He doesn’t respond.
When most of the blood is removed, I rinse the stained towel and leave it in the sink. “I’m going to grab our bags. Stay here,” I say, hoping he’ll listen.
I hurry to the room to gather both of our bags and unzip the suitcase. Hardin is shirtless and barefoot, wearing only athletic shorts, and I’m dressed in just his T-shirt. I didn’t have time to think about getting dressed, or even to be embarrassed about running downstairs half naked when I heard the shouting. I didn’t know what I was expecting to find as I raced down the steps, but Christian and Trish having sex wasn’t one of the scenarios that I ever could have anticipated.
Hardin remains quiet as I pull a clean T-shirt over his head and pull socks onto his bare feet. I dress myself in a sweatshirt and jeans, not giving a thought to my appearance. I rinse my hands again in the bathroom, trying to scrub the blood from under my fingernails.
Silence stretches between us as we reach the stairs, and Hardin takes both bags from me. He hisses in pain when he lifts the strap of my bag onto his shoulder, and I cringe as I picture the bruise beneath by his shirt.
I hear Trish’s sobs and Christian’s low voice comforting her as we exit the house. When we reach the rental car, Hardin turns around to face the house again, and I watch as a shudder passes through his shoulders.
“I can drive.” I take the keys, but he quickly pulls them away from me.
“No, I’m driving,” he finally says. I don’t argue with him.
I want to ask where we’re going, but I choose not to question him right now; he’s barely coherent and I need to tread lightly. I place my hand on his, and I’m relieved that he doesn’t jerk away from my touch.
Minutes feel like hours as we drive through the village in silence, each mile adding another layer of tension. I stare out the window and recognize the familiar street from this afternoon as we pass Susan’s bridal shop. The memory of Trish wiping away tears, staring at herself in the mirror while dressed in her gown, brings tears to my own eyes. How could she do this? She’s supposed to be getting married tomorrow; why would she do such a thing?
Hardin’s voice snaps me back to the present. “This is so fucked up.”
“I don’t understand it,” I say, gently squeezing his hand.
“Everything and everyone in my life is so fucked up,” he says, his voice emotionless.
“I know,” I agree with him; even though I couldn’t disagree more, now is not the time to correct him.
Hardin slows the car as he pulls into the parking lot of a small motel. “We’ll stay here tonight and leave in the morning,” he says, staring out the windshield. “I don’t know what to say about your job and where you’ll live when we get back to the States,” he continues, and climbs out of the car.
I was so busy worrying about Hardin and the violent scene in the kitchen that I momentarily forgot that the man rolling around on the floor with Hardin was not only my boss, but the man whose home I’m living in.
“Are you coming?” Hardin asks.
Instead of answering, I step out of the car and follow him into the motel in silence.
Chapter one hundred and thirty-eight
The man behind the desk gives Hardin the key to our room with a smile that Hardin does not return. I try my best to offer one to make up for it, but it comes off as forced and awkward, and the desk clerk looks away quickly.
In silence, we walk through the lobby to find the room. The hallway is long and narrow; religious paintings line the cream-colored walls, a handsome angel kneeling before a maiden in one, two lovers embracing in another. I shudder when my eyes drag across the last painting, meeting the black eyes of Lucifer himself right outside of our assigned room. I’m stuck staring into the empty eyes as I hurry behind Hardin into the room and flip the light switch, illuminating the dark space. He tosses my bag onto a wingback chair that sits in a corner and drops the suitcase by the door next to where I’m standing.
“I’m taking a shower,” he says quietly. Without looking back, he walks into the bathroom and closes the door behind him.
I want to follow him, but I’m conflicted. I don’t want to push him or upset him any more than he already is, but at the same time I want to make sure he’s okay and I don’t want him to wallow in this—not alone, at least.
I pull my shoes off, then my jeans and Hardin’s shirt, and follow him into the small bathroom, completely naked. When I push the door open, he doesn’t turn around. Steam has already begun to billow through the small space, filling it, covering Hardin’s naked body with a cloud of vapor. His tattoos peek through, the black ink visible through the steam, drawing me toward him.
I step over the pile of his discarded clothes and stand behind him, keeping more than a foot of distance between us.
“I don’t need you to—” Hardin begins, his voice flat.
“I know,” I interrupt him. I know he’s angry, hurt, and he’s beginning to slip back behind the wall that I’ve fought so hard to demolish. He’s been controlling his anger so well that I could kill Trish and Christian both for making him lose it that way.
Surprised by the dark direction my thoughts have taken, I shake them away.
Without another word, he draws back the shower curtain and steps into the cascading water. I take a breath, summoning every ounce of confidence I can muster, and step into the shower behind him. The water is scalding, barely tolerable, and I hide behind Hardin to avoid it. He must notice my discomfort, because he adjusts the water temperature.