Never Sweeter (Dark Obsession #1)(4)By: Charlotte Stein
Until she turned and saw him.
He just sat in the sagging plastic chair by her bed, like a kindly relative or a really good friend. Even more astonishing, he had apparently been there so long he had fallen asleep. His eyes were closed and his chin was almost touching his chest, so unself-conscious about it she could almost believe it was true.
If it were not for the years of pure torment.
And the letting go on purpose.
He had definitely let go on purpose, which meant only one thing. He was here to do something equally terrible, like take a picture of her bare ass. After all, her ass was almost bare. Someone had taken off her jeans and sweater at some point, and she could feel air against a lot of skin. She pushed the sheets down—slowly and silently—and saw that even her socks were missing.
Though finding them in the cupboard by the bed barely helped her at all. In order to put them on she would have to take things off. In front of Tate. Who was probably watching her through slitted eyelids. Hell, even if he wasn’t, the whole thing was a huge pain in the ass. She was going to have to be silent and super fast to avoid waking him up. But at the best of times she was neither.
And these were not the best of times. The ancient mattress creaked when she inched toward the edge. Every attempt at sliding her legs off the bed made the cheap sheets rustle and crackle like a brown paper bag. Even her feet against the tile seemed loud.
Anything more and he was bound to wake up—it seemed like a miracle that he hadn’t already. She was breathing too hard. She must have whimpered, at least, yet when she checked he looked exactly as he had a minute ago. Chin on his chest, eyes closed, oblivious.
And he stayed that way as she tugged on the rest of her clothes.
First the jeans, then her socks, and finally her sweater.
Good as new.
Apart from the sense that all of this was a mistake. She had been knocked unconscious. It was entirely possible a doctor was supposed to see her. Staying seemed like the wisest course of action—or at least it did whenever she couldn’t see Tate. When she glanced back at him she didn’t feel troubled about fleeing.
She only felt a rising balloon of relief inside her.
This time, she had escaped him for sure. He was actually snoring as she slipped through the door and out into the hallway. There was no chance in hell that he would stop her.
No chance at all.
Her hand was actually on the handle of the nearest fire exit when she heard Tate’s voice. The door was open a crack, and she could see daylight beyond. A little more and she would have been through. She could have pretended him hollering at her was some guys playing Frisbee just beyond them. Just could have kept going until she was free and clear.
She almost did anyway. The temptation to was so all consuming it seemed to burn as it went through her. It made her eyes sting—though that might have been something else. Four years of frustrated, bitter rage pushing against them, maybe. Certainly it was something she had to contain before she could turn around and take him in.
But years of practice had made her good at it. She gritted her teeth and looked up at the ceiling for a good thirty seconds, and the sensation passed. By the time she faced him her eyes were as dry as they had ever been. Her face was that carefully constructed blank slate, as though he bored her to death.
And she held it, despite the things he had to say.
“That nurse said you were supposed to stay overnight,” Tate told her. “She said you needed to rest—you can’t just run out on serious medical business.”
She thought at first that she had misheard. There was barely an insult in there. He didn’t smirk while he spoke. Plus, what was that whole medical business remark about? He sounded like somebody’s dad.
If somebody’s dad knew absolutely nothing about science.
“So this is what you’re going with,” she said. “Faking weird concern to lure me in.”
“No. No not at all. Who would even do that?”
To his credit, Tate managed to laugh.
The problem was, the laugh had no substance. It puffed out of him like a dying breath.
“You would. You actually did do that.”
“Name one time I did that.”
“How about the time I was carrying textbooks for Merriman and you asked if I was sure I could manage? Then you threw them in the fountain outside the science block.”