“No,” I said with the last of my breath, the muscles in my neck spasming as I fought to keep my face from the carpet. My hands darting left and right from the warmth of his fingers trying to get a grip. “No,” I repeated with little success, my fingers going limp as he took a firm grip, pushing my wrists into the small of my back.
“Hold still,” he said in the struggle, but his words made me wriggle harder against his weight until I felt his pressure release, like I’d won the battle. For a moment it felt like my wrists were coming away from each other. My hand was free, I thought for a second time and I tried pulling my arm up to my side and it came away. I couldn’t believe it, despite the ache in my shoulder as I moved. As the reality settled, I pushed my hand to the floor and rolled, searching in the darkness and there he was looking down with a heavy brow, his face illuminated by the candle flicking on the floor, his hand offered out.
“Ryan,” he said pushing his hand towards me.
I lay on my back swapping my view between my wrists, the cuffs still hanging on the right. I didn’t know what to say, didn’t know what to do. I’d been so wrong about this guy, about Ryan. My right hand touched his and he gripped as I pulled, taking my other hand with his left until I was on my feet, but he kept hold of my right before pushing a small key into the cuff’s lock.
“You have a handcuff key?” I said, rubbing each wrist as the metal released, working my shoulders around in circles, the relief flowing over my head like cooling water after being in the sun for too long.
“Five pound ninety nine on eBay,” he said pocketing the key.
“Why would you need that?” I said and paused, my head too busy to think about his words for long. “Jess,” I said when he replied with a flash of his eyebrows and pushed my right hand out again and we shook, his grip more gentle, more considered than I’d expected.
“Sorry about the,” he said nodding to the littered floor. “Are you okay?”
I thought for a moment. I felt fine, my head ached a little, the fall not helping, but I was overwhelmed enough with surprise to keep other thoughts I didn’t want to dwell on pushed to the corners of my mind. I raised my hand to my forehead and touched as the tender bulge, relieved it wouldn’t stop me fitting through doorways.
“I’m fine, thank you,” I said as he bent down, piling the household electronics back it to neat stacks against the walls.
“Shall we?” he said as he finished, offering a hand towards the end of the corridor and picking up the lit candle, before lighting another and handing it over.
I took the candle and followed him in to a living room dominated by a wide TV hanging on the wall. Even in the low candlelight I saw there were no decorations of the season, just a single Christmas card on the mantlepiece reminded me we were supposed to be jolly. Apart from the TV, a man of Ryan’s age didn’t look like he’d belonged to the decor, to the chintzy decoration.
“Take a seat, please,” Ryan said as he took my candle, fixing it with dripping wax into a mug resting on the nest of tables at the side. I did, choosing a single overstuffed armchair in the corner where I could watch the door. He went to sit on the three seater couch, but first had to pull the pistol from his trousers before resting on the edge, laying the pistol to the side.
“My gun,” I said, tipping my head beside him. He looked down at the pistol as if he’d already forgotten and nodded back.
“You’re not going to shoot me are you?”
I paused for longer than I should, but instead of speaking I let a smile bloom on my lips as I ran my hands over my hot wrists, head shaking. He watched my reply before picking up the gun by the barrel and leaning over. The warm grip felt solid and reliable in my hands, its power buoying inside me. I had been wrong about this guy and looked up to see him watching my every move, his expression intense and unsure. I lay the pistol on my lap, smoothing down the wrinkles in the skirt either side and smiled back. Noticing my feet, I tied the trainer’s laces. Being prepare for whatever could come next was a habit I knew I should get into.
“So you’re a burglar?” I said, in such a matter-of-fact fashion it took him by surprise and he stuttered the first word so much, he gave up and instead nodded, his eyes falling back to the gun on my lap. I stared, he had a face my parents would like to see me bring home. Less lipstick. Shorter hair. I pushed the thoughts away, now wasn’t the time to open the box of demons I knew would take years to sort out, if I ever could. Right now I had more immediate concerns. “Are you any good?” I said. My second question came as an equal surprise to the first, but after a moment he let his open hand to point to the hallway and his hoard of bounty. “Good,” I replied, nodding. “I need your services,” I said standing. “And bring the handcuffs. You might need them.”
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.