“Can’t you answer that single, simple question?”
Her gaze drifted to my mouth again and my neurons imploded.
I didn’t realize I’d even asked it out loud.
“I asked if you were going to decide to put me out of my misery if I got too annoying,” she said, hitching up her shoulder, delivering the cold, rational comment like we were discussing whether I’d make soup for dinner.
Discussing her life like it meant next to nothing.
My temper snapped.
Hauling her against me, I grabbed the back of her neck, soft, springy curls meeting my fingers. I spun around, moving on instinct and backing her up until I had her cornered against the wall.
“Don’t you think that’s a fucking dangerous question to ask a man like me?” I put every drop of menace I could into my voice.
Tia let her head fall back against the wall as she gazed into my eyes. “Well, I don’t know yet. You haven’t answered the question. Are you going to get fed up and put me out of my misery…Casper?” She angled her chin. “Come on…my neck’s right there. It can’t be that hard for a man like you to break it. Or maybe you prefer something bloodier. I saw an entire wall of knives. Would you prefer to slit my thr—”
I slammed my mouth down on hers, unable to listen to another word.
She made a noise, caught between satisfaction and dismay as she reached for me. I caught her wrists and pulled them behind her back. Ripping my mouth from hers, I pressed my forehead to hers. “Damn you, Tia.”
“What did I do now?” she asked, rubbing her lips against mine.
What had she done?
The list was endless.
She’d yelled at me.
Attacked me when she’d thought I’d hurt her dog.
She’d begged me not to hurt her dog.
Then she’d attempted to end her life to be kept out of O’Halloran’s hands.
She’d smirked in the face of a racist old prick and challenged him by buying a box of tampons.
She talked to her dog like it was a person.
She’d made me laugh.
Fuck her, she’d made me feel.
And I couldn’t tell her any of that without the risk of exposing far more than I could afford.
Knowing that would be the one thing that damned us both, I did the only thing I could do.
I played dirty.
Grabbing the short, stubby tail of her hair, I tugged it back and exposed the arch of her neck, raking it with my teeth.
A hard shudder racked her body.
I didn’t stop.