Charlie had a secret. The good thing was, she didn’t have anyone to tell. Some secrets are better left buried, like that bunch of thieves that had found them while Monroe was down at the river washing up. Charlie couldn’t get over it.
She glanced at him, he remained poker face, his eyes on the road as the horses kept their course. Now that he was dressed, it was easier to keep this secret. But tonight? Fuck, tonight she’d better not sleep at all. What if she dreamt of that newfound secret? No, it wouldn’t do. At all. What if she spoke in her dream and he heard her?
She sighed, it made his eyes catch hers :
“No. What about you Monroe?“
He had told her countless times that his name was Sebastian, and that she could call him Bass. She had rolled her eyes every time. So he had started to call her Matheson from time to time. In public she called him James because she had no desire to be chased down when they were trying to buy food.
“Thought we could stop in the next village and catch some shut eye in an actual bedroom.“
“Why? Too old to sleep in the rough?“ Yes, she had to keep her voice acid, to keep that secret safe.
He didn’t even bother with giving her venomous look. It grated on her. They were becoming too comfortable with each other. Their usual loathing had turned into another type of tension that kept her awake at night and heightened all her senses.
“Come on Charlie,“ his voice tired and barely above a whisper, “we both know it would be more comfortable to sleep in a dry bed for a change.“
Silently, she tried to catch something offensive or hidden in his words but there was no malice there. They’d been complaining about the dew and having to keep a watch for days now. If she were travelling with Miles or even a total stranger she would have agreed eagerly. But this was Sebastian Monroe. It may be petty but she had no desire to agree with him. She’d sleep out in the pouring rain just to show how much she disagreed with him. But a bed is a bed…. There would more opportunity to get a rise out of him.
“Sure. But I’m not sharing my bed with you,“ she was rewarded with a stare. For a split second she could swear he knew what she was hiding. There was something in his laser blue eyes that burned her to her core. She had never been more naked in her life.
“Why would I want to share my bed with a brat?“ Yes, sometimes when his gaze was too scalding, he used words like ‘kid’, ‘MiniMiles’ ‘brat’ to dull the edge of the blade of his eyes, “bet you’d steal the covers.“
She looked away because she was suddenly flooded with the memory of waking up, trapped against his body, his possessive arm around her, his chest against her back and something harder against her backside. He was asleep. It was after one of those nights when they were too tired to bother about keeping watch, and he had insisted that they slept closer than usual for safety purposes but he didn’t mean that close, did he? Slowly, with the agility of a born hunter, she had extricated herself from his burning grasp. He was up and about when she came back from the river with his usual gruff morning mood and monosyllabic answers.
Yet, as his eyes searched hers, she couldn’t help but wonder if he hadn’t been asleep that morning. After all, even mumbling in a nightmare could wake him up, much to her embarrassment. She let out a long breath, not looking away.
“Bet you’re a spooner,“ she challenged him. Her throat suddenly dry, and very conscious of his leg so close to hers. His warmth seeping out of his clothes through hers.
She saw it in that hungry glint in his eyes : he had been awake that morning! Well at least, she didn’t need to keep this secret. It would make it easier to keep the other one. Her gaze escaped to check on the horse :
“Looks like Dean and Sam don’t want to stay on the road.“
His attention was back on the horses who had decided to stray on the side of the road to have a munch. They didn’t talk again.
It was nightfall when they reached the tiny village of Harley. The inn was an old farmhouse. The man at the door told them they offered a warm free meal to their boarders. However, and of course these things only happen when people were in Charlie’s predicament : they only had double rooms available, that or sleeping in the hay.
She could feel Monroe perusing gaze on her face but she didn’t flinch, she kept her thoughts to herself. She’d rather sleep a thousand nights on a haystack rather than sleep next to him. That would be too close after having to keep this secret for so many miles.
“How much for two double rooms?“
“We just have one miss errr missus.“
“Miss. Okay so I guess I’ll be sleeping in the hay tonight.“ She felt Monroe shift next to her, his breath in her hair :
“You sure? I don’t bite.“ She turned to look at him. Fuck he was too close.
“Maybe you don’t but you stink,“ she blatantly lied as she breathed him in, reveling in his distinctive scent, “ and I need some space.“ His gaze was eloquent but he acquiesced :
“I didn’t hear any complaints last time we slept in close quarters,“ It was muttered so softly, as he was giving diamonds to the man. She pretended she hadn’t heard.
They left their stuff in the room Monroe would be sleeping in and went back downstairs. The large dining room that must have been used by a happy family served now as a dining area and bar. They looked warily at the people staring at them. It was risky to be eating in such a public place, who knew who might recognize the monster she was traveling with? But she could see the lust in women’s gaze as they ate Monroe up and the men didn’t seem that interested in his tall belligerent figure.
They settled on a small table in the corner. They never spoke much when they ate, that was the upside of being stuck together for days on end. Charlie looked around her, it was nice to see other people. It made it easier to bury what couldn’t be buried.
