Flesh
Author:Kylie Scott

His head turned far enough for her to sight his chin, but he stopped short of looking at her. Lucky for him. She had wrapped a towel around herself just in case his curiosity got the better of him.

 

Ali rolled her shoulders back, gave her armpit a quick sniff. Soap, not sweat. She smelt fresh. It did feel good being clean after so long. He’d been right. Not that he needed to know. The delicate power balance needed to stay in her favor. Trusting him was a tenuous thing.

 

The bathing had taken up a lot of her water supplies. But being clean was, apparently, a required luxury.

 

Jerk.

 

The infected outside bashed at the back door. She forced her shoulders back down from her ears, made herself ignore the sound.

 

Slow, deep breaths.

 

“The gun’s on the kitchen counter,” he said, facing mostly forward. “Right where you left it.”

 

“I saw that, mate. Watch it.”

 

“Please. Did I turn once while you washed your hair? No. Some of those noises … you should be ashamed of yourself,” he ranted.

 

Because he was crazy. Crazy with an offbeat charm she struggled to stay immune to. Beware the man that made you smile. “But wait, how about while you frolicked with the soap, did I turn then? No. No, I did not. I kept my word no matter how you baited me. That’s because I’m pussy-whipped and proud.”

 

“Pussy-whipped. Very nice.” Something stung her knee. Wincing, she lifted the razor from her skin. Great. She’d nicked herself due to focusing on the view instead of shaving.

 

God, but he filled out blue jeans. His ass was paired with the strong line of his back, framed by a set of broad shoulders encased in a t-shirt that fit right. She tried to ignore him, but her girl bits lacked the moral fortitude, apparently.

 

And lacked priorities.

 

It had been a very long time between dates.

 

And he did have a stellar ass.

 

Her nipples pebbled from more than the damp. It was surreal to feel feminine. To feel human … A drink would have worked, right about then. “You sure have a way with words.”

 

“I can’t hold back. You’re such a receptive audience. You love me.”

 

She snorted and hated herself for it.

 

“And it’s great to have someone to talk to. Even if I can’t face you while we’re talking, which is plain rude. My mother would have been appalled.” Daniel reached up and leant an arm against the top of the doorframe. His fingers tapped a beat against the old hardwood. Mary’s house wasn’t sized for him. He was going to knock himself out on a doorway if he wasn’t careful.

 

“Give it up,” she said.

 

“No chance. Not so long as my pathetic state of affairs amuses you.”

 

It did. He wasn’t even particularly funny. Probably stress.

 

Then the thing at the back door went thump. Ali jumped, slicing the side of her ankle. Proving the stress theory right. “Shit.”

 

“What?” Daniel spun and his face screwed up tight in disbelief, brows drawing together. “You were wearing a towel? For how long?”

 

He snatched a facecloth from the counter and dropped to his knees, dabbing at the small cut oozing blood. “And you call me untrustworthy.”

 

“You were fine where you were.” Her hands clutched the top of her towel. “Going from being alone to having you around is an adjustment.”

 

Daniel grunted. “Question. Have you even fired that gun before today? Not that I’m worried you’ll kill me in my sleep or something.”

 

“No. Today was the first time.” She held still and watched him tending to the cut. In truth, she had survived more by cowardice, hiding in her attic hole, than cunning. “I probably couldn’t hit a house.”

 

“You did hit a house. You would have hit me just fine.” Daniel smiled up at her.

 

There were creases at the edges of his baby blues, faint, paler lines against the tan of his skin. He was maybe forty. He wore it well.

 

Lovely, faded, denim-blue eyes that held her rapt for a time. If in days gone by he had smiled at her from across a crowded room, she would have smiled back. That much was true.

 

“I nearly did shoot you,” she said. “Why would you smile at that?”

 

“Because you didn’t shoot me. Also because you’re wil ing to defend yourself. Taken in the right context, both of these things make me happy.” He grabbed a tube of antiseptic cream from the first-aid kit spread out on the bathroom counter and squeezed some onto his fingers. “Might as well deal with your knee while I’m here. Stay still.”

 

He frowned and clucked his tongue, thick fingers stroking over the jagged cut on her knee. His touch was extraordinarily gentle.

 

With his face at her crotch level, she started to sweat. The old towel offered little protection. He was a stranger, although an attractive one. She had stopped sleeping with strangers years ago. Had stopped sleeping with anyone almost a year ago. A woman could be content with her own hand. Shower jet. Toys. It had seemed the simplest solution after the great breakup.

 

The jumble of emotions tumbling through her was al too much for one day.