It was dark. Cold. The wind wasn’t strong, but there was enough of a breeze that it seemed to make the night chill a thousand times worse and Rose wished to God she’d not forgotten her coat on the back of her chair at work. Who the hell forgot their coat in December? A freaking idiot, that’s who!
Teeth chattering, she pulled her black cashmere cardigan around her, folding her arms over it to keep it closed. Indoors it was toasty warm, but out here against the elements it might as well be a bikini top for all the good it did. Her dark leggings were just as bad and her shoes, she snorted at the thought, stupid little ballet pumps. Fine for the last day of work before Christmas, not great for winter hiking in the dark.
She didn’t even know what had happened. One minute she’d been driving home from the office. She’d stayed a bit late, but that wasn’t unusual. Despite the others going out after work for a Christmas drink, she was Carl’s assistant first and foremost. When he worked late, she did too. She didn’t mind it. She wasn’t much in the mood to celebrate anyway.
The first part of the drive home had been forgettable. She’d driven that stretch of road home for the past few weeks without incident, but tonight… Something hadn’t felt right as soon as she’d left the office and it was worse now. Damned if she knew what it was though. Maybe she hit her head in the crash. She felt lucid enough but, she didn’t know – how did concussions feel? If you had one, did you know you did or did someone else always notice and say, ‘Hm, you should go to the doctor, you might have a concussion.’ Rose had no idea. Her dad had always been there to …
Tears welled up in her eyes as she thought of him and she fought them back. It had been over two months, she reminded herself, and though the grief of his passing was still fresh, walking along a deserted road in the dead of night was not the time to fall to pieces.
She looked down at the ground. Following the road wasn’t hard with the flashlight of her phone. Unfortunately, that seemed to be the only part of it she could get to work. The now-flickering screen had been shattered in the crash. The display was all disjoined and didn’t respond to her touch properly. The power and volume buttons didn’t work. She could vaguely make out the time, but it said 23:55. That had to be wrong. She’d left the office at eight and it only took half an hour to get to this road. It hadn’t been over three hours since she’d skidded off the road into the trees on that bend. It just couldn’t have been. Unless she’d blacked out … Did a person remember if they blacked out? No clue. If she ever got out of this, some binge watching of old Grey’s Anatomy, ER, hell, even Scrubs episodes was in order.
The wind picked up for a minute and she clutched her arms around herself tighter, keeping a firm grip on the phone, light pointing down in front of her. Then she saw little specks of white falling through the beam. It was fucking snowing.
‘Jesus,’ she muttered angrily, ‘how much worse can this night get?’
And why hadn’t she seen even one car? Maybe it really was almost midnight. She heard a rustle in the trees close by. Something big. Probably a deer, she told herself. She peered in that direction, but it was pitch black. There was no moon, no nothing and the phone’s light wasn’t strong enough to get much further than the asphalt. She’d already tried earlier.
She kept walking, hoping it was just a deer and not something nastier. There was gas station around here somewhere. She passed it every time she took these back roads home. But she should have come up on it by now. She felt like she’d been walking forever.
She heard the noise again– closer– and she began to walk a little faster. Should she turn off the light? Keep it on? She felt giddy. Excited like when you play tag as a kid and you get that goosebumpy feeling that makes you scrunch up your shoulders and run squealing. Except this was tinged heavily with a deep panic borne of basic survival instincts. This was no game.
She kept her pace though. Running from a potential predator was a dumbass move. It just made whatever it was see you as something to chase. She didn’t even have anything on her she could use as weapon. Nothing. She had a few self-defense classes under her belt that dad had encouraged her to take, but that probably wouldn’t do much against a bear or a bobcat.
She heard the snap of a branch to the side and just stopped herself from crying out. Her hands were shaking, but maybe that was just the cold. Whatever it was was following her from inside the tree line.
Then she heard it. A car engine. She looked up the road behind her and could see headlights coming over the top of the hill. She was saved!
She went to the middle of the road, waving her arms. The car was coming up fast, had to be speeding. She began to yell just as she heard a growl right beside her. She turned the phone.
