Jon sluiced the water out of his hair, along with soap and sweat. He’d been watching
He watched the water run from red, to pink to clear as he scrubbed. His hands shook a bit as scenarios blazed through his head. Just what had happened to her? Who could hurt her so bad that she’d practically crawled up his steps? He closed his eyes and tipped his head under the punishing spray as he thought of the fresh scar that ran the length of her neck from clavicle to ear.
He’d been taught from an early age that women were to be cherished, even the strong willed ones. Especially the strong willed ones, he thought with a snort, they needed it more than anything. Turning off the taps he stepped out and dried off, staring at his scruffy face in the fogged mirror. “You’re lookin’ pretty scary there, Jonny,” he muttered to himself. He grabbed his razor to hack off the four day’s growth and heard her cry out.
Dropping the razor he snagged a pair of sweats from his suitcase and stepped into them. Her hair had dried with the heat from the fireplace and fell in springy waves all around her face, but her head was thrashing now. The peaceful sleep was broken with her nonsensical words and hiccupping sobs.
“Shh, It’s okay. You’re okay,” Jon murmured and stroked her hair.
Her blue eyes opened, blind with dreams and pain and his heart shredded. He didn’t know what else to do, but soothe her like his daughter when she’d had bad dreams. He sat beside her as she reached for him.
“Please, you have to help me. He can’t find me. He just can’t find me again.”
He shushed her again, knowing she wasn’t really awake. Her eyes were too wide, too shocky and she was just reaching out for anything, but he cradled her close. “You’re safe here.”
Her fingers gripped his arms and her ragged nails dug in with distress. “I’m not safe anywhere. He said I wasn’t safe anywhere. He’ll always find me,” she said brokenly.
Not knowing what else to do, he pushed her cheek against his chest. “We’ll get you away from here in the morning when the roads are cleared, you’re safe for tonight.”
He dragged his hands through her hair until he found the base of her skull in the thick tangle of gold and gently rubbed. Luckily the trick worked, almost every woman could be settled into sleep with her hair being played with and she settled against him in a fitful sleep.
He curled into the bed and leaned against the headboard to get comfortable. It was going to be a long night. Nightmares tripped through her dreams and it was indeed a long night of comfort and terror as he dozed a bit between bouts of what he finally realized was a fever.
He’d thought she was just too warm next to the fire, but when the chills came he panicked a little, but just gathered more blankets and rode out the worst of it. He checked her bandages and couldn’t figure out if the cuts were infected or if the storm had just ravaged every part of her and she was simply getting a cold.
They both finally fell into a dreamless sleep sometime before dawn with her body snuggled up to his warmth and her arms looped around his torso and her cheek on his chest. It was the first time he’d slept so soundly since he’d come to the cabin.
And when he woke her blue eyes met his with confusion, still settled against him in the way that couples took years to figure out. Confusion quickly faded into fear as she pushed back. “What happened? Where am I?”
“Well I was hoping I’d get some of those questions answered by you, actually.”
She scooted away from him and winced.
He quickly got out of bed and grabbed a t-shirt from the pile of laundry on a chair. “Careful, I found you pretty banged up.”
She looked down at herself and flipped back the covers. Realization or memory must have taken over because she touched the gashes softly. “I was in an accident.”
“A car accident?”
She looked up at him and then swiftly away. “Sort of.”
Jon walked around the bed and sat beside her, conscious of the fact that she seemed to need some space from him. “You’re going to need to give me a bit more than that.”
She tucked a lock of sleep tumbled hair behind her ear. “I don’t want to get you involved.”
“Sweetheart, I was involved the minute you crawled up my steps.”
“More like the minute you butted in,” she mumbled.
He crossed his arms over his chest. “So I should have minded my own business when some guy was man-handling you?”
“I can take care of myself,” she said stubbornly and tucked trembling hands under her arms defensively.
He knew about pride and that was the only reason he swallowed back the anger. “I wish I could say I believe you, but it’s pretty obvious you can’t.”
She tipped up her chin and met his eye for a second before they slid away and her shoulders slumped. “No, I don’t suppose I look like I can.”
“Please tell me so I can help you.”
She lifted a hand to her hair and pushed it back. “What, are you going to sing him to death?” she said dryly.
He only arched a brow. “I know a lot of people,
“Got any of those big, bad bodyguards around?” she asked with a spark of interest.
“Sorry, Kevin’s back at home.”
“Too bad,” she said softly. “Is Kevin a big guy?” she asked.
“He’s pretty scary.”
Her hands dropped to her sides as her fingers twisted into the sheets. “I could use big and scary right now.”
“Hey, what am I?” he asked, mildly offended.
“You don’t know the kind of pain Lucas can inflict,” and her hand went to her throat as her head ducked in to try and shorten her long, graceful neck as if to hide her scar.
“It’s okay, I’ve seen it,” he said quietly.
She looked down at her clothes. “And evidently the rest of me,” she said without humor.
“I’m sorry about that but you were a real mess when I found you. I didn’t know how else to get your cuts clean.”
Her hand pulled up the collar on the t-shirt and even white teeth nibbled at the material pulling it up over her chin. Jon reached over and tugged it down. “You don’t need to hide it. I’m assuming he gave that to you too.”
She looked down at her hands, twisting her fingers as she laid them in her lap. “It was a reminder that I had nowhere to go and that he’d kill me the next time I tried to leave him.” Her eyes rose to his. “He nearly succeeded last night.”