He snorted and shook his head. “Did you really think I hadn’t watched you?”
“Stalking. Let’s call it what it is.”
He shrugged. “If you like.”
“You’re not even ashamed.” Her face felt brittle. Stupidly surprised that the man who’d chained her to his bed had been spying on her. Of all the small, insignificant indiscretions—except it wasn’t really. Her privacy had been shat upon and she’d never even suspected. When the hell would she learn that the old rules did not apply? Life had been stripped back to the basics of food, water, shelter and sex.
And this guy, the one lounging in front of her, was as primitive as they came.
“I think we should talk some more about our deal,” he said.
“We have no deal. I have a chain. But we have no deal.” She picked up the dropped scanties and shoved them back into their crowded space. He didn’t need any more improbable ideas floating around his deviant mind.
“Of course we have a deal. We’re negotiating it right now.” He pulled his hands out of his pockets and rubbed them together, all enthused. “There’s no reason we can’t behave like honest, mature adults about this.”
“You’re such a creep.” She shut the cupboard doors and set her back against them. “Congratulations, my skin is actually crawling. You make Neil look viable.”
She mumbled a few choice expletives and headed back to the bed, chain trailing behind her. “I can’t believe you were spying on me.”
“Hang on, do you mean the bastard who cornered you in the Science labs the other day?”
“You saw that too, huh? Why am I not surprised?”
“Yeah. I saw.” Nick’s face twisted in anger, his lips a livid line within the frame of his beard. She’d have backed up if she hadn’t already been at the bed. “Do not compare me to him. I had him in my sights. I nearly shot the fucker. The way he was looking at you.”
“Least he wasn’t spying.” But he didn’t scare her enough, apparently. She never did know when to back down or shut up.
Dark eyes flashed. “He was working his way up to hurting you, Ros.”
She scoffed. “Please. Neil’s a wanker, but he’s not a rapist.”
“He wanted you. Badly,” he said. “Had his mates given you a talking to? Told you to stop being so difficult? To take one for the team, maybe?”
She tried to keep her face clear but apparently it didn’t work. Neil hadn’t scared her, or not exactly. Going out of her way to avoid him had, however, become a priority over the past few months. And yes, one of Neil’s flunkies had approached her about her reluctance to copulate with him. She’d sent the idiot running with a few choice words.
Nick’s lip curled in distaste and the muscles in his arms flexed. Whoa. It left her in no doubt as to his willingness to spill Neil’s blood. He’d do it without a second thought. Death was right there in his eyes, shockingly clear. “They had, hadn’t they? The fuckers. Still convinced you were safe there, Ros? Your little school was turning into Lord of the Flies.”
“You’ve read it?” Probably wiser not to insult him, but the words flew out of her mouth before her brain kicked in.
“Yes.” He gave her a humorless laugh. “Year ten. I have a good memory.”
“I can handle Neil. I’m not afraid of him.”
Nick’s eyes bored into her, brooking no nonsense. She got the distinct impression he could see straight through her skin. Not a comfortable feeling. Being open to him in any way was anathema. “Don’t lie to me, Ros. You can tell me it’s none of my business, but don’t lie to me.” His voice dropped to a harsh whisper. “Alright?”
“How did you know I was lying?”
The man gave her a wide, toothy grin. Her need to know usually rubbed people the wrong way. Trust him to be amused.
His two front teeth had a slight gap between them and little lines radiated out from beside his eyes. He was closer to rugged than handsome, of Irish stock, perhaps, with his ruddy skin. Far too raw for any sort of elegance, but he seemed totally at home in his own body. A body she noticed far more than she should. The man had no moral compass whatsofuckingever. Important to keep such relevant facts in mind while she discreetly ogled him. Stupid hormones.
“You shouldn’t have spied on me,” she said.
“Let’s agree to disagree.”
“Why couldn’t you just come and talk to me like a normal person? Why the grand Machiavellian scheme, huh?”
“You needed to know what those people were capable of.”
“You keep saying that. It doesn’t justify a damn thing.” She just shook her head in disbelief. “Your mind is so warped.”
He didn’t reply.
