She felt that she should say something, but she couldn’t think of a single word.
“Put your seatbelt on,” he said.
She did so.
He threw the car into reverse and she jolted forward against the restraint. They tore out of there.
Nick had been hoping Roslyn would keep quiet. All night would be nice.
She’d been silent on the half-hour drive, had made only the barest of comments as he broke into a large shed suitable for holing up in. An uncomfortable night lay ahead, but they were shit out of luck when it came to options. He needed to get her somewhere safe and dark had settled in. Staying on the road would only get more dangerous. More infected would be coming out and the noise of the engine and the lights attracted them. The roads were covered with all sorts of debris. One blown tire and it would be all over. They'd be sitting ducks.
He drove the pickup into the shed and left the parking lights on. Got out and locked up the big double bay doors. The inside of the place was cluttered with crap but secure. He’d given it a going through while she waited in the vehicle holding her tongue. But there were lots of sidelong glances. She was working her way up to saying something. He could feel it. Goddamn, he wished she wouldn’t.
Everything in him felt wound tight, making him keep his mouth shut solely because his fear of losing his temper was huge. Their home was gone. Just … fucking gone. Their security and almost all of their supplies were up in smoke. The big metal box on the back of the truck had some weapons and a basic first-aid kit, but nothing fancy. He thought he’d thought of everything. What a joke. One fucking candle knocked over and the place was tinder. Hadn't thought of that, had he?
“We could go back to the school,” she said, disturbing his peace.
“No.” Not even remotely an option, but she didn’t know that. Hell, it had probably been where she’d been headed.
An old single mattress sat in the corner. He dragged it out and dusted it off a bit. It would do. He carried it over to the back of the pickup and slid it onto the bed. Better than her being on the floor. There were probably mice and cockroaches scuttling about. Now for a blanket or something to keep her warm.
Shit. They literally had nothing but a selection of guns, a few knives and some ammunition. Plus the good old basic first-aid box. She wasn’t wearing shoes or a jacket and he wasn’t much better.
“Nick, we need to talk about this.”
“Yes, now.” She positioned herself in his path, hands on hips and her mouth a determined line. “I need to explain.”
Every last bit of him rejected the idea. He had so much anger churning him up inside that he didn’t know what to do with it. He needed to hit something. A wall or the side of the truck would do. Just drive his fist into something solid that wouldn’t give a fuck for the abuse. He sure as hell did not want to open his mouth and say shit he couldn’t take back. And that was what would happen if she kept pushing it.
“I was coming back,” she said.
“No.” He stepped back and shook his head, shoved a hand through his hair. Not wanting to hear a fucking thing she had to say. At least, not right then. But … “What? You were what?”
“Did you say you were coming back?”
She wrung her hands in front of her. “I changed my mind. I got down to the road and I realized I couldn’t leave like that. I realized we needed to talk things out.”
His mind reeled. “You did?”
He barked out a laugh. It was funny, but it wasn’t. Mostly it wasn’t. “You were coming back. Bloody hell, that’s great.”
Her features sharpened. Brows descended. And that was fine. Let her be pissed. Let her share the fun. “What did you expect, Nick? You’ve been keeping me chained. Of course my first instinct was to escape.”
“And you did. And now we’re fucked.”
“Which is not all my fault.”
“Did I say it was?” Of course he hadn’t. He’d been doing his best to keep his mouth shut to prevent exactly this sort of shit coming out. “Did I?”
“Close enough,” she said, voice rising. Because she never bloody learned.
“Keep. Your. Voice. Down.”
Her nostrils flared. “You put me in an impossible situation, Nick.”
“Was it worth it?”
“Nearly getting killed,” he said. “You were about to be eaten alive by a pack of infected when I found you. So was it worth it, Ros? Do you feel better now? Work out whatever you needed to?”
“Oh, you asshole.”
“That was our home that just burned down. Our home. Do you get that? Is it sinking in?”
“Hard to think of it as home when you were keeping me prisoner.”
“I treated you so badly?” he asked. He took a step closer, forcing her to back up or have him right up in her face. She was right, he was an asshole. But he was so damn angry he didn’t care. She’d left him without a word. “Well? Is there anything I didn’t give you?”
“A gilded cage is still a cage, Nick.”
“You betrayed me.”
