“Can I sleep with you?”
What? “You want to …”
“I mean, in your bed.” He smiled. “I mean actually sleep. Not the other thing. I just thought maybe it would make it easier is all.”
“Oh,” my face reddened. “Sure.”
He got out of bed and padded over behind me. The bed shifted and then his warmth was at my back. He pulled the blanket up and slung an arm over me. “Is this okay?”
“Yes.” I barely knew him, but his arms were the safest place to be for miles and miles. I settled back into him.
“If it makes you feel any better, that kiss we shared last week was the first time I’d ever kissed a woman.”
“Oh.” So that’s what Brianne had meant by “powder puff Gavin.” What a bitch. “Well, I’m glad to be your first?”
He must have heard the smile in my voice because he laughed lightly. “Yeah, I was just trying to help. But it wasn’t bad. Not really. Just different, I guess.”
“Your hand sure went up my skirt fast.” I reached behind me and pulled his arm under my neck so he could get more comfortable.
“Thanks. And I was just playing the role. Apparently, I need to work on it since Red still jumped on us.”
“A for effort. Nicely done.”
“I appreciate it.”
We fell silent. His presence was a comfort in and of itself. I was afraid if I kept talking, I would focus on what would happen tomorrow. I didn’t want to think about that pain until I had to, until I couldn’t escape it.
Our breathing evened out, but neither of us slept. I worried away one hour, then another.
“It’s okay, Stella. Sleep. I’ve got you.” Gavin’s voice was colored with exhaustion as he pulled me so I turned over to face him.
I let my head fall into the crook of his neck. He rubbed his hand up and down my back in a soothing motion until he drifted off.
“I’ve got your back,” I whispered as sleep took me, too.
Sound. So much of it that I instinctively covered my ears. My eyes flew open, my vision sharpening on a multitude of bodies crushing through the suite door. People swarmed into the room, black batons in their hands. They wore white masks, holes cut for their eyes and mouths, with the rest of their features obscured.
I jolted up right along with Gavin.
The men chanted some rhythmic song, unintelligible but somehow vicious. I clutched at Gavin’s arm as he gripped my thigh through the blanket. We were both frozen, fear eating up any response we could have mustered.
The throng quieted suddenly, the loss of sound almost as terrifying as the noise. A woman, her long dark hair flowing from the back of her mask walked through the center of the crowd and threw down two white dresses and a white shirt and pants. She retreated back into the mass and Cal, maskless, stepped forward. His gaze flitted about between the three of us before landing on mine.
“Acquisitions, we have something very special in store for you.” He pointed to the clothes on the floor. “But first, strip.”
Neither Gavin, Brianne, nor I moved. Cal held his hand out behind him and someone put a black baton in it. He walked up and slammed it down on the footboard of my bed, the sound like an explosion through the now cramped space.
“I said strip.” He spoke to all of us, but his malevolent gaze was fixed on me.
Gavin pushed me out of the bed and stood next to me.
“Just do it.” His whisper was loud in the silent room.
The dozens of masked devils watched as Gavin and I took our clothes off. Brianne did the same, her eyes wide and no longer quite so glassy. The drugs must have worn off, because she came and stood at my other side, shivering and trying to cover herself.
I draped an arm across my bare breasts and used my other hand to cover between my legs. I didn’t look at Gavin, who stood on my other side. I wouldn’t add to the unwanted eyes already on him. All those masked faces—was Lucius there, watching?
Cal walked forward and put his index finger under my chin, pulling my face up until our eyes met. His pupils were huge, taking in every last bit of me.
A tremor ran through me at his touch, his look.
He let me go and backed up before pointing at the clothes the woman had dropped on the floor. “Dress.”
I grabbed a dress and threw it on over my head, wincing at how bare I was before the material covered me. It was short and thin, and would offer no reprieve from the elements. My fear had been stunned right along with me at the sudden intrusion, but it roared back to life. I tried to fasten the top button of the dress at my throat, but my fingers were numb and clumsy.