A hard knock at the door jerked me into consciousness.
Eli's arm muscles flexed around me.
Half of my body covered his. I was basically sleeping on top of him, and it was glorious. The way his body caged me in made me feel safer than ever.
Another hard knock came from our door.
"What?" Eli asked.
"Dude, you guys have been sleeping for over sixteen hours. Are you alive in there?" Nico tried to turn the knob, but Eli had locked it.
"Yes. Now leave." Eli's chest vibrated under my ear.
"But I'm bored. Come out here and entertain me." Nico has his mouth pressed to the crack between the door and its frame.
I bit back the need to smile.
"Entertain yourself, dumbass. We're busy sleeping." Eli yelled as he traced circles over my back.
"Nicky, what the hell is wrong with you?" Jasmine whisper shouted. "Leave them alone."
"Oh good, you're awake. Never mind! Minnie's awake." Nico sounded fully rested and giddy. "Ow. What was that for?"
"For being a dumbshit, that's what! You woke everyone up with your stupid whining." Jasmine sounded pissed as she continued to punch Nico.
"Ow. Stop! You better stop, or I'll ground pound you." Nico declared at the top of his lungs, but Jasmine didn't stop. "Alright, that's it."
Jasmine squealed all the way into another room.
I laughed. I couldn't help it. Maybe it was that I'd gotten plenty of sleep, but they were hilarious.
Eli's chest rumbled under me as he laughed with me.
Sunlight of the new day shined through a crack in the dark curtains. I propped myself up on his chest to see his smile.
Eli's chestnut gaze was full of life as our laughing tapered off. My eyes searched his face, stopping to study his piercing. I ran my finger over his perfect outline of dark facial hair before my fingers traced over his lips. My fingers trembled slightly.
Embarrassed by my shaky fingers, I glanced down. I was right. It was a tattoo of my name over Eli's heart. My finger skimmed over his skin, outlining the script.
Eli jerked and pushed me off of him. He sat up, grabbing a nearby shirt.
"What's wrong?" Shock washed over me.
Without answering, Eli speedily whipped the black tee shirt over his head before pulling on some jeans.
"Is that my name? Or do you know someone else named Lilly?" I was hoping he would say something.
He went to the closet and rummaged around until he found a white hat. He slipped it on and pulled it low. I was beginning to catch on to Eli's moods and knew when he pulled his hat down low that he was fully guarded.
"Where are you going?" I sat up disheveled and confused, and to be honest, a little hurt. I'd done nothing wrong, but once again my curiosity had set him off.
Eli didn't look at me at all before he whipped open the door and walked out, closing the door behind him.
What the fuck?
I didn't know what to do. Maybe the tattoo wasn't my name. Maybe Lilly was someone else he cared about like his mother or an ex-girlfriend. Whatever the case, I'd obviously hit a nerve.
Not giving myself a chance to analyze this any further, I rushed to get dressed. I wouldn't let him dodge me or push me away this time. I needed to know what the hell was going on.
I went to the bathroom to fix my hair and brush my teeth.
It was hard to figure out how to act around Eli sometimes. I wanted to see all of him, but if he refused, I couldn't push.
No. I had to push. This wasn't some stupid relationship. This was my life now, and he was sleeping in the same room as me. Eli knew a lot more about me than I knew about him and I deserved to know more about him. Discovering more about his life had only made me more curious.
When I came out, Nico and Jasmine were sitting in the living room playing cards.
"Where'd Eli go?" I asked.
Nico's eyebrows shot up. "He took off, but I think you should give him a minute. He was pissed."
"Fuck that." I grabbed my gun, and asked, "Where outside?"
"Uh..." Nico glanced from me to Jasmine warily. It was obvious, he wasn't going to tell me.
Jasmine must've caught onto Nico's refusal to answer because she pinched his ear and pulled. "Tell her, Nicky."
Nico winced and swatted her hand away. "I can't."
"Why?" My hands gripped my hips as I stared him down.
"Bro Code," Nico said just as Jasmine pinched his nipple. He caught Jasmine's hand in mid-twist. "Stop. I mean it."
"Tell Lilly where Eli went and I'll stop." Jasmine threw me a side-glance as a huge smile lit up her face.
Damn. Jasmine could be a model if she wanted. Her full pink lips and heart-shaped face partnered with her curvy body elevated her to knock out status.
"I said I can't." Nico eyed Jasmine, and I could tell he was serious. "Eli would kill me."
"Then you have to pay the price." Jasmine grabbed Nico's other nipple and twisted.
Every muscle in Nico's body tightened as his face reddened. He let out a yelp when it became too painful and jerked away from her.
Jasmine rolled to the floor laughing her ass off.
"Okay, that's it." Nico jumped to his feet and easily picked up Jasmine, tossing her over his shoulder as he marched past me to his room and slammed the door. "You're gonna pay for that one."
Jasmine squealed in protest, then their laughter filled the cabin. They were loud as hell, not to mention totally adorable.
Every time I'd seen Nico with a girl he always maintained his laid back, bad boy facade, but not with Jasmine. She brought out a rare side of him that he allowed only a few people to see.