Eyes. More than one pair, glowed in the night a few steps away. She turned back to the car. So close. Not slowing down. With a scream, she dove out of its way, sliding in the grit of the road painfully.
The car zoomed by like it hadn’t even seen her, bass thumping. Fuck! She got to her feet, clenching her teeth so she didn’t make a sound. Miraculously, her phone was still in her hand, but the flashlight function looked like it was dead now too. She was truly in the dark. Alone. With those things.
She stood frozen, listening, hoping the car had frightened them off. Turning in the direction of the woods, she didn’t hesitate any longer. She couldn’t stay on the road. Maybe she could lose them…outrun a pack of wolves. Fucking wolves? She almost laughed at the absurdity. She’d only been living here a few weeks, but she had no idea there were wolves in these woods. I’m going to fucking die tonight.
She fled into the forest; arms outstretched so she wouldn’t run headfirst into a tree. She powered through the undergrowth as fast as she could go. She didn’t even know where she was going. Why was she doing this? Shouldn’t she have stayed on the road despite the lack of cars? Try to make it to the gas station? Maybe she wasn’t thinking clearly… was this hypothermia or had she actually hit her head when her car had wrapped itself around that tree? Should she go back?
She heard a snarl behind her. They were stalking her.
She kept going, wondering when they would pounce. Or were they playing with her. Did wolves play with their food like cats did?
Unexpectedly her foot didn’t make contact with the ground and she was catapulted over– falling, rolling down and down, hitting the hard earth over and over. And then she came to a stop. She lay gasping. Was she dead?
No. Gingerly, she sat up, testing her limbs. Her hands and feet were numb, but nothing else felt broken. She got to her feet. The snow was still falling, and it was starting to stick, but at least she couldn’t hear the wolves anymore. Maybe the fall had made them lose her trail. Now she was just lost in the freezing woods. Things weren’t really looking up if she was honest.
Shivering, she went to pull her cardigan around her and realised it was gone. Must have snagged on something on the way down the hill. Now all that protected her from the elements was a tank top. Great. Stupid casual last day before Christmas.
She had to keep moving. But where? Then she saw a light on the ground not far from her. Her phone! And the light was back on. She shone it around and realised she was on a trail. It didn’t mean anything of course. The Appalachian was a trail and people died on that one all the time even in ideal conditions – with like supplies and stuff. But at least this was something to follow and maybe she wouldn’t break her neck in another fall if she stuck to the path.
She started walking, well, limping. Something wasn’t working quite right, but her leg was practically numb from the calf down so she couldn’t feel enough to figure out what was actually wrong.
She kept going for awhile, the forest around her blessedly silent. Nothing seemed to be chasing her now. She was walking slower than she had been a few minutes ago though. She felt so tired. Not a good sign. How long would she last out here? Would someone find what was left of her in spring or would the animals pick her bones clean first? Stop scaring yourself.
A rustle sounded in front of her and she tensed, fearing the wolves were back!
But then a light shone on her.
‘I told you I heard something,’ a masculine voice growled.
‘What the fuck?’ another man said. The light was shined in her face and she put a hand up to shield her eyes.
‘It’s a girl.’
‘What the hell are you doing out here?’ one of them snarled so menacingly that she took a step back.
Her ankle of course picked that precise moment to buckle and she fell down with a cry, landing hard on the snowy ground.
‘Please,’ she said, her voice stupidly soft. She cleared her throat and tried again ‘Please, I need help.’ She couldn’t make her voice any louder. I’m so tired, she thought, closing her eyes. No! She had to stay awake. She didn’t know who these guys were. What if– her head lowered itself to the ground. She couldn’t help it.
She vaguely heard someone mutter something that sounded like ‘she’s not one of us’ before a louder voice snapped, ‘We can’t just leave her. She’ll die out here.’
She felt herself being picked up and carried and struggled feebly, her mind sluggish. Where were they taking her?
No one said anything more, but she was no match for the iron grip of the man whose arms she was in and she soon tired, falling into unconsciousness.
