36. Cat and Mouse be Damned

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Thank you to mara_cleia for the cool cover!

Nicky's POV

I wake up wrapped in Ryder's arms and it's nicer than I'll ever admit out loud. It makes me feel safe and taken care of. He makes me feel safe and taken care of. Which again, is proof I'm completely losing my mind because I'm not safe. I never will be safe. So, I should not be feeling safe. I don't deserve to be safe.

I carefully try to pry his arms off me so I can slip out of the sleeping bag and question Quinn about where the nearest toilet is. I'm pretty sure I already know the answer . . . but I want a better one.

His arms only tighten however and I can't get away. I start cursing out his sleeping form under my breath and a breathy laugh echoes in my ear.

I freeze. "Are you awake?" I whisper.

"Nope," Ryder replies as he pulls me further into him.

My back is pressed into his chest, his arms wrapped around me, his face buried in my hair, and our legs tangled together.

I roll my eyes at him and try to pull myself free. It doesn't work. He's like an octopus.

"Let go of me," I whisper. I can't see Quinn, so I can't tell if she's awake or not and I don't want to wake her up if she's still sleeping.

"Your hair is a mess," Ryder says instead of complying with my demand.

I feel like hitting him. "Your face is a mess," I retort.

I feel Ryder's chest shake as he laughs. "Someone's clearly not a morning person."

I let out a huff of annoyance and cross my arms over my chest, I feel his loosen around me and then he's rolling over so he's on top of me, propping himself up on his elbows. The sleeping bag still zipped up and keeping the two of us in place.

More importantly, it's keeping me from escape.

Ryder just stares down at me while I glare up at him. When he gets that look in his eyes again and still doesn't say anything, I feel my annoyance with him shoot up.

"What?" I snap as I continue to glare.

He smiles softly, lazily and I'm completely unprepared for the words that leave his mouth.

"You're beautiful."

I feel my breath catch in my throat as I stare back at him, my glare leaving. I open my mouth to say . . . well, I'm not entirely sure. I had been expecting some more of his insulting banter.

He doesn't let me say anything though before he's pressing a light kiss to my lips. Softly, gently, as if asking for permission.

Part of me still wants to push him away since I know how this is going to end. Part of me says there's no point in trying to pursue this. And part of me says that when I told him I liked him-even though he understood none of it-that I was lying. That it was so much . . . worse than that.

Even though I know this doesn't end well for me. Even though I know this is never going to work out, I don't push him away. Instead, I slide my hands up his bare muscled chest and then wrap them around his neck. His hands play with the shirt-his shirt-that I'm wearing. He had loaned it to me to sleep in and no, it's not the bloody one. He had an extra one he'd snuck into my backpack who knows when. And he deepens the kiss.

His hands go under the shirt and brush against my skin. I shiver and pull him closer . . . and then a bag of trail mix is thrown into his head.

Ryder lets out a growl as he looks up at Quinn who stands in front of the low tunnel with her rifle slung over her shoulder and her arms crossed over her chest.

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