“Food.” He kicks the sole of my boot. So it is him. Somehow, it makes me feel a little less scared. He didn’t want me here, and didn’t slap me across the face. Unfortunately, in my world, this qualifies him as some sort of a black knight.
I hear the clank of a plastic plate being thrown in my direction on the floor, but don’t make a move for it.
“You deaf?” he asks.
“You stupid?” I smart off. “I’m blindfolded and tied. How the hell am I supposed to get to this food? The power of telepathy?”
He offers me another grunt, and I immediately regret snapping at him. I feel his fingers working the black cloth that’s tying my hands together, that peachy breath on my face again.
Once I’m free, he bends down, his warmth engulfing me, and places the plate in my hands.
“What’s for dinner?” I lick my injured lips.
“Whiskey-glazed steak with a side of wine-tossed asparagus.” He lets out a sniffle before adding flatly, “Wait, my bad. It’s just a peanut butter sandwich.”
“That’s better. I’m vegetarian.”
“I’ll let our chef know.” He offers me his own brand of sarcasm, his voice already descending. I realize that he’s about to climb back up. I can’t let that happen. Who knows when he’ll check on me again? The prospect of holding my pee a minute longer is nothing short of tormenting.
“Wait!” I launch forward, crawling on the floor toward his voice. I don’t hear anything, so I continue.
“I really need to take a shower, wash off all this blood. And I really, really need to pee.” I shuffle my way back to the corner, taking a small bite off my sandwich, my teeth brushing against my fingers. “Please?”
I feel his palm pressing flat against the wall I’m leaning on. I swear it moves a little from the impact.
“Finish your sandwich. Make it quick.”
I wolf down my dinner before he grabs my hand and leads me up the stairs. He stalks closely behind, and even though it’s taking me forever to climb up the narrow staircase, he keeps his grunt-count to a respectable minimum.
Leading me to the bathroom by the arm, he throws the door open and we both walk into the tiny room. Still blindfolded, I feel the cold sink stabbing at my lower back, but the warmth of his proximity keeps me from shivering.
“I need my privacy.” I lick my lips, feeling him everywhere. Not only is Beat physically big, he is also somewhat of a human furnace. I swear he radiates enough heat to photosynthesize a whole forest. I guess it’s good, because I always know when he’s around. But also bad, because why would it matter? It’s not like I can fight him in any way.
“Dream on, Country Club.” Another grunt.
“Please.” My voice breaks. Usually, I’m counting on my caramel blonde hair and big Disney-animal eyes—which he unfortunately can’t see right now—to get me out of trouble. I have a feeling this guy is harder to crack. “Just lock me in and stand guard outside. What can I do? Arm myself with a bar of soap? Try and break free through the sink’s hole?”
Is he going to buy it?
Is he sensitive?
Is he hard-nosed?
Maybe he’s both. He’s got some serious codes going on—no beating women, no manhandling your victim—yet he essentially agreed to lock me in here. Then there’s his tone and body language. Peaceful. Like he hasn’t got a care in the world, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve known him for a few short hours and I’m already privy to the fact that he was an inmate in San Dimas, has killed, owes Godfrey a favor and has the Aryan Brotherhood on his tail.
“Be warned,”—his peachy breath tickles my nose—“when people are bad to me, I’m worse. Don’t tempt my demons.”
L.J. Shen is a best-selling author of Contemporary Romance novels. She lives in Northern California with her husband, young son and chubby cat.
She enjoys the simple things in life, like chocolate, wine, reading, HBO, spending time with her girlfriends and internet-stalking Chris Hemsworth. She reads between three to five books a week and firmly believes Crocs shoes and mullets should be outlawed.