She made to step past him, toward the car, but he grabbed her wrist. She turned to face him. They were so close that she had to tilt her head back to look up at him. His blue eyes met hers, locking them in a hold that seemed more real than the grip he had on her arm. ‘Want to go for a hike?’ he asked.
Her heart skipped a beat, and then sped up dramatically, as if to make up for the lost time.
He didn’t wait for an answer. He moved forward instead, maintaining his grip on her wrist. She trailed close behind him, filled with a strange combination of trepidation and excitement. Flash-fantasies peppered her mind in a rapid assault, and she stopped trying to hold them back, promising herself that she would resume her practicality momentarily.
His palm was hot against the flesh of her forearm, and she remembered, not for the first time, the feel of him pressed against her. His heat had been faint then, masked by the barrier of their clothing. She wondered what it would be like to feel him pulsating against her again, in time with his heart, and perhaps hers too, with nothing between their skins. And his hand – she imagined where it might venture, if it were not clenched around her wrist as solidly as a steel manacle.
These thoughts warred with a sense of dread that was perhaps more appropriate, given the situation. Did he still have the gun?
She hadn’t seen him without it since he’d robbed the bank. Was he taking her out into the forest to shoot her, where no one would see or hear? Was he going to ensure that there would be no one to tell the police what kind of car he was driving, or what direction he was headed in? Would her body be discovered by unsuspecting hikers, or by a bear?
She broke into a sweat as she followed him, trampling undergrowth and small saplings. Her work heels were hardly suitable for the activity; she stumbled several times, while sticks and plants pricked her feet. She vacillated continually between the urge to break free and run, and the urge to seize her captor and do something that would have both shocked and filled Alicia and Cindy with livid jealousy.
Finally, they stopped in a small clearing. The gunman released Tiffany’s wrist, and she felt strangely bereft at the loss of contact with him. She longed to reach out and touch him, to establish her own grip on him, for the first time. Instead, she reached down and pulled a twig from one of her battered shoes.
‘What are you going to do to me?’ she asked.
‘That’s up to you,’ he replied.
She arched an eyebrow, much as he had the day before – that seemed ages ago.
‘You have a choice,’ he commented.
‘Well, what is it then?’ she asked, uncharacteristically blunt. She was panting slightly, and her wrinkled work clothes were now sweat-stained in places. Her feet were bleeding where they’d been pricked and scraped, and there were leaves stuck in her hair. On top of it all, she was hornier than she’d ever been, and it was all his fault. She was in no mood for playing games.
‘I can leave you here,’ her kidnapper said. ‘You’ll find your way back to the road, but not before I do – not in those shoes anyway.’ She scowled at him. ‘Then you can wait at the turnaround and flag down a police car, or anybody who will let you use their cell phone,’ he continued.
‘Gee, thanks,’ Tiffany spat. She was glad that he hadn’t said that he was going to shoot her, but she wasn’t about to remind him that that was a possibility. ‘What’s my other option?’
‘You can come with me,’ he said, ‘not as my hostage, but my partner.’ ‘What?’ Tiffany felt her eyes bulge.
‘You heard me.’
Being kidnapped at gun point and held hostage for a day had taken its toll on Tiffany, and she did something then that she never would have imagined herself doing the day before. She drew back her hand and slapped him across the face, hard, thinking of how he’d thrown her against the Mustang.
He grunted. The palm of her hand burned as she drew it back to her side, but she refused to show any sign of pain. He had no such reservations, and raised a large hand to cradle his cheek. She smiled smugly, and regretted it almost immediately as she realized that she wanted to comfort him. For one brief second, she was tempted to pull down his head and hold it against her chest, as she had imagined earlier. And then, she realized that she wanted to hit him again.
‘Was that supposed to be an answer?’ he asked, rubbing his jaw. ‘If so, I think I’m going to need you to translate.’
Tiffany glared at him. ‘You want me to come with you as your partner?’ she asked incredulously. ‘Like Bonnie and Clyde or something?’
He shrugged. ‘Something like that.’
‘That’s ridiculous. Are you serious?’
‘Look,’ he said flatly. ‘There’s a reason I took you as my hostage instead of one of those bimbos you work with.’
‘And what’s that?’ she asked.
‘Because you wanted to go,’ he told her. ‘You wanted to get out of there – I could tell. And,’ he paused dramatically, ‘it seemed like there was a spark between us.’ He glared at Tiffany defiantly, daring her to deny his assertion.
She didn’t. Instead, she stared back at him, open-mouthed in her surprise.
‘You don’t have to go back,’ he murmured.
Her anger had slowly begun to seep away. Without it, her desire for him expanded and filled her to the extent that it scared her. What he was saying was crazy. But it was also true.