Shaking my head, I mentally chastise myself for being stupidly ridiculous. That’s the problem though. When you find out someone’s trying to kill you, you become suspicious of everything. And what with my dad’s paranoia rubbing off on me, suspicion plus paranoia equals cray-cray.
I walk closer to it and scrawled on the top in chicken-scratch writing is ‘Lily’.
Lowering my hand, I pick up the box when someone clears their throat behind me. I drop the box like it’s hot and spin on my heel to face the intruder. Nox stands in the doorway dressed in his regular uniform of black cargo pants, army boots, a tight, black ribbed tank, and a black leather belt.
All black for the dark and sinister man.
His hands grip the top of the doorframe making his muscular arms look veined and angry hot. He leans into my room, his face void of any emotion. His blue eyes look into mine, “Open it.”
Narrowing my eyes at him, then the box, I ask suspiciously, “What is it? And more importantly why did you get me something?”
He sighs, suddenly looking tired and drawls, “Well, it was your birthday and I didn’t say a thing…”
I cut him off, not wanting him to know that it did kinda hurt, “You forgot. It’s cool. It happens. You’ve got a lot on your mind, and I’m sure my birthday wasn’t nearly as important as the other things you’ve got going on.”
He nods in admission, “I did forget.” He jerks his chin to the box on my bed and says quietly, “That’s something you can use so open it. Please.”
Sitting on the bed, I put the small box on my lap and lift the lid. I gasp wide-eyed and whisper, “Is this for real?”
I look up at him with my stunned expression and his lip twitches, “Yep.” He runs a hand down his face and says softly, “How did I know you were going to be excited about it, princess?”
Lifting the small three inch marble handled switchblade into my hand, I’m suddenly confused. My brow furrows and I ask, “Why this?”
Nox nods as if he’s mentally asking himself the same question, then explains, “That was mine. One of the first I bought. It’s light and easy to conceal. It’s one of my favorites.” Taking a step into my room, he utters, “I can’t be there all the time. In fact, I probably won’t see you again after this is all over. It would give me piece of mind knowing you have it. Just promise me something.”
Listening to his explanation has taken any fight I had out of me. I nod and he says, “You have to keep it on you all the time, even here at the house, and that if you ever feel you’re in danger, you use it. On whoever. No questions. Just do what you need to do to keep safe.”
I shrug and say quietly, “I don’t know how to use this, Nox.”
Smirking at me as if he was expecting me to say that, he tells me, “I’m going to teach you how to use it. You’ll have lessons with me. Every day.”
A small smile crosses my face and I tell him, “Okay. Cool.” I take him in a moment before I drawl teasingly, “You know, this is actually really sweet.”
Nox scowls and says, “Sweet? I just gave a twenty-three year old woman a weapon. A weapon that could kill a person. Not only that, but I’m going to teach her how to use it to kill a person, and how to harm someone well enough to escape a bad situation.” Shaking his head, he goes on, “Sweet? No, princess. I don’t think that’s very sweet.”
Smirking, I turn my back on him and whisper loudly, “Whatever you say.”
“Oh my God. I think I’m gonna be sick.” Blocking my nose with my forearm, I begin to sweat. This is my reaction to seeing a pig carcass hanging from the rafters.
Outside. In broad daylight. As if it is normal.
“Don’t sweat it, Lily. This is the best way to teach you. You’ll be able to see the wounds you inflict and I can show you where to use little force to create maximum damage.”
I open my mouth to speak, but only a high pitched squeak escapes me.
Finding my voice, I whisper, “I think I changed my mind. I don’t want to do this.”
A firm and cautionary, “Lily,” comes from Nox.
Turning to look at him, he offers, “You feel like you need to puke, we’ll stop.”
I can do this.
Okay. I’m good.
Nodding, I tell him, “I’m good now. Where do we start?”
Looking relieved, he takes the small knife from my hand, opens it in record time then, lightning fast, he plunges the blade into the belly of the pig.
