“Marina?” The deep timbre of his voice dimmed the ache in her ribs and the throb in her thigh and shifted them both higher and lower, to places that had felt a hundred hands and responded to none.
Her vocal cords constricted.
“Are you okay? Can I come in?” The concern in his voice and actions seemed genuine, which only made the realization hurt all the more.
He’d use her for information and then cast her aside, no question. She could weather the storm of him if he treated her like all the other men in her life had. If he’d take his pleasure and walk away, she’d survive. She’d survived it too many times to count.
“Marina? Answer me.”
She wanted to reassure him, but she couldn’t. After two years of captivity, self-preservation overrode all other essential human mechanisms. Decency didn’t register on the scale.
“I’m coming in.”
Corded muscles encased in the white T-shirt distracted from the vibrant watercolor lion roaring on the front. He’d lost the lumberjack long-sleeve somewhere outside the massive bathroom. As he closed the space between them in two gaping strides, those thick masses bound and stretched under the tight cotton. His mane hung loose like the wild animals on his chest. Concern knitted his brow.
“Your lips are blue.”
The tentative consent-seeking man vanished. Oliver plunged a hand into the tub, while another pressed two fingers to her neck.
“You’re freezing,” he growled. “A place this uppity should have a mammoth water heater.” His head shook, tousling his long blond locks. “I should have checked on you sooner.”
A roughened palm, a match to the one that had pressed to her face, pushed up her neck. His fingertips gripped her chin and turned her face to him.
“Marina, talk to me.” His dark blue gaze begged. If she spoke, she’d change her tactic and lose the battle altogether.
He wrenched off the water. Metal cried against metal.
The urge to join in, to weep until she couldn’t think, rushed through her veins. She yearned for a simple life—a normal job, a home, someone to love, and someone to love her in return. A chill shook her from the useless thoughts.
Want couldn’t create.
Survival could. And she was so close. Caring eyes, kind words, and a body made to give and receive pleasure wouldn’t railroad her determination.
A tingle started in Marina’s fingers and toes and then burned its way up her limbs. Her body shivered against immovable slabs of muscle.
“I’ve got you.”
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