Chapter 50

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The room was bright. Hailie squinted her eyes. Her head was on Eli's lap. He was playing with the tips of her hair. She wondered if this was intentional or if playing with her hair was becoming a habit that he did unconsciously. She was lying down on his bed curled up on her side with her head on his lap. She couldn't remember when she fell asleep. All she remembered was sitting down next to him and holding his hand.

"Do you sleep in that position because you're cold?" he asked. "The room doesn't feel cold but I tend not to notice changes in temperature much." She wasn't surprised. Anyone who walked around with his shirt half open was bound to develop a resistance to the cold.

"It is more of a habit than anything else," Hailie said. She knew she should remove her head from his lap but she was comfortable so she didn't. He took her hand.

"If you hit someone with this you'll break your thumb," he said. Both her hands were in fists with her thumb on the inside. He gently opened her fingers almost absentmindedly. There was something still bothering him.

"Again, it is just a habit and I do not plan to hit anyone, yet. Are you feeling better now?"

"Much better. Thank you."

"I did not do anything."

"You also didn't ask any questions. That's more than most people would do. I have a few for you though. Did Winston have something to do with the death of your family? What did he do to you that made you look so terrified? It's been five years since they died. How many other times have you looked like that? Were you very afraid in these years? Those last two questions are the ones that bothered me the most."

She tried to sit up but he pushed her head back down.

"You don't have to answer them if you don't want to," Eli said.

"I do have some questions for you as well. Why were you afraid of him? Have you met him before? And why did you look like that last night? And do not expect me to say something like 'You don't have to tell me if you don't want to' because I won't."

Eli chuckled. "I don't expect you to." He sighed. "That's a long story."

Hailie rolled onto her back so she could see his face. "I have time," she said. Looking up at him from this position, she noticed how the shadows brought out his facial features, particularly his jawline. He had a sharp jawline that his growing beard could not hide. Do men normally have jawlines like that, or was it just Eli? And also, what the hell was she even thinking about? It was ridiculous.

She had the urge to reach up and touch his face. She remembered lying on her father's lap while he played with her hair and laughed. She remembered pulling on his beard. This was different. She wanted to know what his cheek felt like beneath her fingers. It was only then that she noticed that she'd never touched him herself apart from when she grabbed him when he'd touched her. She didn't know what his skin felt like. The only part of him that she remembered were his lips when he kissed her the day before, and his hair when she'd felt it to see if he was going bald, and neither one of those times was she the one who touched him. It was always the other way around.

"There is something else we need to clear up first," he said.

It took her a moment for his words to register and for her to remember what they had been talking about.

"Do not try to change the subject," Hailie said.

He ignored her. "Why do you keep saying you're not my pet? When have I ever given you that impression? And why all of a sudden you wouldn't let me touch you at all?"

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