The carcass swings from side to side with my switchblade embedded in its belly and I’m surprised that it doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. I guess I thought there would be more blood. And there’s, like, zero blood.
“What was that?” I’m proud of myself for the steadiness in my voice.
Nox comes up behind me, raises my hand and repeats the motion over and over again, bladeless. I’m confident in myself. I feel like I know what I’m doing now.
He places the blade into my hand and jerks his chin to the piggie. Clearly hesitating, he asks seriously, “You’re thinking about it all wrong. What if this carcass was a bad guy? A person who was trying to hurt you?”
It’s not very motivating but I get what he’s saying.
Then he utters, “What if it was someone trying to hurt Terah?”
And without thinking, I grit my teeth and attack.
My blade sticks out of the swinging pig’s belly and Nox’s hand lands on my shoulder, squeezing. Pulling me back a little, his lips hit my temple. I feel his smile there. The hand on my shoulder moves up to my neck and with another quick squeeze, he separates himself.
“Again,” he demands.
And I smile.
I can do this.
Today was a good day.
I learned to protect myself in a way I hope I never have to use, but the simple fact is, knowing what I now know could save my life.
Nox is (surprisingly) a very patient teacher. Even when I almost stabbed him in the eye.
I told him! I warned him! I said, “You sure you want me to come at you with something sharp in my hand?”
He grinned. “Lily.” He said this while shaking his head…like it was cute.
Alright, mister. You asked for it.
What Nox was not expecting was for me to incorporate the defensive and attack skills that he, Rock, and Boo had been teaching me for a month. So when he lunged at me and I feinted then jabbed, he didn’t see it coming. My hand with the switchblade jerked back as soon as I realized this.
What actually happened was I got him. I got Nox.
Insert shit eating grin here.
The sharp blade pressed against his cheek bone for not even a second, but it was enough to draw blood.
So, of course, I shit myself.
Dropping the blade as if it was burning a hole in my hand, I stepped back and waited for the yelling and arguments to start.
But they never came.
Instead, I got another neck squeeze and smiling lips at my temple. Still with his lips against me, he muttered thoughtfully, “Maybe I wasn’t the only one born for this life.”
My heart clenched for a full ten seconds before it released when I whispered my reply, “Maybe it’s because we’re lonely.”
His arms wrapped around my waist and he held me close, my side tucked into his hard stomach and chest. I closed my eyes, savoring the rare sessions of closeness he allows. When he kissed the top of my head and murmured, “Yeah. Maybe,” I did something that stunned even me.
Turning my head, I stood on my tiptoes and brushed my lips against his.
Pulling back, I told him, “I don’t feel lonely when I’m with you.”
His eyes met mine, searching for something. When he found whatever it was he was looking for, I lost his deep blues. With a squeeze of my waist, he let me go, and walked away.
I stood there thinking about what just happened, and I knew it changed things. Yet again.
Why was I feeling like this?
What was it about this man that made my brain stupid and irrational?
Why did I never want this threat against me to end?
I wanted to stay with him.
And tonight would help me make my decision.
Already sitting on the blue sheets of Nox’s bed, I wait for him to undress and get comfortable.
Dressed in a spaghetti strapped tank and white cotton panties, I’m sure I’m far from sexy right now, but I made sure to shave my legs and underarms. I even blow-dried my thick reddish locks and applied a little gloss to my lips. I don’t have perfume here at the safe house so I had to make do with deodorant.
Isn’t that how one becomes sexy?
My brain slaps a hand to its forehead, shaking its head in despair.
Removing shoes and socks first, he undoes his leather belt and he narrows his eyes at me. “You ‘kay?”
Shit! Play it cool, Lil.
Rolling my eyes, I scoff, “Uh, yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?”
The zipper to his cargo’s come down and I swallow hard. His lips purse. “I don’t know. You’re too quiet tonight. Normally talkin’ my ear off before bed.”
This was true.
