“That’s not yours,” she says, not sounding quite so rebellious at the sight of it. Probably remembering the moment Bastian took it from her dead father’s finger.
“No, it’s not.”
I unbutton the top buttons of my shirt, then undo my cuffs to tug it off over my head, and she’s distracted. Her mouth falls open, and her eyes go wide as she takes in my shoulders, my bare chest and arms. Her gaze pauses at the scar left by The Reaper that almost killed me. I let her see.
She clears her throat, blinks, her neck and cheeks flushing red as she shifts her gaze to the dandelion tattoo on my forearm, then up to my face.
I keep my eyes locked on her, remembering how she came earlier. How she sounded when she did. How she looked at me. I walk toward her.
“What are you doing?” she asks.
“Getting ready for bed.”
“I’m not sleeping with you.”
“Well, I can’t have you sleeping alone until I sweep the room.”
“I’m not going to do anything.”
“You’ll understand if I don’t trust you. You seem resourceful.” I unbuckle my belt and pull it out of its loops.
“I need to take a shower,” I tell her. “Lie back.”
She looks warily at the belt, then at me. “Why?”
“So I can tie you to the bed.”
“What? You don’t need to tie me to the bed.”
“It’s either that or you join me in the shower, Dandelion.”
“I will skip both options, thank you.”
“It wasn’t a question of whether or not you’ll do either. It was a question of which one. I’m guessing you’d prefer not to be naked in tight quarters with me, but if I’m wrong…”
“Oh my God, you’re serious.”
“As a heart attack.”
“Unbelievable. You’re an asshole, you know that?” She holds out her wrists.
“So you’ve said.” I draw her wrists over her head to the headboard, forcing her to lie down as I do. Her eyes roam over my face, returning to that scar as I bind her wrists and weave the belt through the rungs of the headboard, then straighten to look at my handiwork. It makes me smile. “I like you like this, little Dandelion.”
She flips both middle fingers up at me and turns onto her side, giving me her back.
“As if I could go anywhere.”
I take my time in the shower, and when I get back into the bedroom, she’s on her back, eyes closed. She’s quiet. I think she’s faking sleep, but she doesn’t move, and her breathing stays level when I sit on the edge of the bed. Two long braids frame her pretty face, one of them half fallen apart during our wrestling match. I comb through the soft strands, shades of blond slipping through my fingers, then re-braid the thick locks and secure them before touching her cheek lightly. She turns her face toward my hand and mutters something, soft breath brushing my knuckles. I trace the high line of her cheekbone and jaw, then run fingers over the exposed skin of her chest and the swell of one breast. She mutters again, shifting her position a little, and with a sigh, I begin to undo the belt binding her wrists.