But more striking than any of that were his eyes. Deep blue, turbulent, and filled with a mix of possession and pain that rent my already tattered soul into even smaller pieces before scattering them away into the four winds.

“What—”

“We’re safe.” His gaze took me in, every inch from head to toe. “For now.”

“What’s happened?”

He ignored my question and strode to the bathroom. Though he hid it well, I saw a slight wince each time he put weight on his right leg.

He ripped open the linen closet and dug around until he found a first aid kit. I followed, lingering in the doorway as he sank onto the edge of the tub and yanked the case apart. Supplies spilled into the floor, and he grabbed the small bottle of alcohol before tearing the lid off and dousing the cuts on his arms and neck. Some were deep, the alcohol making the blood flow more freely. He’d lain a gun to his right, within easy reach.

He needed help. His arms and neck would heal, but the crimson stain spreading along his leg looked much, much worse. Should I help my enemy? The man who’d whipped me, tortured me, and told me he’d do it all again without hesitation? I chewed my lip as he dabbed at the wounds with gauze and glanced up at me every few moments, as if making sure I hadn’t bolted.

When I noticed the slight tremor in his hand, I acted.

“Here.” I grabbed some towels and wash cloths from the closet and sank down in front of him.

He raised his eyebrows and froze, surprise in the clear windows of his eyes. Then he looked away, closing my one glimpse into his depths. I took his hand and inspected the arm that was the worst for wear. The slashes were straight, clearly caused by a knife, and one was particularly deep. It cut through one of the thick, snaking vines of ink at the upper end of his forearm. The wound needed stitches to stanch the blood that dripped down to the white tile floor. I searched the first aid contents and found a small staple gun. It would have to do.

“I want to see your leg before I do anything else.”

“It’s fine. I’ll heal.” He reached for the half full alcohol bottle, but his tremor had increased and he knocked it into the tub. I bent over his legs and grabbed it before the entire contents rushed down the drain.

“Just let me see.” I sat back on my knees. “Take your pants off.”

He smirked. “Missed me?”

I was a moth trying to aid the spider. What was I thinking? I started to get up. “Go fuck yourself.”

“Stop.” His voice shook the slightest bit. “Please.” He reached to his dark leather belt and unbuckled it before unfastening his pants.

I swallowed hard, giving him an angry stare before I gripped his jeans at the sides of his hips and pulled as he lifted up a bit. He settled back down heavily, the hand I’d bloodied with my teeth slipping as he sank and painting a bright red smear along the white porcelain. His boxer briefs were the only article of clothing not soaked with crimson. I drew the pants the rest of the way down and gasped when I found the stab wound through his calf. It was longer and deeper than the gash on his arm. The edges were ragged, oozing blood.

“How?” I looked up into his sapphire eyes.

“He came at me.” He lifted his arms and I could tell the wounds were defensive. “I fought back.” He rotated his wrist so I could see his bloodied knuckles. “And when he fell, he got one last good stab in before I…” He turned his hands over and stared at his palms, his brow wrinkling. He looked back at me, his eyes haunted.

What little compassion I had left was his, though he had no right to it. “You did what you had to. It’s going to be okay.”

He snorted a tiny laugh, but there was no smile, no spark to him. “I seem to keep doing that.”

“What?”

“What I have to do, no matter what. No matter who gets hurt. No matter who I destroy.” His voice thickened, mournfulness in every note, before he straightened his back and looked away.

Remorse? I would have laughed. I wanted to, the crazy impulse bubbling up and almost spilling from my lips. Instead, I pulled the belt from his jeans and looped it around his thigh, yanking it tight to momentarily slow the blood flow. When he winced, I felt somehow vindicated. Then I removed his boots and stripped his socks and pants the rest of the way off.

I soaked a washcloth with the alcohol and dabbed at his wound. He hissed but kept still. It had to hurt like hell. Good. I cleaned the wound more as his breathing grew ragged. The white washcloth soaked up his blood, his life with each swipe. Once I was satisfied the gash was as clean as I could get it, I gripped the stapler with one hand and used my other to squeeze his damaged skin together.

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