“You never trusted me, Nick, so how exactly did I betray you?” Roslyn looked away and sucked in a breath, shoulders hitching. “Look, let’s just stop. Let’s go back to the school and regroup.”
“They’re dead, Ros. Everyone at the school is dead.”
She stopped, stared. “You’re lying,” she whispered.
“Why would I?”
“To t-try and keep me.”
“No. It’s the truth. Your friends screwed up and let in an infected. Apparently your old friend Neil didn't secure the gates well enough after we left. I should have told you earlier. Maybe you would have thought twice about bolting.
“How do you know?” she asked.
“Janie was infected. I stayed with her …”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Probably because he was an idiot, just like she’d told him many, many times. An idiot to think it could work out between them. He rubbed the back of his neck. “I didn’t want to upset you. Stupid, huh? Me worrying about your delicate feelings. You have no fucking clue when it comes to life these days. Sheltering you was wrong.”
“But …” She just kept blinking at him. “They’re dead? All of them.”
Silence. Her face blanked.
Oh, shit. Second thoughts filled him, along with third and fourth. Maybe he shouldn’t have told her like that, just blurted it out.
All he could think of was the infected clawing at her, about to bite her foot. She didn’t have a fucking clue how close she’d come to death. He wanted to howl every time he thought about it. The woman needed a dose of reality. Needed to know how serious things were, so hopefully she’d think before she acted. This couldn’t happen again; it would fucking kill him.
She shook her head, turned and walked away.
Fine. They both needed time. They also needed blankets or they were going to freeze their asses off. He set about searching the rows of shelving lining the walls. No comment from her. Not a peep.
He was not the bad guy here. He wasn’t. He’d done every-fucking-thing he could to please her.
Some crappy old camping gear stood in a corner. A moth-eaten canvas tent and a sleeping bag that had seen better days. A ratty-looking tarp with a couple of burn marks. A moth took flight when he nudged the tarp. He shook the sleeping bag out and clouds of dust filled the air. Quickly, he turned his face away before he copped a lungful of it. Roslyn stood by the pickup with her arms wrapped around herself.
The infected’s mouth had been bare centimeters off sinking its teeth into her toes. Its filthy fingers had been clawing at her legs. If she hadn’t been wearing jeans, if he hadn’t woken when he did and heard her screaming. If he’d been a second later, just one second, it would have been too late. He couldn’t think about it. Couldn’t stand it, but it wouldn’t stop repeating inside his head.
If he’d lost her … No.
Nick cracked his jaw and bundled up the tarp, took it and the sleeping bag over to the vehicle. It should be enough to keep them warm at least. He doubled the tarp over the ratty old mattress and placed the sleeping bag between the layers. “We’ll sleep up here. Come on.”
She gave him a blank look.
“You’ve got no shoes on. No jacket. It’s cold.”
She nodded dully and moved to the end of the bed, climbed up. The tarp crackled as she slipped beneath it, into the sleeping bag. Nick switched off the pickup’s parking lights then followed, pulling off his boots. He hadn’t stopped to put on socks. She’d be dead now if he had.
Having both of them in the sleeping bag made it cozy. He put an arm beneath her neck and the other over her waist. Her feet felt freezing so he pressed them between his, trying to warm her. She didn’t fight him, but she didn’t exactly help either.
“You should have told me,” she said.
“You were upset enough that day.” His stomach growled, loudly. Sex always made him hungry. It had been hours since they’d eaten and it would be hours before they stood a chance of finding food—tomorrow morning at the earliest.
A mattress spring stuck into his hip. He’d slept on floors that were more comfortable. The air in the shed was frigid. They should have been in the cabin, curled up in bed with a roaring fire. They should have been fucking like bunnies. Everything else smelled like dust but she smelled like sex and feminine sweat. His dick gave signs of life and he angrily ignored it.
No matter how pissed he was at her, he still wanted her. Not a surprise.
There’d be no sleeping. He wouldn't risk leaving her unguarded. This place didn't feel that secure. Besides, every time he closed his eyes he saw that thing about to sink its teeth into her. One second later and she’d have been gone. Maybe he should take her to Blackstone. She’d be safe there, even if he wasn’t welcome. The walled community was still probably a hundred people strong. They were organized. She could have a life there.