Read Untouchable (The Blankenships Book 8) Online
Authors: Evelyn Glass
Part of Zoey’s heart thought that by the time she was clean, fed, and dressed, everything would be at least a little bit better. It was a silly thought, and she didn’t realize how important it was to her until she showered, twisted her hair up into a bun so that it was off her neck, and walked out into the suite in the jeans and t-shirt, and felt just as lonely and frightened as she had before. Part of her had been entirely sure that something would have changed. Someone would be here, telling her that it was all a big joke, just a tease, she would laugh, they would laugh too, and then they would get on a plane and go home. Or, even better, the big reveal would be that they were actually in New York City again, and she was on Candid Camera.
Walking back out into the empty suite cracked something deep down inside of her, and she wasn’t entirely sure that she would recover from it. It hurt, so very much, and she didn’t know if it would ever get better.
Was it better or worse that they had no questions for her and didn’t care what she knew or would say? It didn’t feel better. In all the movies, being the person with information was much, much worse than being the person who was being held to convince someone to talk, but not much of what had happened in the past few weeks had really gone like it did in the movies. In the movies, there would be a solution by now. In the movies, she would be curled up on the couch, bitching to her girlfriends about what a horrible situation it had been and wistfully dreaming of the crazy time she’d spent with the most exciting playboy in New York. And then he’d show up at the door of her pathetic apartment with a huge bouquet of roses, he’d tell her he still loved her and he didn’t want to live without her, no matter the dangers, he’d sweep her into his arms, and they’d kiss while the credits rolled.
She had to stop thinking about it before she started to cry again. She was fairly sure that if she kept up the crying, there would be fault lines etched in her skin by nightfall.
The door to the suite opened without any further preamble, and she started, surprised both at the door opening, and her own frightened reaction to it. When she saw Alex walk through the door and when she saw that he was unharmed, moving under his own steam, and without any apparent injuries, she all but flew into his arms, slamming into him hard enough to almost knock him over. There were no tears left to cry, but she found herself making thick sounds that were close enough to crying that he probably couldn’t tell the difference.
But then, she wasn’t entirely sure he wasn’t holding back a few tears of his own. His hands were tight on the back of her head and the small of her back, and his own sounds were thick and relieved.
She pulled back from him and looked him up and down. He was much more tired than she was. He still wore the dark jeans and button down shirt he’d had on when they left New York, and he smelled stale, like airplane air and sweat. His chin and cheeks were rough with unshaven stubble. But he was whole, his face was unbruised, and he wasn’t wincing.
Maybe there was still hope.
“What do they want?” She asked. It seemed the most expedient way to get out of this, to figure out how to give them what they needed.
He shook his head, tightening his fingers in her and leading her to the couch in the center of the room. “I’m—Zoey, I’m not entirely sure how we’re going to get out of this.”
It hurt him to say it; she could hear that in the shake of his voice and the tension in his hand. It hurt to hear it; it felt like an iron band tightened around her chest and squeezed, hard, adding to the slow ache that was building throughout her body. “Did they hurt you? Threaten to hurt me?”
They hit the couch, and he leaned back, rubbing at his temples with the hand that wasn’t holding hers. “No,” he said. “No, so there’s that, at least. It was a lot of talk. Endless talk. But Tanaka isn’t even a little bit afraid of admitting what he’s done.”
“And what has he done?” She pushed his hand away and began to massage his temples. He made a quiet sound of pleasure, and she saw his shoulders fall just a little bit down his back.
“He’s claiming responsibility for everything,” Alex said, his eyes still closed. “From Thalia to the twins, all of it. But it didn’t seem real. I think—I think he wants something from me, directly. I think he may have been involved, but I still don’t think it was him all the way through.”
“It makes sense, though,” Zoey said. “If he and Zhu thought we’d found out about their double-dealing, if they thought you’d have more of a conscience than your father did and would break off their deals, then it makes sense. People get violent over money; there’s no question about that. That’s the first thing you learn in journalism. People are disgusting and awful so much of the time.”
“But why my mother,” he said, his voice hardly cracking at all on the word. “Why my sister?”
“If Claire was an accident,” Zoey said, “if they were trying to get to me—”
His hand squeezed so tight around hers that the bones creaked against each other. His eyes opened and locked on hers. She half expected them to be full of tears, the way he stared at her. When his free hand reached up and caught the back of her neck, urging her desperately toward his mouth, she was surprised. She went with him though, letting the motion carry through. It had been hours since she’d touched him, hours since she’d been close with him, and what the hell, it wasn’t like anyone had left them a deck of cards in this otherwise gorgeous suite. He brought her mouth down to his, but she was the one who kissed him, slipping her mouth over his in a motion that should have been soft and gentle, but was everything else. His lips parted just enough, and she traced his full lower lip with her tongue. He growled deep in his throat, and she let him. She let him growl while she explored his mouth with her tongue, ran her teeth over his lip, and tasted him, really tasted him like she hadn’t since their first night together.
He tasted warm and smooth, like a fine whiskey, splashing fire down her throat. His hand came away from her neck and trailed down her spine, finding the curve of her hip and tugging her towards him until she was straddling him. Even in his jeans, she could feel the heat of his body pressing up against her.
It was wrong, wrong to be this wound up in this moment, wrong to be thinking of sex and need and physical want when they should be plotting their escape, figuring out how to get out of here and get to safety. But it felt good to have him tight against her, good to feel his hands on her hips, urging her into motion against him.