She found the smiling face of a guy that didn’t look disgusting. She ate a last morsel of that tasteless chicken casserole, her attention on her prey. Without looking away she spoke to Monroe :
“Don’t know about you but I’m going to take full advantage of not being stuck with you to try to have a life.“ He didn’t say anything. Intrigued, after a few minutes she looked at him. He met her gaze with that intense blaze of blue and steel.
“ You sure it’s a good idea after… ?“ His jaw clenched down the words his eyes added. They were back in another less friendly bar, and she was utterly helpless. She glared at him :
“Thanks but I can take care of myself.“ The trouble was that she wasn’t revisiting that time she was rendered useless as the tornado named Sebastian Monroe created death and destruction around him, for her. No, instead her mind was filled with images she’d rather not consider of his most recent fight. She stood up.
“Goodnight to you. I’ll see you tomorrow at dawn.“ Her words were sharp, her gaze avoiding his, settling instead on her prey.
His name was Scott. He was polite and on the road to check on his parents who lived down south. A nice little boy would be a good mouth cleanser after her misadventure in Pottsboro. From the corner of her eyes, she saw Monroe leave the bar alone. Somehow, knowing he was around made any memory of that horrible night fade. It was too outrageous to admit that Monroe made her feel safe and yet she couldn’t ignore this…
She was once more herself, Charlie Matheson the amazon who feared nothing and no one. He made her feel fearless. Strange wasn’t it? The man who turned her life into ruins made her feel like a fucking phoenix, like a lynx roaming in the mountains. Fearless and free. The idea was too disturbing, she forced her attention back to Scott who was gaping at her.
“I was asking if that guy was your dad or something?“
“Oh. Him?“ she gestured towards the door Monroe had just walked out of,“it’s complicated. Hey do you want to get out of here?“
He might be a nice boy but he was eager. They had barely walked ouf the room, and they were already pressed against the wall, mouth to mouth, breathless and scalding.
Only, Charlie found Scott beardless cheeks distracting, the body her hands was exploring under his clothes was soft, strong but soft and scarless. She was finding it hard to focus on him, instead, as his fingers found her breast under her shirt and bra, she was thinking about another pair of hands : rough and calloused.
A gloriously naked wet body. The early morning sunlight reflecting on each sinew, making scars look like ornaments. Each movement brutal but graceful like a danser. Her crossbow was forgotten in her hands as she watched eagerly. Those arms were made to push and yank, those hands were made to strangle and slice. This was a creature made by and for war. He was breathtaking, mouthwatering.
What would it feel like to grasp those arms? Trace that scar on his chest? Press her hand on his lean stomach? Follow the trail of blond hair to the most glorious part of this soldier’s body? Would he taste like war and power? Or something altogether different and subtler.
She pushed the man that was actually gently nibbling her neck against the wall. How would it feel to feel his scruff against her cheeks? Scott’s own cheeks were soft as a baby, his movement devoid of any brutish pulsation. She pulled off his shirt, her nails digging into his flesh. Monroe fought naked like a beast, like a moving statue of pure perfection. He fought barehand, his muscles rolling and stretching, inviting her gaze and her hands on his smooth but craggy skin. Enticing her to drink up his fluid movements and rough strength. Just one touch, just one taste and she’d be gone.
“Hey slow down babe!“ But Charlie was somewhere else. It felt like being on a horse, wind in her hair, adrenaline in her blood. Her hands were working on Scott’s jeans. Her body had been waiting for release for too long.
“Let’s go to my room,“ his voice was like a mosquito buzzing, “ Hey Kim!“ Her fake name didn’t make he react as she finally tugged his jeans down. Who the hell still wore clean white boxers in this day and age? After the fight, Monroe had simply pulled up and zipped up his jeans without bothering with undergarment. Even half dressed he had been distracting enough with his glistering chest and bloody arms.
She sighed in frustration. This wasn’t working. She pushed Scott off as she straightened up her clothes.
“I’m going to bed. Sorry about that.“
“Forget it. I’m no longer in the mood.“ Had she even been in the mood? What she wanted was probably snoring in a bedroom. Scott muttered something as he raced back to the bar but she didn’t care. How on earth would she be able to sleep now? After this little foray, all she could think about was that mouthwatering secret she had been carrying, like that small fluffy diary she hid from everyone when she was a teen. This book though was filled with images that her thirteen years old self would have been terrified of.
She needed release or spend the whole night on edge. But once she got to the barn she realized her sleeping bag was in Monroe’s room. Fuck, fuck fuck fuck. He was the last person she wanted to see tonight.
She knew the haystack would be a nightmare without a sleeping bag. The man had separated the room in three parts with thick curtains but that might provide enough privacy for the only sane alternative to deal with that sight she couldn’t forget. She’d still need her sleeping bag.
Maybe he was asleep?
She went back to the room but it was locked. Of course, that paranoid ex dictator. She scratched against it.
“Charlotte?“ He sounded awake enough.
