“It’s big enough,” I say with a shrug. To my surprise, he spins me around and pulls me to his chest, burying his face in my hair and breathing in deeply. He does this sometimes, as if breathing me in cleanses, or somehow gives him strength. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. But I easily meld to his embrace and lay my head on his chest.
He doesn’t speak at first, just holding me. I hold him back, wrapping my arms around his sturdy body and allowing him to breathe me in.
“I’ve missed you,” I whisper truthfully.
He nods. “Thank you for that. You’ve no idea what it’s like to come home to you. You breathe life back into me when the day’s drained it from my very limbs.”
I look up at him, at the bright intensity of his eyes, and rest my hand against the stubble on his cheek.
“That might be the most beautiful thing anyone’s ever said to me.”
He smiles at that, his eyes crinkling at the edges and the corners of his beautiful mouth quirking up. “I can do better than that,” he says. “I’ve a question for you, Caitlin. Something that’s been pressing on me since that day I found you in the garden.”
I hold his eyes, preparing myself for whatever it may be. In this short span of time, I’ve grown to love the honesty between us, the unquenchable flame that flares to life when we draw near to one another. I feel it now, the pull in my gut that consumes me when he’s near.
“Alright, then,” I say simply. “Have at it. But I’ll have you answer a question for me as well.”
“That isn’t how we play this game,” he says, but his eyes are twinkling for a moment before he sobers. “My question, lass. If you knew that your safety and the safety of others was contingent on your being my wife, would you do it?”
I’m so astounded at the monumental question; I stare at him in stunned silence.
Marry this beautiful, brutal, vicious man?
“Would I… would I have a choice?” I ask. Though he’s tender with me, I’m still his prisoner, and I can’t forget that.
I watch his eyes grow cloudy for a moment, and a muscle ticks in his jaw before he responds.
“Well, then, why ask? You have your answer,” I say, my heart sinking at his response. “But it wouldn’t be for love,” I say stoutly. I try to pull away, but he won’t allow it, his grip on me tightening. He pulls me closer to him, so that my body is flush against his, and I can see the little flecks of gold in the intensity of his eyes. I’m reminded immediately of how strong he is, how easily he could hurt me.
“It never is,” he says tightly. “Never.”
“Is that right? You’re the expert on this?” I throw back at him, unable to stop myself.
“A naïve, innocent virgin like you is?” he says. The barb stings more than it should, more than I like to admit. “You watch that smart mouth of yours.”
“Let me go,” I say, suddenly angry. “I don’t want to—” but he silences me when his mouth slams down on mine. It’s the first time he’s kissed me in days, and I’m instantly swooning. I hate that I am. I try to fight against it, to tell myself not to let him sway me, but when I feel the soft, insistent, brutal clash of his lips on mine, my body revolts against my mind and begins the slow surrender.
Tears of anger and hurt blur my vision. I try to push him away, try to resist the enigmatic pull of his body to mine, but it’s impossible. He’s got an impenetrable grip on me I can’t break, and no matter how hard I push against him, it’s no use.
“Mmmph,” I say, trying to pull away, but he only holds me tighter and backpedals until my legs hit the bed and we fall in a heap. Holding himself on one arm, he braces himself above me with the other, effectively caging me in. He pulls his mouth off mine long enough to glare at me, his face all lines and angles, the brutally, savagely beautiful face of a fallen angel.
I know he could rape me. He could force himself on me or break my bones with one casual swipe of his massive hand. It’d be laughably easy for him to overpower me, with those muscles and strength and the biological advantage of being a man. But that doesn’t mean I have to cave to him, give into his every whim like I’m some spineless woman. I’ve submitted to him. I’ve trusted him. Against all logic and reason, I’ve even fallen for him. But marriage? He won’t get that so easily from me.
He holds my jaw in his huge hand, as if to keep my gaze from straying. Well, that’s simple enough. I close my eyes.
“Caitlin,” he warns. I turn my head to the side.
“Open those eyes and look at me, or I’ll take you straight across my knee.”