“You all right in there?” Falk knocks softly at the door, and I jump.
“Yes, I’ll be out in a minute.”
I sigh at my reflection, rub my eyes, and finish brushing my teeth. Falk is already in bed when I come out, and I slide under the blankets with him. He rolls to his side and wraps his arm around my waist, holding me close to him. We always sleep this way though he’s never once tried to take it further.
Our position is both familiar and comfortable, but I’m always tense at first. Falk thinks it’s because I don’t like to be touched, and he’s partially right, but that’s not all of it. Part of me wants to push myself against him, feel the strength of his arms and chest against my bare skin.
I clench my thighs at the thought and hope the man with the ultimate observation skills doesn’t notice. Even as I think about Falk’s touch, my mind pulls me back to Beck’s face peering into mine. I can smell his breath, feel his fingers gripping my hair and pulling my head back, and I shudder.
“I’m scared,” I whisper.
“I know you are.” Falk tightens his grip and holds me closer. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“I thought I’d already had the worst thing possible happen to me,” I say. “I was wrong though. This is worse.”
“How is this worse?” Falk tilts his head to look at me, his expression confused. “I told you—no one is going to touch you again.”
“Because it’s just a matter of time. I know you want to keep me safe, but you can’t watch me all the time forever. It’s worse because I feel like I’m waiting for it to happen all over again.”
There is one thought in my head that I don’t voice because just the notion scares the shit out of me. There are too many men here now. If they wanted a piece of me, they could overwhelm Falk. He can’t protect me from a mob.
Falk is quiet as he reaches over me, wrapping his arm around me gently. I take a deep breath, inhaling the scent of him. It calms me as I close my eyes and give in to the exhaustion of the day. He speaks before I drift off completely, but his words are lost in my dreams.
“He won’t touch you again.”
I sip coffee on the balcony and watch Christine and Chuck in the common area. My head is pounding this morning, and I know my sleep was restless. Falk headed for the shower after commanding me not to leave the apartment until he was out. I don’t know how he can stand the cold water. I’ve mostly taken to bathing at the sink with a washcloth warmed by water heated on the fire.
From the second story balcony, I can’t participate in the morning conversation, but I can at least hear most of it. The couple below flow around each other with a practiced flare that only comes with years of living with the same person. They look happy and content.
“Can you hand me that…that thingy?”
“Yeah, that thingy.” Chuck takes the utensil from his wife and dips it into a large pot of oatmeal. “Is there any brown sugar?”
“My white sugar ain’t good enough for you anymore?”
“Oh, baby,” Chuck replies with a grin, “you know I can’t get enough of your sugar.”
“Mmhmm.” Christine saddles up to his side and reaches around to grab his ass. Chuck presses his hips up against hers and kisses her deeply.
I turn away, not wanting to be so voyeuristic. Through the balcony door, I see Falk inside and go to join him. He’s in the kitchen with his back to me, pouring coffee from the pot. He’s wearing only his boxer shorts, and his shoulders are still damp from the shower.
I find myself licking my lips as I take the moment to watch the muscles in his back ripple as his arms move. I am still a little confused about how I feel about him, but I can’t deny that I like to look. I take a breath and try to compose myself.
“Looks like breakfast is about ready,” I say.
“Good.” Falk turns around and gives me an uncharacteristic smile.
“You look like you’re in a good mood,” I comment. “Sleep well?”
“Not complaining.” He takes a sip from his coffee, and I see a long scratch on the underside of his forearm.
“What happened?” I ask, moving closer to get a better look.
Falk glances down at the mark and shrugs.