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  • Inside by Noelle Adams #chapter six

     Six...

    Introduction

    Here's Chapter Six 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!

    Need to catch up?

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

    Chapter Six

    The next morning was a repeat of the one before.
    We talked for a few hours about every small detail, story, and memory I could dredge up about my father, and Will added to his list of ideas and locations to look.
    It was starting to feel futile. None of the places felt right to me. And how long could we keep spinning our wheels on a useless endeavor, hidden away in this safe house?
    But Will was convinced we would learn something, and I at least needed to give it a chance. So I thought and remembered and rambled on for hours, talking more in one morning than I sometimes do in an entire week.
    I was physically and emotionally exhausted when we finally finished. We ate sandwiches for lunch, sitting side-by-side at the island without talking, and I knew as soon as we were done, Will was going to leave again.
    He’d left me yesterday and returned injured.
    I didn’t want him to leave again.
    Not that I would ever admit such a thing out loud.
    He seemed fine this morning. Big and strong and healthy and limber. I knew he must be bruised up still, but he didn’t reveal it in the way he moved. When I’d asked him how he felt first thing that morning, he’d muttered, “Fine.”
    We cleaned up our lunch dishes, and then Will said, “Okay.” He straightened up and glanced toward the door.
    I knew what that meant. “Okay.”
    “Do you need anything?”
    I opened my mouth and then closed it again. I did need something, but it was a little awkward.
    “Tell me,” he said.
    I frowned at his tone. “I was going to tell you.”
    “Tell me.” More slowly this time, but just as gutturally.
    “Maybe you could think about asking nicely instead of growling at me all the time.”
    His expression cleared, and he almost smiled. “I didn’t realize I was growling.”
    “You were.”
    “Are you going to tell me what you need or not?”
    I cleared my throat. “I, uh, only have the clothes I was wearing, plus the clothes you keep here. I can make do for the most part, but I could use some clean underwear. I only have the one pair. I can rinse them out, but that means I’d have to go without for a while and it would be easier if I just got some new ones.”
    “Oh.” His eyes ran up and down my body, which was mostly indistinguishable beneath the oversized sweats and T-shirt of his I was wearing. “Sure. You just need…”
    “Panties. I can go without a bra if the one I have gets too gross.”
    His eyes dipped down again, and I knew he was checking to see if I was wearing a bra right now.
    I was—but the fact that he felt the need to look for himself made my breath hitch.
    Pushing back my reaction, I tried to keep my voice level. “But I need panties. Just a pack of basic cotton ones are fine. Anything that’s clean.”
    “What size do you wear?”
    I told him, feeling better about getting the uncomfortable conversation over with.
    “I guess you’ve never had to stop in a store to buy women’s panties before,” I said as he went over to the island to pick up the notebook he’d written all his notes in.
    He gave a soft huff. “No. Never. But I can face the underwear section without flinching. I’m pretty tough.”
    He was tough. I’d never met anyone as tough as Will.
    But he’d been hurt yesterday, and he could be hurt again. The recognition hit me unexpectedly.
    Instead of laughing in response to his comment, I said, “Be careful.”
    “In the underwear section?” He hadn’t been looking at me so he hadn’t seen my change in expression.
    “No. In everything. While you’re gone. Be careful.”
    He glanced at me over his shoulder and grew still. “I will. I was sloppy yesterday, but I won’t be again.”
    Before I could say anything, he put down his notebook and strode into the bathroom. I sat down on a stool at the island, feeling ridiculously jittery. Nerves. And confusion. And something else.
    Something else I didn’t want to label.
    I heard the toilet flush and the water running in the bathroom, and I stood up when Will reemerged. He walked over to pick up his notebook again, bringing him just a foot or two away from me.
    His body was so close I could reach out to touch it.
    I wanted to.
    I had no idea why I wanted to so much.
    “I’ll be careful, Greer,” he murmured, stepping over so he was right in front of where I stood. “Like I said, I’m tough. I’m not easy to hurt.”
