“If I do, is it going to be any different than you going to bed with Roxie or that stripper?”
“Do you want me to lie to you?”
I grabbed his hand and forced him to hold the towel so I could work on his face. I cleaned him off with a cotton ball soaked in peroxide, which had him swearing and scowling at me. I found the little butterfly Steri-Strips I bought and slapped a couple on his cheek.
“Yeah. I think I do.” I couldn’t tell the difference when he lied to me anyway.
He grunted and narrowed his eyes even farther at me when I slimed some antibacterial goo on his lower lip.
“Then no. You would be exactly like all the rest.”
I flicked my gaze up to him and we stared at each other for a drawn-out minute.
I cleared my throat. “Let me get something wrapped around that knife wound.” I gave a dry laugh. “Those are not words I thought I would ever have to say to anyone.”
He winced when I pulled the towel away from his side. “Hang out with me a little bit longer and they’ll become a regular part of your vocabulary.”
I didn’t have an answer for that, so I ran some warm water in the sink and tried to clean up the bloodbath. It was a long gash, probably five or six inches, but it was clean and didn’t look like it went deep into the muscle. I blew a wayward curl out of my face and pulled open several of the large bandage pads and the Ace bandage I had bought. I went still when one of his rough, callus-tipped fingers brushed across my forehead and moved a loose curl out of my eyes. That was what undid me about him. He was unpredictable, he was a criminal, he was hazardous to my sanity, but then he held me when I couldn’t sleep and he touched me like I would break. It was an intoxicating combination that I was having no luck in fighting.
“Lift your arm up if you can.”
It obviously hurt him to do it, but he got the thickly muscled appendage out of my way so I could secure the wrap all the way around his broad chest. I had never been around a man who built his body up to use as a weapon before. I couldn’t ignore how impressive it was. Even with the stark black ink that covered his abs and spread across his shoulders, it was still a nice sight. When he shifted I noticed he even had ink peeking out of the top the band of his boxers showing above the edge of his jeans.
“If you really don’t want to go to the doctor, that’s the best I can do with what we got.”
I took a preventative step back.
He moved stiffly and bent to pick up his ruined hoodie off the floor. The cream-colored tiles were stained crimson where it had fallen.
“If it’s still bad in the morning, I’m going to have you seal it shut with superglue.”
I made a disgusted face and followed him out of the bathroom. “Gross. No way am I doing that. If it’s not better tomorrow, we’ll take you to the hospital.”
He just ignored me and made his way to the back bedroom, where the bed was still barren of sheets and blankets. He threw the hoodie on the dresser, popped the button on his jeans, kicked his heavy boots off, and plopped across the naked mattress on his back.
“I don’t need a doctor. This is fine.”
“You’re white as a sheet.”
“I just got my ass kicked. Of course I look like shit.”
He didn’t really. He looked battered, worn out, and a little rougher than usual, but I really thought it would be impossible for him to look like shit. His eyes were closed and his chest was rising and falling in a pretty steady rhythm, so I thought maybe he was falling asleep. I needed to snag his car keys and go get some food and stuff for this shell of a house. He might not like it very much here because of the memories attached to it, but he seemed to keep landing back here for safety and security and he needed provisions.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
His voice was sharp when I turned to go back to the living room, where he had thrown the keys on the coffee table.
“To the store. I need to get food and stuff. This house is empty.”
“No.” His eyes were still closed and he sounded mad.
Before I could react, he was up off the bed and had one arm locked around my waist. I gasped when the soft mattress was suddenly under my back and he was looming over the top of me, black eyes blazing like coals.
“I want you here with me.” He was braced above me on his good arm and using his injured hand to unbutton the front of my flannel shirt.
“Bax. The house is empty. I need to get food, need to buy the basics. I’ll be gone for like a second.”
Why wasn’t I making him stop undressing me? The front of the shirt split open and fell to the sides. I had on a serviceable black bra that was nothing fancy, but it made my skin look even paler and more speckled by contrast.
“Holy f**k . . . no wonder you dress like a hobo. You would never be able to leave the house if you walked around flaunting these babies.” His voice dropped an octave and his gaze flicked up to mine. Nothing but pure male admiration shined back at me. Apparently Bax was a boob man, and I had a really nice set, no getting around it.
“Look, Bax, I said I was probably going to go to bed with you, I didn’t mean tonight.”
He took a knuckle and ran the edge of it along the top cup of my bra. I shivered in response. His skin was rough and darker next to mine.
“We can’t have sex. No protection. I’m an ass**le on my best day, but I would never put you at risk like that.” His mouth tightened and a muscle in his jaw ticked. “You really don’t want to know where I’ve been.”
He was right—I didn’t. I was surprised he didn’t cart a pack of them around with him until I remembered the girls he was used to hooking up with had to have them on hand for business purposes. Gross.
“Besides, I can barely move. I asked if you were going to go to bed with me, not if you were going to f**k me, Dovie. I just want you here.”
I needed to argue, to make him let me up, but with a gesture born of pure familiarity with getting women naked, his hand snaked across my ribs and popped the fastener of my bra open. Because my arms were trapped in the straps and the loose material of my shirt, I could just stare up at him in a mixture of apprehension and wonder when he tugged the cups down to fully expose me.
My br**sts were on the large side considering that I was tall and lean. They were dusted with freckles just like the rest of me and crested with ni**les that were the palest pink and, at the moment, puckered and not shying away from those black eyes. This was wrong. He was wrong, but I didn’t have the words or the will to rein it in.