When I woke up the next morning, I felt like I was burning alive. I tried to escape the fire only to have strong arms pull me back into a firm chest. I had fallen asleep in Rhys bed after we’d migrated from the couch to his bedroom. I opened my eyes quickly as my stomach erupted with butterflies. His body was pressed up against me. If I weren’t careful, I would only end up with him inside of me again.
I had let my feelings for Rhys get the better of me yesterday, more than once. I couldn’t explain what it was about him that made me forget myself, but it was like a wire in my brain short-circuited whenever he was near. I pushed away from him.
“It’s too warm,” I whispered over the growing lump in my throat.
He opened one of his eyes, practically glaring at me. Someone wasn’t a morning person. He groaned in annoyance but threw the blanket off me. I let out a yelp. Now, I was completely exposed. I scrambled to get out of the bed to find something to cover myself with, but Rhys looped his arm around my stomach and pulled me back against his chest.
“It’s too early for this. Go back to sleep.”
“Are you crazy? I’m not staying in this bed with you.” I hissed between my teeth as I pulled at the arm anchored around my waist.
He nipped at my shoulder. “Let me persuade you.”
I shivered, remembering all the things he’d done to me last night. I wiggled out from under his arm, not caring how ridiculous I looked. I needed space between our bodies before I gave into my desire for him. “Last night was a one-time deal, buddy. So, get a good look because this is last time you’re going to get me naked,” I remarked as I slipped from the bed and out of his reach.
He eyed me through narrowed slits, slowly looking over my form. He lifted his head off the pillow; hair ruffled up from sleep. I found my fingers itching to smooth out the knotted curls and to comb through the dark waves that framed his face. God, he was a gorgeous man. A lady killer. I watched his lips quirk upward as if he was reading my thoughts.
“I think we both know that If I wanted to have you right now, you would spread your legs like the good girl I know you to be.” He tilted his head back, nostrils flaring. “I’m already getting hard thinking about your tight little pussy.” My legs felt like jello as molten lava seemed to be pooling at my core. My skin burned with embarrassment as my desire slickened my center.
I took a backward step, swallowing hard. “Stop talking to me like that.”
He turned his dominating gaze on me, a predatory grin on his lips. “Why? I can tell that you like it.” His eyes trekked down my chest and stomach, fixing on the apex of my thighs. I knew he could see my bodies reaction to him, smell it. There was no way to hide it, and still, I couldn’t resist the compulsion to do just that.
“Because it’s embarrassing,” I mumbled as I moved further from the bed, searching the room for anything to shield me from him.
Rhys sat up in the bed, chuckling. “Nothing is embarrassing about what’s happened between us.” He was calm about everything, which spoke volumes about the experience that he had in such things. I found my stomach twisting up with jealousy even though it was unnecessary. It was only natural for a man like Rhys to have women throwing themselves at him, it would have been more of a surprise if he had never taken any of them up on the offer.
Hell, I had thrown myself at him. I really wasn’t one to judge someone else. “We are going to have boundaries, Rhys,” I said before I snatched a discarded shirt up off the ground and slipped it on over my head.
“Whatever you say.” He didn’t seem too convinced as he conceded.
“Also, if I’m going to be staying here with you I’d like to have my things. I can’t keep wearing your clothes.” I pulled at the t-shirt that swallowed, nearly half of my body. I tried to pretend that the scent that clung to it didn’t fill me with an unquenchable thirst. I couldn’t expect myself to resist Rhys if I was forced to drown myself in temptation. I wasn’t a damn saint.
His green eyes moved from the tips of my toes to the top of my head in a sultry dance, his lips spreading into a teasing smirk. “I like you in my clothes.”
I threw my hands to my hips and heaved a heavy sigh. “Rhys.” I was trying to have an actual adult conversation with him about our situation, but he was steamrolling it under all his sexual bravado.
“Dove.” He mocked the way I had said his name as he fell back against the pillows, rolling over onto his side so that his back was to me. I took that as a sign that he had plans to ignore my request for the time being and go back to sleep. Something about that thought sent fire through my veins and anger pulsing into my twitching fingertips.
I glared at him. “Are you listening to me?”
