I swallowed as my body hardened to the point of pain. “I...I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” Her eyes narrowed. “Do you...do you remember your life before you were brought here?”
I paused, letting such heavy words drop into the fire beneath her.
My head pounded, and nausea swirled in my gut as I forced myself to reply. “Not really, no.”
She was quiet for a moment before murmuring, “Do you remember your parents? Your old home?”
Needing to do something, to outrun my disastrous memories and avoid her question, I squeezed the shampoo bottle and lathered my hands with papaya-smelling bubbles. Gathering her hair, I sank my fingers into the damp thickness, massaging her scalp.
“Oh, good God.” She trembled and arched under my hands.
Smugness filled me, pride that her nipples hardened to peaks and her breath feathered with need. “Has anyone ever done this for you?”
She shook her head, moaning quietly as I continued to comb soapy fingers through her hair. It seemed she’d forgotten about her interrogation for now.
“Have you been with many men?” I asked, my hands tightening against my will, holding her firm. Jealousy roared through me even as I tried to get myself under control. Why the hell had I asked that? I shouldn’t care. She’d had a life. So had I. Did it matter that hers seemed so much better than mine?
She stilled, and I took her silence to duck her under again to rinse away the papaya bubbles.
When she broke the surface, she whispered, “No one like you.”
“Well, that’s a relief.” I swallowed back self-hatred. “I’m not exactly treating you the way you ought to be treated. If I knew others had done what I’ve done...” My hands curled into fists, splitting the cuts I’d earned from punching the library’s walls. The pain burned as my blood oozed and blended with the water. “I’d have to rip them apart.”
She mumbled something under her breath.
She waved her hand under the water while I poured conditioner into my palm. “I said you’re treating me rather nicely right now.”
Oh, you have no fucking idea. I’m going to worship you.
My eyes skidded down her bareness, lingering on her breasts and pussy beneath the water. She still didn’t know how deeply she’d broken me tonight. How much I wanted to apologize. How much I hungered for her.
“How many were there...in your family?” She stiffened under my hands as if she was afraid I’d snap and not answer. “I’ve seen the single beds all lined up, and I’ve listened to you calling their names in your sleep, but...I don’t know for sure.”
Maintaining my attention on running the slippery conditioner through her strands, I kept my memories firmly at bay. “Eight. Nine, including me.”
She sank with sadness. “I’m sorry. So sorry.”
I shrugged. “They’re free now. At least...I hope they are.”
She looked over her shoulder, her eyelashes sparkling with water and moonlight, a little wrinkle between her brows showing that she cared. She cared a lot, and that was yet another fist to my totally ruined heart. “Why did you never leave to find them?”
I flinched, schooling myself not to cringe from recollections but instead gift them to this selfless, wonderful girl. “I had to stay to ensure they were safe.”
“Safe from who?”
“The men who ran this place.”
“But I thought...” She licked her lips, dragging my attention there and making my belly snarl to take her. “I thought you’d killed them.”
I froze. “What? How did you—?”
She ducked low. “Your nightmares...that first week after your fall. You mentioned killing the guests...and a man named Storymaker. Plus, I’d already guessed you’d done something like that when you marched me out with the shovel to that barren spot in the woods. It had the aura of a graveyard.” She flinched. “I’m sorry for accusing you of killing your family that day. I didn’t know—”
“Wait.” I felt fucking sick. “You’re apologizing to me for the day I marched you out with the full intentions of ending you?”
She snorted under her breath. “Nuts, huh?”
“Who are you?”
Her eyes softened. “I think you already know who I am.”
You’re everything I fucking need and everything I don’t deserve.
You were born for me.
I cleared my throat, muttering, “And you know who I am. You know I’m a murderer, yet you let me touch you.” I dropped my fingers from her hair. “I don’t understand how you can be near me, let alone let me put my hands on you.”
“I can because they deserved death. A thousand deaths.” Reaching for me, her wet, warm hand clenched around my unbroken forearm. “They deserve to rot in hell after what they did to you and your family. You care, Kas. That’s been blindingly obvious since I met you. You’ve turned off most of your empathy. You’ve been alone for so long that you struggle to remember how to be human. But...I know you care. I wouldn’t still be here if you didn’t.”