Tied (All Torn Up #2) - Page 27
“Won’t you be cold now?” I ask, my voice quivering. “Without your jacket?”
“I’ll be fine. Let’s go.”
I follow him to his bike, my legs weak and wobbly with growing apprehension. I’ve never been on a motorcycle before. I haven’t even been on a bicycle since I was a little girl. Even scarier than that is how close I’ll be to him. The seat is small, with no backrest and nothing to hold onto. Except him.
“You gonna pass out?” he asks, eyeing me as I shift my weight from one foot to the other.
“I might,” I admit.
“I’ll go slow,” he says, then… “But you never know…you might like it fast, too.”
I smile weakly, wondering why my heart has suddenly started to beat faster and my cheeks are flushing with heat even though I’m cold. Something about his voice…his words…
He throws his leg over the bike, settles onto the seat, and kicks the kickstand up in one smooth, natural motion, like the bike is an extension of his body. His head tilts toward me as he pulls out a pack of cigarettes, taps one out, and lights it up with the same silver lighter he always seems to have in his pocket. “All aboard, sugar.”
The act of jumping behind him and parting my thighs around the back of his body is making me feel woozy in a strange, electrifying way.
When I tell you to spread, you spread. I’ll break your fucking legs.
I rub the back of my neck nervously.
Get out of my head. Please. You’re dead…
He exhales smoke tendrils from his nostrils like a mystical dragon. “Tell me what you’re scared of.”
Being lost forever.
Never feeling normal.
I stare down at the ground, fighting the fears in my head until he reaches toward me and hooks his pinky finger into mine, tugging gently. “I could walk you home,” he suggests in his soft, scratchy way. Our voices are intimate in the quiet of the chilly night air, like we’re the only two people who exist.
My head snaps up, and tears instantly pool in my eyes when I see the depth of sincerity in his. He’s not kidding. He’ll leave his bike right here on the side of the road and walk me home, in the cold and the dark, just so I won’t be alone.
“No…that would be silly,” I reply.
“Not if it’s what you want.” His finger tightens around mine, connecting us in the tiniest, sweetest way possible, somehow knowing anything more would be too much for me.
“I appreciate that…very much.” Hesitantly, I curl my finger around his, returning the gesture and the silent understanding attached to it.
His fingers press against his lips as he takes a drag from his cigarette. I realize I’m way too captivated with his mannerisms, his habits, his voice… “Focus on where you are.” I’m fascinated with how he talks, with the smoke still in his lungs, making his voice deeper and huskier. “And who you’re with.” Turning his head, he blows three small circles of smoke into the air. “It’s just a ride home.” He turns back to me and gives my finger another reassuring tug, stealing my attention from the floating hoops. “You trust me?”
He saved my life. He killed for me.
He’s holding my pinky finger in his.
I shift my gaze to meet his. “I think you’re the only person I trust.”
Releasing my finger, he cocks his head to the back of the bike, to the tiny square of leather behind him. “Show me.”
I throw my backpack strap over my shoulder. He lifts the mask over his face. Shoving all anxiety aside, I put my hand on his shoulder for balance and climb onto the seat behind him, resting my feet on the bullet-shaped foot pegs. I stiffen when he reaches behind him, grabs my hands in his, and places them on his waist. His palms press against the backs of my hands, holding me until I relax and curl my fingers into the fabric of his shirt.
The feeling of exhilaration and freedom is empowering as we cruise down the dark road, and he was right—I want to go faster, feel freer, let the wind and the road detox me of all the poisons. His hair whips into my face as I lean over his shoulder and breathe one word into his ear: faster. Laughing, he grabs one of my hands, pulls it around his waist, and places it over his belt buckle. Fear flashes through me, but I swallow it, force it away before the voice comes. I will not freak out. I will not pull away. I’m allowed to have a few minutes of fun. I’m allowed to be close to a man.
Clamping my eyes shut, I wrap my other arm around him and hold onto him tight. It doesn’t matter that I’m on the back of a motorcycle with a guy with a scary skull mask over his face. All that matters to me right now is I feel free, safe, and brave.
