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  • Inside by Noelle Adams #chapter seven


    ...

    Introduction

    "Here's Chapter Seven of Inside, the serial novel I'm working on. If you need to catch up, you can use the links to the earlier chapters below.
    Just a reminder that I'm only reading each chapter over once before I send it out, so try to overlook any editing/proofreading errors.
    If you want to let me know what you think of the chapter, you should be able to just reply to this email.  If you have any trouble, you can always just email me directly at noelle.s.adams@gmail.com. You can also join my reader group on Facebook and leave a comment there. I do appreciate hearing from you on the chapters as I send them out!"
    Noelle Adams

    Need to catch up?

    You can catch up on the earlier chapters through the links below.

    Chapter Seven


    The following afternoon, I was in the shower again.
    This time, it wasn’t because I was in the need of physical relief. Honestly. I was just feeling icky because I hadn’t showered that morning. I must have been more tired than I thought, and I slept in later than usual. Will didn’t wake me up until nine.
    We started going over more memories as I drank coffee, and after that Will left again for a couple of hours. So I never got a chance to take a shower that morning.
    By four, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I decided to finally get clean for the day.
    It was a good thing I wasn’t taking care of personal business in the shower today because, five minutes after I got in, there was a knock on the bathroom door. I was vaguely aware of it, but it was so out of context I couldn’t immediately place the sound.
    Then I heard Will’s voice over the shower spray. “Greer?”
    “I’m in the shower!” The words came out as a squeal, but what else could I do? I was naked, and Will had obviously opened the bathroom door at least a crack.
    “I know. But I’ve got Dax on the phone. If you want to talk to Chance, you need to do it now.”
    “Okay. I’m coming. Give me a minute to get out.”
    I made sure all the soap was rinsed off before I turned off the water. Then I grabbed a towel, wrapped it around me, and hurried out into the main room.
    Under normal circumstances, I never would have come out in just a towel, but I hadn’t gotten to talk to Chance yesterday, and I was afraid of missing the opportunity now. Chance and Dax were evidently moving around, so they didn’t have as much down time as Will and I had.
    I hadn’t gotten my hair wet in the shower, but my skin was still damp as I approached Will and reached out for the phone.
    He handed it to me, and I said, “Chance?”
    “No, it’s me,” Dax said on the other end of the call. “Hold on. Here she is.”
    As I waited to hear Chance’s voice, I noticed that Will was looking at me. His eyes were moving up and down my body. Not in an appreciative way, you understand. His gaze appeared cool and assessing to me, and since my body isn’t really something I’m comfortable showing off and I was just wearing a towel, I walked back into the bathroom with the phone and closed the door.
    “Greer?”
    “Yes. Chance, how are you?”
    “I’m okay. Ready for this ordeal to be over.”
    “Me too. Are you and Dax still in the middle of nowhere?”
    “Pretty much. He’s promised me an actual bathroom tonight, so I hope he’s not going to let me down.”
    “Oh, shit,” I breathed. “I guess I’ve got it pretty good.”
    “Dax said that Will got hurt the other day.”
    “He did, but not too badly. He’s okay.”
    “Okay, look, I don’t know how long we’ll have to talk, but I wanted to ask you about Dad’s doodles.”
    I blinked. “What?”
    “His doodles. You know how he always used to doodle?”
    “Yes, of course, but just on random note paper or whatever. It was just a thing to do with his hands, I think. They weren’t special to him or anything.”
    “But what about the ones he kept?”
    “What do you mean? He didn’t keep any.”
    “Yes, he did. He had a book with them in it.”
    I closed the toilet lid so I could sit down. “What? I never knew about any book.”
    “I wouldn’t have either, except I went… well, I went snooping around his office a couple of times in when I was a teenager.”
    “You did not!”
    “Yes, I did.” It sounded like Chance was smiling. “I wasn’t nearly such a good girl as you, and I was… well, it doesn’t really matter. But I’ve been talking stuff over with Dax to try to remember things, and I suddenly remembered that book of doodles. I saw it in his office.”
    “What doodles were in it?”
    “I don’t even know. I just glanced into it, saw some little drawings like he always made, and ignored it because it wasn’t interesting. They were in that big brown book next to the red photo book on the book shelf behind his desk. Do you remember seeing it? I know they were his drawings. Maybe he left us a clue in there.”
    “Maybe.” My heard had sped up, but I was frowning as I thought through possibilities. “But if he had the book when we were teenagers, then he hadn’t even stolen the diamonds yet.”
