The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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When Jase finally showed his face in the bedroom, it was light and Madison hadn’t long woken up.

“You can go to use the bathroom,” he said, leaving the door open and walking over to the wardrobe. When she returned, he’d changed from his jeans into a pair of grey joggers and discarded his t-shirt. His focus was on his phone so he didn’t spot Madison walking her eyes over his exposed abs. Jase’s body was currently his only redeeming quality, the way it dipped in and out at each muscle, the man was half shadow. She crawled onto the bed, rolling onto her back and resting her feet on the pillows. Jase moved away from the wardrobe as she started to speak, leaning his lower back on the desk and crossing his ankles.

“What did Kieran say to that guy last night?” she asked.

“That you were off-limits,” he mumbled.

“Why am I off-limits? Because of Peter?” He breathed a small laugh.

“No, not because of Peter.” He looked up from his phone, Madison was wearing one of his white t-shirts and a pair of white socks that came halfway up her shins. She was walking her fingers slowly across the band of her black underwear.

“Then why?”

“Because I said you are,” he replied. Madison smiled, absently tracing the lace material.

“And what Jase says goes,” she said quietly in a playful manner. He narrowed his eyes as she flipped onto her front, her feet in the air. She held her head up, studying him. “Like I belong to you?”

“No, not like you belong to me, Madison. You do belong to me, so long as you’re under this roof.” She smiled slightly. What she felt was all new to her, it was as if the blood was vibrating in her veins. Jase tilted his head, having not predicted her reaction. “How does that make you feel?” he questioned. Madison’s smile grew. She stood up, putting mere inches between them as she picked up the packet of cigarettes that was by his side. She slid one out, lighting it before replying.

“What exactly does it mean?” Jase watched her closely, looking her up and down.

“It means that no one gets to put their hands on you but me and if you behave yourself, I might not be such an arsehole.” Madison raised her brows.

“What changed?” she asked, blowing smoke to the side but not breaking eye contact as she lowered herself onto the edge of the bed, putting one leg over the other.

“In what sense?” Jase replied. Madison shrugged.

“Why did you suddenly turn on me? In all honesty, it was very obvious that we were trying to work each other out and make our lives easier, but why such a sudden switch? Especially if the end goal is the same; if I play nice, so do you?” Jase shifted, putting all of his weight on his other foot.

“People were talking,” he replied.

“Since when did a lion listen to the opinion of sheep?” Jase narrowed his eyes at her. She flicked her hair over her shoulder, sighing. “Also, won’t this whole ‘no one is allowed to touch me’ restart the talking?”

“This is different,” he said.

“How so?” Jase took a cigarette for himself.

“Do you not think it is?” he asked. She knew it was. This wasn’t soft and gentle like when they’d been playing a game, tiptoeing around each other. Now, they saw each other for what they were. This was demanding and hungry.

It appeared Jase valued ownership above sympathy and people were more accustomed to that behaviour from him. The familiarity left no spaces for questions or playground gossip. When Jase looked at her now, there wasn’t worry in his eyes for the small girl they’d dragged into the house. Instead, there was an insatiable thirst for the woman she was becoming. Madison felt a heat in her chest because of that look.

“The night that Tia died, who pulled the trigger?” she asked, disregarding his question. Jase gave a curt smile.

“You know the answer to that,” he replied. Madison returned the same curve of her lips.

“What’s it like? Killing someone?” He looked into her eyes, choosing his next words carefully. Most girls would recoil at the mere idea of being sat in a room with a killer but not Madison, it seemed. In fact, if Jase wasn’t mistaken, there was a dangerous curiosity in her eyes.

“Too easy,” he said casually. Her smile grew as she raised the cigarette to her lips again, allowing the filter to brush over them as she held it there.

“I’ll bet,” she whispered. Jase straightened himself up, putting a hand in his pocket. Before, when she was quiet and scared, she’d been predictable. Now, it was no question that Madison, the small, meek girl she had been was indeed dead and gone. She hadn’t been strong enough to withstand the house but within the embers left behind, someone new had risen. He didn’t see weak; he didn’t see pitiful.

Here was a woman that had evolved in such a way that she still held power. She had taken everything in her stride and started to make it work for her. He couldn’t objectify her to make her uncomfortable if she started to like it. He couldn’t remind her that he killed people for a living if she smiled at the thought. He couldn’t tell her off for her backchat because that would be taking the only entertainment left in the house away. But most importantly, he couldn’t stop her from doing what she was doing because it was everything he wanted her to do.

When someone turned your orders into a choice, the control shifted. After all, how could you punish someone with something they decide is fine by them?

He applauded her adjustments in his head.

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