgmental prick, he’d say she put more energy into the books she read. They certainly got more line space and fewer insults lobbed their way.
Seemed Roslyn was a very picky girl when it came down to it. Not so surprising.
Eyelashes fluttered over him, tickling him, as she stirred once more against his chest. Her mouth opened wide on a yawn, jaw cracking. The length of her body arched and went rigid as she stretched her back, the mounds of her breasts pushing into him. He’d be fucking delighted to set her straight with regard to her breasts. They were delicious and so was she. What were the odds of the sweater she was wearing magically disappearing? Probably low.
“Morning,” he said.
After blinking several times, she looked up at him and scowled. She abandoned her position, rolling off him and onto her side. Her wrist tugged at the cuffs, dragging at him. He almost dropped her diary.
She gazed at him crankily, terse lines bracketing her mouth. “What …”
Hard not to smile at her. She was so cute, all sleepy and ruffled. She frowned at his chest as if it had personally assaulted her. Like she hadn’t smeared herself all over him in her sleep of her own free will. Well, maybe she’d had a little help. A warm woman could be hard to resist on a cold winter’s night.
“Keep making that face and you’re going to get wrinkles,” he said.
Her eyes cut to his. “What did you do? Did you move me in my sleep?”
“No,” he lied.
“Right.” She snorted and tugged again on her end of the cuffs.
Then she saw the diary. Her diary. Eyes huge with horror, she grabbed for it. But he’d been expecting that. Quickly he passed it into his other hand and dangled it out over the side of the mattress, keeping it out of reach.