Pressing herself against the seat as the driver’s side door opened, all she could do was watch him. The woodsy smell intensified as he entered.
“I thought you’d sleep longer.” He turned in his seat and looked at her, handing her a full brown paper bag.
“I haven’t been sleeping well, for obvious reasons.”
Gage was silent for several moments, his profile shadowed by the lights from the parking lot. He breathed out deeply. “Yeah, they’re fuckers, but you don’t have to worry about them anymore.”
She opened the bag, seeing chips, candy, plastic-wrapped sandwiches, and an assortment of unhealthy food, but God, did they look good. “Thank you.” She’d lost weight since being Rye’s prisoner, not because he wasn’t feeding her, but because she hadn’t had much of an appetite.
And what she did eat, what she’d been forced to consume, she’d thrown up after the guards had left her alone, her stomach in knots. Neeka looked down at the unflattering hospital gown she still wore, and saw the dirt and wounds that covered her arms and legs, and the nasty cut on her calf.
“I didn’t know what you liked, so I got a little of everything. It’s shit food, but right now it’s all there is.”
She looked up at him, seeing his gaze land first on her dirty bare feet and then flickering to the wound on her leg. It would heal by tomorrow, but right now it looked pretty bad. “It’s perfectly fine, thank you.”
“Although I want to drive straight through until you’re with your father, I’m taking back roads and it’s doubling our time. You also need rest, so I’ve let the people I work for know I’m getting a motel for the night so you can rest. I also want to keep a low profile as I know the men that took you will be searching for us.”
She was silent after he spoke.
“You might not think so, but you’re in shock over everything.”
She didn’t deny that.
“Where are we?”
“We’re about fifty miles outside of West Holmes. I haven’t noticed anyone following us, but I don’t doubt they are trying to catch our trail. I’ll find an offbeat motel, and we’ll bunker down for the night.”
She wanted to see her father, but she also wanted to be safe. Sleeping in a bed that wasn’t surrounded by a locked prison door or cinderblock walls sounded pretty damn nice, too.
“Although I can take them if the fuckers want war, I also want to keep you safe. That’s my first priority.”
“Thank you, for everything.”
They stared at each other for a suspended moment, and she felt herself warming at the intense look he gave her. His short dark hair fell slightly over his forehead, and his light green eyes seemed almost unreal.
Even though he was seated, she remembered all too well how his body looked, felt, all sinew, tendons, and bulging muscles. He had towered over her back at the facility, reminding her of how male he truly was.
What in the hell is with these thoughts? You should be focusing on getting home, not on Gage’s body.
She cleared her throat and shifted in her seat, confused at how her body could light up after the ordeal she’d just been through. Something dark, intense, crossed over Gage’s face, and he turned back in his seat. After starting the SUV he pulled away from the gas station and got back on the road.
She grabbed a cupcake and bottle of water out of the bag, not really hungry, but wanting something to do to help keep her mind off of everything.
Although she was away from Rye, she also didn’t want to think this was truly over.
It’s not, and you know it.
Thirty minutes later, Gage was pulling into a small, rundown motel off of the deserted road they’d been traveling on. He looked in the rearview mirror for the hundredth time, seeing Neeka sleeping. Something shifted in him, broke even. The feelings inside of him for her were foreign.
All he could think about was holding her, running his hands through her hair, and promising her everything would be okay.
Push the thoughts back. They’re dangerous.
He stopped in front of the main entrance, keeping the car idling as he quickly got out and retrieved the key to their room. He got back in the vehicle and pulled the SUV around to the back of the building and behind the large dumpster that resided there.
He turned off the car and just sat there for a moment, watching Neeka through the rearview mirror, transfixed by the way she was breathing easily, as if she had no worries. A part of him wished they’d met under different circumstances.
The way it was, she was his assignment, his target that Edward McCarthy had paid his organization to find.
If things were different, maybe he wouldn’t have felt so guilty looking at her the way he was. The hospital gown was unflattering, true, but while she slept, it molded to her petite form, her breasts small yet firm looking. Although she was tiny in comparison to him, her legs were long and slender, and the images that he conjured up of what he wanted to do to her should have made him feel shame, not unyielding lust.