“I just need my sleeping bag.“
“Wait a sec.“ But five minutes or more went by and he wasn’t opening the door. What the fuck was he doing? And then a thought dawned on her. He better not be doing what she was thinking he was doing. Then again? That was his business right? What difference should it make to her that she had interrupted Sebastian Monroe while he was jerking off? Something to laugh about, something to disgust her… Not something that made her whole body burn up and shiver. Not something that made her wonder who he was thinking about. The door flew open as her tongue was on her bottom lip. They both froze, eye to eye. This was the same man who could fight off five man without breaking a sweat. Or fight like a beast, sweat trickling down his face and chest, rivulets finding their way to his waist and lower. Her breath was stuck in her throat. He was staring as if he knew, as if he could read her every lustful thought.
Someone slammed a door, and Charlie heard her friend from earlier. She looked over her shoulder, Scott was inviting a pretty girl to his bedroom, giving her a dark look as well as a pretty lamb could glare at a wolf.
“So I guess that didn’t work out?“
“Actually… They’re waiting for me to get started,“ her voice huskier than she intended. Fuck his fly was undone. Fuck she couldn’t tear her eye away from there. He cleared his throat and she looked up.
“What did you need?“ That fucking tease… He knew, he must know that she was burning with desire for him. He fastened lazily his jeans.
“Sleeping bag,“ she muttered.
“Thought you had other sleeping arrangements…“ His voice velvety like a caress. He was still standing at the threshold, not giving her any space to come in without brushing against him. This wasn’t happening, she wasn’t standing in front of a door that offered another world to her, a world where Monroe was someone other than her bogeyman. A world where she could satisfy this raging hunger that made her giddy and made every inch of her skin sensitive.
She took one step, and another one. any other day, she would have shoved past him without a single thought. But tonight she was on fire, the wall that kept that secret desire in was worn and everything was seeping through. Her gaze was in his as she moved closer, her body colliding against his as she walked in. He didn’t stink, he smelled glorious… Like the man he was, and would always be whether he was wearing a crispy uniform or rags, or nothing at all.
She shivered past him. The room smelled like him, making her resolve grow thinner. Distantly she conjured up her mother’s most judgmental look. Miles. Dad. Danny. It made her grit her teeth as she leaned forward to pick up her stuff. He was right behind her, she knew his gaze was on her hips and backside.
His gaze was wrapping her, making her skin tingle and her inside turn to mush. Her brain couldn’t think. Her family, her last bastion against this raging wave was crumbling down. Family, what family?
They were gone and he was here; all flesh and man.
He was standing so close that she when she straightened up, his breath was in her hair. She could lean back until she was nestled against his strong chest.
“You know… That bed’s big enough for two.“
Not it wasn’t, not when having his gaze on her was enough to make the memory of their troubled past fade into nothing.
“Not big enough for the both of us“, did she say it out loud? Did she mean it. He laughed, it rumbled out from deep down. It wasn’t a derisive laugh or full of mirth, it was something else. It was like a growl and it made her want to run away but she was rooted here, with Monroe right behind her. He wasn’t touching her, he didn’t have to. She knew that one word, one touch could unleash the beast. One second and whatever was lost of her sanity would be gone too. She should move but it was so delicious to feel his warmth behind her, to stay still in that magical moment where it could all happen and her thirst would be finally quenched. But what if that one time started an unstoppable wildfire? There was an intensity in him that awoke the infinity in her and it was intoxicating, electrifying, terrifying.
“Charlotte,“ his voice was low with desire. Her body was calling for his touch, but her lips were sealed. She could feel it course from her toes to the root of her hair, that insane dark pool in her that was craving for Sebastian Monroe kept on growing, there was no running away. She turned around. He was so close, his scent immersing her, his breath on her face, his hand hovering over her hip, her breasts almost brushing against his lean chest. She just needed to tilt her head forward and…
“Fire!“ The door was slammed open, “get out! Fire!“
It took them a second or two, a lifetime to realize what was happening and snap out of their lustful daze. They gathered their things and rushed out to the stables. Thankfully, the fire was contained to one of the rooms. Maybe Scott had decided to be a bad boy, after all?
“Better to head out.“ Monroe nodded his head towards a man wearing a sherif badge. They had payed for their fare upon arrival so they were free to take their horses, carriage and get the hell out.
Soon enough, they were riding through the night. They were quiet. The moon was just a sliver, it didn’t offer enough light for Charlie to study Monroe’s face. Her lust had been snuffed by their narrow escape. For now. She could still taste their almost kiss. It was fading, and in the dark she could see the long road that she had been forced to take because of General Sebastian Monroe.
For a last time, she indulged into her memories of Monroe stark naked fighting a bunch of guys, his sweaty bravado in New Vegas and that almost kiss that had set the inn on fire. After that, she tucked them in a corner. In the same way she had tucked her diary under her bed and forgotten about it until now. In the same manner she had gotten rid of her sacred postcards. Desires were like dreams, easily puffed away Reality was everything. In this reality, Sebastian Monroe may have saved her life, may be her travelling companion tonight but he was still the man who had been her enemy for a considerable part of her journey. A loathing that had shaped her into the woman she was today.
Maybe one day she’d think about this scalding secret. Maybe one day she’d admit out loud that she wanted him; that she Charlie Matheson wanted Sebastian Monroe. Maybe one day she would let herself float into that cloud of desire and let if follow its course one way or the other.
Until then, they had a long road ahead.