Hollowland / Page 54

Page 54


“Yeah, but you gotta really sell it.”

“This isn’t selling it enough?” I gestured to my outfit.

“Yeah, but you gotta be all over me too,” Tatum said, and I rolled my eyes. He dropped the cool guy act for a minute and gave me an earnest look. “I’m being serious. You’re acting all skittish and weird, they’ll know something’s up. So just pretend you’re into me until we get through the doors. Can you handle that?”

“Yeah,” I nodded.

“And when I touch you, don’t freak out.”

He looped his arm around my waist, powerful and warm. His hand went dangerously close to pressing painfully on the bite wound. I almost slapped it away, but that wouldn’t look right. I leaned into him, rubbing my hand on the firm muscles of his stomach, and let him lead me over to the door.

“Giggle a lot,” Tatum whispered when we got closer.

“I don’t giggle.”

“Hot girls always giggle,” he insisted, so I tried a small, feminine giggle, but it sounded like a horse or something. “Okay. Never mind. Don’t giggle.”

When we got to the doors of the building, I nuzzled even deeper against him. I knew I was a horrible actor, so I let my hair fall into my face, hiding the excitement and anxiety I felt. The hand Tatum had around me got increasingly friskier, roaming all over my body. American hero or not, I kinda really wanted to kick him.

“Another one, Tatum?” one of the guards asked jovially, and Tatum laughed.

“You know me. I work hard, I play hard, Griffin,” Tatum replied and slapped my ass. It was really, really hard for me not to punch him, but I somehow forced a playful squeal instead.

“I hate to bust your balls, but the Sergeant really does not want civilians inside,” the other guard said. “Can’t you go back to her place?”

“She lives with other people,” Tatum said. “And we need some privacy.”

“Just let him in, Stanley,” Griffin said, imploring the other guard to listen to Tatum.

“Fine,” Stanley sighed. “But this is the last time. You need to find a love nest somewhere else.”

“Thank you,” Tatum smiled gratefully as Stanley punched numbers in the keypad.

“Don’t play too hard now,” Griffin said. “You’ve got field training in the morning.”

“I can’t make any promises,” Tatum quipped. The doors slid open, and he led me through.

Once the doors shut behind us, I pulled away from him. The hallways were plain and utilitarian, like the kind in most hospitals. White floors, speckled tiles, drop ceiling. I couldn’t see anybody around, but I could hear people talking and laughing and music playing.

“Thanks for getting me in,” I said, readjusting my skirt.

“It was my pleasure,” he grinned.

“Yeah, I’m sure it was,” I muttered, remembering when he grabbed my ass. He laughed, so I shot him a look.

“Come on. The second floor is this way,” he nodded to the hall to his left. I walked with him, deliberately giving him a wide berth. “I’m not gonna grope you now or anything.”

“How do you have music?” I asked, changing the subject.

“We have CD’s and stereos,” Tatum shrugged again. “All we need is electricity.”

When we walked a little closer, I was surprised the band playing was Emeriso, Lazlo’s old band. Over the music, I heard a door creak and footsteps approaching.

“Someone’s coming,” Tatum said. Without warning, he grabbed my wrist and pushed me up against the wall. “Don’t slap me.”

I just stared at him, and then he pressed his mouth against mine. His kisses were hard and rough, and while they weren’t entirely bad, I didn’t really feel anything. Not like with Lazlo.

I heard the footsteps getting closer, so I kissed him back more fervently, and a man whistled.

“Get a room, Tatum!” a guy laughed.

“On my way,” Tatum stopped kissing me long enough to smirk at the guy passing by. He didn’t kiss me anymore, but he stayed leaning against the wall, his body pressed against mine, until the other guy had disappeared around a corner. Then he looked at me, his eyes both earnest and hungry. “You know, my room is just around the corner-”

I scoffed and pushed him off me. When I’d  put my hands on his chest to push him, I was surprised how fast his heart was beating. Even though he had only been helpful since I met him, he was so cocky that I didn’t really think of him as really feeling anything.

“Sorry. Let’s go,” Tatum said and walked quickly ahead of me, so I had to jog to keep up.

At the end of the hall, another set of doors with a keypad blocked the stairwell. Tatum punched in the numbers, looking back over his shoulder to make sure we were alone. The keypad flashed green, and the door made a clicking sound. He opened it, glancing around once more.

“Your friend better be waiting up there for you,” Tatum said. “Because there’s a keypad to that door, and I don’t know the code.” I went through the door, and he hesitated. “Do you want me to go with you?”

“No, I got it from here,” I smiled wanly at him. “Thanks, though. For everything.”

“No problem.”

I dashed up the stairs, taking two at a time. There were no windows in the stairwell or the door, so I didn’t really know what to do. Blue might be waiting for me, but I couldn’t see him.

Timidly, I knocked at the door, and then waited. Three of the longest seconds of my life later, the keypad flashed green, and the door slowly pushed open.

“Hey,” Blue poked his head around the open door, and his brow furrowed. “What the hell are you wearing?”

“Never mind,” I shook my head, feeling even more self-conscious.

“You’re right. Hurry,” he waved me into the second floor.

It looked exactly like the first floor, except there were big, stainless steel Craftsman toolboxes randomly placed throughout the hall. A few people in scrubs stood at the other end of the hall, talking.

Blue immediately pushed me through the door right next to the stairwell, which happened to be a men’s bathroom. He shoved a pair of blue scrubs at me and told me to get dressed.

“Does everybody have to wear scrubs all the time?” I asked. He had his back to me, and he stood at the door, holding it open a little to keep watch for anyone coming.

“Kind of. They’re big into uniforms here,” Blue replied absently. “It helps them keep track of everyone.”


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