    “I know. But maybe he added to it later or something. It’s the only thing I can think of.”
    “Yeah, it’s a good idea. It’s way better than anything I’ve been able to come up with. Poor Will’s been all over town, looking in random places we occasionally visited as kids. It’s all a big waste of time.”
    “Well, this might be a waste too, but it’s better than any of my other ideas. But Dax and I aren’t anywhere close to the city, so you’ll have to get Will to go get the book. You’ll need to describe it to him so he knows what to look for.”
    “I will.” I stood up, feeling a rush of excitement, like maybe for the first time there was hope for accomplishing something. “This is great, Chance. Thanks.”
    “I’m kind of proud of myself for thinking of something before you.”
    “Don’t be too proud. I didn’t even know about the book to begin with.”
    Chance laughed. “Yeah, I guess there’s that. So how are you doing with everything?”
    “I’m fine.”
    “I mean really. Are you okay cooped up like that with Will?”
    “I’m managing.”
    “Is it terrible?”
    “No. It’s not terrible. It’s just… awkward. At least Dax actually likes you.”
    “What do you mean? Will likes you, doesn’t he?”
    I snorted, but when I responded it was in a softer voice, soft enough not to be overheard through the closed bathroom door. “In what fantasy world do you believe that to be true? I don’t think he dislikes me or anything, but he’s never liked me.”
    “Of course he likes you. He’s protecting you, isn’t he?”
    “Yes. Sure. I’m not discounting that. But he’s doing it out of loyalty to Dad. He would have protected you just the same, had Dax not picked you first.”
    Chance paused for a moment. “That’s not what Dax says.”
    “What does Dax say?”
    “I guess they’d made a plan for when Kurt finally made a move, but when it happened Dax was a lot closer to your campus than Will and he suggested they just switch which one of us they’d take. Will wouldn’t let him. He wouldn’t even have a discussion about it. He had to have you.”
    I was still standing in the middle of the bathroom, and my knees were starting to feel a little weak. “That doesn’t… I don’t think it happened like that.”
    “You think Dax lied to me?”
    “I don’t know. But… maybe Will just wanted to stick to their plan.”
    “Maybe. I don’t know. Dax seemed to think it was funny, like it was typical for Will, like he wasn’t surprised at his insistence on taking you. I left home before I got to know Will very well, so I don’t know for myself, but Dax sure acts like Will likes you a lot.”
    I was experiencing a wave of feelings—confusion and excitement and bone-deep pleasure. But too often in the past I’d talked myself into believing things that just weren’t true. I was older now. I had to be smarter and more careful. “I… don’t think so. You know what happened.” Chance was the only person in the world I’d ever told about going to Will’s room that night.
    “When you were eighteen! You don’t think things might be different now?”
    “They don’t… feel different.”
    “Okay. If you say so.”
    I could picture Chance’s expression in my mind—a slight smile, an ironic shake of her head, as if she were agreeing to avoid an argument but didn’t believe me in the slightest. I could see her face so clearly that my chest suddenly ached.
    “Take care of yourself, Chance,” I said.
    “I will. You too. And see what you can find with that book.”
    I disconnected the call and stood for a minute, trying to process the succession of responses I’d had to the conversation with my sister.
    Then I made myself focus on priorities and walked out of the bathroom. I was still wearing nothing but a towel, but at least the moisture on my skin had dried.
    Will was standing near the kitchen island, and he turned toward me as I came out.
    “Chance had a good idea,” I said, handing him the phone. “She said my dad kept a book of his doodles—you know all those little pictures he’d draw all the time. I never knew about the book, but she saw it. She said he kept it in his office. I haven't changed anything in his office since he died, so it should still be there. So we need to go get it so we can see if there are any clues there.”
    Will was standing right in front of me, his expression as unreadable as normal. “Okay.”
    “It’s a brown leather book. He kept it on the second shelf, right next to the red photo album. It should still be there, since I never packed up his books.”
    “Okay.”
    “You should go right now and get it.”
    “I’m not going to go now.” His voice was slightly thicker than normal, which surprised me. I’d assumed he’d spring into action, now that we actually had a lead.
    “Why not?” My towel was coming untucked, so tightened it again. “There’s no sense in wasting time. I want to see what’s in the book as soon as possible so we can find out if he left us some sort of clue there.”
    “I’ll try to get it tomorrow.”
    “Why wait until tomorrow? It’s not even dark yet. I can go—”
    “You can’t go anywhere.” His voice was more than gruff now. It snapped like a whip.