    There was nothing easy about him. He was hard in every way.
    If I stretched my hand out just a tiny bit, I would feel how hard his chest was against my palm.
    I couldn’t look at his face. I was staring at his broad shoulders, the way his black T-shirt hugged the lines of his biceps. He was breathing. I could see his chest rise and fall. I could smell him just faintly. Natural. Deeply compelling.
    He was a real man. And there was power in the tensing of his muscles, in the breadth of his shoulders, in the absolute stillness of his posture.
    I’d been turned on before in my life. Many, many times. By books or sexy daydreams or by men I liked touching me. I remember reading sexy scenes in books and getting turned on by them before I even really knew what that meant.
    But I’d never been turned on by just being close to a man this way. Will wasn’t speaking, wasn’t moving, wasn’t touching me.
    And I was rocked by a wave of heat, of want. It felt like my breasts were straining, like every part of my body was reaching out for his.
    “Greer?” There was a question in the one word, but I couldn’t raise my eyes to his face.
    I couldn’t let him see what I was feeling.
    I stood frozen in place and prayed he couldn’t see evidence in my body of the carnal response to him I was suffering.
    It felt like suffering. This bone-deep desire to touch, to feel. It was suffering to hold myself back.
    “Shit,” Will muttered. He raised a hand and settled it on my shoulder, his thumb stretching over to press gently into my throbbing pulse.
    He was feeling my heartbeat.
    I knew he was.
    He would feel.
    He would know.
    Part of me wanted him to know.
    “Shit, Greer,” he rasped, slowly dragging his thumb back and forth across the hollow in my throat where my pulse was pounding out a desperate rhythm. “Your heart is racing like crazy.”
    I knew it was. I could feel it. In my chest. In my head. Behind my eyes. Between my legs.
    “Greer, look at me.”
    I didn’t. I couldn’t. He would see.
    He brought his other hand up and cupped my face between his palms, raising my chin. I dropped my eyes automatically, although the warm touch of his hands only added fire to what was smoldering inside me.
    What the hell was wrong with me?
    I was never like this.
    And talk about bad timing. Our lives were in danger. I had no business responding like this to him.
    “Look at me.”
    His voice was low and rough, and I couldn’t resist it. I raised my eyes.
    His face was slightly damp from perspiration, and his eyes were deep and intense as they scanned my face. “I was distracted yesterday, but that’s not going to happen again. I know what I’m doing. I’m not going to get hurt.”
    I stared dazedly for a moment until his words finally registered.
    He thought I was scared.
    He thought I was scared.
    It never occurred to him that I might want to tear his clothes off, touch his big body all over, feel him moving against me, over me, inside me.
    It never occurred to him for even a minute.
    Relief and disappointment warred within me until I convinced myself that I should be nothing but relieved that he hadn’t recognized my arousal.
    “Give me an hour and a half,” he rasped. “I’ll come back to you. I promise.”
    I finally managed to make my body move. I gave a jerky nod.
    One of his hands slid back down to rub my pulse point with his thumb. “Your heart is still racing,” he murmured.
    Of course it was racing. Even that light touch of his thumb was triggering waves of heat, of pleasure.
    With great effort, I made myself take a few steps away from him. “I’m fine.”
    “You don’t look fine.”
    “I don’t care how I look. I said I’m fine. You need to get going. The sooner you go, the sooner you’ll come back with my underwear.”
    This was evidently the right thing to say. It convinced him I was still my normal self. He gave a very small smile and then went over to the far corner of the room and retrieved the gun he always left with me. He placed it on the island and gave me a significant look. “You know what to do.”
    “I know what to do.”
    He glanced one more time at me over his shoulder before he left, but he didn’t say anything else.
    I went to latch the door and sat back down on the stool, unable to do anything else.
    After a few minutes, my body finally calmed down.
    It wasn’t really surprising that he’d mistaken what I was feeling. Fear made sense in a situation like this. Arousal didn’t.
    After all, what kind of idiot would get turned on in a life-threatening situation? By a man who’d made it very clear that he didn’t want her at all.
