Never Sweeter (Dark Obsession #1)(3)

By: Charlotte Stein

And by god, he did it to her hard here. He didn’t just use a blade. He used a goddamn machete. She rounded the last corner before the exit, absolutely sure she had escaped him. He was still nowhere to be seen in the hallway behind her. Even if he flew on winged feet he had no chance of catching her now.

Or so she thought.

But then she turned back to the doors that should have been in front of her and saw only him. An enormous, impossible wall of him, so sudden and terrifying she could barely process it.

Somehow he had gotten ahead of her. He must have gone around the other way or darted past when she was busy looking in the other direction, and now he was here. All six feet five inches of him stood with his arms crossed and his expression sullen as though he was the one who should be mad.

And Letty couldn’t even tell him otherwise. As soon as she saw him everything just seemed to go in slow motion—like she was suddenly Sarah Connor watching in horror as the Terminator emerged from an elevator. She even made a similar sound, and came fairly close to losing her footing in the exact same way. One leg tried to keep going and the other snapped to a halt and she stumbled. She almost slipped.

She would have gone down if it were not for his hand.

The one he closed around her arm. Firm, but bizarrely gentle.

Though his grip was still shocking, all the same. It made her realize something in a great rolling wave: he had never touched her before. Not even at his most despicable; not even when it would have helped him to do it. He had always somehow kept his hands to himself, and after a second of contact she understood why.

It burned when he did it.

It burned him.

He snapped his hand back in an almost fearful way—she saw him do it. Though later she would tell herself it was something else. She would imagine he had done it on purpose, to hurt her. That he had known she was already pulling back hard, and all he had to do to destroy her was let go.

Because it did destroy her. She went back so fast and so violently her teeth came together around her tongue. All the breath whammed out of her body when she hit the floor, like an echo of their last encounter on that dark road. Back then, she had thought she was dying because of the sudden constriction in her chest. The brief inability to take a single breath, as though maybe the truck had crushed her lungs.

Followed by the blinding pain as her head connected with something hard. Back then it had been jagged rocks on the way down. This time it was a gleaming parquet floor—not quite as vicious, true, but the effect was almost the same. The world was already narrowing down to a tiny dot, despite her best efforts at holding on. She clawed at the sides of unconsciousness, desperate not to go out like this again.

What if she didn’t wake up this time?

He would be the last thing she saw before darkness claimed her. Those soft-focus eyes and that twisted smile; his voice like a reminder of everything she hated. “Letty,” he said as he leaned down, the note of triumph in it so unmistakable she tried to scream. She tried to kick and spit and rage against the injustice of it, but it was already too late. The dot became a pinprick, then finally dissolved altogether.

Chapter 2

Letty’s first thought was that she had died and gone to hell. How else to explain the smell of disinfectant and the feel of what seemed to be hospital bedsheets? Only Satan would force her to endure all of that again. The pain and the endless procession of unsympathetic nurses. Discovering each of her injuries in a slow and debilitating procession, culminating in the scar around her ear and the stripe they had shaved to get to the fracture.

Though when she put one shaking hand up, she could still feel all of her curly hair. She ran her fingers through it, frantically checking and checking for bare patches.

There was nothing.

Toward the back of her head she could make out a truly magnificent lump, and it ached under the slightest touch. But that was all. She wasn’t even sure if she had a concussion, considering how easy it was to sit up. The world did not spin; she had no urge to vomit.

And this wasn’t a hospital. It was the campus med room they’d shown everyone at orientation, with the posters advertising help lines dotting the walls. One of them to her left was the friendliest warning she’d ever seen about contracting VD. Another suggested she come along for hugs and cookies. It was actually quite warm and inviting.

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