“He would have hurt you, Ros. And the rest would have just made excuses,” he said, his voice horribly calm. “I had to get you out of there.”
“Oh, please. Do not try to convince me this is all some altruistic crusade on your part.” Her hands curled into fists, making the bruises ache. “This, what you’re doing here, it’s all about you, Nick, and what you want. You are not my knight in shining armor. You’re not saving me from shit.”
He stared back at her in silence for a moment. “I nearly talked to you. A couple of times I almost did. But I’m not the best with words. Besides, it was better to show you. Now you’ve seen what your friends are like firsthand. Eventually, you’ll have to accept it. You can’t trust them.”
Maybe she couldn’t. But she sure as hell couldn’t trust him either. “So why me? Why didn’t you want Janie?”
He frowned then winced, lips pulled wide in pain. Tentative fingers massaged below and above his mighty wound. “Who? The little blonde?”
“Give me some credit. How old is she, seventeen? Eighteen?”
“Not interested.” He took a deep breath then clapped his hands together, startling her so bad that she jumped. “So, are you on any kind of birth control?”
“You heard me. Are you?”
“No. And I have every sexually transmitted infection known to mankind. Things are awful messy downstairs.”
“I’m never touching you.”
The bastard smiled the sort of smile that reeked of thinking with his prick. 176: Sexual Ethics. He had none.
He snapped his fingers and cocked his head. “What’s the line about protesting too much?”
She snarled. Hopefully like a lion but more likely a cranky kitten. Childish and futile, but, damn it, what was she supposed to do? Frustration had her furious. She could have thrown herself on the floor, toddler-tantrum-style, with limbs flailing at the unfairness of the world.
Nick licked his lips and looked away for a moment. The smile never faltered. Much more of this and she’d begin to think she was a constant delight. “Pick out some clothes, Roslyn. I’ll take the chain off long enough for you to get changed. Deal?”
“I don’t want anything from you.”
“Or I can dress you. Your choice. And you know the tie-on panties will be involved.” He stalked a couple of steps closer and loomed. “Fight me on something else, Ros. You being cold or hungry isn’t negotiable.”
“You’re such a great guy.”
His expression altered oh so subtly. She could have sworn he flinched.
“Hurry up,” he said.
With a futile huff she returned to the cupboard, grabbed the nearest pair of jeans, a T-shirt and the rest. Searched out the baggiest bloody sweater she could find. Not one of those tight pin-up–girl boob-enhancing babies. Forget it. This required layers and lots of them.
“Good girl,” said the patronizing son of a bitch.
“I meant to ask. How’s your head?”
The asshole just laughed.
“Do you always have this much trouble getting to sleep?”
Roslyn wriggled about on the bed, finally rolling onto her side, facing him. He couldn’t see her in the darkness, but he knew. The noise of her shifting on the sheets and rustling the blankets sounded so loud in the quiet, along with the clinking of the chain.
“Can’t say. I haven’t been held hostage before,” she said.
Whatever sultry, flowery scent she’d lathered on herself had him happily high. How nice it would be to lick her all over. Start with her cute, cold toes and work his way up. Leave no inch of her skin untasted.
“Smartass,” he mumbled.
Their first full day together had been largely uneventful. No further head wounds, at least, which was something to be grateful for. They’d talked a little. Not a lot. Mostly she’d given him shit about the chain. Fair enough. It wasn’t coming off, though. Not a goddamn chance in hell of its removal anytime soon, given her furtive looks at the door. Thankfully, his headache had evened out to a dull skull-splitting roar.
“They’re still out there,” she said, talking about the low, occasional moan coming from outside their back door.
“There’re usually a couple about. I gave up killing them. More just come to take their place. Maybe they smell the smoke from the fire. I dunno.”
“Mm.” Her voice was soft, sleepy. So how come she hadn’t fallen asleep already? Because no damn way could he let his guard down until he knew she was out for the count. Not if he could help it. He heard the clink of the chain again. A small disgruntled noise. Who knew what it was about, but he needed sleep desperately.
Then sheer fucking genius struck him blind. “You want the chain off?”
The noises stopped. “Yes.”
“Alright.” He sat up and flung back the bedding, clicked on the camp light sitting on the bedside table.