Skin
Author:Kylie Scott

“Infected aren’t exactly swift.”

 

“True. But if there’s enough of them it doesn’t matter.” Nick set his elbows on his knees and clasped his hands together. “So, running and climbing are limited. You know how to hot-wire a car?”

 

“Must have missed that day of school,” she mumbled. “I’d find one with the keys still in it. There’re enough sitting around abandoned.”

 

“And they’ve been sitting there for six months now,” he said. “Not good for an engine to be idle so long. What are you going to do if it doesn’t start? Do you know how to do anything past checking for oil and water?”

 

“I’ll ride a bike if I have to. Hell, I’ll skateboard.”

 

He ignored her devil-may-care grin. “If you actually manage to kill me next time you attack me then you run the chance of dying here, Ros. Either in here, chained up, or out there from the infected.”

 

“I’m really sure concern for my wellbeing will keep you awake at night.”

 

“You have no idea.”

 

Roslyn studied the skirt of her gray school uniform, her bruised knuckles. She was tough, but not tough enough. Not to go out there alone. Not even just to get back to the school.

 

“This isn’t going to work, Nick,” she said. “You’re not going to convince me of a damn thing.”

 

The woman made no sense. After everything she’d seen, the blinkers were still firmly in place.

 

“You really want to go back to that place and those people?” he asked. “After what they did to you?”

 

Her top lip curled in distaste. “After what you forced them to do to me.”

 

“I didn’t force them to do jack-shit. They chose to screw you over with their own free will.”

 

“They’re not all like that,” she bit out.

 

He grunted, frustrated but trying to hide it. Probably unsuccessfully. “You like them enough to spend the rest of your life with them? Not that you’ll live long with bastards like them at your back. Especially once you have to start going on raids into town for supplies. How do you think that’ll work out, Ros?”

 

The line between her brow deepened and her shoulders squared. “I don’t know, Nick. But it sure would be nice if the choice of how and where I spend the rest of my life were mine to make.”

 

“Those days are gone. No one’s got choices any longer. No one’s where they want to be.”

 

She flicked out her hand in obvious dismissal of the subject. “Food, Nick. I want food. Or are we bargaining for that too?”

 

He sighed long and loud, but only inside the confines of his own head, in private. To her he gave the most charming grin in his arsenal. The one that almost always got him what he wanted with women in the past.

 

Her eyes made like slits. “Well?”

 

“No, Ros. Of course not. Let me fix you some dinner.”

 

***

 

Nick was sprawled out on the king-size mattress, eyes shut and body lax. Forget sleeping on the couch. She hadn’t been happy. Not even after he’d sworn he’d keep his hands and every other part to himself. Roslyn lay as far from him as she could manage without falling off the bed. But give it time. She was awful close to the edge.

 

There were infected outside moaning and groaning. Her earlier carry-on had definitely been heard. Who knew how many had gathered? After six months there should have been less of them. They should have been dying off from starvation by now. But they weren’t, or at least, not in any great numbers. The virus somehow kept them going. Maybe they were eating each other or cornering the local wild life. Who knew.

 

Roslyn lay dead still, her breathing soft and slow. Not asleep, though. Not even a little. He could feel the tension radiating off her.

 

Fuck. Tiredness owned him. But all he could do was lie there and wait for her to attempt whatever it was she had her heart set on attempting.

 

Waiting.

 

Maybe leaving the cuffs off her hadn’t been the best move.

 

Unlikely he’d get any sleep tonight, either way. His head remained in agony. Lucky he wasn’t particularly vain, given the scar he’d have.

 

There was a rustling noise, the muted clinking of links of metal chain as she gradually lowered her foot to the floor. Beneath him, the mattress shifted as her weight carefully, sneakily moved. He lifted an eyelid and watched her shadowy form rise off the bed in slow motion.

 

“Going somewhere?” he asked.

 

A startled squeak escaped her.

 

Nick leant over the edge of the bed and flicked on the battery-powered camp light he’d left on the floor. He held it high. His jaw ached from ongoing tension. It didn’t compare to the misery of his forehead, but soon, his teeth would be ground down to nothing. “Well?”

 

She blinked rapid fire and raised a hand to shield her eyes from the light. “What?”

 

He snorted. “Like you weren’t going for something to attack me with. Again. After you promised …”

 

“Nick.”

 

“How can I trust you?”

 

“You kidnapped me!”

 

“You made a promise!”

 

“Would you just—”

 

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