Soul Bonded
Author:Meghan Malone

chapter FIVE

Katie paced back and forth in front of the bed while she waited for Rafe to return to the room. The chicken soup had given her the much-needed energy to exercise her legs and regain some sense of physical confidence. For that she was grateful. Based on what she’d just overheard, she was going to need her strength.

No matter how sexy Rafe was, no matter how protective he might have seemed at times, there was no non-threatening explanation for the things he and his friend had just discussed. Hearing the words raped, tortured, and murdered tossed around so casually—and with such acceptance—scared the hell out of her. That his friend had suggested that Rafe himself might commit one or more of those acts upon her was beyond comprehension. Rafe’s insistence that he wouldn’t might have reassured her more if he hadn’t seemed to indicate that something had happened between them after her rescue—something bad enough to draw his friend’s anger.

Overwhelmed, Katie stopped pacing and forced back the sob that threatened to escape. The worst part of this whole nightmare was not being sure whether she could trust Rafe. He’d sounded sincere when he told his friend he wanted to protect her, but at the same time, he was clearly a liar. He’d been lying to her from the moment she woke up. And he was crazy. Batshit crazy.

So how could she possibly trust him?

“Oh, God,” she whispered. Her eyes brimmed with tears and she swiped them away, frustrated. She had no idea what she was going to do, but crying wasn’t an option. The pissed-off part of her wanted to confront Rafe and demand the truth, while her more pragmatic side urged her to hide the fact that she knew something was amiss. If he reacted to her accusations with violence, she had no way to protect herself, nowhere to hide. Even if she managed to escape the cabin, she didn’t know how to reach civilization—and the cold would likely kill her before she could.

She inhaled deeply, trying to steady her nerves, but immediately regretted it when Rafe’s pleasantly male scent flooded her senses and turned her legs to jelly. Anger surged through her, fiery and all-consuming. How was it possible that the mere hint of his smell on her borrowed clothes could make her body forget that he was obviously a lunatic? She was at a total loss, and resented the hell out of him for that.

At what was almost certainly the worst moment he could have chosen, Rafe knocked on the bedroom door again. “Katie?”

Startled, she stumbled backward a few steps and brought her hand to her chest, shocked to feel her heart thumping in nervous excitement. Infuriated that her mind and body were on completely different wavelengths when it came to this man, she barked, “What?”

The door creaked open and Rafe peeked inside. “Are you all right?”

At the sight of his face—square-jawed, rugged, and handsome—and the concern in his beautiful eyes, Katie’s thin hold on her control snapped. “No, I’m not. I am definitely not all right.”

Rafe’s expression changed instantly, as though he was dropping some pretense he realized she wasn’t buying. His entire countenance hardened, even as his throat jumped in a clear indication of anxiety. “Do you need another bowl of soup?”

No, she wanted to shout, she needed to know what was going on. But she held her tongue, afraid of pushing him too far. “Who was at the door?”

He studied her as though trying to decide why she was asking. Or maybe he sensed that she already had an idea. After a long hesitation, he said, “A neighbor.”

“I thought the roads were closed.”

“They are. He has a snowmobile. And he doesn’t live very far.” Rafe took a step closer, prompting Katie to step back. The complex mix of emotions on his face confounded her. “Tell me what you’re really asking.”

Katie tamped down the urge to keep retreating. She could see a hint of danger in Rafe’s eyes and feared that the artifice of civility was about to dissolve between them. Her gaze darted around the room as she tried to decide what she would do if he came after her. He stood between her and the door. The bed blocked her only other route of escape.

She really didn’t want to get anywhere near that bed right now.

“Did you tell him about me?” Katie said. Though it wasn’t what she really wanted to know, she suddenly, desperately, didn’t want to push her luck. “I was just wondering…could he take me into town?”

Rafe relaxed slightly. “Yeah, he knows you’re here. He agreed that the roads are impassable right now, even by snowmobile.”

“And let me guess…he doesn’t own a phone, either?”

Rafe’s guard went back up. “No, he doesn’t.” He paused, then said, gruffly, “It’s a different lifestyle out here. We don’t rely on technology the way your kind does.”

“My kind?” She took another inadvertent step backward. His labeling her as some sort of other reminded her of the way his neighbor had spat out the word human.

He looked away. “City folk.”

“Of course.” She no longer cared about getting answers. She only wanted him to leave the room. “Okay. Thank you.”

But he didn’t leave. He didn’t even react. Instead he stood eerily still as some kind of internal battle seemed to play out, one that Katie could plainly see but didn’t understand. When he suddenly lifted his hand to reach for her, she gasped and flinched away.

He jerked as though she’d struck him. “You think I’m going to hurt you.”

She shook her head in weak denial.

“You do.” Rafe moved out of her space. As he did, Katie’s attention drifted downward, to the incredible bulge in his pants. He followed her gaze and scowled, covering himself with his hands. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Then why are you lying to me?” Katie’s hand flew to her mouth as soon as the accusation escaped. She hadn’t meant to say that.

“I’m not going to hurt you.” He stepped closer and she backed up until she bumped up against the edge of the mattress. “Look at my face, in my eyes. I could never hurt you.”

She did look, not that she needed to, because what she saw in his face was the same thing she heard in his voice. Utter and complete sincerity. Devotion. The scary part was that she believed him. But he still hadn’t answered her question. With courage she didn’t understand, she said, “Tell me why you’re lying to me.”

“What do you think I’m lying about?”

“What happened after you brought me home?” He claimed that he couldn’t hurt her, and at this point, she assumed she was about to find out. “You did something to me, didn’t you?”

Rafe turned and walked to the door. “Do you need anything else before I turn in for the night?”

“Are you just going to ignore me?” Somehow, his avoidance was almost worse than the anger she’d expected. Without thinking, Katie followed him for a few steps. “Rafe, please tell me what happened. Whatever it is. What did you do to me?”

“Nothing.” He swiveled around and glared at her. “Listen to me: you are going to stay in this bedroom. Use the bathroom if you’d like. I will bring you food and water and whatever else you need. Just ask. You can keep the door closed, and I’ll only bother you to cater to your every need. If I had some way to allow you to lock me out, I’d let you do that, too. All I can do is promise that I will not enter this room without your explicit permission.”

The genuine hurt in his tone reduced her to feeling like an ungrateful bitch. “Rafe—“

“I don’t know what you think I might do to you, but I promise that I will not touch you, hit you, kiss you, fuck you, or otherwise injure you in any way. When I brought you back here last night, all I did was try to help you. I warmed you up. That’s all I was trying to do.”

He sounded so genuine, but she knew what she’d heard. Disappointment burned in her chest, making it hard to breathe. She desperately wanted to believe him, to take comfort in his presence and view him as her protector, but she couldn’t trust anything he said. Not when he was keeping secrets. At the risk of insulting the man who’d saved her life, she allowed her anger to surface. “Fine. Then go. I don’t need anything else from you.”

“Fine.” He threw open the door and stepped into the hallway. “Now be a good girl and stay in your room. Don’t make this any harder than it needs to be.”

“It doesn’t need to be hard at all,” Katie snapped. “All you have to do is be honest with me.”

Rather than answer, Rafe shut the door in her face. Stunned, she stared at the wood grain in disbelief. She was infinitely more upset about her situation now than she’d been only an hour ago. Apparently tomorrow would bring grave danger, and the man who swore he wanted to protect her was not only crazy, but also a liar. She wasn’t safe here. Not at all.

With that thought, Katie stalked over to the pile of clean clothes and tugged off Rafe’s T-shirt. She couldn’t stand to smell him on her anymore.