Page 15 of Pretty Little Thief

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My breath comes in heavy pants, but I know I can’t stop. I can’t even will my eyes to look behind me because I’m scared of what I might find.

More birds surround me, blocking my view. I trip over a huge branch and tumble onto the ground, throwing my hands out in front of me to break my fall. My legs and hands take the brunt of my landing, and the warmth of blood coats my palms as I try to stand.

A hand touches my shoulder, and I freeze. My fight-or-flight instincts are not kicking in. My body goes cold as terror fills me to the brim.

I push through the pain making its way through my body and flip onto my back, thrusting my legs into the attacker and using my nails to claw at the figure’s hidden face.

They grab hold of my wrists, forcing them above my head, and putting all their weight on my torso to prevent me from moving. I’m thrashing like a wild woman trying to break free when I hear someone shouting my name in the distance. Immediately, I scream for help, but my attacker slams a hand over my mouth.

Then suddenly it’s over.

“Robyn! Robyn! Wake up,” Tristan screams, shaking me awake.

My eyes fly open, but the panic inside me is still very real. It takes a moment to realize where I am and that I’m still fighting to break free. Only this time, it’s Tristan sitting next to me in my bedchambers, trying to hold me still and calm me before I wake the whole castle.

It was only a nightmare.

Tristan wraps me in his arms, clutching my body against his for comfort. “It was just a dream, little bird. You’re okay, you’re safe. I’ve got you.” The sound of his voice soothes my frightened state of mind. The tighter his embrace gets, the more my breathing evens out.

No longer hyperventilating in terror, I’m instantly filled with embarrassment.

I push myself back, breaking Tristan’s hold on me. “I’m sorry. I was just having another nightmare,” I whisper softly.

“That’s the third time this week. Is there something you aren’t telling me? Is there something we need to know, little bird?” Tristan questions, his concerned gaze burning a hole into me.

He still has one arm wrapped around my back. His touch sends an urge of desire to my core. How can a person be terrified and turned on all at the same time?

My hand drifts up his covered bicep, rubbing gently and trying to show him that I’m alright.

Shaking my head, I try my best to grin, knowing that if I were to open my mouth right now, he would see straight through me. My nightmares aren’t his concern, they are for me to deal with and no one else.

He’ll call me out for my deception.

After a moment, he finally starts to relax. His shoulders sag with relief, and Tristan does something that I’d never imagined him doing in a million lifetimes. He leans down and kisses me on the forehead, sending goosebumps all over my body.

“You gave me quite the scare,” he says, placing his fingers under my chin and tilting my head back until I’m looking directly into his piercing blue eyes. They are like staring into the ocean, calming and captivating all at once.

There’s no running or hiding. I’m completely vulnerable to him like this, and I hate it. Tristan is one of four things that I can never have and definitely never touch.

“Are you going to be able to go back to sleep, or do you want me to wait here until you do?” he asks, softly.

CanI go back to sleep? No. Absolutely not.

Do Iwantto go back to sleep and relive that treacherous nightmare? Hell no.

Will I admit any of this to him? Fuck no!

I don’t respond immediately, trying to think about what I really need and want. There’s no way I’ll be able to fall back asleep after that nightmare. So without responding, I slide down the bed and wrap my arms around the pillow. Tristan takes that as his cue to leave, but I quickly grab hold of his arm and pull him back to my side. “Will you just lay here with me for a while?” I huff, mustering all the courage inside of me to ask for what I really want from Tristan.

He lays down beside me, careful not to touch me, even though deep down I wish he would. Tristan is too much of a gentleman to take me the way I’ve pictured in my mind so often.

“Thank you,” I whisper, turning onto my side, facing away from him.

“Anything for you, little bird,” he mumbles under his breath.