heather lin book

Lady of Mars: Chapter 35

 Capri woke feeling confused. She’d gotten used to waking up on the top bunk of Brody’s bed. The security light from the corridor dimly illuminated the shapes of the lounge: the couch, end tables, storage, and the screen that acted as a communal television.

They all began to make sense in her fuzzy mind, and she remembered what had happened and why she was there.

She groaned and sat up, then repeated the sound as her aching head struggled to keep up. She pressed the heel of her hand to her temple. According to the clock on the wall, it was nearly midnight. She kept her throbbing arm close to her chest and stood, ignoring the wave of dizziness that crashed into her, warning her.

She needed water badly.

The chair Brody had knocked across the room still lay near the door. She stepped around it and made her way to the kitchen, much as she had during her first night on Gypsy Lass. But now the kitchen was a familiar place, and she found the light easily. She reached into the fridge for a bottle of water, then turned and almost dropped what she was holding.

Déjà vu.

“What the hell are you doin’?” Brody growled.

His anger had faded to a simmer, but it was still there, still waiting. Her cheeks flushed. She was embarrassed he’d caught her off guard, and she was annoyed by his tone. She was here because of him, but he behaved as if he was the one who had been thrown into this mess, as if he’d been shot, as if it had somehow been her fault.

She took a long sip of the water before answering. “Getting a drink.”

Brody pushed back his chair and stood, his frustration coming quickly to a boil. “You just got shot. You shouldn’t be movin’ around.”

Capri narrowed her eyes, looking meaner than she maybe needed to in an attempt to conceal the fact that she still felt like she might faint. “You would be.”

“Gettin’ hurt is part of the job.”

“You seem to forget that sometimes it’s part of mine, too. I’m fine.

The last word sounded unconvincing, even to her own ears. She threw away the empty bottle, and when she turned back Brody was in front of her, so close she could smell the beer on his lips. Her breath caught. He always stirred up a whirlwind of emotions, and much as she hated it, much as she shouldn’t feel it—one of those was always wanting.

She stared at his chest for a moment, then raised her eyes to his. His face remained serious. She swayed slightly, and he grasped her good arm to keep her steady.

The air seemed to pulse around them, matching her erratic heartbeat. She expected him to drag her back to the lounge or to his room, to insist she stay out of the way and out of trouble. But he didn’t speak. He seemed to be fighting that internal battle again, studying her lips as if she wasn’t even real, as if she was a painting and he had all the time in the world to look at her.

His grip on her arm was tight, but she didn’t want to interrupt. She wanted to know which side of him would win. She stayed as still as possible, but finally the pain from both arms was too great, and she winced. It was enough to bring him back, to make him let go.

She glanced down and realized he’d left blood behind. She reached out to grasp his wrist, to look for herself, and saw the cut. Her eyes met his in question. He pulled his hand away.

“You didn’t have that before,” she said.

“Good to see your eyes ain’t broke. Now come on,” he ordered. “You’ve had your drink. Get back to the room.”

“Don’t tell me what to do. The captain said I wasn’t a prisoner.”

Brody glared at her. “The captain said you were my responsibility.”

“I don’t need to be anyone’s responsibility.”

He laughed. “You don’t know the first thing about lookin’ after yourself. And there’s the goddamn proof.” He gestured to her arm.

“I haven’t exactly been given the chance.”

He stepped closer. “You were lucky. People die out here. Blown to bits, every day. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. I’ve killed men for less than the cost of some of your party dresses.” His eyes were dark, his face mere inches from hers. She looked away. “You wanna talk like you know what it takes out here, because you’ve survived two fucking jobs, but you can’t even look it in the eye.”

Capri felt trapped; her brief burst of energy was draining quickly. She couldn’t think with him so near. His breath was too loud, his presence too large, and she pressed her left hand against his chest to get him away, to give herself room to breathe. Her arm gave out under the pressure, and she gasped, clutching the wound as fresh pain shot through her.

She leaned back against the fridge, finally giving into the need for support. Concern cut into Brody’s angry tirade, and his expression turned serious. He pried her fingers loose and unraveled the bandage to make sure she hadn’t aggravated anything.

“Dumb girl,” he muttered.

He tied the bandage tightly around her arm again, making her wince. They locked eyes. She knew she’d only proven his point. She was exhausted and in pain. The only thing keeping her upright was the fridge behind her. He must see it, all of it, but this time he said nothing. He didn’t try telling her what to do or where to go again.

Maybe he was respecting her. Maybe he was hoping she’d fall over so he could gloat.

“You took me out here to get me away from Mars,” she said softly. She could feel the tears in her eyes, and she didn’t know if they were from pain, exhaustion, or emotion. “Now you’re trying to convince me to go back.”

“I shouldn’t have done it.”

It felt like they were always at war, always trying to gain the upper hand in some stupid competition of who could hide their feelings the best, the longest. The only option that seemed to fit the moment was honesty.

“I’m glad you did.”

A muscle in his jaw twitched. “Dumb girl,” he repeated.

But his eyes were on her lips again, and the malice had gone from his voice. Her heartbeat quickened. She hadn’t yet decided whether or not she wanted him to kiss her, but he did. Before his horrible words to her, she’d have given herself to him eagerly.

But he’d hurt her.

The kiss was rough and demanding, as if he was punishing her for digging up old wounds, for being vulnerable, for more than that, if she could focus enough to use her imagination. But his tongue tangled with hers, and for a moment the heat of his skin, the taste of his mouth, the way his fingers gripped her hair were all-consuming.

She couldn’t pull away; she had nowhere to go. But she pushed against him with her good arm this time, and he pulled back to look at her. His breathing was heavy, and he looked annoyed at the interruption.

“You have to give me something.”

“I got nothin’ to give.”

She watched him, memorizing him, the hard edges of his face, the impassive line of his mouth, the dark, haunted brown eyes. He looked like an animal, trying to choose between fighting and fleeing. She reached out tentatively, touching his hard chest through his t-shirt, then moving her fingertips higher, to brush his neck, his unshaved cheek.

He grabbed her wrist and pulled it back down, rejecting her tender touches. Instead, he reached for her ass and leaned in again, ready to continue.

“What happened?” she asked.

Fresh anger flashed in his eyes, and he slammed his fist into the fridge door in frustration. She flinched.

“Why the hell can’t you let it be?”

“What the hell is going on?” Jax’s voice surprised them both. Brody turned and scowled at the pilot.

“Nothin’,” he answered, backing reluctantly away from Capri.

“Nothing,” Capri echoed, pulling her eyes away from Brody and focusing on the younger man.

“Why don’t you two take your ‘nothing’ elsewhere?” Jax suggested, unimpressed.

Capri ducked under Brody’s arm and started back to his room. She felt so weak, so tired, but she forced her feet to move, one in front of the other.

She didn’t look at Brody again, but she could feel his eyes on her, watching her. She closed the door behind her and struggled to breathe. Her legs shook. She stank and was still covered in dirt and blood from the fight, but she knew she couldn’t climb to the top bunk, let alone make it through a shower.

She sank into Brody’s bed, knowing he’d sleep in the lounge again, far away from her. It was for the best, wasn’t it?            

She fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. Her last conscious breath breathed in his scent; her last conscious thought was that the pain in her arm was getting worse.

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