She opened her eyes slowly. It was daytime. Why hadn’t Mitsy, woken her up at five in the morning for food as usual? Why did her room stink of pine scent? Her eyes focused on the dark beams of wood above her and she frowned. Hers ceiling was a normal white, painted one. I’m not home.
Suddenly very much awake, she sat up and groaned. She felt like she’d been hit by a truck. She looked down at herself. She was covered in bruises. Her top was gone. So were her leggings. She was laying in a stranger’s bed in just a set of black underwear. She swallowed hard. What the fuck happened last night?
She took stock. The room was warm, rustic. Looked like a log cabin or something. There was a little wood burner in one corner, three beds – one of which she occupied. There was a rough, pine table on the other side of the room in a sort of kitchen area by a back door it looked like and a window next to the front one on the opposite side of the room. There was also a third door that looked like it led to a bathroom. As far as she could see, she was alone.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed and slowly stood, wincing as she put weight on her left leg. She remembered now. The crash, the wolves, the fall. Rose looked down. Her ankle looked very swollen and it hurt like a bitch now it wasn’t numb from cold.
She tore the blanket from the bed, wrapping it around herself like a towel, and hobbled to the window. She gasped as she peered outside. Everything was covered in at least eight inches of snow and it was still falling heavily. She looked around the room. Her clothes were nowhere to be seen. She vaguely remembered a couple of guys out on the path. This must be their cabin, but… she looked outside again. Maybe it was just effect of the snow, but this looked like the middle of absolutely nowhere.
The back door opened suddenly, and she hotfooted it to the other side of the room, back to the wall so no one could sneak up. Two men entered carrying armfuls of wood. They closed the door quickly and firmly behind them, dropping the logs in a pile by the fire. One of them caught sight of her and nudged the other one who frowned.
‘You’re awake,’ said the taller one – though that didn’t mean much, they were both ridiculously tall and broad, like lumberjacks – as he tugged off his thick gloves and shrugged out of his coat.
The other one just stared at her. He looked angry. She frowned back. She hadn’t done anything wrong.
‘Where am I?’
‘A cabin. Our cabin.’
She looked around, rolling her eyes just a little. Obviously. ‘Why?’
‘We found you out on the trail below the ridge. You’re hurt; all cut up and bruised. What the hell were you doing out there without even a coat?’
His tone suggested he thought her somehow to blame and she bristled. She wasn’t a fucking moron!
‘There was an accident,’ she said stiffly. ‘A car accident.’
‘Bullshit,’ the other guy muttered, and she scowled at him.
‘My cars up on the road wrapped around a tree. Check if you don’t believe me.’ She shrugged. ‘Or don’t, doesn’t make any difference to me whether you believe me or not.’ The mean one’s eyes narrowed. No, he definitely didn’t like her. She turned her attention to the nicer one. ‘Look, thanks a lot for your help. I would have died out in the snow if you hadn’t brought me here. I know that. But I need to get home so if you could get me my clothes and point me in the direction of the nearest road, I’ll get out of your hair.’
‘No can do, sweetheart.’
‘The snows still falling. The closest road is up on the ridge and you’d have to climb up it to get there. There’s no way you’ll make it. Looks like you’re staying right here for awhile, gorgeous.’
Sweetheart? Gorgeous? No one called her these things. Ever. She’d spent the last six years caring for her dad during his illness. She didn’t go out, she didn’t dress up. She barely had any friends. They tended to disappear when the going got rough. At least that was her experience.
She tried to keep the blush from her cheeks and knew she’d failed when he grinned at her.
Rose had never had time for boyfriends. She had a little experience of course. She’d pushed herself into a one-nighter a few weeks ago just after dad … to see if it would make her feel any better. It hadn’t. In fact she’d felt even more alone after. And then there was that other time … she stopped where her mind was going next. She didn’t think about that.
‘I can’t stay here,’ she said as she cut off the thoughts.
‘How did you get down here anyway?’ the mean one asked.
‘All the way down?’ he questioned incredulously.
