Humanity – chapter three
‘Hey!’ she yelled. But she stayed put by the door. The even breathing caught and held, then released and began again. He was still asleep! The Bastard! George the cat looked at her with thinly veiled disgust. She yelled again and this time he heard her, and sat bolt upright, covers falling to his waist. His chest was bare. And muscular and a little hairy. His side was dressed with her gauze and sticking plaster. His grey eyes were wary and slightly glassy. Not in at the office yet. Still trying to remember the name of this strange new planet.
He stared at her, and she watched his face as his brain chugged through the laborious start-up procedure, checking all files. Eventually his eyes took on a greater awareness. Oh yes. It’s Monday. And this is Earth.
Focusing on her now, he licked his lips, and she realised he was nervous. Did that make him more or less of a threat?
‘Hi,’ he croaked. She guessed his throat was parched, his lips were pale and cracking.
‘Hi yourself,’ she snapped, and decided to wait it out, hoping her silence would convey power. She had the advantage and she meant to keep it that way.
The man licked his parched lips again and tried to pull the covers around him more modestly. Now Bea noticed the towel lying beneath him in the bed, and was momentarily touched by the fact that he’d tried to avoid getting blood on her sheets. Silence. The cat yawned and turned over. Then, more silence. Clearly this guy wasn’t planning on giving her any explanation.
‘Well?’ she demanded, and drew his attention back to the bread knife in her right hand. She heard his whispered curse.
‘Holy Shit.’ He looked really nervous now. He slid to the edge of the bed, his bare feet groping for the carpet, whilst he still kept the duvet tightly round him. The bastard was not just in her bed, but Naked in her bed! Sexy and irrelevant hormones rushed around inside her. It’s a man, it’s a man, it’s a—wow—big, gorgeous, blond, gorgeous, sexy, muscular, gorgeous, hairy-chested man!
Bea gritted her teeth and tightened her grip on her weapons. Furious with herself, she hoped he hadn’t noticed her lustful looks at him. She wasn’t about to give away her power to some intruder just because she was a bit lacking in vitamin sex.
He tried to speak. Coughed to clear his throat and began again, his voice low and calm, trying to reason with her. As if she were the one in the wrong. Just another bloody woman being ‘difficult’.
‘Look, I’m really sorry about this. I know I shouldn’t be here. I’ve no right to be here. I don’t want you to feel afraid of me. I’ve no intention of harming you in any way.’
Tell me something I don’t know, Buster, Bea thought. I’m the one with the big knife, and who’s got my knickers on.
‘I—er—I’ve been in an accident. I needed to find shelter—I was hurt. I saw you go out, and thought maybe I’d sneak in and patch myself up a bit, then I decided to grab some rest. I—er—well, it didn’t occur to me you’d be back right away.’
Her bedside clock said eight-forty. He’d slept for less than an hour. His brain was too fuddled to work properly. What should he tell her? Would she let him go, or call the police, or kill him, filleting him with that knife? Neal was almost too tired to care but his last vestiges of self-preservation insisted he do everything he could to get out of there immediately, and in one piece. She said nothing. Gutsy woman, he thought, and tried not to look at her breasts. After all, she was holding a very big knife. He held his hands out, palms down in the ‘stay calm’ gesture. His hands shook. ‘I just want you to let me get up and walk out of here. I can be gone in a minute, no harm done. Just step back and let me get my clothes on. Please?’ he added, going for a puppy-dog beseeching look.
She was angry. Very. He could see that much. And she was uncertain what to do for the best. He took a chance that she didn’t want to hurt him, was just prepared to defend herself in case he should threaten her in any way.
‘Please,’ he said again, and his eyes held hers. After a moment she took a step backwards into the doorway, and with the smallest nod she allowed him to move.
‘Slowly!’ she warned him, and he nodded his agreement and gratitude. He got to his feet okay. Staying on his feet was another matter entirely. He didn’t so much sway as lurch to the side, and sat down heavily on the bed, his face paling, sucking in air sharply. He doubled over, his hand on his side.
She kept her position in the doorway, uncertain whether or not he was putting on an act.
‘Give me—a—minute,’ he breathed, barely loud enough for her to hear. And she knew he was genuinely in trouble. But she kept her place.
‘Take your time,’ she said, trying to sound calm and in control.
He took a few deep slow breaths, then opened his eyes again, moving in triple-slow time into a standing position. He gestured to his side. ‘I used your first aid kit. Sorry.’
She said nothing, choking back the urge to wave a friendly hand and say, oh that’s okay, whatever you need, just help yourself, and feel free to lay back down again, dinner’s at six. He looked terrible. Like he was about to pass out. Should she intervene? Offer assistance?
He looked at her now, a cool anger in his eyes. Unable to stop himself he snapped, ‘Compassionate, aren’t you?’
‘Just get out of my house,’ she told him and bit her lip at her tone, hating to feel so mean, but gripping the knife and the rolling-pin even more tightly so he wouldn’t see her trembling.
Somehow he steadied himself enough to reach down for his clothes on the floor. He stood there in front of her, trembling and weak, very tall and very broad, wearing only a pair of black stretch cotton boxers. Very close-fitting, very revealing, very enticing black boxers. He stumbled into his jeans and pushed his arms into his shirt sleeves.
She almost gasped at the sight of the huge sodden patch on the left front of the shirt. It was so large it made the shirt look like it was meant to be two-tone, white and reddish-brown.
The white cotton did nothing to improve his extreme pallor. As he sank down onto the bed to push his feet into his shoes, stuffing his socks into his pockets with trembling hands, Bea almost ran to help him back into bed. But, she rationalised, a lone woman faced with an impressively-built male intruder, even one this rocky, had to remain detached, had to stay calm and keep control of the situation.
By sheer determination he forced himself to his feet again and with an accusing look at her, came slowly towards the door. Fighting down a sudden fear at the size of him, she stepped back, out onto the landing.
‘You first,’ she said, keeping her voice steady and she indicated the stairs. He shuffled past her and began to descend, gripping the rail with white-knuckled fingers.
Belatedly, just as she realised this would prove too much for him, his legs crumpled beneath him and he fell, hitting his head on the wall as he went down. With a cry of dismay she dropped her weapons on the top stair and hurtled down after him, snatching in vain at him as he seemed to fall in slow motion before hitting the floor in the hall below with a sickening crunch. He lay there at the bottom of the stairs, a senseless heap on the carpet.
‘OhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGod!’ she cried as she lunged down to him, flinging herself to the ground, checking for a pulse. She found it. Not much of one, but it was there, nevertheless. And he was just about breathing. Running her hands over him carefully she decided that nothing seemed to be broken, there was just that wound in his side and the small bloody and bruised patch at his throat that she hadn’t noticed before. Somewhat reassured she shuffled him gently into the recovery position, placing a cushion from the sofa under his head and throwing a coat over him.
She dialed 999, not daring to take her eyes off his grey face, and was relieved that the operator accepted what she told her without requiring too much of an explanation. But when the ambulance arrived twenty-two minutes later, he still hadn’t moved.