“Answer me,” I tell her, stopping just out of the gate to look at her. “Have you lost your goddamned mind?”
She turns her narrowed eyes to me. “I didn’t do anything worse than he’d have done to me. In fact, I showed mercy by killing him quickly.”
“Christ,” I mutter while Bastian remains silent. I try to read her and figure out where her head is. She’s under severe stress. Traumatized. But fuck, taking the gun and shooting holes into that man is not how I expect her to react. “You don’t understand, Dandelion.”
“I understand just fine. That man delivered me to those others to be raped.”
“It shouldn’t have been you,” I add.
She snatches her hands from Bastian’s grip, closes them over the steering wheel, and tugs.
“Are you fucking insane?” I yell over the screaming of brakes and honking of horns as I right the SUV in our lane and Bastian regains control of her. She struggles against him the whole way home, and once we get there, he lifts her out and carries her up the stairs to her bedroom. He sets her on her feet, and she stumbles backward to get away from us.
“Get these off me!”
Bastian’s phone rings again, and he walks out of the room to take the call.
I stalk toward her, taking her arm and walking her into the bathroom where I switch on the shower and force her under the flow fully clothed.
“What are you doing? Stop!” she yells, sputtering as water pours over her head and face. I tear at the clothes she’s wearing, stripping her naked.
“I’m cleaning the fucking blood off you. Look at yourself.”
“He deserved it! He deserved worse!”
“Oh, I know he did. And he would have gotten it. But it shouldn’t have been you. Don’t you understand that?” I shake her, pressing her into the wall. I keep her there with one hand while I strip off my shirt with the other. Her nipples pebble and press against my chest when I step closer, and the fingernails of her locked hands scratch my chest and face.
“I’d do it again in a heartbeat! And I’ll do it to you, too!”
“For fuck’s sake, you’re fucking mad!” I draw her bound arms over her head. We’re so fucking close, her naked body against mine, skin to skin, that I’m breathing in the air she exhales. But behind the raw fury in her eyes, I see the bruised pieces of the girl she is beneath. The vulnerable, broken thing. It’s not what I’m expecting. “It shouldn’t have been you, little Dandelion.”
“I had every right!”
I shake my head. Yes, she had very right. But it shouldn’t have been her.
She’s confused, angry, raging, blinking through water spilling over her face as that man's blood washes away, and I can see the damage in her. I can fucking see it clear as fucking day. It’s written on her face and in that electric blue of her eyes. I smash my mouth over hers, heat and rage burning like an inferno. Her teeth snap at my lips, and I take it. I want it, want her fury. Because it is the essence of her.
Water drills against our skin, and when I draw back this time, I see how dark her eyes have gone. See how she’s looking at me. I want her. Fuck, I want her. I need her. Need so much more of her. This furious woman. This vengeful, violent, broken thing.
I kiss her deeply, welcoming the sinking of her teeth into my lips, tasting her along with the copper of blood. Is it hers, the man she killed? Or mine? She moans against my mouth, sucking on the lip she tore with her teeth. I’m angry, fucking furious at her. At myself. Raging for not having seen what was happening or where her head was. She shouldn’t have been there at all. Shouldn’t have been the one to do it. To pull the trigger. Once your hands have blood on them, no amount of scrubbing can wash it off. That taint will follow her forever. Cling to her. Damn her.
I press her wrists to the wall, and it takes all I have to break our kiss. Breath ragged, I rest my forehead against hers as I get myself under control. After long minutes, I draw back far enough to look at her, and our eyes lock. I loosen my grip on her hands, and she drops her arms to my shoulders with her bound wrists behind my head.
She’s panting, and I’m hard against her. I want this. Need it. And I think she does too. But I draw farther back. I can’t. Not now. Not when she’s not in her right mind.
“You shouldn’t have done it,” I say quietly. I’m not sure she hears my words over the shower stream and our breathing. “It shouldn’t have been you. Because taking a life, Dandelion, marks your soul. It locks yours with that of the one you stole.”
At that, her rage dissipates into something else. Something old. Water catches on her lashes as we stare at one another and I think this may be the most honest moment we’ve shared. And the most vulnerable.
“I don’t care,” she says meekly as a tear slips from her eye.
“Well, I do.”
Her eyes search mine, and in hers, I see confusion. She leans her face toward mine and kisses my mouth. It’s a tender, testing kiss, but I pull away.
“What happened to you out there? Before the barn.” She turns away, but I force her to look back at me. “Tell me.”
She gives an almost imperceptible shake of her head, and at that moment, she looks so young and so fucking vulnerable it’s almost startling.