    Naturally he’d assumed I was scared. What else would any reasonable woman be feeling right now?
    For the entire time Will was gone, I sat at the island and did nothing. I couldn’t focus enough to read, and I didn’t want to turn the television on and have it mask possible sounds from the hallway. So I sat and did nothing but wait.
    The entire time.
    Exactly an hour and twenty-nine minutes after Will had left, I heard the door unlocking. “It’s me, Greer.”
    Will.
    I jumped up to undo the latch, and he swung the door opened.
    He wasn’t hurt this time. I could see it immediately. Some of the tension in my chest relaxed.
    He came in and locked the door behind him before turning back to face me.
    “No luck, I guess?”
    “In the search? No. In getting you some underwear? Yes.” He was carrying three bags of groceries and one bag from a discount store.
    I reached for that bag and looked inside.
    “I got you a few other things to wear too,” he said, sounding almost diffident. “So you won’t always have to use my stuff.”
    Inside the bag was a pack of cotton underwear, plus a few basic women’s T-shirts and—bless him—a couple of pairs of black yoga pants.
    “I had to guess at the size,” he added.
    “This is perfect. Thanks.” I looked back up at him. “So you didn’t run into anyone this time?”
    “No. I was careful. I told you I would be.”
    “I know. But things happen sometimes anyway.”
    “They do.”
    Our gaze held for just a little too long before I tore my eyes away. “I’m going to put my new stuff on,” I said as I went into the bathroom.
    Space.
    What I needed was a little space from Will so I could get myself together.
    But any space between us meant that one or both of us could be in danger, so I wasn’t likely to get much space from him any time soon.
    ***
    The afternoon stretched on forever, just like the previous one had done. At four-thirty, I finally gave up trying to read Shakespeare or jotting down more memories of my father, so I put my books away.
    Will had been working on a tablet for most of the afternoon. I had no idea what he was doing, but I hoped it was more productive than my attempts to work. When I got up, he did too.
    He gazed down at me for a long moment.
    I had no idea what he was thinking.
    “I’m going to do a perimeter check of the building,” he finally muttered. “I’ll be fifteen minutes.”
    He was gone before I could respond in any way.
    I stood and stared at the closed door for a minute. Then I wandered into the kitchen, wondering what I could make for dinner. It was too early to eat, but I needed something mindless to do.
    Because the kitchen area was so small—just one small stretch of countertops and cabinets—there wasn’t much in the way of kitchen supplies. But I’d never looked in the upper shelves of the cabinets. They were built all the way to the ceiling to maximize efficiency, and I couldn’t reach the tallest shelves just by stretching.
    Mostly for a way to pass the time, I pulled a stool over and climbed up onto it, supporting myself against the refrigerator so I wouldn’t fall. I opened the doors to the top cabinet nearest me. Inside was a blender. I didn’t think we needed that so I opened the doors next to that shelf and found a countertop grill that looked brand new.
    That might come in handy. I pulled it out and reached down carefully to set it on the counter. Then I climbed down and pulled the stool over to the far end of the kitchen so I could look in the other cabinets.
    Since there was no refrigerator on this side to use for support, my balancing was more precarious, but I was doing fine.
    I would have been fine, had Will not chosen that moment to come back into the apartment.
    “What the hell are you doing?” he demanded, his voice startling me so much my stool wobbled.
    I grabbed out at the cabinets for support and—yet again—I would have been fine.
    I’m sure I would have been fine.
    I didn’t need Will rushing over to grab my ass.
    He’d reacted automatically to hold me steady. I knew that. But it just happened that one of his hands ended up curved around my bottom and the other holding onto my thigh.
    I was wearing a pair of the yoga pants he’d bought, and they fit snugly. There was just a very thin layer of stretched cotton between his hands and my skin.
    And one of his hands was on my butt.
    “Damn it, Greer,” he muttered. “What the hell? You’re going to kill yourself.”
    And he was going to kill me with his damned sexiness. He was definitely going to kill me before we got out of this place.