“How could I not be listening to you, you’ve been screeching since you opened your eyes?” He rolled back over to look at me with a tired expression. My mouth fell open at his remark before I snapped it closed. I was caught in between wanting to throttle him and wanting to fuck him again. It was beyond frustrating.
I flicked my tongue over my lips. “Well, if you ever want me to stop screeching I suggest you get up out of that damn bed.” I held his gaze with a pointed look. If he thought I was going to bow under his will, he would be sorely mistaken.
His brows shot up, and he propped himself up on his elbows. “Is that so?” I knew like every male that had ever lived he wouldn’t be happy to be challenged by a woman. It was written in their DNA.
“Something you’ll learn about me, Rhys. I never say anything I don’t mean.” I left the ball in his court waiting to see what he would do next. I found my stomach fluttering with anticipation and fear. I could tell from the way he grumbled under his breath as he slid from the bed that he wasn’t used to being told what to do.
I couldn’t help the victorious smirk that spread up my face. Rhy’s eyes narrowed as he walked towards me not caring to hide his body from my view. He moved with a prowess that said he wanted me to look at him and I obliged. His broad chest was covered with a dark mat of hair, trailing down his chiseled stomach to his semi-hard cock that appeared to be growing harder the longer my eyes lingered on it.
“My eyes are up here, sweetheart,” he said in a low voice that sent a ripple of excitement through me. I tilted my head back, tearing my gaze from his body.
Rhys stood before, looking down at me with a smug expression, “You better go put some pants if you want me to take you anywhere and you better be quick about it before I decide to put that smart mouth of yours to better use.” I pulled my lips in, pressing them together as I moved backward never taking my eyes off of him until I was out of his room.
I was more than pleased to find that my truck sat where I left it, no one had touched it. I approached the tailgate, grabbing onto it and lifting myself up and over. Most of my bags were set neatly in the back, covered by a grey tarp. I could see Rhys hovering nearby out of my peripheral. He hadn’t spoken much to me in the ride to the motel. We had gotten into his Camaro, and he had turned on the radio. Any conversation I had attempted to have with him was met with simple answers and grunts. I had a feeling that there was a lot on his mind, so I had given up trying to talk and chose to enjoy the silence of his company.
“Do you think it will be okay to leave my truck here? They’re not going to tow it or something? Cause I can’t afford to get it from the impound,” I asked as I pulled back the tarp, revealing my bags, untouched.
I heard the sound of the truck door squeaking open. “I’ll talk to Dace about having him drive it out to the house,” he replied in a gruff tone. I didn’t like the idea of someone I didn’t know in my truck—especially someone who would probably go snooping through it.
“Why don’t I just drive it back?”
“What? Afraid I’ll just run off on you?” I pulled my bag free with a tug, the tarp crinkling. I peered in through the back window when he didn’t respond to my question. I couldn’t see what he was doing, but his back was tense.
He got out of the truck slamming the passenger door closed. My revolver in his hand, green eyes laced with suspicion. “Why do you have this?”
I stared at it, mouth growing dry. I had needed that revolver. It had been the only way to secure my freedom and make sure that I would be able to maintain it. Rhys had no idea what it was like to be my position. He hadn’t been kept like a bird in a gilded cage, tortured mentally and emotionally. He had no idea what it felt like to live under the paranoia of being hunted by vicious creatures.
“Why do you think I have it?” I jumped down out of the back of my truck, throwing the strap of my bag over my shoulder. I approached him, hand out. I wanted it back.
He stared at me, nostrils flaring in his anger. My answer was not good enough for him. I slapped my hand to my leg, letting out an exasperated sigh. “Look, I’m a female all alone on the road. I needed to make sure I was safe. I don’t have teeth and claws like you, Rhys. Don’t worry. I know how to use it.” I tried to reassure him hoping he would drop the topic and hand over the weapon. I didn’t want to ruin the camaraderie we had begun to build with one another.
“That doesn’t make me feel any better,” he said between clenched teeth.
I stared up at him with a flat look. “Would you calm down? It’s not like I have any plans to shoot you or any of your precious pack members with it. I’m saving those silver bullets for—”
“Silver bullets?!” he growled, holding the revolver like it was a flesh-eating creature. I let out a long sigh, crossing my arms over my chest. He was overreacting. “Explain yourself.”
