“You should fix your pancakes before they get cold,” Angel said. He was either unconcerned or oblivious to her discomfort.
“You kidnapped me,” she said. She felt she must continue to say things like this, if for no other reason, to hear them out loud. Because otherwise she might lose her mind. He was acting too cozy and domestic—like this was normal. She couldn't let any of this become normal.
“I'm not sure what that has to do with pancakes,” he said.
She stared at her plate of food, still unable to look at him. After another strained stretch of silence, Angel spread butter over her pancakes for her and poured some warm maple syrup on top.
“I can cut it up into little triangles if you'd like, but I can't eat it for you.”
“I'm not a child,” she said. But her voice sounded so strange in his kitchen in the daylight.
Astrid took a bite of the pancakes. “You aren't ever letting me go, are you?”
She knew she needed to have a reaction to this. A big reaction. She should scream or cry or beg. She could imagine herself throwing the plate. In her head she could hear the china shattering against the refrigerator, could see the sticky sweet syrup trail slowly down its stainless steel door face.
Instead she kept eating. The pancakes were good, but it was hard to fully enjoy them knowing this was the first day of an eternal prison sentence. It didn't matter how attractive her jailer was—or the way he'd made her feel the previous night. That was the main reason she couldn't look at him.
She'd never felt this way after a sexual encounter with a man before. She'd never become this agonizingly shy. He'd kept his word about only touching her, but he'd opened something very raw and vulnerable. Even with all that Joey had done, Angel had made her feel like some strange innocence had wrapped itself around her again.
And now he seemed intent to strip it away layer by layer.
Wasn't she safer here? It seemed insane to even think such a thing. But with Joey gone, his successor was likely to kill her, keep her for himself, or do what Joey had once threatened. The next guy in line was Little Tony. He was repulsive in every way imaginable, the kind of man that even the thought of touching him would have made her want to die instead.
Angel's bed was far preferable. Still. It seemed wrong that she should capitulate to his crazy whim to just keep her. As if she were some stray cat he'd picked up at the animal shelter. Like this was a totally normal thing to do. He acted like it was.
Any mild hesitance he might have almost seemed to show the previous night was absent now. Now that he had it all figured out.
“How are they? I like them a little burnt and crispy around the edges,” he said.
“They're good.” She was surprised she could even taste the pancakes let alone form an opinion about them.
“You know you can't just keep me, right?”
He laughed. “You're adorable.”
“People will be looking for me.”
“Is that so?”
He studied her as if he could suck the thoughts out of her mind and then reassemble them into an easily readable format.
“No. The only people who will be looking for you are people you wouldn't want to find you. You know you're safer here.”
Which was exactly what she'd just been thinking.
“Is that how you're justifying this to yourself? Like you're rescuing me and keeping me hidden from Joey's goons?”
“Well? Isn't that the state of things?”