A silence passes over both of us. Nox breaks it by crunching into his apple. His detachment breaks my heart.

I whisper hoarsely, “I miss her, okay? She was my only friend and- and I miss her.” I don’t dare look up at him. If I see sympathy in those deep blue eyes of his, I may just attempt to claw them out.

After a moment of getting my shit together, I shake my head to clear it and another approach comes to mind. Walking around the kitchen counter toward him, I decide to try something drastic. When I’m only a foot away from him, I jump up onto the counter and sigh deeply. Chewing his apple, he turns his bored expression over to me and I say softly, “You could be nicer to me, ya know?”

He shrugs and continues eating.

I want to throw that apple across the room.

No more playing nice. Time to turn on my wily charm. I bat my lashes at him in a most southern darling way and say a hushed, “I could be nicer to you, too.”

Have I mentioned that I’ve never flirted before? Ever?

Nox’s brow furrows and he mutters, “You got somethin’ in your eye or some shit?”

Jumping off the counter to hide my flush, I stomp out of the kitchen and shout, “Ugh!”

And I clomp off to the sound of Nox’s deep, sexy chuckle. Half way up the stairs, I remember something.

Fuck my life!


I forgot the damn food.

You know what I love about Boo? I love that she doesn’t take anything to heart. Thinking about my sister got me down. Really down. And I didn’t really want to spend any more time with Boo because I knew my company would be less than stellar.

When she asked me what was wrong, I told her I was tired and might just read a little then go to bed. Without a peep, she hugged me, told me it was good to have me home, and left to do her nightly duties.

So here I am, in bed, pretending to read while totally moping. My brain, preoccupied with thoughts of my family, didn’t even alert me to the fact that Nox was standing at the door watching me in silence.

When he cleared his throat, I wondered just how long he was standing there watching me watch the wall.

Looking up at him, I ask, “Everything okay?”

Nodding, he walks across the room and sits on the edge of the bed. “Yeah.”

I’m sure there’s nothing but confusion written on my face, but he doesn’t say a thing. Just pulls out the sleek, black cell phone and dials a number. Putting it to his ear, he speaks into the cell, “Ready? Yeah. Thanks.” Then hands me the phone.

Cautiously taking it from him, I slowly place it to my ear and listen. I hear people chatting, laughter, and music being played softly. A girl comes on the line giggling, she sounds confused. “H- hello?”

Holy shit! I know that voice!

“Terah?” I almost shout this.

“Lily!” She almost blows my eardrum when she squeals excitedly.

Her enthusiasm is obviously catching, because without thinking I throw myself into Nox’s lap, bouncing.

Thank you, God!

Nox expels a strained, noisy breath with every bounce as if I’m suffocating him, but I ignore it and ask my sister in a rush, “How are you? Are you safe? Do you know where you are?”

Terah chuckles, “Good to the first, yes to the second, and you know better than to ask me the third thing.”

I sigh, “I know, I know. I just thought-” Cutting myself off, I shake my head and mutter, “Doesn’t even matter anymore, I’m so damn happy to hear your voice! You have no idea!”

She teases in a baby voice, “Aww! Did you miss me?”

Without thinking, I tease back in my own baby voice, “Yeah. I miss you lots.” I say lots as wots.

Nox chuckles at our stupid conversation, but I don’t even care. In my elated state, I pull down my barriers and lean back into him. And I could almost swear that Nox inhales deeply, smelling my hair.

Right now, I don’t give a shit.

I’m so happy that if he asked, I’d take off my panties for him to sniff.

Terah spends the next few minutes filling me in on our time apart.

The person who took her from our house that day is a guy called Jonathon. And Jonathon is an absolute sweetheart. He and Terah are close. They’re good friends according to my sister. Which, in Terah speak, means she’s head over heels for the guy.

This should worry me because I don’t know this guy, but right now, I’m just so happy for her that the only advice I give her is to be careful. Terah tells me about Jonathon’s second, Takeshi, and his third, Sean. They’re also good guys. Good guys who are laid back and from what I hear, absolutely nothing like Nox. They let her pick out movies for movie nights, and they let her blast music if she’s in the mood; so basically, she feels like she’s on vacation.

