“Jax,” he warned.
“No. He deserves the truth, no matter how much it sucks.” Settling into the chair Adam had vacated only moments ago, Jax rubbed a hand down his face. “You weren’t there when your old man died. They denied your request for furlough.”
As I tried to process what he’d said, what they’d both said, my gaze swerved between them.
Eight years gone.
I wasn’t there for Dad.
Wasn’t there for Dad…
“Somebody start talking.”
The slam of a door sent a shot of adrenaline through my veins, and my heart galloped in time to his steps coming closer in the hall. Rope pulled at my sore wrists, rubbed raw from hours of trying to get free. We’d spent the last three…maybe four days in this room, fucking, fighting, and fucking some more, barely taking time to fuel our bodies with what little canned goods Zach found in the cabin. It was like a nymphomaniac had taken over his being. Now that he had me here to himself, he couldn’t stop thrusting his cock into me.
Or beating me when my body wouldn’t turn to liquid for him.
The bedroom door opened and banged against the wall, and Zach set two paper bags on the dresser. He’d tied me to the bed before leaving to “get supplies.” My stomach grumbled, and I hoped he bought something other than soup, chili, or SpaghettiOs.
As he stumbled toward me, a sheen of sweat broke out on my skin. I recognized that glazed-over expression, the off-kilter sway of his body as he moved. “You’ve been drinking and driving?” As the hours passed, I’d started to wonder if he’d ever return. “What would happen to me if you never came back?”
The mattress depressed under his weight, and the stench of whiskey drifted to my nose as he fumbled with the complex knots keeping me prisoner on the bed. “I can drive just fine.” He cursed under his breath. “The reason it took me so long was because Dad’s being Dad.” His lips tightened as he pulled the rope from my wrists.
“What do you mean?”
“He’s about to put an APB out on my ass if I don’t go home. I told him I needed some time to deal with everything, but he isn’t letting this go.”
As soon as my wrists were free, I massaged some circulation into them. But my attention veered to Zach’s hands, the pockets of his jeans, even the dresser. A sense of defeat threatened to strangle me. No phone, no keys. After my last attempt to get away, he wouldn’t be so careless, even while intoxicated.
He grabbed my chin. “Are you listening to me? My fucking career means more to him than it ever did to me. He’s furious that I disappeared.”
“What are you gonna do?”
His mouth curved into a smirk. “Don’t get any ideas. I’m not letting you go, if that’s what you’re hoping for. I held him off for a while longer.” He planted a kiss on my mouth before backing away. “Get up.”
“Dad won’t stay silent forever. He’ll find you,” I said, sliding off the bed to stand on weak legs. I folded my arms. “When he does he’ll see I’m still alive.”
“Don’t worry about Dad. I can handle him.” The nasty smirk never left his face. “And I can handle you too.” He wrapped his hands around my hips and pushed forward. I shot my arms behind me, palms pressing into the mattress to keep from sprawling onto the bed. Not an inch of space separated our bodies, and I was grateful for the T-shirt he’d allowed me before he left.
“I’m gonna make you love me again, Lex.” He dipped his head, gaze zeroing in on my mouth. “We’ll be together, just like we were always meant to be.”
“I’m pragmatic. If pain doesn’t do it for you anymore, we’ll try pleasure.”
“Stop.” As his lips neared, my hands left the mattress and pressed against his chest. “I can barely stomach the sight of you after what you’ve done.” I choked on the last word, the thought of Rafe trying to creep in again, and cleared my throat. “You forced me, Zach. For years.”
He jerked his head back and forth. “You can’t fake this kind of connection.” His palms slid along my cheeks, his fingers tangling in my hair as he tilted my head back. The intensity of his stare pummeled me. “You’re the only one who’s ever cared about me. Dad sure as hell doesn’t.”
“That’s not true. You’re his whole world.”
“I’m fucking tired of being his world. I’m tired of it all. You don’t know him like I do.” He swallowed hard, and his eyes glistened with a lifetime of resentment. If I thought Dad had been tough on me, he’d been harder on Zach. Pushing him to be the best, to fight rougher, meaner. Never back down, son! Don’t be an embarrassment. Losing isn’t an option.
He rested his forehead against mine. “Quitting is a relief. I don’t want to fight. The belts, the championships, none of it matters. I just want you. Everything is so easy with you, second nature, like breathing. Remember when we were kids and we’d hide under the covers every time they’d get into another fight? You made me feel needed. Wanted. Let’s just hide here forever, Lex.”
Damn him. I blinked, suppressing the burning tears in my eyes. How could one person pull me in so many directions? He repulsed me, made me furious, made me feel the most intense hatred a person could harbor…yet he still made me care. What would it take before I forgot the good times, the years when he was there for me as a brother should be? While our parents had waged war in the house, he’d been my safe place, the one who held me and told me to hang on a little longer because it would be over soon. If I’d known back then how dark he’d turn, if I’d been capable of understanding what that darkness meant, I wouldn’t have gone to him for comfort. I wouldn’t have looked at him as a brother, because that connection made hating him messy and complicated.
Zach was a minefield of which I was stuck in the middle. It didn’t matter which way I stepped, an explosion strong enough to dismember was bound to happen.
“I have to pee,” I said, needing the distraction, needing distance. I squirmed, and my bladder begged for release.
He pulled away and gestured toward the bathroom. “Come back naked. I have a surprise for you.”