I’m with my prince.
Sadness washes over me when he pulls the bike into the parking lot of Merryfield. I’m not ready to step back into life yet and would rather stay in the fantasy world the ride on the motorcycle created—even if only for a few more minutes.
Just as I’m about to point out my apartment in the row of buildings, he heads right for it and parks the bike not far away, in a guest parking spot, the one farthest from the light. He knows where I live. He touches my leg lightly as he turns the engine off then lightly taps me, letting me know it’s okay to jump off now.
“I liked that way more than I thought I would.”
He pulls the mask down to reveal a crooked grin as he gets off the bike and stands next to it. “Good to know.”
I’m not sure what to do or say now. Do I just thank him for the ride and go inside? Do I invite him in? Or does that send a bad message? We never talked about this kind of thing in my therapy sessions. I glance up at him, and he’s staring off toward the road, looking just as confused as I feel, which is almost comforting.
“I got your card and the picture. On Christmas Day,” I say finally, smiling shyly. “I loved it. It really made me happy.”
He studies my face, not reacting or responding. I can’t stop staring into his eyes or letting my gaze linger on other parts of his beautiful face, the angle of his jaw, the slight stubble on his cheeks and chin. I think he could have been a model, before what happened. He angles his head down toward me. For a second, I think…oh my…he’s going to kiss me, and my pulse goes into crazy rapid beats, and I pray I don’t faint. But all he does is lift his hand to pull a dead leaf out of my long hair, and I feel a slight tug as he gently pulls out whatever other bits are tangled in the strands. He flicks the pieces away just like he does with his cigarettes. I wonder how long I had a leaf on my head, and how silly I must have looked. Hopefully, it got stuck in there during the bike ride and not earlier. How embarrassing.
He doesn’t move away after he removes the leaf; instead, he stands there smelling of smoke, pine trees, and leather—just like his jacket, which I’m still engulfed in—and the scent transports me back to a year ago when he pulled me out of the hole and I fell against him. He smelled the same then, and it was frightening and inviting at the same time, just like it is now. Standing this close, with barely three inches of space between us, I feel his body heat, and it makes my insides quiver.
I have to force my brain to think, calm down, and not be so obviously affected by him, to not let him invade all of my senses. With the bad man, I had to hide my feelings to avoid a reaction from him. But Dr. Reynolds said I have to learn to let people see my feelings, and I have to let them have their own feelings. She said most people are good and genuine, not menacing or manipulative. Trying to retrain myself to believe that is difficult and confusing. Trusting people is hard.
“So… How did you get up there, onto the second floor of my parent’s house?”
“I’m good at climbing.”
“How did you know I would be there? Or which window was mine?”
His head tilts slightly to the side. “Maybe just a lucky guess?” His voice has a slight teasing tone, but we both know there’s more to it than guessing.
I wait then realize he’s not going to say anything else about the matter. I blink up at him. “Oh. Okay…well, if you do it again…climb up to my windows…be careful.”
His eyes flash with a darker emotional intensity. “Afraid I might fall?” he asks and, again, his words seem like they might be hinting at something else entirely.
“Yes,” I whisper.
“Me too.” The rasp is deeper now, raw and scratchier. It reaches my heart and drips down to my thighs. I feel like melted butter. I feel like I’m dreaming.
Are we talking about windows anymore?
I blink at him.
“You got a cell phone?” he asks, his voice still low.
The question throws me. “No. I have no one to call. My parents don’t want me to have things like that.”
He scoffs and leans closer to me again, tilting his head down toward my ear. “Don’t be a prisoner anymore, Holly,” he says softly. His breath makes me shiver, and my hands itch to reach up, to touch his arms or clutch his shirt, but I fist them at my sides, not wanting to do anything to break the spell we seem to be caught under.
“I’m trying,” I whisper back, although I’m not exactly sure what he means.
We pull back at the same time, and our faces are so close I can almost feel his skin graze against mine. I shiver all over again, head to toe, everywhere.