He said nothing.
“Nick,” she sighed. “It will never belong in a Hallmark card, but I drove a car into a house and killed a man for you. You chained me up for days and I still wanted to come back and talk over our darkly sordid, slightly kinky, and a lot warped relationship. Face it, you’re stuck with me.”
His brows drew tight. “You’re high as a kite right now, aren’t you?”
“Maybe.” She grinned. Actually, she felt pretty fucking fantastic now that she’d gotten her way. “Did you miss me? Admit it, you did, didn’t you.”
He gave her his exasperated face. The edges of his lips tucked down, brows drew in. Her poor, pretty boy. She couldn’t help but wonder if he’d take his shirt off for her if she asked. What an awesome idea. Maybe after she’d had a nap. Yeah, she’d be sure to ask him then.
“638,” she said.
“638. You’re my honey. That’s where I’d shelve you.” Her eyelids drifted closed. “You won’t go anywhere, will you?”
“I can’t. We’re both in jail. You just saw to that.”
“Excellent,” she mumbled, settling back into the mattress. So damn tired, she could have slept for a year. “Good job.”
“Get some rest, sweetheart.” He pressed his lips to the palm of her hand. “I have a feeling you’re going to need it.”
Nick sat idle as Roslyn slept. He’d been staring at her, staring at the wall, feeling like shit. Getting her out had to be his first priority. But until she started working with him he didn’t like his chances. The woman could be bloody stubborn.
“You really care about her,” said ex-captain Sean, sounding mildly surprised.
Nick sat on the ground, his backs to the bars. “Noticed the medic has you wrapped around her little finger.”
Finn had taken off a while back and Sean sat in the office, reading a book by the light of a lantern. The sun had set about an hour back. Sean and Nick had always gotten on okay. They’d had a decent working relationship. While the big man could be rigid, he played fair. Military through and through. Nick had never been part of Sean’s inner circle, but he’d thought they’d understood each other. Being accused of the sort of shit Emmet was capable of had disgusted him. And worse, it made him feel vaguely ashamed. Because if he hadn’t been standing against Emmet, what the fuck had he been doing?
Good question. One he was finding increasingly hard to answer.
He kept catching himself grinding his teeth, cracking the joints in his fingers. Nothing about this situation was okay.
Sean smiled. “Roslyn seems pretty convinced that you’re trustworthy. That you wanted Emmet dead and we misjudged you.”
“Everyone wanted Emmet dead.”
True. Justin and Pete had thought the lunatic was packed full of good ideas. Ideas about raping and murdering and all sorts of shit most people couldn’t stomach. Nick had wanted him dead. But he hadn’t stood up to him. He’d followed orders, just like he’d been trained to do. When he finally stopped to think for himself everything had long since gone to shit and he’d been hiding in a bottle for over a month. Something he’d have to live with for the rest of his life.
So many regrets. So much guessing about what was right and what was wrong. It all fucked with his head.
“You ever think about the airport? The quarantine?” he asked.
Sean’s nostrils flared. “I try not to.”
“All those people.” Nick shook his head, hating the memory. Those first days of the plague were the stuff of nightmares. He could still remember the stink of fear filling the air, and the terror on people’s faces. Every five minutes a new command would be handed down with the latest contradicting the last. No one knew what was really going on, because no one knew how to stop it. They’d been screwed from the start. “They were terrified, didn’t know what to do. Who could blame them, faced with a field full of tents and people in masks, men shoving machine guns in their faces. I would have panicked too. Man, I would have gone ballistic.”
“Was it worth it? Us killing innocent civilians?” he asked. “They were just people on holidays. Wankers in business suits. They weren’t terrorists or anything and we had to shoot them in the back if they made a run for it. What the fuck does that make us? Not the good guys, that’s for certain.”
The captain didn’t answer straight away. He stared at his book with a heavy brow. “If we’d been able to stop the bug at that point, we’d have saved millions of lives.”
“Hmm.” It sounded nice, but the chances of it ever happening were nil. As many seaports and international airports as there were in the country and the amount of travel people did, keeping out a microscopic germ wasn’t possible. Maybe birds had bought it in. No one had figured out if animals could carry it too. There hadn’t been time.
“We had to try,” said Sean, his voice low. “We couldn’t just sit by and do nothing.”
