“I don’t hate you.” He looked embarrassed and lowered his eyes.
I had an awful pain at not being able to see into his eyes, but it came with some relief, as I’d be able to think a bit more clearly.
“Then why do you act like you do?” I pressed.
What the hell was I doing? I was normally an absolute coward, and now at the worst possible moment, I suddenly decided to be brave and corner this amazingly stunning man into hating me. He had said he didn’t, but after I shamed and irritated him like this, I’m sure he would.
“I don’t know.” He looked up, staring straight ahead, but he wasn’t really looking at anything. His beautiful features stiffened to a painful mask.
“You want to hate me, though.” My voice was almost inaudible, but he’d heard me. I’d thought I hadn’t had the strength to speak, but the words kept relentlessly tumbling out.
“That’s not exactly true.” His face softened again, and he turned to look at me.
His eyes were smoldering through me, and I felt my heart pound loudly in my chest. Very gently, he placed his hand on top of mine, and I felt that same electrical surge that I had the day before, but more intense this time. Pleasure rippled through me and I closed my eyes.
Then suddenly, he pulled his hand back, and my eyes flew open. His face was a few inches from mine, and something in him looked completely ravenous. He never wavered or moved, but when he spoke, his voice had gone into a very low snarl.
“Go before I do something very bad to you.”
- 11 -
“You can do whatever you want to me,” I whispered, and he flinched at that.
“Go!” Peter growled.
His voice stung, but it managed to get me moving. Using all my strength, I looked away and stood up. He still hadn’t moved, but I could see the tendons in his neck and his arms standing out sharply.
It wasn’t until I had started down the stairs, and I had begun to breathe, that I understood why he’d gotten so tense. He was using all his might not to move.
When I got downstairs, I felt dazed and I was panting. There was a very real chance that I had just barely averted danger. And the worst part was part of me still wanted to rush back upstairs and let him do whatever he wanted with me as long as I could still be with him.
“Alice?” Milo asked. He and Jack were standing in the middle of the living room, holding plastic guitars, but I could barely even see them. The whole world felt hazy and I couldn’t tell if I was dreaming or not. “Are you okay?”
“You were with Peter?” Jack had stopped playing the game and turned to look at me. He eyed me over, and he saw something that made his face harden. “Come here.” I felt frozen in place, so he commanded more harshly, “Come here.”
This time I listened and walked over to him, moving like a zombie.
“Did something happen to her?” Milo’s voice got higher the more scared he got.
Jack didn’t answer him. Instead, he looked me over with this odd expression on his face, a cross between disturbed and jealous. He put two fingers underneath my chin and lifted it up, revealing my neck. He turned my head this way and that, inspecting me carefully.
When he was done, his expression had softened, and he looked satisfied.
“Come here,” he repeated, but this time, he looped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me closer to him. “You’re okay.”
I threw my arms around him, hugging him tightly and relishing the safety of his arms. I sobbed into his chest, unable to hold it back anymore, and he kissed the top of my head.
“What happened?” I heard Ezra’s melodic voice boom behind me, but I hadn’t seen him when I came in. He seemed to have materialized at the sound of my crying.
“I don’t know! She just came downstairs crying!” Milo explained plaintively. He was upset, and I wished somebody would just tell him that everything would be okay. Why wasn’t Mae here when I needed her?
“Did something happen?” Ezra demanded, and there was an edge to his voice.
“No,” Jack said softly, stroking my hair.
“Are you sure?” Ezra persisted.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Jack replied, growing irritated.
“I’m going to talk to Peter.” I didn’t hear Ezra leaving, but I knew he had anyway.
“What’s wrong with her?” Milo sounded panicked.
“Nothing.” I pulled away from Jack a little but made sure to keep his arm around me. I wouldn’t feel as safe or sturdy without it. Wiping at my tear stained cheeks, I forced a smile at Milo. “I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine!” Milo insisted with wide, worried eyes.
“It’s just… girl stuff.” I tried to shrug it off, and I couldn’t tell if he saw through it or not.
It was a perfectly reasonable explanation that while I was upstairs, alone with a very attractive guy, he had said or done something to offend me, and that’s what had upset me.
In fact, that would be much more plausible than what had actually happened, which was that I had become so entranced with somebody that I almost let him slaughter me.
And I was pretty sure that this attempted-murder had happened not because he hated me, but because he was attracted to me.
“Like what?” Milo narrowed his eyes.
“I don’t wanna talk about it.” I just shook my head and looked away.
“What’s going on?” Mae shouted suddenly, and my heart soared at the sight of her standing in the doorway. She rushed over to me, placing her hands her firmly on my shoulders to look in my eyes.
“She was upstairs with Peter,” Jack explained. Mae’s expression changed from one of worry to shock, and she turned to look at Jack sharply. “Nothing happened.”
She softened, looking sympathetically at me. Before she pulled me into a hug, it finally dawned on me.
Whatever had happened or almost happened with Peter, they knew it. Ezra had sent me upstairs, knowing exactly what would happen. Meaning, he had sent me to my probable death.
What the hell was going on here? And why didn’t I feel as terrified as I should? In fact, as Mae stroked my hair and murmured words of comfort in her soft British accent, I felt nothing but safe. What was wrong with me?
“I’m okay, really,” I insisted, and she finally released me.
“I hope you mean that.” She smiled sadly and pushed strands of hair back from my face, and then straightened up.
“I do.” I nodded firmly, and Jack playfully ruffled my hair, as if to reaffirm that everything was okay.