“I will give you a week. One week for you to come to terms with this because, frankly, I’m not exactly in great condition myself. I need to rest. I need to heal. So you have my promise I won’t touch you for one week, Gemma Ashford, but after that, I’m taking you. And I fully expect you to open wide for me.”
I let her go.
She shot up from the chair and shoved me back.
My compromised balance didn’t stand a goddamn chance. I tripped, my arms wheeled—splint and all—and I tumbled backward with a grunt.
The glass floor offered no softness whatsoever. My tailbone exploded in agony. My elbow yelled as I did what I could to protect my broken arm. The conservatory continued to spin as she stood over me and ducked to do what I’d just done to her.
Both her hands landed on my cheeks, her touch sending fire through my blood and lust straight between my legs.
She sucked in a breath.
Sexual need burned us to ash.
I could’ve come from that single contact.
Another few minutes of her touching me and I would’ve been a goner.
But she didn’t give me a few minutes.
She gave me seconds.
A cluster of awful moments and a condemning curse that echoed in my ears long after she stalked from the conservatory and left me on the floor.
“The day I willingly let you have me is the day you should fear me.” She smiled and tucked messy hair behind my ears, almost sweetly, sisterly. My skin blazed where her fingertips had been.
“The moment I kiss you back, Kassen Sands, you’ll be at my mercy, not the other way around. Take me against my will, and I won’t just take your body in return; I will take your heart. I will unearth all the love that you’ve suppressed so, so deep inside you, and I will make you curse the very day you decided to trap me.” Standing, she backed away, shrugging lazily as if electricity didn’t crackle between us and the very walls didn’t drip with our lust. “Take me against my will, and I will show you what heartbreak can do to a man like you.”
Fuck, who was this girl?
“A man like me?” I barked, already panting like a love-sick fool as she crossed the threshold.
She turned her back on me. “A man who’s desperate for someone to call his own.”
I shouted at no one. Just an empty glasshouse, my ears ringing as my voice boomeranged back. My hands fisted to punch something.
How did she read me so goddamn well?
And what exactly could I do to stop her curse from coming true?
Because I would take her.
I would fuck her.
Hundreds, no, thousands of times.
I couldn’t live with her and not be inside her.
Welcomed or forced, it didn’t matter at this point. I had to have her. Again and again.
So what did that say of me that instead of being eager for her fight, I was rock hard and starving for her threat.
I wanted the day when she finally kissed me back.
I wanted the heartbreak she promised me.
CAPTIVITY MADE ME PETTY.
Yet another thing I’d learned about myself since I’d made the colossal mistake of driving to this cursed national park and finding him.
So far, I’d made a list.
Some revelations, I liked. They showed growth, fortitude, and consideration. Others, I did not. They showed grouchiness, short-temperedness, and the unnerving ability to hold a grudge (despite endless pep talks to myself to look on the bright side, to see a silver lining, to believe in the greater good).
Hah, greater good?
Was I meant to believe this was supposed to happen? That I was supposed to put up with his behavior and not be annoyed? Even Mother Teresa would’ve been annoyed.
I looked after him, for goodness’ sake!
Tapping my pen against my lips, I scowled at my list. The list I’d made to look like the dating profile I’d filled in what felt like eons ago.
Name: Gemma Ashcroft
Looking for: Sanity to outwit and outplay a man who isn’t a bad person but does bad things. A man who’s suppressed so much crap only a solid baseball bat to his stupid head will wake him up.
Game plan: Two options: Option one, continue the silent treatment, let his mistakes speak loudly, and withhold all kinds of conversation, companionship, and connection. Option two, pretend I’m not annoyed. Seduce him, obey him, and make him believe he’s forgiven. Grant his delusion of a happily ever after between us by showing him it’s not only achievable but already achieved.
I ripped out the page from the notebook I’d found in the games room and tore it to shreds.
No way could I kiss him again, suck him, touch him.
I threw the confetti all over the hide of an unfortunate bear skin on the floor. I’d told him the truth a week ago when he’d cornered me in the conservatory. The day I showed any kindness toward him again, a single speck of lust, it wasn’t because I’d thawed and forgiven him, but because I’d chosen option two.