Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 91

“Rose!” Mason shouted. I didn’t look at him. I couldn’t.

Crocker dragged me out of the closet and shut the door, bracing a chair under the doorknob. He turned to me with a grin.

“I want you to let him go,” I said. “You have to promise not to hurt him.”

Surprise flickered in his eyes as he jutted his head back in disgust. “I don’t have to do anything.”

I started to unbutton my jacket and forced myself to calm down. I’d figure a way out of this. I’d managed to last time. “How good do you want it?”

His eyes followed my hand to where my jacket hung open at my waist, exposing my bra and bare abdomen. “Fine. We won’t touch him when we’re done here.”

“Rose! No!” Mason shouted through the closet door.

“You won’t hurt him at all.”

Mason banged on the closet door, shouting my name.

Crocker looked back at the door and then grinned at me. “None of us will hurt him at all.”

I took several steps backward and reached for the door. “Let’s go to somewhere more private.”

Crocker crossed the room and slammed the door shut, turning me so my back was propped against it. He pressed his chest against mine. “I like this room just fine.”

My eyes widened in understanding and fear.

His hand snaked into my hair and wrapped around a handful of strands. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this, Rose.”

He jerked hard and I couldn’t stop my scream.

This was my vision.

It was coming true.

“Rose!” Mason shouted, banging on the door.

Crocker grinned and covered my mouth with his. I’d forgotten what a sloppy kisser he was, even without any alcohol. In my horror, I forgot about my agreement to cooperate. “You don’t seem very enthusiastic, Rose. Have you forgotten our deal already?” He jerked my hair again.

“No,” I wheezed out, unable to hide my terror.

Crocker fed on my fear, his eyes lighting with excitement. After releasing my hair, he lowered his hands to my waist, skimming both hands slowly up my sides while watching my face. “I’ve been thinking about this for months, Rose. Many different ways.”

I kept my gaze on his, forcing myself to calm down. “My expectations aren’t quite as high,” I heard myself saying.

He dropped his hands and slapped my face before I realized what was happening. I released a cry of pain, trying to ignore Mason’s continued shouting.

Crocker dug his fingers into my upper arms. “I don’t consider that cooperative, Rose.”

“You want me to lie and tell you how good you are?”

He hit me again and I couldn’t stop my groan. I knew I shouldn’t antagonize Crocker, but I’d rather be beaten than the alternative.

As if reading my mind, he pulled the jacket down my arms and tossed it to the floor. “We’re wasting valuable time, sweet Rose.” His mouth lowered to mine, and I tried to show more enthusiasm this time.

I had to figure a way out. I opened my eyes and took an inventory of the room. A bed, a dresser, sheer curtains hanging on the window. A bedside table with a ceramic lamp and an old-fashioned alarm clock. The discarded wooden rod on the floor. None of the pieces were coalescing into a plan.

Crocker stripped off his shirt and stood in front of me bare-chested, a huge bruise forming on his stomach. His eyes followed my gaze and his eyebrows rose. “You shouldn’t have done that, Rose.” He reached down and picked up the pole.

I turned and ran for the door. I managed to get it open, but Crocker caught me in the hall and slammed me into the wall. Panic raced through my body and I tried to swallow the sob in my throat.

“Where are you going, Rose? You said you’d cooperate.”

I looked down at the wooden rod still in his hand. “You’re going to hurt me.”

He spun me around, his grin maniacal. “You said you’d cooperate in everything.”

Mason’s life depended upon it, but for the life of me, I wasn’t sure I could willingly allow him to beat me with that pole. “But how can I be totally cooperative if you hurt me first?” My voice betrayed me by shaking, but I had his attention. “I’ve learned a few things since you last saw me. I’m more experienced now.”

He tossed the pole onto the wooden floor, clanging on the wood floor in the hallway. “I better be impressed.” He reached for the button on my jeans and unzipped them. “Take them off.”

Swallowing my fear, I hooked my thumbs on my waistband.

“Actually,” Joe’s authoritative voice startled me. “I think she should leave them on.”

I swiveled to see Joe at the end of the hallway, pointing his handgun at Crocker.

I released a cry of relief. Joe had come anyway.

“Rose, why don’t you walk toward me real slow.” Joe inched forward, his eyes and gun still on Crocker.

I moved toward him, keeping my attention on Crocker. When I reached Joe, he slid an arm around my waist and pulled me to his chest. “Did he hit you?” he said, his voice harsh.

Crocker laughed. “What are you going to do about it, McAllister? You hid behind her last time. You gonna hide behind her again?”

Joe started to lunge for Crocker, but I grabbed fistfuls of his jacket and held tight. “No! He’s not worth it.”

Crocker leaned over, laughing hard. “You’re not man enough to shoot me.”

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