Play it cool, Lil.
Shrugging nonchalantly, I ignore my burning cheeks and reply, “Not really. I thought you’d be more- more- I don’t know. More impressive.”
The ass smiles. A huge-ass smile from a huge ass.
Dear God! It reminds me of Heath Ledger’s smile a la ‘10 Things I Hate About You’.
I love that freakin’ smile. And the ass wears it well.
My heart skips a beat, but I remain cool as a cucumber and question, “I thought you types were all tattooed and stuff.”
Wiping down his broad chest with the small towel, he responds, “I’ve got tattoos, Lily. Just not ones you’re used to seeing.”
My eyes widen in interest. I love tattoos, and if Nox is sporting something I haven’t seen before then, naturally, I want to see it. I ask quietly, “Can I see them?”
Nox’s face turns passive, almost thoughtful, before he lowers the waistline to his underwear slightly.
Without meaning to, I gasp aloud and cover my mouth with both hands.
Stepping forward slowly, I reach out with a shaking hand to touch the skin there. Just before I reach him, I rear back realizing what I was just about to do. As I lower my face and try to turn away, Nox takes my hand and presses it to the puckered and mutilated flesh just under his waistline. It feels surprisingly soft under my fingertips.
Given permission, I trace the scars with my fingertips. His stomach clenches and contracts. I’m not sure if this is in discomfort or pain, so I pull my fingers away from the gouged and puffed scar tissue that trails from one hip to the other.
Suddenly tattoos don’t appeal to me anymore.
There are no words. I’m speechless.
Looking up at Nox, mouth parted, I search his face. As our eyes meet, he frowns, lifts his hand and uses his thumb to wipe away the tears I hadn’t realized I’d shed.
My heart aches.
He’s a dick. A huge dick. But I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. I want to say something but the words just don’t come. What can you possibly say to someone who has been tortured?
Ch- ch- changes
A few hours after our close encounter, we remain silent, communicating with nothing but nods or one word questions and equally short answers. The waitress from the diner brought up our sandwich platter, along with a complimentary cherry pie for us newlyweds, while I was in the shower. We ate slowly, avoiding each other’s gaze.
Unable to stand the awkwardness any longer, I jump up and turn on the old-ass TV. Nothing but static. I mentally sigh. Of course there’s nothing but static. No one accused me of being lucky. Luck of the Irish, you ask? Nope. Not even that.
Flipping through channels, I stop on the channel with the least amount of static and manually try to tune it. A few minutes pass but nothing helps, so I do what I do whenever something at home is broken.
I beat the crap out of it.
Slapping the sides of the TV, I urge, “C’mon, you piece of shit. Modern technology, my ass!”
Nox chuckles and I say sternly, “You know, you can help me at any time. Don’t be shy now.”
Then I smack the back of the TV. A little too hard.
It falls off the stand and onto the floor. A loud bang resounds through the room. Looking down in shock at the now broken TV, I lift my wide eyes to Nox and shout, “Look at what you did!”
Then he does something beautiful.
He tips his head back and roars with laughter.
And all I can do is watch in awe as his entire body shakes with hilarity while thoughts rush through my brain.
How can a man who has been through what he has, still be able to laugh? Maybe Nox isn’t as damaged as I think he is. I’m an ass. I shouldn’t have labelled him. Ask him about it.
Walking over to the bed, I throw myself back onto it, next to his still shaking body. Placing my arms behind my head, I sigh long and loud, “I’m so bored.”
Nox nods but doesn’t say a thing.
We lay next to each other as night falls, neither of is willing to move, quite comfortable in our finally broken silence. Feeling more confident, I ask, “What happened?”
Obviously knowing this was coming, he breathes in deeply and replies on an exhale, “Got caught by the bad guy.”
This explanation is not satisfactory. I’m nosey! I need more than that. “When?”
“Few years back.”
I’m confused. Turning my body to look at him, I say quietly, “But I thought you were the best.”
Turning his head to the side, his icy blues search my face before answering just as softly, “It’s why I’m the best. I’ll never let that happen again.”
Okay. I like that. That’s a totally acceptable answer.
