The cot was narrow, too hard, to accommodate grudges. Charlie lay on her stomach, clinging stubbornly to her width of the mattress, with Bass sprawled heavy and sweaty over her back. His breath was damp against her neck, his cock soft and sticky against her ass.
She wanted to shove him off, wipe the spoor he left off her body, and flee under the protestation that ‘it was a mistake’. It was. It just wasn’t the first time she’d made this mistake, and after a while the indignation started to feel like playacting.
Besides, she felt stupid running barefoot between tents like she was still sixteen with straw from the harvest in her panties. It wasn’t like there was anyone left with the moral high ground to question her screw-ups.
His thumb traced the fingerprints old and new he’d left on her skin: round and scored with crescent moon cuts on her hips, stripes of purple and blue her cuffing her bony wrists. Change positions and she could lick the bloody lines she’d left on his back - long, pebbled scabs against tanned skin - and press her lips to the dented, oval bruises she’d chewed over his collarbones and chest.
She hated him; he didn’t think much of her.
They still kept doing...this. It wasn’t making love. Hell, it was barely fucking - more like a fight with a happy ending.
‘Get off me,’ Charlie said, jabbing her elbow into his ribs.
He grunted into the crease of her shoulder. ‘Get out of my bed.’
Bass rolled onto his side, peeling himself off her, and Charlie sat up. She pulled her hair over her shoulder, picking out the knots he’d worried into the thick mass with his fingers, and bent over to grab her shirt from the floor. It was bloody. Not her’s. The stiff crackle of it against her skin as she pulled it on gave that hot, sick, panicky feeling in her stomach again.
She kept killing and killing, and it was never her blood. Sometimes...sometimes she dreamed about her Dad saying that was she was good at killing. In that same sad, disappointed voice he’d used for Miles.
‘Why?’ she asked suddenly. It surprised her. To be honest, she’d never thought to care before as long as she got what she wanted. She twisted around to look at him. Sweat made his hair stick out in unruly curls, sun-bleached to blonde, and his eyes were very blue as he propped himself on his elbow to look at her.
Oh, that was a good question. There was a time she’d wanted to ask him that: why my family, why the militia, why are you such a bastard. The last year had answered most of those questions though: Miles. Her uncle had a knack for inspiring people, he was just no fucking good at follow through.
That was unkind - Charlie rebuked herself, stomach souring with guilt - and it was unfair. Miles had done everything for her...and her mother. That little twist of jealousy/shame/anger was her ‘why’. She loved Miles too much to hurt him, but fucking Monroe was a silent ‘fuck you’ to...everything.
‘Why this,’ she said, waving her hand at the stained mattress. ‘Why me?’
He looked amused. ‘Why do I want to fuck the pretty girl with the tight ass and the long legs?’
‘There’s hookers with bigger tits and better tricks,’ Charlie said. ‘They’d only want paying in coin, not blood.’
He licked his lips, tongue poking at the raw split where she’d bitten him.
‘What do you know about hookers?’ he asked.
Charlie rolled her eyes. He wasn’t as good as Miles at changing the subject. ‘Is it because it would piss off Miles?’
He scratched his jaw, fingers scraping through his short beard. Charlie’s thighs tightened with the memory of it tickling tender skin. It wasn’t always desperate and angry; sometimes it was deliberate and angry, slow, spiteful seduction.
‘It doesn’t hurt, knowing I’m fucking up the one thing he thinks he did right.’
Charlie laughed at that, voice cracking. ‘If I was right, I wouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be here. We can’t keep doing this.’
It sounded firm. Of course, she’d sounded firm before, this time though...she was surprised to realise she meant it. Or wanted to.
Bass seemed to realise it too. He twisted his hand in the back of her shirt and yanked her down against him. His mouth covered hers in a rough, scraping kiss, biting and sucking at the soft curve of her lips. Callused hands ran up her side, tracing the dip of her waist and the flare of her ribcage, and his knee nudged her thighs apart. Banked heat licked at her insides, making her suck in her breath with abrupt, painful awareness.
‘Who else is gonna fuck your nightmares away?’ he growled into her mouth. ‘Who’s going to fuck you so hard, you feel you deserved to survive the fight?’
‘What do you care?’
He sighed. ‘Don’t be stupid, Charlie.’