Beneath These Scars (Page 53)

I needed to keep her alive. That was my first priority here. She could hate me as long as she was still alive, and I’d be happy with that. For now.

She rolled to her side and snatched the clothes from me. Sitting up, she shook out the T-shirt and held it up. She’d be swimming in it, but it was the best I could do at the moment.

“They’ll work until Jerome finds you something else,” I said.

She slipped the shirt over her head, covering all of her gorgeous honey-colored skin. The shorts followed next.

Standing, Yve straightened her shoulders and faced me. “Don’t put Jerome to the trouble. I’ll take care of that myself.”

So damn stubborn.

“Do you ever let anyone help you, Yve?”

THE QUESTION HUNG IN THE air between us. Do you ever let anyone help you, Yve?

It wasn’t the first time Lucas had asked it. I’d let Elle help me the night I found out that Jay was getting paroled. Well, sort of. I hadn’t wanted to be alone that night, and she’d offered a place to stay. I’d been her boss once upon a time, even though we both knew she’d only worked the job because she needed something to do and not for the money.

“I feel like you’re the last person who should be judging me about this. When was the last time you accepted help? And by the way—why do you even want to help me? Again, you’re you. You’re not exactly the kind of guy who helps people like me.”

“And if I want to help you?”

I pointed to the clothes I wore. “I consider myself helped.”

“You have a plan?”

“Not yet, but I will.”

The man wouldn’t drop it. “Are you going to stay with your family?”

The word family never struck a particularly happy note in my heart. “No.”

“Friends?”

I’d already considered that. Charlie and Simon had room, but they were crazy into wedding planning right now. Elle and Lord lived in Lord’s little house not far from Chains, and they didn’t exactly have extra room. Vanessa and Con would probably offer, but that felt weird to me given my brief past history with Con before they’d gotten together.

And that was the end of my list of friends. Six of them. Seven, if I counted Levi, who lived here.

“I don’t know,” I admitted.

Lucas gave me a brisk nod, as if something was decided. “Then you’ll stay here.”

“I don’t do handouts,” I said, uneasiness filling me. I didn’t want to slide into that dynamic with Lucas—taking something for nothing. Whatever it was we’d been doing, we’d been on even ground, and that was what had made it okay in my mind.

“It’s not a handout. I’m the guy you’re fucking. If I want to offer you a place to stay, how is that a big deal?”

How is that a big deal? He didn’t understand. He couldn’t understand.

“Because I’m not a whore.”

Lucas’s head tilted to the side. “You think I treat you like a whore? How? Tell me.” He paused. “Are you talking about last night? I don’t react well when I’m called an idiot. A moron. Stupid. It wasn’t . . . about you.”

It wasn’t an apology, but he was showing signs of being a mortal man.

“And yet being called an asshole doesn’t bother you?”

A ghost of a smile spread over his lips. “No. Because that’s true.”

I had to get off this subject. I didn’t want to see him as fallible, human. It made things . . . complicated. Dangerous. I remembered how he held me in the shower and carried me to bed. Yes, definitely dangerous.

Lucas needed to keep playing the asshole card for me to hold on to this delicate balance between us. This concern, it wasn’t something I was used to, and it had the power to change everything.

I tried to put the conversation back on track. “I can always put a cot in the back room of Dirty Dog.” Even as I said it, I knew I wouldn’t feel safe there either. Not as safe as I felt . . . right here.

His lips flattened, annoyance with my stubbornness clear. “There’s a bed behind you that’s empty, and you have an open invite.”

My resolve was crumbling. I fought to keep it solid.

“What are the strings?” I asked, because in my experience, help always came with strings.

He shook his head. “No strings, Yve. Unless you’re talking about the fact that I want to fuck you, but that’s no secret. This just makes it a hell of a lot more convenient.”

“I don’t need you to fix this for me.”

“I know, but you don’t need to do it all alone, Yve.”

For a few moments, I let myself imagine what it would be like to accept his offer. The lure of safety was strong. The lure of Lucas himself was even stronger.

I was wavering when his jaw tightened and he came closer. Gesturing to the bed, he said, “Sit. We need to talk. Seriously.”

The sudden change in his tone sent apprehension crawling over me like a pack of spiders. “Talk about what?”

“About who the hell would want you dead. Because I just got off the phone with Hennessy, and his buddy at the fire department doesn’t think this was an accident.”

“But the explosion came from downstairs. It wasn’t—”

He told me about how Mrs. Jones won a ticket to see her sister on a radio station that didn’t exist. Apprehension turned to good old-fashioned fear.

“But still—”

Lucas—when had he become Lucas to me instead of Titan?—turned my chin to face him. “You’re in denial, and you’re lying to me. If there’s anyone who understands what it means to have secrets, it’s me. But when those secrets start putting your life in danger, it’s time to come clean to someone who can help you.”