“Okay.” Her fingers traced over the granite and she half-turned to face him, chin high and forehead creased. “How do you see this going down exactly, Nick?”
He crossed his arms, widened his stance, proudly checking out the room and all his handy work. “Well, it seems to me we can be of use to one another. You need …”
He caught a flash of movement in the corner of his eye. A dark object—a bottle of wine with her pale fingers wrapped around the neck.
Nick threw himself aside. He was a second too late.
Bam! The bottle clipped the side of his skull, fell to the floor and shattered like a gunshot.
Pain swamped him. He couldn’t see. Blood ran down his face, dripped in his eyes. The rich scent of red wine filled the air.
Roslyn scrambled. He heard the sound of her sudden panting and the crazed squeaking of her shoes. Her leg brushed against his as she threw herself past him, racing back down the corridor, heading for the door. Not happening. Adrenalin surged and pain took a back seat.
She didn’t get far.
Nick clambered to his feet and pounced, taking her down. Mostly, he just collapsed on top of her, half-blinded by blood. They hit the floor in a tangle of limbs, his chest to her back. He took the bulk of his weight on one arm, but not all of it. Air shot from her lungs with a startled oooff.
The silence didn’t last long.
Roslyn drew in a sharp breath, opened her mouth and screamed, long and loud. The piercing noise echoed through the building, escaping out the back door and through the wide open bi-fold doors at the front. It rose up and out into the open air, exposing their whereabouts to anything listening. The noise was a hundred times louder than the truck engine could ever hope to be. With feet kicking and body bucking beneath him, the woman went nuts.
“Don’t!” Nick crawled up her, knees scuttling on the slippery, wine-splattered floor. His head throbbed bloody murder, forehead fit to explode. He slapped a hand over her mouth and held on. Her teeth chomped, trying to bite him. More muffled shrieks rose up.
“Stop it!” he hissed into her ear. Or he thought it was her ear. Still couldn’t see for shit. Her hair clung to his face, wet with blood and wine. “Fuck, Roslyn. Stop.”
She ignored him. Her hands scrabbled, trying to pull herself out from beneath him. Which was useless; he easily had her in body weight. Like a wild thing she rioted beneath him, totally enraged. And his hand, slippery with blood, slipped off her mouth.
Another shrill scream hit the air. So fucking loud that his ears rang. Though that might have been the head wound.
“Shit!” Nick clamped his hand back over her mouth. This wasn’t working. Time for a new plan.
He pushed back, sitting up and taking her with him, one hand over her mouth and the other around her waist. What a bloody disaster. Her sneakers skidded against the slick floor as she kicked out, fighting for freedom. Keeping a hold on her was no easy thing. Nick wrestled her back down the corridor, past the kitchen and straight for the king-size bed with its wooden frame.
Because while he’d hoped for the best, he’d prepared for the worst.
It was how he’d been trained.
Roslyn wriggled and squirmed, but she wouldn’t be going anywhere. Not now. They were both covered in blood because his forehead gushed like a stuck pig, but he was damn determined. He got her onto the mattress, laying her on her stomach with him on top, pressing her down. She went insane again beneath him. A renewed bust of energy from fear, no doubt.
The cuffs were attached to the headboard, ready and waiting.
Nick snaked his hand out from beneath her and straightened out one of her arms, gripping the wrist and fumbling the cool steel around it. An elbow almost connected with his face. She put up a hell of a fight, battling him every step of the way. First one limb and then the other he restrained with the cuffs.
The next part had to happen fast. She screamed right on cue when his hand dived into the bedside drawer. She kept right on screaming as he searched for the rubber ball gag.
“No!” Her head reared back, trying to evade it when it touched her lips. He shoved the black ball into her mouth and whipped the strap over her head.
Blessed silence descended. A quiet so sudden it startled. Apart from the thundering in his head and the grunts from behind the gag, of course.
He rolled off her and crawled out of firing range to the other side of the mattress.
Her foot kicked out, catching his. Not far enough. Nick groaned and crawled to the edge of the bed, smearing the clean sheets some more with his bloody hands. Beneath him the mattress bounced with her ongoing attempts to attack him. Wine and blood were everywhere. Broken glass glinted on the floor.
“Were you cut?” His gaze raked over her. Blood stained her shirt. Hard to tell, but it seemed the bulk of it was his. She didn’t appear to be injured. He still bled profusely, though. Gingerly, he prodded at the wound on his forehead. She’d really done him some damage. What a fucking mess.