    I blinked in surprise and then scowled at him. “I thought we had this discussion a few days ago. I’m a human being with a will of my own, and I can leave this apartment any time I want.” I started to turn away from him.
    I wasn’t actually going to leave at the moment. I was wearing a towel, and I also didn’t have a death wish. But I was angry with Will for his stubbornness and unnerved by the sharp tone of his voice, so I didn’t want to be standing so close to him.
    He grabbed me by the shoulders, holding me in place. His gray eyes were strangely fierce. “You can’t go back to the townhouse. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to let you do it. Don’t you understand? Kurt will have someone waiting there. There’s nowhere in the world where you’d be in more danger. I’ll go get the book tomorrow, after I figure out a way to get in there without being caught. But you’re not getting within a mile of that place. I’ve tried to be sensitive and not bulldoze you too much, but there are limits. And this is it. I’m not going to let you get hurt. You’re not going.”
    I gaped at him, my cheeks flushing and my skin tingling where his hands were gripping my shoulders. He looked and felt so intense at the moment, so compelling. Like some of that fire that always smoldered hidden inside him had suddenly flared up.
    I wanted it.
    I wanted even more of it.
    I tried to pull away from his hands because I liked the feel of them so much.
    He must have misunderstood my withdrawal because he wouldn’t let me go. “I mean it, Greer,” he rasped. “You’re not leaving this apartment.”
    I actually hadn’t thought of the townhouse being watched, but now that I had, I never would have considered going myself. But he obviously thought I was planning to head over there right now.
    I swallowed hard and tried to feel my way back to solid ground. “You’re seriously telling me that you’ve been trying to be sensitive with me the last few days?” I spoke lightly in an attempt to cut some of the tension, since it was doing dangerous things to my body and my heart.
    Something changed on his face. Some of the intensity faded into ironic amusement. “Well, yeah. This is as sensitive as I get.”
    I giggled. I couldn’t help it. And I was relieved when he finally let his hands drop from my shoulders.
    Those hands were big and strong and slightly rough. I really wanted to feel them on other parts of my body, but I wasn’t going to indulge that wanting.
    “I’m not going to try to go myself,” I said. “I just got excited and wanted to find the book right away. You said Kurt searched the townhouse? You don’t think he would have taken it, do you?”
    Will took a step back and rubbed the back of his neck. His expression had changed yet again. It wasn’t fierce anymore, but it looked stiff in a way I wasn’t familiar with. “Hopefully not.”
    “He would have been looking for the diamonds themselves, so surely he wouldn’t have noticed a random book with a bunch of little drawings in it. I had no idea my dad even had it.”
    Will cleared his throat. He wasn’t even looking at me now. “Yeah. We can talk about it later.”
    I frowned. “What’s the matter with you? I told you I wasn’t going to try to leave.”
    “I know you’re not.”
    “Then what—”
    “Would you put some fucking clothes on, Greer?”
    I froze for a minute, shocked by the rough words. When I could move, I glanced down at myself. My towel had slipped down a bit, showing more cleavage than was entirely comfortable, but nothing inappropriate was revealed. Just my arms, shoulders, and legs and the top of my breasts.
    I looked back up at Will. His head was still turned away from me, and his body was rigid.
    Surely he wasn’t…
    Surely he didn’t…
    He’d never shown the slightest bit of interest in my body.
    Even when I’d offered it to him, he hadn’t wanted it.
    I could hear Chance’s voice in the back of my mind. Maybe things could be different now.
    Will was so impenetrably stoic that it was impossible to tell from his expression whether he was aroused or simply uncomfortable. I was scrutinizing him in an attempt to figure it out when he growled, “Greer. Now.”
    I sighed, gave up, and returned to the bathroom to get dressed.
    ***
    If I’d hoped to see some lingering signs of interest in Will when I came back out, I was to be disappointed.
    He was cool and controlled and normal again, with none of that tension in his body or texture in his voice.
    I went to make dinner, since it gave me something to do, and I was surprised when Will came over and propped himself up on a stool on the island instead of going to the chair in the corner where he normally sat.
    He was watching me when I turned toward him, like he was trying to read my expression. Or my mind.
    “Did you want something?” I asked him, meeting his eyes without wavering.
    “Are you mad at me?”
    “For what? Snapping at me unnecessarily? Bossing me around? Treating me like a child or a subordinate? Or trying to save my life?”
    The last item on the list obviously surprised him. Then he frowned. “My protecting you this way doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to be mad at me.”
    “I know. I guess I just don’t have the energy to get mad at you.” It was true. I don’t care to be snapped at or bossed around, but at the moment I was more confused than resentful.
