J O H N
He was out of his mind with worry. And then she awoke.
He wasn’t sure why the massive wave of relief hit him, bigger than it should have been. Actually, he did know why. But he couldn’t speak about it. He couldn’t make it more real. He couldn’t actually care for her. Lusting after her was one thing, but caring? The only person he cared about was his sister, and that was all. If his parents died, he wouldn’t grieve, he would only be concerned for his sister. Sara was all that he gave a shit about.
And then came Mari.
He was impressed with how well she handled getting shot. He expected a lot of whining and squealing to come from it that would make his eardrums burst. But deep down, he knew she was much stronger than he gave her credit for. And he was starting to, now.
He appreciated how much it must have hurt, and how hard it was to keep it all in. He admired it. She was truly incredible.
All the other things in his mind were blocked out. She was the most important thing right now. Why was he so concerned about her? Why did he care so much? He had driven her across the country to get her the best treatment he could offer. Maybe it was because she saved his life and he owed her. Maybe it was because he knew he wouldn’t be paid if she was dead, or had an infected gunshot wound, or if she was shot at all. Maybe it was his respect for Alessandro. But deep down, he knew there was another explanation for it, one he would hide in a dark place.
“She needs to rest,” Marcus said.
“No, I don’t. I’m fine. I’ve rested enough,” Mari butted in defiantly, even though her voice sounded very hoarse, like someone had placed a frog down there. She could barely keep her eyes open and as she attempted to sit up, it was more than clear that they weren’t going anywhere for a while.
“Rest up, princess,” John commanded with his authoritative tone that subsequently made her sigh, give up and fall back down on the pillow John had placed under her head.
“I don’t like sleeping,” she muttered with her eyes closed. The sight was incredibly adorable, yet Marcus kept his eyes trained on John with an accusing glare. John rolled his eyes and sighed. He knew it was wrong, but he couldn’t help his straying eyes. And he was a man. He couldn’t help how his body and mind reacted to her.
Once he was certain she was asleep, he rang Redford. He needed someone else stalled. The bikers. He would take care of them himself once Mari was back with Alessandro and her fiancé.
Her fiancé. The word sounded bitter in his mind when thinking of Mari with a demon like Dante. They had crossed paths before, a long time ago. Back when he met Alessandro. Dante was close with Alessandro. He was someone who needed a mentor, and Alessandro was already a don. Back then, Mari was just a little kid. Guilt stabbed him at all sides. Merely the mention of Dante’s name had his conscience running riot inside of him. He had grown to care for Mari, and therefore his regret had grown much more since meeting her. He hadn’t even given a second thought to what he did before that.
With a reluctant grown, Redford agreed to take it on. He had no clue as to why the bikers did what they did. They would in no way shoot him over some bike. Something had changed from when John had left to chase Mari and when they started shooting. And he was cautious of what that might be. Was someone out to get him? Maybe it wasn’t him they wanted at all, but Mari. That was why he needed them stalled. He needed time to piece it all together before he entered a war. He had three sides attacking. Plus, Alessandro’s pressure. And he had zero attacking before Mari.
After hours had passed, John carried Mari out to his car, settled her into the back seat and decided it was best to take her to a motel. She needed to rest on a bed, not a metal table made to sit sickly cats and dogs on.
She was truly a beautiful sight. She was wrapped in his jacket that was so big it looked like a cloak. Her little nose twitched as she slept, like a cute bunny. She didn’t look like the mischievous girl he knew. She was just… an innocent young girl. And she was being forced to marry a mafia monster. No wonder she ran. No wonder she would do anything not to go back.
This place had an elevator, so he had to be even more gentle with her. He paid for a room for the night and tucked her into the bed gently. She was the most fragile thing; any slight movement could break her so easily. Her skin was so soft, and her angelic features made it impossible to look away from her.
Was he really going to deliver her to her father and allow her to be palmed off to Dante Marciano?
“John?” He thought she was awake, but she was muttering his name in her sleep. So, she did dream about him. Whether it was a dream or a nightmare, he was important enough for her to care.
“Mari, what are you doing to me?” he whispered, stroking her hair and pressing his lips to her forehead.
He slipped into the bed beside and watched her. He knew it was creepy, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away. Her head started to toss, turning from side to side rapidly. Her whimpering made him panicked. He wondered whether it was a nightmare or it was from her pain. He tried lightly waking her, but when she cried John’s name, his heart fell out his chest. The words that followed was ‘save me’.
He soothed her, stroking her cheeks and comforting her. He didn’t know why. It wasn’t something he ever did. It was something he didn’t even know he could do. But she began to calm down and sigh contently.
He rested next to her, his arm scooped over her waist, and he sat her cheek on his shoulder. He liked the feeling of her next to him, more than he should. His manhood was definitely reacting in the way it shouldn’t. She shuffled closer to him unconsciously, snuggling up against him like he was her pillow. She needed to stop moving, immediately.
He couldn’t help the groan that escaped him, so he held her down tightly to stop her from wriggling more. But he couldn’t hurt her. Her shoulder was bandaged up well, but it wouldn’t protect her. She needed rest and he couldn’t wake her.
However, he failed in that task. Her eyes slowly opened, giving him a dazed expression in the mist of her sleepy state. She didn’t even question their position. She just stared at him as he stared at her.
“You okay?” he grumbled.
“Yes,” she breathed out. He would have thought she had gained enough consciousness to push him away, but instead, she rested her head back on his shoulder and laid there. They were both awake. They were both still. He was unsure whether she could feel the erection that grew in his pants but there was no chance in hell that either of them would address it.
“Go back to sleep, Mari.” He knew it was well into the day by now, perhaps afternoon, but she needed her rest, and they would be back on the road heading towards New York once she was better. He couldn’t deliver her back with a fresh gunshot wound. He would surely pay for that. And they were quite far from New York now.
To think of the journey both of them had made over the country in the last couple of months, it was incredibly temperamental. They passed through plenty of cities twice or three times even. They had travelled down the same highways various times.
“I’ve had enough,” she whined into his shoulder, hiding her face.
“There is no way you’ve caught up on all the sleep you lost,” John stated.
“I’ll only sleep if you do,” she muttered dozily. He agreed to her terms and allowed his eyes to close.
Mari had taken a bullet for him. No one had taken a bullet with him. But then again, granted that was because he wasn’t nearly shot at this many times in this short amount of time. Mari could have gotten across the country by now, even if the bullet had merely slowed him down. She knew that. And yet, in that moment, she decided to save him.
Now they were in bed. Together. Right up against each other. Even when Mari woke, she allowed their close proximity to happen. She even got closer to him.
Sleep overtook him as he contently laid there.
Before he could open his eyes, he heard the faint little pitter-patter traveling further away from the bed and towards the door. He silently groaned when he realized Mari was so longer next to him, the feather-like weight gone from his shoulder.