‘Yeah, Colombo. It was pitch black, but I fell a long way. Then I found the trail and … hey, where’s my phone?’
They gave each other an indiscernible glance.
‘You didn’t have one on you.’
‘It was in my hand.’
‘We didn’t see it.’
Rose frowned. She was sure she’d had it all the up until they found her, but her memories were hazy. ‘Oh well,’ she conceded, ‘it was broken in the crash anyway.’
‘Where did you say the crash happened,’ Colombo pressed.
‘Up on the road.’ She shifted on her foot. It was really starting to hurt. ‘I forget the name. I only moved here a few weeks ago.’
Is this guy for real? Rose gave Columbo a look. ‘What’s your deal? What do you care?’
He shrugged. ‘I don’t. I just think you’re full of shit.’ He looked back at his friend. ‘When Evans gets back, he’s gonna be pissed if she’s still here.’
The first guy threw his hands up. ‘Shoulda just left her out there?’
‘Yeah! C’mon, you don’t actually believe her story, do you? This whole thing has cops written all over it.’
Rose didn’t say anything as they both turned to assess her. They thought she was a police officer? Her? She almost laughed aloud. Why would they even… her eyes darted around the room again. There was nothing conspicuous, nothing that screamed, ‘Hey! We’re criminals!’, but it was starting to make a little sense. Why were they out here in the middle of winter if not to stay off-grid? There are at least three of them. Were they like a gang of bank robbers or something?
‘At least check her for trackers.’
‘Look, guys,’ she tried to placate them. ‘Seriously I don’t know what you’re into and I’m not interested at all. I just want to get home.’
‘Someone waiting for you, babe?’
She ignored the endearment this time. ‘Well yeah my cat-‘
Colombo laughed. ‘Your cat? That’s it?’
Realising she’d just basically told them no one would miss her, she tried to backtrack, ‘Oh well my boyfriend too,’ she stammered, but it was too late. She could see their smirks. They knew no one was waiting for her.
Her palms started to sweat. There was no one around to save her if they decided to get rid of her. Oh my god, they were going to kill her, and they’d definitely get away with it too.
She hugged herself as she leant against the wall, trying to ease the throbbing in her leg and foot. ‘I was just driving home last night from work and I got into an accident and when I woke up, I started walking because my phone was broken. I was just trying to get some help at the gas station.’
‘So how the hell did you end up down below the ridge?’ Colombo asked. The other guy wasn’t talking anymore, he was just staring intently as if he’d be able to tell just by looking at her whether or not she was lying.
‘I told you. I fell.’
‘Why would you leave the road? Your story doesn’t add up, sweetheart.’
Rose made an exasperated sound. ‘I hit my head. I wasn’t thinking straight. And there were….’
‘What?’ The nicer one finally spoke again.
‘You’re gonna think I’m crazy but, I swear I saw them. They stalked me, chased me through the woods. That’s how I fell. I was running through the dark as fast as I could.’
‘Who chased you?’
She shook her head. ‘There were wolves out there.’
They didn’t jeer or laugh; didn’t tell her she was a liar. They just gave each other another one of those looks. They were surprised, but they weren’t shocked.
‘You’ve seen them?’ she asked.
Neither of them answered her.
‘So are you going to let me leave?’
‘No can do,’ the nicer one said, ‘You’re stuck here with us at least until Evans shows up and we can figure out what to do with you. I’m Evans and this is Riker.’
Then both men just stood there waiting – for her name she realised. Theirs were probably fake. Fuck, she hoped they were fake. Giving her their real names didn’t bode well for her at all.
‘Rose,’ she finally said with a huff. ‘Well, can I have my clothes back at least?’
‘Nope. Less chance of you trying something if you know you won’t get far. You try to go out in the cold like that…’he trailed off, his meaning clears.
Her mouth dropped open in outrage. ‘You’re just going to make me stay here in my underwear?’
‘Be thankful you have them.’ Colombo – no, Riker growled. ‘You give us any trouble and I’ll take those too. And put my blanket back. We’ve already seen you when we stripped your wet clothes off last night, Princess.’