I nod to no one in particular and fade into the depths of my mind.
Nox stands suddenly, “Damn. I forgot.” Then he walks over to his pile of dirty clothes and searches his cargo pants’ pockets. Pulling something small out, he walks over to me, flops back onto the bed and hands me the small silver device.
When I take a closer look, I gasp, “No way! You had this the whole time?”
Placing his hands back behind his head, he sighs, “Forgot. It’s Boo’s. Left it in my office.”
Switching on the MP3 player, I place both of the earphones in and search the playlists that Boo has. It’s a great selection. Old music, new music, punk, rock n roll, pop, dance, metal, RnB. I reach a particular song and burst into laughter. Nox turns his head and narrows his eyes at me.
Taking out an earphone, I shove it in his ear. “I think I found the song for you.”
Pressing play, Highway to Hell by AC/DC plays and he smirks, nodding along to the beat of the song. When it ends, I select the random option and Clocks by Coldplay comes on.
Nox grunts, “Change it.”
I frown. “I like this song. It’s a nice song.”
He scoffs, “Uh, yeah. No. Are you listening to the same song I am? Light going out, not being able to be saved, cursing missed opportunities?”
Hmmm. I guess I never listened closely to the lyrics before. It is kinda depressing.
Looking over at my crestfallen expression, he says, “See, I made my point. I’d rather attempt to slit my throat with a rusty spoon than listen to this. Change it.”
So I do. The next song that comes on is Royals by Lorde. And I really like this song. Nox doesn’t say a thing, but I see his foot tapping along so I guess he likes it, too. But the subject of the song makes me uncomfortable. Turning the sound down to a dim whisper, I speak up to the ceiling. “We weren’t always rich, you know?”
Nox turns to his side, supporting his head on his hand, acknowledging me and giving me permission to continue.
I don’t dare look at him but continue my story. “We were just like everyone else. Things were different back then. Dad wasn’t so- so- obnoxiously overprotective. I had friends and I had a life. Then dad started working harder and bringing in more money, flipping companies like they were used cars he was selling. Then one day-” I snap my fingers. “It all changed. We bought that ugly monstrosity we call a home. Security was upped and Dad stopped letting me hang out with my friends. They got sick of asking me to parties ‘cause they knew the answer would be no. So they let me go. And I don’t blame ‘em. It’s hard dealing with my dad sometimes.”
Nox makes a small noise. A grunt. Turning to him, I see his brows furrowed, lips pursed. He doesn’t look happy. Suddenly feeling the need to defend my father, I quickly add, “I mean it wasn’t all bad. Just lonely sometimes. So I fell into books. And I love reading. For a few hours, I can escape this world and fall into character. It’s a beautiful thing. I just don’t get what happened, is all.”
Nox’s sudden intake of breath makes me focus on his face, which is suddenly poker-faced. I blink a moment before I gasp and whisper, “You know something.”
He replies a little too firmly, “Lily, I know a lot of things.”
He forgot to add ‘doesn’t mean I’m gonna tell you shit’ but it was implied.
The song flips over to Massive Attack’s Teardrop and we both listen in quiet while watching each other. My eyes watch his face intently, his search mine softly. My eyes beg, ‘please, tell me something’. His argue, ‘you’re not ready.’
Picking invisible lint off the bed covers, I plead softly but urgently, “I’m ready. Tell me. Please, Nox.”
Shaking his head softly, he says, “Won’t see anything the same. Won’t see me the same. Just got your trust. Don’t need to go losin’ it now.” There’s that southern twang again.
Lying to myself, I rush out, “It won’t change a thing. I trust you, Nox. I swear.”
Scoffing, he asks, “What does ‘I swear’ mean to me? Nothin’.”
“My word is my bond. If I swear to you, I’ll do what I can to keep my promise. I know it doesn’t mean shit to you, but in my family, it means something.” Desperate for answers, I reach over, take his hand and link our fingers. “Please, Nox. You’re the only one who can help me. My dad will never tell me.”
Nox squeezes my hand but his face remains void. Such a tough nut to crack.
Anger surges through me. “I’m almost twenty-three, Nox. I’m not a fucking child! Give me back my life! I deserve that much, don’t you think?”
