THE MEAL TONIGHT FEELSdifferent somehow. There’s an air of expectation among the men. It weighs heavy in the room.
I don’t like the way they’ve been tiptoeing around me as if I am some Victorian heroine in a gothic novel who has to be treated with kid gloves. I’m okay. Physically, at least. I’m lonely, though.
They asked me to come back to the island with them, and I was excited to be coming home with my men, but now it feels remote between us, as if we are strangers once more. It's almost like the first week here. Obviously, not the same, in the sense that there isn't the hostility from some of the men. However, there is that distance between us once more.
I want that distance gone. I've wondered in the last couple of days if I should seduce them. Maybe they think I'm too traumatized for anything to happen between us. If only they knew that I crave their touch to wash away everything that happened with Don in that sordid rental.
There’s a nagging fear at the back of my mind that the issue goes deeper than that. What if they don't want me anymore now that Don has touched me?
I reassured them, Brody in particular as he was feeling guilty, that Don did not do much to me. I didn't tell them about what happened in the shower because they don't need to know. I told them the basics, which is he issued a lot of threats and paraded me around naked in the living room, and spanked me, but I was truthful when I said he hadn't touched me...there. What if they don't believe me?
Or maybe they are the ones who are traumatized. Over the past few days, they filled me in about Pastor Wren and what he means to them. They let the man who tortured them as children—and committed the worst crimes against them an adult can do to a child—walk away in order to save me. Maybe doing so has left them feeling too down on themselves to want anything sexual. They do look tired, and worried. I can see that to a degree they are all in their own heads, thinking constantly.
A new thought suddenly grips me. What if they resent me now that we are back here? Perhaps the reality of their target getting away once more has really hit home, and they’re blaming me for it?
I hate the idea that they could resent me for something in such a way, and honestly, I would rather leave the island than stay here as a source of pain for them. Where would I go? I don't know. I'm safe now, though, because Don is gone. Even if I had to start all over again and get a job and work my way up in some organization, or perhaps save until I could go to college, it's not outside of the realm of possibility. I would no longer need to keep moving, always on the run.
“Do you want me to leave?” I blurt the question, almost surprising myself as much as it seems to them.
All four of them stop eating to look at me.
“What?” Asher says.
“I would understand if you did. I genuinely would not blame you. I've stopped you getting the man you've been after for a long time and messed all your plans up. Perhaps the sight of me just makes you all angry.”
“Do we look angry?” Brody asks.
I wince. “Truthfully? Yeah, you kind of do. You're all walking around here all scowly and up in your own heads.”
“It's funny you should say that,” Wilder remarks. “We were just discussing the same thing about you earlier.”
“I'm not scowly,” I argue.
“No, but you're all over the place.” Wilder shrugs. “This morning you were bouncing around happy and excited, and then by the afternoon you were depressed and you went for a nap, and now you're all nervous and overthinking things.”
I reach for the glass of white wine by my plate and take a fortifying sip before I continue speaking. “I don't think it's overthinking things if I can sense there's something not quite right between us. You haven't touched me since we got back.” There, I put it out there finally. I said what's on my mind.
“Earth to Honor,” Asher says. “You were traumatized. We were trying to be gentleman.”
I blow out a long sigh. “I don't want you to be gentlemen. I want you to be the men I fell for. I want you to be the men who chased me across this island, and terrified me on one level, but on the other exhilarated me more than anything else has in my life. I miss it. I miss us, and the way you all make me feel. You said you were bringing me home, and I thought that meant bringing me home for things to go back to the way they were. Not bringing me home to look at me all the time like I'm some delicate flower. If you guys don't want me anymore, I totally understand. I’ll leave and not make a fuss. If you do want me, though, what are you waiting for?”
Asher laughs softly. “Well, I suppose that answers our question,” he says to Rafferty.
“What question?” I demand.
“We've been feeling the same way,” Asher says. “We've been wanting you, but we weren't sure if you felt the same. We didn't want to push you until you were ready. In fact, we discussed today having a conversation with you and asking if you were maybe ready for us to, well, we were going to saymake love. We were going to try to be gentlemen. It seems you'd rather we weren't.”
I pop an olive into my mouth and suck the delicious, succulent flesh. Salt and oil burst on my taste buds, and I chew and swallow before taking the stone out between my thumb and forefinger and placing it gently on the small plate by my side. Then I take a sip of wine and relish the sweet taste of the Gewurztraminer as it glides smoothly down my throat. The contrast between the salty tang of the olive and the sweetness of the wine is delicious.
I look at the men across from me and slowly and seductively lick my lips. “There is a time and a place for being gentlemen. And I would like to experience what being made love to by you four beasts entails. However, I need things to be the way they were.” I try to put what I'm feeling into words. “Don didn't touch me, but he treated me like a piece of meat. He made me feel like I was dirty somehow. The way he paraded me in front of those men and talked about me was so degrading. I know some people from the outside might look at what we do and think it's the same, but it's entirely different. At least it feels that way for me. And that's all that matters, right? I want you to take me every way you can and wash every single bit of my time in that fucking rental house away.”
I sit back and swallow past the lump in my throat. It took bravery for me to say those words, and I don't know how the men will react.
“If that's truly what you want, then we are definitely onboard.” Wilder reaches across the table and takes my hand in his huge one, dwarfing it.
“You ought to go and get yourself a good night’s rest, in that case.” Rafferty takes a sip of his own drink, which is a glass of red wine. “Perhaps take a nice long soak in the bath, ease those muscles. Rest up, because tomorrow you’re going to be running.”
I smile at Rafferty and nod. I wonder if he knows that every night so far Asher has sneaked into my bed and cuddled me close. He hasn’t touched me in any other way, except to hold me tight. Would the others mind if they knew?