    His hand was still on my ass, and I liked how it felt. I really liked how it felt.
    My tone was sharper than normal because of it. “I’m just fine.”
    “You’re not fine. You almost fell.”
    “I only wobbled because you scared the hell out of me. I was fine before.”
    “What are you doing up there anyway?”
    “Looking in these cabinets.”
    “Well, look quickly so you can get your little ass back down on the ground.”
    I don’t have a little ass, in case you were wondering. My butt isn’t huge. My body is fairly well balanced between my boobs and ass, but nothing about me is really small.
    I don’t know why I liked the sound of his words so much, but I did.
    I opened the doors to the two final upper cabinets.
    These shelves were both empty.
    Naturally.
    It could have been planned that way to make me look silly for getting up here.
    “Satisfied?” Will asked gruffly, finally moving his hands so he was holding onto my hips instead.
    As I climbed down, his hands moved up my sides until they were spanning my ribs.
    I knew he was just instinctively keeping me steady, but I liked how his hands felt there too.
    I didn’t like when he finally let them drop to his sides.
    He was scowling when I turned around. He’s not a very expressive man, so any expression this obvious meant something.
    I frowned back at him. “There’s no reason to get all grumpy about it.”
    “The hell there isn’t. I’m doing everything I can to keep you alive, and you decide to break your neck in the fucking kitchen.”
    “I didn’t break my neck. I wasn’t going to break my neck.” I was breathing quickly, trying not to let that hot wave of physical need swallow me up again.
    But he was standing so close.
    And he was so big and male and hard and… Will.
    “I was fine until you startled me,” I said.
    “So it’s my fault?”
    “Yes. It’s your fault.”
    We glared at each other for a minute until I saw his expression relax almost imperceptibly. A little glimmer of amusement flared in his eyes, and it made me want to smile.
    These soft feelings were almost as dangerous as the heat so I turned away from him. “I’m going to figure out something to make for dinner.”
    “Do you want any help?”
    God, I wanted him to help. I wanted everything from him. But I wasn’t fool enough to indulge that feeling.
    “I’m fine. You can go do whatever it is that you do.”
    The words were a dismissal, and he obviously took them as such. He returned to the chair in the corner where he always sat and picked up his tablet.
    I stared down at the grill on the countertop for a long time, mentally composing myself, until I was in a suitable shape to start dinner.
    ***
    I made burgers on the countertop grill and toasted bread to put them on. Paired with a salad, it wasn’t too bad of a dinner, and Will seemed to think it was good.
    We talked of harmless things as we ate, and I tried to fight feelings of closeness.
    If my responses to him were nothing but physical, I could more easily deal with them, but they were so much more than physical. There was history and understanding between us. No matter how much I tried to rationalize, what existed between me and Will felt deep.
    Deep.
    And, despite my humiliation when I was eighteen and all the reasons I had to deny this perception, I couldn’t seem to talk myself out of it.
    Will helped me do the dishes after we ate, and he was putting the cleaned plates back into the cabinet when I turned around and saw the back of his shirt.
    I sucked in a sharp breath. “You’re bleeding.”
    He glanced at my face and then over his shoulder, obviously trying to see the back of his shirt. “It’s nothing.”
    “Nothing? You’re bleeding. What happened?”
    “Nothing,” he said, more firmly this time. “The cut from yesterday must have just started bleeding again. It’s nothing to worry about.”
    “Okay. I’m not worried. But I’m not going to just let you stand there bleeding all night. You need to rebandage it.”
    He turned to face me, arching his eyebrows.
    I knew exactly what his expression meant. The injury was on his back, and he couldn’t reach it to bandage himself. I rolled my eyes. “Okay. So take off your shirt and let me rebandage it.”
    He looked like he was going to object to this plan, so I gritted out, “God, you’re stupid sometimes. Is this some kind of macho, I’m-invulnerable crap? You’re bleeding. Take off your damned shirt.”
    He hesitated but then evidently made up his mind. He grabbed at the back of his shirt and pulled it up over his head. I saw him wince as he did so.
