I raised my chin and quirked an eyebrow. “Yes, actually.”
He grunted under his breath, rubbing his temple as if he could rub away his headache. “Well, you’re wrong.”
“Well, I’m still going to help you. On one condition.”
His eyes met mine. “What condition?”
“I want the chain removed.” I waggled my ankle, making the leash dance on the carpet. “The blasted thing catches on everything. I’m sick to death of dragging a chair around or getting hung up on a table. I vow to you I will not run.”
His lips pursed as thoughts scattered over his face. He swallowed hard, probably analyzing my promise not to flee, debating on my truthfulness. Finally, he sighed heavily, chagrin painting him. “I don’t...I don’t remember what I did with the key.”
“Oh.” I bit my bottom lip before matching his sigh. “Damn, that does complicate things.”
His hands plucked at the chain slinking under his T-shirt, pulling up the material to reveal the leather belt tethering me to him. “No, not really.” Dropping his hand, he looked at me, stern and savage. “I wouldn’t have let you go anyway.”
My heart tripped, full of confusion that the man it’d fallen for could still be so cruel. I pushed the pain away and stayed brave. “You will. You’ll let me go eventually.”
He shrugged. “Guess we’ll see, won’t we?” Striding around me, he headed toward the exit, stepping over shattered plates and ruined meat. “Come on. We don’t have all day.” He didn’t wait for me, knowing I wouldn’t have a choice. Eventually the chain would snap and I would follow and he would win.
Just like yesterday.
Just like the day before.
Just like all the days since I’d found him.
I just had to remind him.
“NO, YOU’RE DOING IT wrong,” I barked.
Goddammit, she infuriated me.
And perplexed me.
And scared me.
And undid me, one shitty piece at a time.
She was right.
My mind might not remember what’d happened last night, but my heart sure as fucking did. And it tripped over itself every time she was near.
“How else am I supposed to do it?” She huffed, swiping at hair that’d come unstuck from her ponytail. Dirt smeared her cheek, and the smell of compost was ripe in the air. For the last two hours, we’d stood side by side in the shed, filling pots, planting seeds, and doing our best to ignore all the unsaid things between us.
I didn’t even know why I was bothering.
The sun didn’t last as long these days, which meant the growth patterns had already adjusted for the colder seasons. I was probably wasting precious seeds on an experiment that wouldn’t yield edible results, but...what fucking choice did we have?
We didn’t have enough to last the winter.
If the animals sharing the valley had already started nesting elsewhere, then trapping enough to feed us would be tough. Whatever chocolate was left in Gemma’s backpacks wouldn’t be enough to keep us going. And we had no plan B.
Therefore, we had no choice but to try.
“Don’t just shove them in there. They’re delicate.” I grabbed the pot she was currently stabbing celery seeds in too deep. “How do you expect seedlings to reach sunlight if you’ve pushed them to the bottom? Jesus.”
I waited for her to give me attitude. To roll her eyes or make some snide comment about my teaching methods. Instead, she carefully watched me create a small divot in the dirt, pinch a few seeds inside, then cover them lightly with a tiny amount of earth.
“Just so you know,” she muttered. “I own my own house, but I’ve never mowed my own lawn or pulled weeds. The only plant I’ve ever been tasked to look after was a fern my brother bought me. It died because I went off climbing for a few weeks and didn’t water it.”
I raised an eyebrow, brushing away the remaining earth from the pot lip. “And your point is?”
“I’m not blessed with a green thumb.”
I passed the pot back to her. “You just haven’t had a good teacher.” I coughed with a half-laugh, half-groan. “Or never been so hungry you’ll literally eat anything. That tends to make you learn pretty quickly on how to gather and hunt.”
She gave me a look that clenched my belly, reaching out to take the celery pot. “I won’t ask if living out here on your own was hard. That would be a really stupid question.”
“It would be stupid.” I turned and grabbed a tray, ready to sow lettuce and mixed greens. “So don’t.”
“But I want to know how you did it. You said you lost your memory for five years—”
My head shot toward her. “I said that?”
She nodded. “In the bath. Amongst other things.”
What else had we talked about, and why the goddamn hell couldn’t I remember?
She shifted on the spot. “So...how did you survive if you had no memory?”