    “Well, I guess I’m not going to complain about that.” He gave me a little smile.
    So kill me. I smiled back.
    “Do you want to help chop vegetables?” I asked.
    “Sure.”
    I passed him a green pepper, a cucumber, and the best knife. While he started chopping, I washed the lettuce and tomato.
    After a few minutes, I asked, “So does Kurt have a lot of people working for him or something?”
    Will glanced up from his chopping. “What do you mean?”
    “I don’t know. You said he had someone watching that library, and someone else must be at the townhouse. Then there was the guy you got into a fight with. How many people does Kurt have on his crew?”
    “He’s got a few friends he used to do jobs with, but most of them he just hired. He’s not some sort of boss or mastermind. He doesn’t have a crew. He just… wants the diamonds bad.”
    “So what about the rest of the guys on your crew?”
    Will’s brows drew together. “What guys?”
    “I don’t know what guys. Do you not have a crew?” I’d stopped drying off my tomato because he sounded so confused.
    “You mean from your dad’s crew? It was really just me, Kurt, and Dax—and sometimes Bryce. Do you remember him?”
    “Yeah, I remember Bryce, but that’s not what I meant. I mean now.”
    Will was staring at me like I’d grown a second head. “What do you mean now?”
    “I mean now. In the present. This year. This month. Why is this so confusing to you?”
    “I don’t have a crew now.”
    “You don’t? Why not? Do you work alone?” My heart was throbbing strangely, and I didn’t understand why. Something about his confused expression and frozen posture.
    “No, I don’t work alone. I worked with Kurt before the whole thing blew up, but…”
    He was acting very strangely, standing perfectly still with the knife poised over the cucumber. But his eyes were on my face with an urgent bewilderment that didn’t fit the context.
    “So you did jobs just the two of you?” I asked, trying to feel my way through the strangeness. “I know he’s good at all the tech stuff and you’re good at… everything, but they couldn’t have been very big jobs with just two guys.”
    “You think I’m still running jobs?” Will breathed.
    My heart throbbed even more. “Aren’t you?”
    “No. No! When I left your dad, I… stopped. I went straight. Kurt and I set up a security business, and it was doing pretty well until we had the big blow up.”
    “You went straight?”
    “Yes. Three years ago. How did you not know that?”
    “How was I supposed to know that? You never told me. You just walked out. Why wouldn’t I have thought…” I was having trouble speaking. I wasn’t sure why I was so overwhelmed with this news, but I was.
    I really was.
    Will seemed overwhelmed too. His face was twisting oddly, like he was trying to process some sort of deep emotion. “Didn’t your dad tell you?”
    “No. He never told me anything. I didn’t know. I just assumed you went off on your own.”
    Will made a choking sound. “So all this time, you thought… you thought I was still… Shit, you thought I did that to your dad? That I just up and left him to... to what? Set up my own crew? Jesus fucking Christ, Greer, all this time you thought I did that to your dad?”
    I was actually trembling now, partly in response to Will’s own intensity. I had to put down the knife. “Y-yes. I didn’t know.”
    He turned on his heel suddenly, showing me his back. He rubbed his face with one hand. “Jesus Christ,” he rasped softly—to himself, I assumed. Then he faced me again, looking a little more controlled. “No wonder you hated me.”
    “So… so Dad knew why you left him?”
    “Yes. I told him everything. I thought Kurt wanted to go straight too, so it seemed to work out for both of us to go at the same time. I never would have left your dad for any other reason. I owed him everything. I loved him. I never would have left him if I hadn’t wanted to get out of that life completely.”
    For no good reason, a tear streamed down my cheek.
    “He really didn’t tell you?” Will’s voice was soft and strained.
    I shook my head.
    “All this time, you thought I was... someone who would do that.” This fact clearly bothered him. He couldn’t seem to get over it.
    “I was surprised,” I admitted, cracking on the last word. “I hadn’t thought you would treat my dad that way, so I was surprised.”
    “I’m not.” He came around the island and reached up to take my face in his hands. “Greer, I’m not a man who would do that.”
    Another tear slid down my face. “I’m glad.”
    We stared at each other for a moment, something deep and intense shared in the gaze.
    Then Will dropped his hands and returned to his chopping. I turned back to the lettuce.
    After a minute, I asked, “So why did you decide to go straight?”
    He opened his mouth and then closed it again, as if second-guessing his first answer. All he said was, “It was time.”