“Is this wrong?” He asked her, his voice taut and hard. “Aren’t we supposed to be plotting and planning?” He was reading her mind, clearly, and she found she didn’t care.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. Her own voice was no better than his, full of fear that she’d twisted into something entirely different, an emotion she was willing to feel. “I don’t care. We’ll be reasonable later. I was so scared.” It hurt to give voice to the feeling, and she saw her own pain echoed in his eyes.
“Hey,” he said, all gruff gentleness now. He wrapped his arms tight around her, and for a little while, she just let herself be held and held him in return. It felt safe and comfortable, and she felt a little more likely to survive—whatever the hell this nightmare was.
“Have you eaten?” Zoey asked, after a while. “They brought me some food, there’s a little fridge, so I put some of it away—”
“No, I’m all right,” he said. “Tanaka made sure to feed me.”
“Tell me what they want from you.” He turned away from her, and even though he didn’t move her off his lap, the shift in his attention hurt just a little. She didn’t want it to, but her heart ached, and whether she liked it or not, the fear kept slipping into her thoughts.
“They want what they had with my father,” he said, eventually. He spoke slowly, the words pulling out one at a time and seeming to hurt as they came out of his mouth. “At least, Tanaka does. I don’t know if he’s telling the truth about anything. He could be just trying to be the Bond villain, you know, impressing us with how awful he is so that I give in and do what he wants.”
“I don’t understand, Alex. Tell me what he wants, so that we can make a decision.”
It was at the word ‘we’ that his attention turned back to her, haunted and lonely. “Is it still we, Zoey? Even after everything that has happened?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
He made a scoffing sound, and his hands pushed at her hips, but when she shifted her weight, he grabbed at her, keeping her close. “It’s a legitimate question,” he said, his gaze still focused away. “I can’t think of anything I’ve brought you other than death and destruction.”
She took time to find the right words, and then she reached out, curling her finger under the scruff on his chin and turning his face until he was turned towards her. His eyes looked longer, his gaze staying unfocused and up for a long moment before he would meet her gaze. She waited him out, patient and calm. “You brought me through it,” she said, emphasizing the word. “You didn’t run away. You didn’t abandon me. You could have run for it, left me to take the heat of everything, or thrown me under the bus from the first moment. But you have been careful and precise, and you have done everything to keep me safe, even when it didn’t do the same thing for you. I’m in this with you, because you’re in it with me.”
He nodded, after a long time. “All right.”
She leaned forward, and she sealed the promise with a kiss. It was a soft kiss, and the feeling of his stubble scraping along her chin was delicious, safe, and wonderful. “Don’t give in to them,” she whispered. “I don’t care what they do to me. Don’t give in to them.”
“They won’t let us go home if we don’t,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll hurt us, not physically, but they’ll keep us here. Neither of us have papers, neither of us speak the language. I don’t even know what city we’re in, so I can’t find out if there’s an American embassy here, and I don’t know how to ask. That’s the thing, Zoey. They don’t have to hurt us. Two weeks, and we’ll be begging to tell them anything, just so we can get out of these rooms.”
She shifted her hips just a little, and he laughed, tightening his arms.
“There’s only so much sex two people can have,” he said.
“Granted.” She rested her forehead against his for a moment and tried to think. “So what do we do? How do we get out of this?”
“I don’t know. Is it better that I agree now, tell them I’ll keep whatever partnership they want until we get back to the States, and then contact the authorities? Or will they keep us here anyway?” Alex shook his head. “We don’t have enough information, and I don’t know how to get more.”
“I’m really regretting learning Spanish instead of Mandarin at school,” Zoey said. “Not that I could have learned Mandarin at my school.”
He gave her a wry look. “Mandarin wouldn’t have helped you. Everyone we’ve encountered so far is speaking Cantonese.”
“And you speak Mandarin, not Cantonese?”
He shrugged. “My Mandarin is awful, barely enough to say ‘let’s shake on it,’ but it’s better than my Cantonese. I can recognize it, but I can’t understand it.”
“Does that tell you anything about where we are?”
Another one of those long pauses, and then he shook his head again. “If I had my phone and could search it? Maybe? But without that, no. And even if there is a city in the world where basically everyone speaks Cantonese, that doesn’t mean we’re not somewhere entirely different, where Tanaka hired people who speak Cantonese just in case my fluency was greater than he knew.”
Another thing they couldn’t prove without getting free and might very well just throw themselves from the frying pan into the fire. Wandering a city as a Westerner with no money and no documentation, hoping someone would take pity on them and point towards the Embassy—assuming there even was one—sounded like a good way to become the kind of horror story that travel agents used as cautionary tales.
She wanted to suggest something entirely different, completely revolutionary, that would change the tenor of the conversation. Her mind was empty, and all she could think about was how good he smelled, how wonderful it felt to be in his arms again, and how much she needed this man in her life. She knew a lot of it was a stress reaction, but that didn’t make it feel any less real. She shifted her hips over his again. His hardness had faded, but he still let out a quiet noise of pleasure and grated the harsh stubble of his cheek over the soft skin on her neck. She shivered and thought about fucking him here on this couch, about connecting their two bodies as deeply as she could manage, and trying to believe that would be enough to pull them back together and make her feel safe again. After the last two weeks, it was very possible that safe was something that would be felt by something else.