26| Doubts and Diversions

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I could see his reflection in the windscreen as I settled in the leather seat, his heated gaze trailing my body as I watched him in the glass, his eyes glimmering like graphite in the shadows of his car and sparking an electricity that made my stomach clench with apprehension. The air stilled around us, the tension of our desires coiling and crumbling as we continued to deny the consequence of them, but I had let him toy with me far too much in the past few days—and for once, it was him that was promising to be on his best behaviour.

Freddie blew out a breath before we could collapse beneath the strength of our thoughts, shuffling in his seat as his hands reached for something on the side of his door. The click of the locks resonated between us as the seriousness of this situation began to seep into my bloodstream, the fear of being with him continuing to tighten in my chest.

Maybe it wasn't the best of ideas to get in an enclosed space with him again, and maybe I was stupid for wanting to trust him—but what did it matter anymore?

If he intended on hurting me, it wasn't like I'd be able to stop him, and it wasn't like it mattered when he'd choose to commit to the act if the outcome was going to be the same. Whether it was now, tomorrow, or next week—at least it was a way to rid me of this constant misery.

I swallowed down the pulse of my distress, pushing away my will to comfort myself with my pessimistic thoughts as my hands gripped the edge of my seat.

Freddie would always be the one with the most power between us even if I figured out a way to gain the upper hand over him, because like always—he was one step ahead of me.

I flinched when his hand reached out between us, his soft, taunting chuckle filling the space as he played with the heating controls, turning one of the dials all the way to the red. Surprisingly, he had noticed how cold I was which must have been a positive sign for my survival—or maybe it was just an act of basic human decency. Unfortunately for me, I didn't know how to tell the difference between the two considering I had agreed to take a ride home with a literal fucking murderer.

"You should probably put your seatbelt on, princess." My heart fluttered despite it all, its rhythm spiking with his misused tenderness.

Something had to be different with him. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew that his sudden softness towards me wasn't making any sense. Ever since I'd met him he'd been harsh and hot-tempered, his reputation aligning with most of his actions. He was a King of Cullfield, a gangster who knew no bounds and no mercy—and yet, right now he was dealing with me in a soft language that was taking me completely off guard.

It was unwarranted, unconditional and it filled me with suspicion.

"So now you suddenly care about my safety?" I finally turned to face him, meeting his amused gaze with an irritated look.

My temper didn't seem to faze him in the slightest, instead he seemed to take refuge under it—like my anger towards him was the only emotion he truly knew how to deal with.

He scoffed at the meaning of my words, making me bristle under the sound of his arrogance.

"Safety is always important." His voice lowered an octave. "How else do you think I've survived for this long? Whether it's with a seatbelt, a gun, or a condom—the same rule applies every single time." My heart jumped in response to his advice, my cheeks flaring in the darkness under his bluntness—but he hadn't finished tormenting me just yet.

I tensed as he leaned over the centre console towards me, impatient as ever as his arms twisted around the front of my body. I sucked in a breath as his chest brushed against mine, barely leaving any space between us as he tugged at the seatbelt until it loosened.

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