Knowing Terah, an hour after she was taken, she would’ve made friends with everyone. We’re different like that. My dad’s constant paranoia has rubbed off on me.

After telling me all about her new home, she asks, “So, how’s your safe house? Are the people nice?” Suddenly serious, she adds, “They’re treating you okay, right?”

Filling her in on almost every detail, I tell her about being blindfolded and my lashing out, not trusting the people here, and about Nox being a hardass. I tell her about my foiled escape attempt, minus the hair pulling thing, and that the people here are really cool too; it just took me a while to notice. I mention that we had a small scare the other day to which she freaked out a little, but I reassure her I’m fine.

She asks quietly, “So, do you know why we’re here?”

Knowing I should tell her, I fight myself for only a second before I lie in perfect calm. “Not a clue.”

She sighs, “I miss you more than anything, Lil, but I know that dad wouldn’t do this unless there was a good reason.”

Oh, honey. You don’t know the half of it.

Agreeing with her, I mutter, “Yeah. I know. I love you, Rahrah.”

Chuckling, she whispers thickly, “Yeah, babe. Love you, more.”

Then she’s gone.

My smile melts into nothing. The void in my chest opens, sucking me into nothingness. Nox wraps an arm around my waist, holding me tight. Grounding me.

He continues to hold me while I cry through most of the night.

Chapter Eleven

Time flies when you’re having fun

One month later…


Holding the offending product in my hand, I storm down the hall muttering made up cuss words to myself. As soon as he hears me coming, he tries to shut the door on me, but I bolt and make it in the nick of time.

Nox sighs loudly before asking in that deep husky voice, “What is it, princess?”

I know he says this in a way that’s meant to be derogatory, but I don’t care. If I tell him how much I like that he calls me that, he’ll stop on principle.

And I can’t have that. The only thing that stops me from going crazy in this safe house is my daily argument with Nox.

His hair’s grown out in a way that looks so mouth-watering that I have to mentally remind myself that I mustn’t touch it whenever I’m near him. Because that would be weird, and I would then have to explain that I don’t have a hair fetish and…

Ugh, never mind.

Nox isn’t the best looking guy I’ve ever seen, so why does he have this stupid freakin’ hold on me?

You know why.

I mentally rip my hair out and shriek to high heaven.

I do know why, dammit.

He’s like a fairy-tale hero for Christ’s sakes. I know he’s ordered to protect me and all, but he does such a great job of it. He makes it look effortless. He’s all like ‘C’mon, pack your shit’ and I’m all like ‘No, I like it here’ and he’s all ‘Not safe here, princess’ and I’m all like ‘Sigh. Okay.’

That’s the basic conversation every freakin’ time.

All he has to do is princess me and I’m tripping over my own feet. I don’t know how he does it.

He’s old!

Okay, twenty-eight is not old, but he acts like a fifty year old!

Yeah, a fifty year old with ripped abs and arms that could crush a man’s skull, and those strong thighs… bet he’s hung like a hor-

Do not go there. Just- do not. You’ve been warned, brain.

Who knew a virgin could be this horny?

I know. I suck.

Raising the plastic wrapped package up past my shoulder, I clear my throat to capture his attention. He looks up at me with those icy-blue eyes and I feel like I’m going to catch a cold. The man doesn’t do happy often.

As in, never.

Okay, so that’s an over exaggeration, but I’m pissed right now. And with good reason.

He looks from me to the package and says stonily, “What now?”

Throwing the package onto the desk, I tell him, “They aren’t the right ones.”

He scowls and picks it up to get a better look at it. He reads for a moment then says, “Yes. They are.”

Unable to mask my look of disbelief, I ask sweetly, “And how would you know?”

He looks up at me, throws the package towards me and says, “That’s what it says it’s for.”

I cross my arms across my chest, lean my hip on the desk and retort, “Well, it’s not the right one. I would know. I’m the one who uses them.”