    ***
    We talked casually over dinner, and I kind of missed the intensity of our earlier conversation, even though it was a relief not to feel quite so much.
    I was exhausted as we cleaned up the dishes, which was strange because I’d really done very little all day. It felt like I’d been through a war, though.
    Will poured us both a glass of whiskey, and we took it over to watch TV in bed like we had the evening before. It really was the only genuinely comfortable place to be in the entire apartment.
    Remembering Will’s injury, I set my glass on the nightstand on my side and then went to get the cold pack from the freezer again. I carried it over to the bed, where he had just stretched out.
    “I’m fine,” he told me.
    I rolled my eyes. “I know you’re fine. But you’re still bruised up. I’m not blind, you know. I can see you’re still moving kind of stiffly today, so it must still hurt some. So lie on this and stop whining.”
    He lifted his shoulder enough for me to leaned down and position the cold pack beneath him. As I did, he arched his eyebrows. “Whining?”
    “Yes. Whining. Don’t give me that skeptical look. Your whining is of a special variety, where you pretend not to complain about anything. Even stuff you should complain about. But, in typical contrary fashion, it actually means you’re whining.” I was smiling as I moved the cold pack slightly so it was in a better position.
    He smiled up at me, his gaze softening. Our faces were less than a foot apart. “I’m not really following your rationale.”
    “You’ll just have to trust me. By not whining, you’re really whining.”
    The cold pack was in position now, so it was time for me to straighten up. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. His eyes held mine, and I couldn’t look away. My hair was falling down, the ends brushing his shirt. And there was a warmth on his face that was undeniable, irresistible.
    He lifted a hand and brushed his knuckles against my cheek.
    I sucked in a breath at the light caress. Then I reached out to brush my fingertips against his jaw. His beard scratched against my skin deliciously.
    His hand moved to the back of my neck, cupping the base of my skull.
    I’m not actually sure whether I moved myself or whether he pushed my head down toward his, but one way or the other we ended up kissing.
    His lips were light at first, almost questioning, but the touch sent ripples of pleasure down my spine. Then he took my head in both hands and held me in place so he could kiss me harder. His tongue slipped into my mouth.
    My body erupted in shivers of excitement, sensation. I clung to his shoulders and returned the kiss eagerly.
    “Greer,” he murmured against my lips, suddenly grabbing me, rolling me over his body and onto my side. He edged his own body up onto his side to meet mine, sliding one hand down to the small of my back.
    I’d never had a kiss like this before. Not once in my life. It had never felt like my soul would burst out of my skin from nothing more than the touch of a man’s lips and tongue. My head was so full I couldn’t think, couldn’t process, couldn’t do anything but feel.
    I combed my fingers through his hair and then suddenly clenched a fistful of it as his hand moved down my body even further so he was palming my ass through the thin fabric of my yoga pants. Arousal pulsed between my legs as he stroked my body with bold entitlement.
    This was Will. Will Stone. Touching me this way.
    Making me feel better than… anything.
    I moaned into his mouth as his hand kept moving.
    I lifted a leg to wrap it around his hips. He was already hard in his trousers. I could feel the tight bulge. I rubbed against it, thrilled with this evidence that he wanted me.
    I was starting to slip a hand under his shirt when he jerked dramatically.
    He tore his mouth away from mine and pushed me away. Not violent but forceful.
    I sprawled limply on the bed, about a foot away from him now, and I gasped in disappointment and bewilderment. “Wh—what?”
    “No.” His face twisted painfully. “No, we can’t do that.”
    “But… why not?” My body was still pulsing. I still wanted him so much. I didn’t understand why he wasn’t still touching me.
    “I’m not going to be that man.”
    None of this was making any sense, or maybe my mind was too clouded to figure it out. “What man?”
    “The man who… who takes ad—” He made a strangled sound and rolled over awkwardly and then hauled himself up to his feet. “Your life is in danger. You haven’t seen a single person other than me in three days. You’re scared. This is not…” He gave his head a rough shake. “No. I’m not going to be that man.”
    I stared at him dazedly as he took a deep breath and then walked stiffly into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
    In just a few seconds, I heard the shower spray turn on.
    I collapsed back against the pillow.
    In some ways, the rejection was as painful as it had been at eighteen, when I’d made myself available to him and he hadn’t wanted me.
    But he did want me this time. I was sure he did.
    At least his body did.
    He’d been hard. I hadn’t imagined that.
    His body might want me, but Will was clearly not the kind of man to obey the dictates of his body.
    And his heart was still buried away somewhere.
    He wasn’t going to let it out.

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