“Yeah, you keep telling yourself that.” Nick snorted, hung his head. The prison bars pressed into his back. “We’ve done some dirty jobs over the years. Things that needed doing, but nothing like that. When did you start questioning orders, huh? When did it get too much for you?”
Sean just stared at him.
“Ever have trouble sleeping at night, captain? Or is your conscience perfectly clean?”
Nick turned back to Roslyn, watched the easy rise and fall of her chest. Her breathing calmed him. Her very existence gave him hope. Always had done, from the first time he saw her. He had no idea what life was for, couldn’t answer a single one of the big questions. But if he could keep her safe, make things better for her, then that would satisfy him. Make up for some of the blood on his hands. Funny, he could barely remember any woman that came before, but there wasn’t an inch of her he could forget.
“To answer your question,” Nick said, “yeah, I care about her.”
Sean set his book down and walked toward the jail cell. “Problem is, Nick, you can be a dickhead on occasion. You like acting up. Makes you less than dependable.”
Nick just waited.
“Maybe you were angry over the way we sent you packing,” said Sean. “You could have been using her to get back into Blackstone. Could have had something planned with Pete and Justin, for all we knew.”
When he didn’t answer, the captain went on.
“The truth is even more insane. How could you have brought that girl, chained her up and yet still have managed to persuade her to give you a chance?” Sean said with a harsh laugh. “I mean, how the fuck did you pull that off? Explain it to me, please.”
“Well, what you have to understand,” said Ros, her voice husky from sleep, “is that I base my decisions on how people behave toward me. And while there might have been some initial early hiccups, there are still far more marks in the win column.”
Nick shuffled over to her bedside, forgetting all about Sean and his bullshit. “How you feeling?”
“Hey.” Big blue eyes watched him steadily. She held out her hand and he went to her. “He earned my trust, Sean. Yes he made some mistakes. But you have to keep them in context. Every time it mattered, he came through for me without hesitation. Actions do speak louder than words and he risked his life for me more than once. So I’d appreciate it if you didn’t speak to him that way.”
“You in pain?” Nick asked, wanting the topic changed. Frankly, it was a little embarrassing having her stick up for him. He didn’t need Sean’s good opinion. The man could go fuck himself. “Lila dropped some antibiotics and painkillers off before.”
“You’re not fine. There’s still little bruises beneath your eyes.”
“Nonsense. Come here.” Ros’s hand snaked up around his neck and drew him down until his lips touched hers. He gave her what she wanted, kissing her soft and slow. She made this noise, this low, needy, intensely horny noise. Fuck, the things it did to him. But he didn’t want Sean hearing it. That noise was personal.
“Are you hungry?” he asked.
“You have no idea. Sean, can you give us some privacy, please?” asked Ros.
The captain’s brows arched. “I’m not sure …”
She clucked her tongue impatiently. “Wait outside please, Sean. The visit just turned conjugal and we do not require an audience.”
Nick tried not to smile and failed. Her ability to mix prim librarian with sex kitten had to be the best thing ever. But still.
“You’re hurt,” he said.
“Yes, she is. But I’ll let you two have a moment,” said Sean, heading for the door with his face on fire. “I’ll just be outside.”
Ros grinned. “Half an hour would be great. Thanks, Sean.”
The captain mumbled something along the lines of “for fuck’s sake” and fled the room.
“I’m serious. You need to take it easy,” Nick said.
“Thank you. Your flimsy protest has been duly registered.” A little line appeared between her brows. “Why do I keep having to coerce you into having sex with me lately? What’s with that?”
He rubbed at the line with the pad of his thumb. “Pain meds still working, huh?”
“Hey.” She slapped at his hand. “I’m being serious. Is this some sort of payback, Nick? You’re all gung-ho for a while but now it’s my turn to run around after you? Do I need to prove myself? Is that it?”
“Of course not,” he sighed. “Come on, Ros. Don’t get upset.”
“Don’t tell me what to feel.”
Fuck it. He shut her up by kissing her. Truthfully, it all confused him. Her loyalty unnerved him. He’d done nothing to deserve it. Again, he’d meant to do the right thing and let her go, but it hadn’t worked. No way did he trust himself to offer it one more time. He wasn’t that nice and he wanted her too much.