I SAT ON THE cold cement floor of the bathroom, knees to my chest, arms tight around them as I waited for the door to open.
Booted steps strode through my adjoining bedroom toward me.
Goose bumps scattered. My body trembled as raw fear gripped me. It was like I was hanging off the side of a cliff by my fingernails, knowing I’d eventually fall and the pain would come.
He’d come. My husband or whoever he’d sent to get me.
There was no escape. No where to run.
The heavy thuds stopped outside the bathroom door, and I glimpsed the tall, dark shadow that filtered through the two-inch gape.
I put my chin on my knee and closed my eyes, afraid to look. If I didn’t look, then no one was here. My breath came in short, sharp, quiet gasps and I dug my fingers into the sides of my thighs so hard, blood trickled down my skin through my pants.
For almost a month, I’d expected this day to come, stomach churning every time I heard someone in the corridor outside my bedroom. Living in a black hole, I was desperate to get out, but knew the day I did, it was to face punishment for helping the Scars escape the compound.
The door pushed open with what sounded like a kick of a boot.
Tears pooled in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. I squeezed my eyes shut harder as fear drilled into me like tiny darts piercing my skin.
Please don’t let it be Ben. Anyone but Ben.
“Fuck, babe. What the hell?”
My breath hitched at the sound of the familiar, deep voice. A voice I’d never forget. A voice that gave me hope then snatched it away with his lies.
I raised my head and locked eyes on the Scar I’d helped escape.
Well, more like he used me in order to help him and his friend escape.
He was also the man who had haunted my dreams for weeks since then. And they were haunting because he was scary. Not ugly scary, far from it, but intense scary.
He had a chiseled jaw with a few days of scruff and defined cheekbones. His look was old-world, which made sense since the Scars were immortal, but he definitely wasn’t an old-world English gentleman. More like a Highland Scot.
A long, jagged scar dragged from his right brow to his ear and another across his neck, which attributed to the scary factor. But that wasn’t what did it—that gave him character, it gave him a story.
It was his eyes that really intimidated, black and cold without a hint of compassion. And after spending a night in an air duct with him, I knew, compassion was not part of his disposition.
Actually, he’d been an asshole and didn’t try to hide it.
I didn’t move.
I didn’t know what to do. He’d used me before, so I guessed he was here to use me again, although the reason was unclear because my husband didn’t have any Scars in his compound for this guy to break out.
“Babe, don’t have time for this shit. Get the fuck up.” He didn’t wait for me to get up, but bent, grabbed my forearm, and hauled me to my feet with a rough yank. I landed against him, my palms on his chest.
I quickly shoved back, but his hand remained locked on my forearm, and he didn’t allow me further than arm’s length. Staring, he performed a quick assessment, his dark eyes narrowing and trailing down the front of me.
“You look like shit. Worse, actually.” With the calloused pad of his thumb, he haphazardly wiped the tears from my cheeks.
I had no response. I was confused as to why he was here and how he managed to get into the basement and find me without the alarms blaring.
He cupped my chin. “You hurt?”
Not really, but I was an emotional wreck. Did that count?
“You need to answer me when I ask you a question.”
He was right, I did, and not because he told me to, but because there was a sliver of hope. I always had it. Most of the time, it was buried deep, but when my eyes hit the Scar… it surfaced whether I wanted it to or not.
So, that hope was him, and pissing him off was going to kill it.
“No,” I said. He frowned. “I’m not hurt.” Then I had a moment of bravery that came with the hope. “Ummm, why are you here?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
Not really. But the answer wasn’t important, because he’d lied to me before, so no matter what he said, it was highly probable it was complete bullshit. And so was my hope.
His jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed; yet his hand on my chin was soft and gentle. “Do I need to fuckin’ carry you?”
What was he talking about? “Carry me? Carry me where?”
His lips pursed together as he glared at me with black, unforgiving eyes. “Listen, babe, I don’t feel like becoming some guy’s lab rat, so I need you to pull your shit together, answer my questions, stop asking them, and maybe we’ll get out of here alive.”
Get out of here? The hope plowed back into me, but I was afraid to grab onto it because I didn’t dare believe the Scar had come back to get me out of here. Why would he?
But there was something different in him than three weeks ago. Maybe it was the way he gently wiped my tears away or how he held me right now, his fingers no longer bruising, but holding me steady as if he knew I needed the support.
He was tall, probably six foot two, and I’d noticed when I was against his chest that my head tucked under his chin. I also noticed, beneath his black T-shirt, he was rock-hard with ridges and valleys of muscles.