My anger must be contagious because Nox sits up suddenly and shoots a glare at me. My body jerks when without warning, he booms, “Having a life is overrated. If I were your dad, I woulda done the same thing, Lily. Is it fair on you? Fuck no, but you just don’t-”
Stopping suddenly, he says sarcastically, “What do you want to know, princess?” He says princess like it’s a nasty word. Seething, he continues, “You wanna know how this isn’t the first kidnap attempt you’ve been through? You wanna know that last time, they actually fuckin’ got you? That your mom and dad almost lost you? What else? Oh, right! You wanna know about how the day I came to get you was the day I received a contract to kill you myself?”
My blood runs cold.
What did he just say?
Still processing the information he just threw at me, he says softly, “Having a life is overrated. Trust me. There’s no life to live if you’re cold and dead. Your dad has his reasons. You gotta trust someone, Lily.” He barks a humorless laugh and runs a hand through his short hair, “Guess that’s not me anymore.”
Call me stupid but what he just told me doesn’t affect me trusting him. In fact, I think my trust in Nox just got stronger a notch. I never actually expected him to reveal so much.
We stare at each other a while before I whisper, “I was in trouble and you came to get me?”
Nox looks down at the brown shaggy carpet, nodding slowly.
Scooting across the bed, closer to him. “Maybe just for one night we can pretend to like each other and call a truce.” He watches me through furrowed brows and I add a hushed, “Because I could really use a hug right now.”
Not waiting for him to answer, I lightly push him down on the motel bed. And Nox lets me. His arms part a little and I fit my body between the crook of his arm and his hard torso, rest my head on his shoulder, and let out a relaxed sigh. Placing my hand on his chest, he pulls me closer to him and runs his hand through my hair gently.
Thinking a million things at once, I feel the need to let him in on one of those thoughts. “I trust you, Nox. You won’t hurt me. I know it.” I whisper, “I trust you.”
The hand at my hair stills a moment before he sighs, “Maybe you shouldn’t, Lily.”
That falls on deaf ears. I know what I feel and, after all, I’m taking his advice.
I’m going with my gut.
Stretching into something firm, my eyes flutter open. I try to turn, but it seems this bed has seatbelts. Looking down, I see the seatbelt is actually a muscular arm cinched around my waist. Now that I’m a little more awake, I realize someone is breathing into my neck and wriggling closer to me. Deeper into my butt.
When I hear Nox whine in his sleep, my eyes widen. I ask my brain, “Is that what I think it is?”
My drooling brain replies, “It’s early, we have a hard-on pressed against our ass, and a delicious man in our bed. I’m out.” Then it disconnects.
My heart races and I swallow hard. The polite thing to do would be to get out of bed. Now.
But I’m so darn toasty that I just can’t find the will to do that. My brain quickly reminds me of another great excuse to not leave his strong arms. Nox hasn’t slept properly in an age. Not since I’ve known him. So, scratch that. I guess the polite course of action would be to let him sleep.
Pressed up against me like I’m his giant teddy bear.
A smile spreads across my face. I’ll never admit it to anyone, ever, but I like Nox. I don’t know what it is about him. For all I know, I have Stockholm syndrome.
My brain rolls its eyes at me muttering, “Yeah. Whatever.”
Okay. No. I don’t have Stockholm syndrome.
I know that part of it is because he’s gruff, and honest, and downright mean. I suppose you could say that I appreciate the ‘real’ in him. Lord knows my life has been sheltered so much, it’s a wonder my skin isn’t so pale it’s transparent.
My brain cheers ecstatically when his arms tighten around me a moment. Then he loosens his hold completely before standing quickly and making his way to the bathroom.
The shower turns on and I force myself out of bed. It’s no fun without him anyways. Standing up, I stretch, wearing only a huge ass Nox tank and my panties, which I cleaned in the bathroom sink, then rummage through the black bag. Leaning forward, my head snaps up when the bathroom door opens and Nox stands there wearing that tiny, skimpy towel again. I fight the urge to sigh dreamily and ask as steadily as I can, “Need somethin’?”