She paled at his words and drew the blanket closer, her gaze darting from one to the other.
Just then, the front door opened next to her and a third one joined them. She scuttled over to the corner, furthest away from them all.
‘Snows coming down hard out there. Radio said it’s gonna be like this for at least a week. Good thing we have– what the fuck is this?’ His hard eyes landed on her. What had they called him? Evans?
He was just as big and broad as the other two, but he looked harsher, nastier, like he kicked puppies for fun or something. She pressed herself into the wall in the wake of his angry gaze. This one would decide her fate.
Evans stomped over to Pike and they began to speak in hushed tones, gesturing at her as Pike told his friend what was going on. Riker was still watching her, his eyes roaming over her like he was already imagining what she’d look like if he did take her bra and panties away. She swallowed hard and looked away, her cheeks feeling hot.
‘Fine.’ Evans ground out from the other side of the room loud enough for her to hear. ‘Til we know more. Check her though. I don’t want any surprises.’
Pike nodded and then walked into what Rose assumed was the bathroom, closing the door behind him with a soft click.
Evans came closer to her and frowned. He sniffed the air for some reason. ‘What has her so spooked?’
‘I told her I’d take the rest of her clothes away,’ Riker chuckled and Evans frowned.
‘Just make sure she doesn’t have any hardware on her.’ He went to the kitchen area and began to make himself a coffee.
Riker was suddenly right in front of her and she stiffened. ‘What are you doing?’
‘What? You heard Evans. I need to make sure you aren’t wearing a wire or something.’
‘A wire?’ she asked in disbelief. ‘Where would it be?! I’m literally wearing underwear.’
‘Your hair?’ he suggested. ‘Are you going to cooperate, or do I need to tie to you the bed?’
Her eyes widened as an image of him doing just that entered her mind and her lips parted on a gasp as everything below her waist suddenly clenched.
He gave her a look like he knew though that was impossible. ‘Interesting.’
She didn’t move as his hand gripped her shoulder firmly.
‘Come on,’ he said, pulling her from the wall and making her put weight on her bad leg.
She stumbled forward and lost her balance as her ankle gave out again, tumbling into him with a cry. He cursed and swung her up into his arms like she weighed nothing at all, carrying her to the bed before she could even struggle and dropping her on it unceremoniously. She thrashed, kicking out at him with the good foot and miraculously catching him in the balls. Finally some luck!
She jumped up as he fell to the floor and somehow made it to the front door without being stopped. She flung it open and raced out into the snow. She had no shoes, but at least she still had the blanket. She hobbled away from the cabin as quickly as she could, gritting her teeth as her leg screamed. She surveyed the snowscape quickly, looking for a vehicle of some kind, but there was nothing. How had they gotten here? Hiked?
She chanced a look back, sure someone would be following, but there was no one. Her feet were already numb, and her teeth chattered as she made it to the trees, looking around wildly for some indication as to which way she needed to go. But she couldn’t made out anything past the rapidly deepening snow. She looked back at the cabin. Still no one. Perhaps they’d realised she was more trouble than she was worth.
Then she heard a growl beside her, and her stomach dropped. She swallowed hard and made herself look – slowly. There was a wolf next to her, not six feet away. It was huge and white and, well fucking National Geographic majestic if she was honest. She moved back gradually, towards the cabin. Escape with these things in the woods wasn’t going to be possible without a rifle. Even if she had one, she didn’t really know how to use it anyway.
The wolf didn’t move, just watched as she made her way slowly back to the warm cabin and her felonious captors. She didn’t turn her back on it until she’d slammed the door closed, leaning on it and letting out a long breath. She opened her eyes and winced when she saw their faces.
They looked furious, especially Riker. She had kicked him in the nuts, she supposed. ‘I’m sorr–‘ she began, but Riker loomed over her, a nasty smile on his face.
She squeaked as he yanked the frozen blanket from her numb fingers and pulled it away. Her eyes didn’t leave his and she silently pleaded with him not to do what he’d threatened before – until he pulled out a large, hunting knife.