Roslyn made a noise. Might have been her attempt at a growl but the rubber ball garbled it. She’d rolled onto her side, arms stretched out above her head. Eyes possessed. A thin line of drool worked its way down her chin. Her uniform had crept up to her waist in all the excitement, exposing curvy legs and a pair of black boyleg briefs. He was almost too tired to appreciate them. Almost. But he wouldn’t take anything she didn’t offer.
Except her freedom, maybe. Yeah. Except that.
“Are you cut anywhere?” he asked again.
Her jaw worked as she tried to circumvent the gag. Eventually, she shook her head. Thank goodness for that.
“I’ll pull your skirt back down for you if you promise not to kick me.”
Her face went nuclear, bright red.
“Do you promise not to kick me?” he asked.
Another livid look, followed by a reluctant nod.
“Alright.” Nick walked around the bed and matter-of-factly tugged the skirt back down into place. “There we go.”
Shit, the look in her eyes. He’d had ex-girlfriends who hated him less.
What the hell had he been expecting? Of course she wasn’t going to take this the right way. How many ways were there to take someone trying to buy you?
Shit. Fuck. Damn.
He wiped more blood from his brow. His hand returned covered in the stuff. There were blotches of dark red on Roslyn’s skin and clothes, face and hair. Bloody wonderful. What a great start. Nick pinched the bridge of his nose. It didn’t help. His head pounded, brain fit to explode. Still her beautiful blue eyes bored into him. Laser beams couldn’t have been more effective.
“I’m a fucking idiot.”
Roslyn’s jaw hurt and she needed to pee. Who knew how long it had been since he’d cuffed her to the bed and gagged her. But facts of nature being what they were, she might disgrace herself before much longer. Jane Eyre never had to put up with this sort of shit. Roslyn suddenly felt quite bad for poor old Bertha locked up in the attic.
She rattled the cuffs, banging the metal bands against the headboard. Also, she attempted to wipe her chin off on her arm since she was dribbling again. Screw the indignity. Her throat felt parched, her shoulders ached and she remained covered in his blood. It’d dried to a clump in her fringe. She could see a streak of it on the side of her nose. The coppery scent turned her stomach.
Sunlight had gradually faded, leaving the room bathed in a soft golden glow. It’d probably been hours. Or half an hour, at least.
Nick had put a rough bandage on his face, cleaned up the kitchen and then disappeared into what had to be the bathroom. It seemed to be the only private room in the whole open-plan cabin. Her prison consisted of a lot of wood, with pine on the ceiling, floor and walls. A window across the way had been boarded up with more of the stuff. There was a big lounge. An ornate patchwork blanket done in shades of blue and brown hung opposite. A shelf full of books, leather-bound classics by the look. She couldn’t see much else. There was plenty of bed-and-breakfast and cabin-style accommodation in the area. The local wineries had brought tourists in droves. Wine and wilderness and all the fun stuff. She’d moved to the area a year back, seeking a tree change. And thank God she had. Apparently everyone in the cities was dead.
Still no sign of Nick. He hadn’t come near her again, thankfully. But she definitely needed him now.
She banged the cuffs against the headboard once more, calling up some customer service. It made a satisfying din. So long as she didn’t further damage her punching hand. She might need it. Hopefully Neil still felt the pain, somewhere out there. What a warming thought for the beginning of another cold night.
Nick stuck his head out of the bathroom, face cleaned up. No sign of the bandage and the cut on his temple had been sealed somehow. It made for an impressively angry, puckered red line. She’d done got him good. It sliced through one dark eyebrow and up the side of his forehead, trailing off into his hairline.
That’s what you got for trying to buy girls with canned goods. Devil. She’d shelve him at 235.
His bloodstained shirt was gone. In fact, he wore only a scowl and a faded pair of blue jeans. He wore them well. No wonder she hadn’t been able to escape; the man didn’t have an ounce of fat on him. It’d been a while since her last yoga class, what with the apocalypse and all. Exercise had never been her strong suit. This man, however, appeared the epitome of lean and mean. He had the same long, hard lines as a swimmer. It took some effort to peel her eyes away, despite her profound hatred.
“What?” he grouched.
Poor baby. If only she didn’t have the stupid gag in her mouth she’d have given him what for.
Roslyn tried to communicate several things with her eyes. Firstly, that she still believed him to be a fucking idiot. But secondly, and most importantly, she needed to pee and get a drink of water.
He made no move toward her. His gaze remained hard, unyielding. The jut of his chin looked distinctly unimpressed.
She blinked and cocked her head. Please.
He scowled some more. Then he winced, fine lips wrinkling in pain. His face had to hurt. Her enemy moved closer, looking down on her with wary brown eyes.