His shoulders slump and he sighs. Taking another look at me, he scowls again before picking up his handheld two-way radio and presses the button, causing a static noise to sound. Someone at the other end says, “Vito.”

Nox continues to glare at me while he speaks into the radio. “She says they aren’t the right ones.”

Vito doesn’t answer for a moment before he responds, “Come again, boss?”

Nox lowers his head, shaking it and repeats through gritted teeth, “They aren’t the right ones, Vito.”

Vito utters, “But it said on the pack-”

Nox cuts him off with, “I know! I know what it said. She says no.”

Vito sighs, “What the fuck does she need, then?”

Nox’s eyes widen at me in an expression that shouts well?

I snatch the radio out of his hands, press the button and almost shout, “Heavy flow! You know? For heavy flow, because I flow heavily during my menstruation cycle, because I’m a girl and that’s what we do.” He doesn’t respond, so pressing the button again, I add, “Bleedin’ for days here, Vito. I need comfort.”

Nox chuckles his deep sexy chuckle, and I throw the radio at him. Hard. He catches it without effort, smiling. I stomp out of his office muttering, “Freakin’ pussies.”

As I exit the room, I hear Nox buzz the radio again and ask Vito, “Got that?”

Vito responds immediately, “Every gross detail.”

I hear Nox laugh from all the way down the hall.

I won’t ever tell him how much I love that sound.

So a month has passed. I’m surprised by how quickly it actually went.

It was a total blur. All I really remember is training every day with Boo, Rock, or Nox.

That’s right. You heard correctly.

Nox decided he wanted to be part of my training. At the time, I thought this was a good thing, but whenever I have a Nox training day, I normally have to crawl the next day because my legs become Jell-O.

I feel fitter. I feel healthier, and I’ve even been in good spirits.

One night a few weeks ago, at dinner, I brought up the subject of me being able to speak to my family on a regular basis. And it went a little like this.

Nervously moving my food around the plate, Boo asked, “Everything okay, Dee?”

That’s the cue!

Placing my fork down, I cleared my throat and announced, “Actually, no.”

Nox and Rock stopped eating and gave me their full attention. Mind you, this was all planned beforehand. Rock and Boo knew exactly what was going on. They even had lines to remember.

Rock encouraged, “What’s the problem, Lily?”

I began, “Well, I was hoping to talk to you all about my family.”

Immediately, Nox shook his head and I added in a rush, “I’m not asking for anything huge here, Nox, just a little talk-time here and there. That sounds reasonable. Right?”

Looking to Boo and Rock, they both answered at the same time, loud and animated.

Boo nodded vigorously, “Yeah, of course!”

Rock agreed, “Sure. I mean, it’s not like you’re asking to see them or anything.”

Boo added, “It’s definitely not unreasonable.”

Rock muttered, “Not unreasonable at all.”

Then all three of us turned our pleading faces to Nox.

Looking at the three of us through narrowed eyes, he grinned when he knew he’d been had and announced, “I’ll think about it,” then left the dinner table chuckling.

The three of us huddled together, talking in a hush.

I whispered, “Okay, you know him better than I do. Was that a good chuckle or a no-way-in-hell chuckle?”

Boo said quietly, “I’m not sure. It definitely wasn’t a no, but with Nox, you never know what’s coming.”

Rock grinned, “Oh yeah, babe. You got it. I know him well enough to know he was impressed that you took initiative. He might not give you a lot, but he’ll give you something. Ya know? For your efforts.”

And wouldn’t you know it, just the next night, Nox came to my room to tell me that he’d let me talk to my parents once every two weeks, and to my sister every week.

He said the calls were to be five minutes and no longer.

Now, I don’t know much about negotiating, but I know you gotta start high.

“Half hour. Minimum.” I offered.

Nox shook his head and made a sound of disbelief. “Um. No. Five minutes.”

I tried harder, “Gimme somethin’ I can work with, Nox. Twenty minutes.”

A small smile tugged at his lips, but he said firmly, “Five minutes.”

My bravado failed slightly when my next offer sounded more like a question, “Eighteen minutes?”

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