I always had something to say and Nox was a good listener. He never once fell asleep while I was talking. He would always answer when asked. And he always made me feel like what I was saying was worth listening to, just by providing the attention.
That’s one of the things I love about him. Just one. There are too many things to name, and right now, looking at Nox undress, I can spot a few good ones.
I should make a list.
His tight black tee comes off next revealing his sculpted abs and broad chest.
Throwing it on the chair next to the bathroom, he places both hands on his hips and he watches me. His eyes become slits as he mutters, “Something’s fucky here.”
Heart racing, I ask, “Will you sit, please?”
At hearing the tremor in my voice, his eyes soften and he sits on the bed with his back to the headboard. “What’s up, princess?”
This princess was different from the others. This princess was not an insult. It was a sweet nothing.
I whisper, “There’s something I need to do. So I should just do it, right? I mean, if I overthink it, I won’t do it, so I should just do it.”
Looking confused as hell, he utters, “You do what you need to do, Lily.”
Nodding, I slowly crawl across the bed and over him. Never one to give anything away, his face remains stoic while I straddle his lap facing him, then place my palms on his chest.
“What are you doin’, Lily girl?”
Not able to meet his eye, I answer quietly but truthfully. “Reacting.”
My eyes trained on his full bottom lip, I lift my hand and run it up his rough and stubbled cheek. My stomach clenches as I lean forward in an attempt to kiss him.
All my squishy feelings come to a screeching halt when he grabs both of my hands, places his forehead to mine and says “Don’t. Don’t do it.”
I think it would’ve hurt less if he threw a bucket of cold water over me.
Cheeks flaming with humiliation, I move to pull away from him, but he holds me tight. Nox whispers, “I’m not rejecting you, Lily. I’m protecting you.”
My voice shakes while I squeeze my knees tighter around his thighs. “I don’t need you to protect me right now, Nox. I need your mouth on me. I need to know why I feel like this, and if it’s just a thing, or if it’s more. You told me to do what I had to do. All I want is a kiss.” Dipping my chin, I whisper, “Just a kiss.”
His thighs tense under me. Placing his hands on my knees, his thumbs stroke the skin there.
“You’re startin’ something dangerous here.” He breathes in deeply and adds on an exhale, “You sure you need this?” His voice is soft, but the words come out firm.
Meeting his hooded gaze, I confess, “I don’t know if I need it, but I want it really freakin’ bad.”
He swallows hard.
Loosening his hold on my hands, he mutters roughly, “You kiss me, you do it properly. Show me what you need. Not gonna move a muscle, just show me.”
I have permission! That’s, like, a gazillion times better than rejection!
Raising my hands to his cheeks, I cup them and move my thumbs over the roughness that I like so much. Closing my eyes, I lean forward, pull his face closer to meet me halfway, and press my lips to his.
He doesn’t move but allows me to kiss his closed mouth deeply and softly, over and over again. The bulge in his boxers grows even larger, and the very tip of him kisses my cotton panty covered sex. At the very same time that he hisses and jerks, I gasp as my eyes widen.
Oh wow, that feels nice.
He doesn’t give me an inch. His mouth doesn’t open and I find myself begging for a taste of him. I whisper against his lips, “Please. Open. Please. I need it.”
At hearing the sincerity of my plea, his lips part a little.
Not wasting any time, I sigh as I lightly brush the tip of my tongue against his.
Warmth cloaks my entire body.
My hands slide down his cheeks, to his jaw, and up through his hair. Tingles shoot from my toes all the way to the hairs on my head.
It’s everything I hoped for and more.
Not able to stop myself, I moan into his mouth, wanton and needy, “Yes.”
His arms coil around my waist, he pulls me closer so we’re belly to rock-hard abs. His mouth opens wider as he tilts his head, finally giving in. He presses his mouth into mine hard, almost punishingly, and I feel myself getting damp between the legs.
Kiss me forever, you brute.
You know how when a guy and girl really like each other in a book, they talk about a spark between them?
With Nox, there is no spark.