This was the real Nico. At heart, he was fun and playful.
Nico was a good person. He was just a misunderstood guy who put up a damn believable front. Seeing him find so much happiness with Jasmine brought me comfort. Nico and Jasmine were meant to be together whether they knew it or not. Miss Gina had said it, and now I knew exactly what she'd been talking about.
I sighed as I massaged my temples. I had to find Eli and ask him about what he was hiding from me.
Grabbing a mini flashlight off the coffee table, I decided to find him myself. If Nico couldn't tell me where Eli went, I would just have to search for him myself. Maybe he was inside the barn. Aside from a small shed, it was the only other structure on the property and seemed like an excellent place to start.
Leaving the cabin, I took in the morning sun filtering through the branches of trees. Birds were singing to one another in chirps and rhythmic melodies. The air was thick with moisture as the humidity continued to rise. The birds were still so full of life. It was hard to believe human life was being snuffed out as the birds chirped their harmonies without pause.
Once I opened the barn door, I called out, "Eli?"
He didn't call back as I shut the door.
It was eerily silent in here. The birds were muffled, and the damp darkness consumed the interior. The barn wasn't big and open like I'd imagined. There were stairs to my left leading up to another level and in front of me were divided rooms or stalls.
Grabbing my mini flashlight, I clicked it on. "Eli? Are you in here?"
Each room was doorless and was brimming with supplies. The first room was full of water packed all the way to the ceiling, and the second was stocked with canned foods. The third was overflowing with rice, oats, and other grains. The fourth was chock-full of flour and sugar. The fifth was jampacked with coffee and tea.
Someone had prepared this entire property for a high demand survival situation.
The amount of food was shocking. With all I knew about Miss Gina, I could only assume this was her doing. She had also told me her husband liked to stock up, but some of this stuff was new and looked like someone had recently added it. Eli had to be in on this.
Knowing the rest of the rooms were full of additional supplies, I turned back toward the stairs and headed up.
Reaching the second level, I noticed a tiny slit of light under a closed door at the end of the hall. Eli had to be in there. Trying not to spook him, I cautiously made my way to the door and pressed my ear to it.
Eli was talking to someone or to himself. I couldn't seem to figure out what was being said.
It would be wrong to just barge in. I contemplated knocking and decided against it. Eli was having a moment, and it was obviously an important one since he was talking to himself. I had to wait until he came out.
Just as I backed up, the door suddenly flung open, forcing me to stand to attention.
Eli stood in front of me with wild eyes like I caught him doing something terrible.
Guilt washed over me. I was the reason Eli looked so spooked.
I wanted to hug him and comfort him, but I didn't want to push him any further. "Eli, are you okay? What's wrong?"
"God, I'm so fucking sorry, Lil," Eli said. "After everything he did, I had to do it."
Unable to figure out what he was talking about, I walked into the room.
A small lantern lit the tiny space. The room was full of books, clothing, blankets, and bedding. Nothing different from the other areas. Just more survival supplies. Then what was he doing in here? And why couldn't Nico tell me about it?
"What are you talking about? Who did what?" I searched Eli's brown eyes for answers.
"Come here. Sit down." Eli gestured to a blanket in the middle of the floor. This was where he'd been sitting before I'd interrupted.
I glanced around the room, but there was no one here. It sounded like Eli had been having an in-depth discussion.
"Did I hear you talking to someone?" I really wanted to know how deep this went. Was he just like his Gramma? "Was it your Grandpa?"
Eli glanced over my shoulder just before his face fell into his hands. "Yes."
"What's he saying?" I glanced over my shoulder hoping to see what Eli was seeing, but there was nothing.
"We were talking about what I should do. Grandpa said I should just tell the truth, but I can't." Eli lifted head as he took off his white hat, combing a hand through his messy hair.
I wanted to comb my fingers through his hair too. Getting to my hands and knees, I crawled over to him. Taking Eli's hat from him, I set it to the side. Moving into his lap, I spread my legs to straddle him and pressed my chest to his.
Eli studied me as a look of confusion swept over him.
I searched his eyes as I massaged my fingers through his hair and over his scalp.
Eli's eyelids shut in pure ecstasy. "Damn, Lil. What are you doing to me?"
The corner of my mouth lifted. "I'm just taking care of you."
"That feels so fucking good." Eli's strong hands inched over my legs, tugging me snug to him.
When my fingers slowed, and Eli's hair was a bigger mess than before, he opened his eyes pinning with an intoxicating gaze. "Holy shit, woman, where did you come from?"
I shrugged with a shy grin. My neck and cheeks filled with heat as Eli tugged my body as close as possible. His head fell to my chest before his hands migrated upward and hugged me tightly.
It wasn't until he was I thought he might be crying that I urged him to pull his face back to see his eyes were glossed over with possible tears. "Tell me."
Eli pressed his forehead into mine. "I don't know if you'll forgive me."
"Eli," I let out a breathy chuckle. "You could do anything at this point, and I would forgive you. Just let me in. What's going on?"
Eli let out a long deep breath and made sure to keep eye contact with me. "I killed your dad last year, Lilly."