She looked away as he cut the straps of her bra quickly on each side and gasped as she felt the cold steel tip in her cleavage. He sliced the black satin between the cups easily and it fell to the floor with a faint thud.
‘Please,’ she whispered, clenching her eyes shut.
‘Look at me,’ he ordered, and she did, her lip trembling as she willed the tears away. ‘You brought this punishment on yourself,’ he muttered though there was something that looked like remorse in his face for a second before he locked it down and cut the sides of her panties too. She felt them fall and tried to cover herself, but he pulled her arms away.
She lost her battle with the tears and they spilled down her cheeks. She could vaguely see that the others weren’t looking, and it made her feel a tiny bit better that she wasn’t being ogled by them all. Pike was sitting on a bed turned away and Evans was at the table, studying his coffee cup like it held all the answers to the universe.
Riker’s eyes, however, roamed over her naked flesh freely. He stepped in suddenly, bringing his clothed body flush against hers. She gasped as she looked up at him. Was he going to … the old terror she’d worked so hard to get past reared its ugly head and just for a second she was back in that room, trapped under Hank all those months ago. She couldn’t have a panic attack right now. Not in front of these men so she fought the image back, locking it away deep like she’d done all the times before. She’d never wanted dad to know what his best friend had done, he was so ill it would have killed him sooner, so she’d hidden the aftermath – and she’d gotten very good at pretending she was ok when she was around him.
If Riker noticed her panic, he didn’t show it. He cupped her chin gently. ‘Did you see what’s waiting for you out there?’ he asked softly.
‘Yes,’ she whispered, glad she could find her voice.
‘You aren’t going to try that again, are you, Princess?’
He gave her a cold smile as he took a step back, eyes flicking down to take her in once more. Then he left her standing by the wall shivering. ‘Get back into bed,’ he called over his shoulder, not looking back and she practically flung herself at the nearest one, burying herself under the blankets as quickly as she could. Safe from their prying eyes for the moment, she let self cry silently. Who were these men? What did they want with her? And how was she going to make it back to civilization if she couldn’t get past the wolves that seemed to be guarding the cabin? It was almost like they’d driven her here, but no that was ridiculous.
She spent hours like that, her tears finally drying. Then she just lay there, listening to the others’ murmurs and rustling while they did whatever it was they did all day. None of them left the cabin and she knew the snow was still falling because they kept saying it to each other.
She heard someone coming closer and tensed under the blanket. What were they going to do to her now?
‘Rose? Are you hungry?’ She heard Pike put a plate on the bedside table. ‘I made you a sandwich if you are.’
She was hungry, but she waited for him to walk away before peeping out from the covers and whisking the plate under them with her. Ham and cheese. She hadn’t eaten since breakfast on Friday, so it tasted fucking delicious. She looked out into the room again. There was a glass on the table she hadn’t noticed before. She debated. She was thirsty, but should she come out? She sighed. Trying to drink under the covers was ridiculous.
She sat up and came out of the covers, making sure she wasn’t giving the fuckers a show. Picking up the up the glass, she drank it all, realising halfway through how thirsty she actually was. She needed the bathroom too. She looked at the door. In her periphery, she could see all three of them, so she knew it was empty. The last thing she wanted to do was get up, wrapped in just a blanket and have to stand there waiting like an asshole for one of them to finish taking a shit.
She glanced at them. They all sat at the table. It looked like they were playing cards. Guess there wasn’t much else to do in the middle of a snowstorm. She glanced at the window. Yep! Still snowing!
Was she even allowed to get up? She’d been ordered to stay here, after all, and though she railed against the idea of doing what she was told (she was a modern woman, dammit), she didn’t want to piss them off. Especially Riker. Christ knows how he’d punish her next time.
She looked back at them and then at the bathroom. Fuck it.
She got up and limped over to the door. None of them said anything, nor even looked in her direction. Good. She shuffled into the small room and was surprised when she found it clean. She didn’t know what she expected, but three guys, one bathroom. Maybe she was just being a sexist jerk. The rest of the cabin was pristine. Why should the restroom be any different?