    He was still hurting.
    All day, he’d acted like he was well, but he was hurting.
    Maybe I should have felt sympathetic, but I felt annoyed instead.
    I went to grab the first aid stuff we’d used yesterday, and when I returned Will was still standing where I’d left him, holding his T-shirt in his hand.
    I did try, but I couldn’t keep my eyes on his face. His chest was bare now, and it was… very nice to look at.
    Swallowing hard, I said, “Well, get over here and sit down so I can bandage you up.”
    He didn’t come immediately, but I waited until he finally did.
    As soon as he sat on the stool, turning his back to me, I saw why he’d been hesitating.
    I gasped. “Will!”
    “It’s no big deal,” he muttered. He was holding himself very tensely and staring fixedly across the room.
    “No big deal?” Half his back was covered with ugly green and purple bruises, all surrounding the gash that had broken open and bled through the old bandage I’d put on the day before. “It’s horrible! Why didn’t you tell me it was this bad?”
    “It just looks bad. It’s minor.”
    “You must have been in pain all day.”
    “I said it wasn’t that bad,” he bit out. One of his arms was propped on the countertop to the island, but he wasn’t relaxed. Nothing about him was relaxed.
    “Oh, God, Will.” I went over to the sink, grabbed a big bunch of paper towels, wet them down, and carried them back over to him, using them to gently wipe away the blood after I pulled off the old bandage. “This must hurt like hell.”
    “Nothing more than I deserve.”
    I was so focused on his injury that I didn’t immediately process what he’d said. When I did, I stiffened, “Why would you deserve this?”
    He was silent for a long time.
    “Will? Why would you think you deserve this?
    When he replied, I could tell he was trying to sound light, casual. “For being sloppy yesterday. What else?”
    There was something else.
    I didn’t know what it was, but I knew there was something else underlying his words.
    I couldn’t force him to tell me though.
    I couldn’t force him to do anything.
    I couldn’t even force myself to not think about his big, masculine body, so close to me now.
    It was a ridiculous thing to focus on when these bruises were so ugly, but the rest of him was strong and firm and tense and warm. So warm. So tense.
    It was like something powerful was coiled inside him, reined in, held back. And one day that coiled power would release, would explode, would overwhelm me.
    I wanted it to.
    I wanted to drown in it.
    I worked on his injury silently, torn between sympathy and desire. I shouldn’t be feeling both things at once. The two emotions couldn’t coexist. They were opposites.
    I was being torn in two between them.
    My hands were moving over his body as gently as I could manage. Only once did I see him flinch very slightly.
    When I got a new bandage in place, I didn’t want to pull away from him. I didn’t want to stop touching him.
    My hands trembled slightly. “Okay. That’s better.”
    “Thanks.” His voice was soft and rough.
    “You’re welcome.” Swallowing hard, I said, “You should put the cold pack on those bruises.”
    “It doesn’t matter.”
    “It matters to me.”
    For just a moment, I felt something shudder through him, like that coiled power was on the verge of unleashing.
    But it didn’t happen. I was probably imagining it. His voice was dry as he said, “Are you planning to stand there for twenty minutes holding the cold pack on my back?”
    He sounded so normal that I was suddenly embarrassed. Once again, I was reading all these secret feelings inside him that didn’t exist. The embarrassment actually helped me. I was able to pull my hands away from his body. “No. Of course not. Go lie on the bed. I’ll get the cold pack. You can lie on it like last night.”
    “I don’t need—”
    “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Will,” I snapped. “Will you stop acting like you’re a piece of granite for once in your life? Your name might be Stone, but you’re not actually made of it. You hurt yourself. It needs to get better.”
    He stared at me for a moment, clearly surprised by the impatient words. Then he slowly got up and walked over to the bed.
    I’d made the bed that morning, and he lay down on the same side he’d slept on last night.
    I was ridiculously shaky as I went to pull the cold pack out of the freezer. I carried it over to the bed and leaned down.