“I don’t owe you anything.”
“I’ll explain later, okay? Just not right now.” I lunged forward and snatched the revolver from his hand.
Rhys let out a growl at my action, looking a little more defensive. I gave him a curious look. I wondered what had happened to make him and the others so suspicious of me. It must have been something terrible. I held up one of my hand in surrender, letting him watch as I opened up the gun and dumped the bullets into my hand. Six bullets. I tucked them into my bag and put the empty revolver in my waistband. “S’all good big guy.”
He visibly relaxed, but he wore a serious scowl on his face. “Sure, it is.”
I shook my head, snorting.
“Big baby,” I mumbled under my breath as I turned away from him and walked back to his car. I knew he could get me to tell him if he pressed me hard enough but I didn’t want to talk about everything just yet. I didn’t want to share my tales of woe with him because that would make what was happening between us more real, more dangerous. I didn’t want to rely on him any more than I already was. I could see myself settling into a strange sort of normalcy with him, and that terrified me. He met my gaze over the hood his Camaro but said nothing more about Silas or the gun. I felt relief that he was respecting my wishes, at least in this. I gave him a soft smile that he didn’t return as he opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat.
I couldn’t get much conversation out of Rhys as we rode back to his house. It’s not that he was very talkative before, but this silence between us seemed different than before. It made my palms itchy and my shoulders tense. It forced me to remember that he was more than a man – he was a beast, one that could rip me to shreds without much of a struggle. I side-eyed him from the passenger seat, trying to read through the grimace fixed on his face. A low rumble echoed through the car, Rhys’ lip curling up in a snarl. I turned my face to the road, body stiff.
“Damn it, Dove.” He slapped his hand against the steering wheel. “I’m not going to do anything to you. So, relax.”
“If looks could kill...” I muttered under my breath.
“I’m trying, okay?” he grumbled, wringing the leather of his steering wheel.
I shifted in my seat to face him. “Are you afraid of me?”
The energy in the car changed. I watched as his expression morphed from anger to confusion – at least I had distracted him with my off the cuff question. He glanced in my direction, meeting my curious gaze for a moment before turning his attention back to the road, readjusting his position. “I have no reason to be afraid of you. I trust you not to use your weapon against me or mine.”
I narrowed my eyes. “That’s not an answer.”
“Are you afraid of me?” he asked, turning my question back around on me.
“So are you.”
I stared at him, clenching my teeth. Rhys had an exceptional talent for sneaking past all my defense and burrowing under my skin like no one I had ever met. Breathing in deeply I forced myself to let go of my urge to continue our childish dispute. I could be the bigger person. “You unsettle me, and I know I should be afraid –”
“I’m sensing an incoming ‘but’...” he said, interrupting me.
I pursed my lips. “Can I finish?”
“Sorry. Please, continue.” His lips twitched as if he were suppressing the urge to grin. A person might think he enjoyed antagonizing me with his subtle responses.
“But something inside me tells me you’d never hurt me, not intentionally at least,” I amended.
Silence enveloped us again, and my insecurities began to twist my stomach into knots. Had I shared too much? Had I made things awkward between us by what I’d said? Why couldn’t I leave things well enough alone?
“I don’t want to hurt you.” The sound of his voice startled me from my self-conscious inquisition. I blinked, meeting his gaze as he turned to look at me. I sucked in a sharp breath at the emotions that seemed to be dancing in his deep eyes. It was hard not to get lost in them, almost like a dream that I’d rather not wake up from.
“But?” My throat was tight.
He turned away from me, squeezing the steering wheel. “But I think the only way to keep that from happening is to remind you that this thing between us will be short-lived. So, what we think of one another doesn’t matter all that much.”
I let out a wheezy breath as if he’d just sucker-punched me. I turned away from him. “You’re right.” He was right and yet, the muscles around my heart clenched painfully tight. He grunted, reaching over to turn on the radio, effectively ending any more communication between us. I peeked in his direction after a moment, eyes narrowing as I realized he still hadn’t answered my question.