She did her business and couldn’t help the loud gasp as she looked in the mirror. She looked like hell. There were bruises everywhere, but there was a huge one on her forehead. She touched it gingerly and winced. Musta been the steering wheel, she thought absently.
She washed her face, eyeing the shower at first before deciding against it. She was like a hostage or something. Showering in their bathroom might give them the wrong impression. She did take the hairband out of her dark hair and fixed it back into her customary semi-tidy ponytail though. She hated her hair in her face.
She finished up and cracked the door, taking a deep breath. She couldn’t stay in here forever however much she was tempted.
She made sure the blanket was covering her and stepped back into the main room, hobbling over to the bed, but unsure what she should do now. She didn’t really want to stay laying down there for the rest of the day and night. She sat down slowly and faced them warily, staring at the floor.
When she finally raised her eyes, she saw that both Evans and Pike had got up and were coming over to her. She hadn’t heard a thing. She sprang up, probably looking like a deer trapped in the headlights.
‘It’s ok–’ Evans began, but Pike cut in.
‘Why are you limping? Jesus, your leg. Why didn’t you tell us?’
He sounded angry and she flinched, covering it by pretending she was looking down at her foot. She grimaced when she saw it. The swelling was definitely worse. ‘Uh, because you’re my captors?‘ She shrugged, inwardly grateful her bravado had come back as she was clearly just a quivering wreck without it right now. ‘To be honest, I didn’t think you’d give a shit.’
She saw them both give Riker an accusatory stare that made her cant her head in confusion. Did they actually care she was hurt? By Riker’s shrug and reply of, ‘She looks fucking fine to me’, he didn’t at all.
She gazed from one guy to the other, having to crane her neck to look them in the eyes as they loomed over her. She wasn’t short, but they made her feel fucking tiny. She didn’t hate it as much as she thought she would and that puzzled her. She didn’t usually like guys like this; big, manly dudes. She preferred them a bit more…metrosexual. Or at least she had since…She swallowed hard. She hadn’t thought of that day in weeks. Why did it keep popping into her head now? Well, she knew why. She was scared they were going to do the same thing. She admitted that to herself. All that time trying to prove to herself that she was strong, that no one would ever be able to do that to her again because she wouldn’t let them. It was all bullshit so she could sleep at night. Hank had been bad enough, but the three of them for however long until they killed her? Jesus, they could literally do anything they wanted. It wasn’t like her dad wasn’t in the next room now. Although to be fair he’d been in a drug-induced sleep when his friend had done what he’d done so he hadn’t been any help any way.
She took a shaky breath and tried to hide her hands that she knew were trembling.
Evans and Pike looked bewildered by her reaction. Finally Evans swore and turned away. He went to one of the beds and pulled it up. Underneath the base was hollow for storage. Cool bed. Another part of her brain latched onto thoughts not filled with her own rape and murder. She could defiantly use a bed like that. So useful.
Evans came back, effectively ending her little brain vacation. He threw something at her and she caught it reflexively. It was a shirt. His shirt. And it was long enough for her to wear without showing anyone anything. She put it over her head gratefully.
He nodded once and moved away again while Pike knelt down. He picked up her foot and she tried to pull it out of his grasp.
‘Not gonna hurt you, sweetheart,’ he said calmly, looking her in the eye.
‘We aren’t going to hurt you,’ he said again, and she couldn’t help her glance at Riker still sitting at the table. Pike’s features darkened as he looked over his shoulder at his friend. ‘He won’t either.’
She let him look at her foot, turning it this way and that.
‘Bad sprain,’ he muttered.
‘Are you a doctor or something?’
He put it gently back on the floor. ‘Sort of. Did this happen last night?’
‘I’m sorry. Should have iced it as soon as possible.’
She barked out a laugh. She couldn’t help it. ‘Have you looked outside? I literally walked around for hours in the snow last night. I’m pretty sure it got iced.’