    My hair fell forward, over my shoulders, as I adjusted the cold pack beneath the injured side of his back. I was very close to him again. It would only take a few more inches, and I could kiss him.
    He gazed up at me with those deep gray eyes, and they offered me something. Promised me something.
    A hot, silent promise.
    I felt it all the way to my core.
    I wanted it. I wanted him. So much.
    My breathing was shallow, and my cheeks flushed with heat. For a moment, I knew he was going to reach out for me, pull me down on top of him, finally close the distance between us.
    I waited for it.
    And I kept waiting.
    Then the promise disappeared from his eyes. “This thing is cold,” he said.
    The cold pack. He was talking about the cold pack. I straightened up, feeling like a freezing wave had just crashed into me.
    God, I was an idiot.
    I’d never stop being an idiot.
    I thought I’d grown up and gotten smart, but I wasn’t all that different from that eighteen-year-old girl who’d been so convinced a man was into her when he wasn’t.
    This knowledge should have taken the edge off my arousal. It should have wiped it out completely. But it didn’t.
    My body still wanted him as much as ever, even knowing he’d never want me.
    I couldn’t lie down on the same bed with him. I couldn’t even stay in the same room with him. But there was nowhere I could go to escape.
    The bathroom.
    I could hide in the bathroom.
    “Okay,” I said, forcing casualness I didn’t feel. “You lie there on the cold pack for at least twenty minutes. I think I might go take a shower. I feel kind of ick.”
    He didn’t respond in words, but he did nod. I could feel him watching me as I hurried to the bathroom.
    He hadn’t seen, had he? He didn’t know what I was feeling, did he?
    Please, God, don’t let him have known.
    I closed the bathroom door and immediately felt better with a barricade between us. I turned on the shower and waited until the water warmed up.
    Then I stripped off my clothes and got in.
    I tried to relax.
    I tried to think about anything but Will.
    I tried to get my body to stop pulsing this way.
    It was primed. Ready. Waiting.
    For something that was never going to happen.
    After about five minutes, I had to come to the conclusion that my body wasn’t going to give up on what it wanted. I had to do something to calm it down, so I did the obvious thing.
    I reached up to turn the showerhead to the massage setting, and then I stepped back so the hard spray was focused on my clit.
    I closed my eyes as my body enjoyed the sensations, but it wasn’t enough.
    I didn’t want the shower spray. I wanted Will’s hands. His body. His… everything.
    With a stifled moan, I braced myself with one hand on the shower wall and reached down to rub myself with the other. I massaged my clit with hard, circular pressure and felt the arousal coil even tighter.
    I imagined going back into the room, climbing in bed beside Will. I imagined him rolling over. Kissing me. Caressing me all over. Sliding inside me. Deep inside me. Pushing hard. Fast. Moving over me. Our bodies grappling urgently together. All that deep, coiled power inside him finally unleashed.
    Unleashed into me.
    My whole body had tensed up, the muscles of my thighs and belly tightened and shuddered as I rubbed myself off. I was breathing fast, and my skin was flushed all the way down to my chest. The hot water was beating on me, and it added to the sensations.
    My body knew what it needed. It wasn’t this, but it was close. It was something.
    I bit my lip as my orgasm finally broke and my body shook through a climax.
    I came harder than I expected. The spasms lasted a long time, and I kept rubbing myself through them, trying to feel as much pleasure as I could.
    I was trying to suppress the moans I wanted to make, but it was difficult. I needed the release so much.
    I ended up slumped against the shower wall, my body finally relaxed.
    I felt better. Not really sated but better. My body throbbed pleasantly, and that aching arousal had quieted.
    I was embarrassed. Of course I was. I’d just gotten myself off in the shower, with just one closed door between me and Will.
    But I’d needed it.
    My body simply wouldn’t listen to my mind.
    And if I had to rub myself off every night to satisfy this hot need, then that was what I was going to do.
    It was better—safer—than expecting this desperate thirst to ever be quenched by the source.
    Will didn’t want me.
    He’d made that perfectly clear.
    So I would have to take care of myself.

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