He looked surprised before giving a chuckle. ‘Guess it did. But I’ll get you something for it now.’
‘You were a medic I’ll bet.’
He looked up at her in shock, giving himself away before he could blank his expression.
She gave him the not-as-dumb-as-I-look face. ‘I guessed at least one of you was in the forces at some point.’
‘How did you…’
She gave him a wan smile. ‘Really want to know?’
He sat back on his heels, a little smile playing at the corners of his mouth. ‘Yeah. I do.’
Rose fiddled with the sharp corner fold of the bedsheet where it went under the mattress. ‘It’s the beds.’
‘What?’ he asked, eyes flicking to where her fingers played.
‘Military guys’ beds are always crisp and perfect.’
He laughed suddenly. ‘Well. Shit, you little dark horse. How’d you know that?’
‘My dad always used to make ‘em like that.’
He looked sympathizing. ‘Were you planning on seeing him for Christmas?’
She should say yes, make them think someone was going to miss her besides her cat at least in a couple days, but her heart squeezed when she thought about lying about it. It was going to be her first Christmas without him.
‘No,’ she said, looking away.
Evans tossed a package over and Pike caught it, not saying anymore. He opened the package and bandaged her foot in white gauze before standing up and arranging the pillows for her so she could sit up comfortably the bed.
‘Need to keep it raised.’
‘I’m not going anywhere,’ she muttered dryly, and she swore she saw him smile again before he turned away.
‘Even if we let you go, you’d never make it up the rise with a sprain like that,’ Evans piped up from where he was once again sitting at the table.
She didn’t answer him. It would be the wolves that took her down, not her ankle, she thought. Strange that none of them seemed to think it was strange that there were wolves camped out on their doorstep … just turning back their escaped captives like it was a normal thing.
She stood, letting the blanket fall to the floor as the shirt slid down to cover her to her thighs. She knew Riker was watching, but when she turned to face him, ready to stare him down, what she didn’t anticipate was all three pairs of eyes glued to her body. Her eyes widened involuntarily. What was with these guys? She could literally count on one hand the number of men who’d ever been interested in her ever. And now there were three? No way!
‘What?’ she finally asked in exasperation. They were the ones who’d taken her clothes. It wasn’t her fault that she looked… however she looked.
They all looked away, pretending like they hadn’t been watching, and she sat on the bed, resting her back on the pile of pillows. Pike returned with a bag of peas from the freezer. He put them on her ankle, and she hissed at the cold as he rearranged the blanket.
‘Why are you being so nice to me?’ she asked in a small voice.
‘Because, whether you believe it or not, I’m sorry you’re caught up in this. If you weren’t gonna die out there last night, we wouldn’t have brought you here.’
‘What is ‘this’? I know I shouldn’t ask, but I’m guessing you’re gonna kill me, aren’t you? What the hell are you guys into?’
Pike opened his mouth.
‘Pike!’ Evans snapped. ‘Shut the fuck up or you’ll make it worse for her.’
Pike sighed. ‘We aren’t gonna kill you, sweetheart.’
Rose laughed derisively. ‘C’mon. At least be straight with me about that. There’s no way you guys are letting me leave this cabin alive.’
She looked into their faces and was surprised when all of them, even Riker, looked vaguely disgusted by the thought. But none of them gainsaid her.
‘Yeah,’ she whispered, ‘that’s what I thought.’ She hadn’t believed it. Not really, not in the depths of her being until none of them said anything to correct her. They might not like it, but they’d do it anyway. ‘Fuck.’
‘Tell me one thing?’ she asked them all.
‘What’s that babe?’ Riker replied.
‘Why the fuck does it stink so much of pine in here? Like it’s nasty. You never hear of lemon-scented? I’m gonna have a migraine for my last hours because of this shit.’
The three of them just stared at her for a few seconds, as if they couldn’t quite get over her cavalier attitude. Then all three of them burst out laughing and she chuckled too because if she didn’t laugh, she’d cry.
‘You’re a weird girl, you know that, Rose?’ Pike said.
‘So I’ve been told.’
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