With each step down she paused to listen. It was only
once she'd made it far enough to be able to close the hatch
above her that she heard Nate's even and deep breathing.
Her shoulders sagged. He was asleep. The hatch closed as
silently as it had opened.
Since it had been dim above deck as well, her eyes
didn't need time to accustom to the darkness. Recalling
where she'd seen everything earlier, Claire crept toward
the berth. She'd hoped she'd step on some clothing as it
would mean she could simply search through his clothes for
the map, but her feet hit nothing but smooth wood.
She only dared breathe in short, shallow breaths. Soon
she was at the bedside, her heartbeat thumping loudly in
her ears. It seemed as though he'd fallen asleep without
meaning to, spread out over the blankets. He hadn't even
taken off his jacket.
Claire wiped her quaking hands onto her pants, reminded
herself to remain steady. She could do this. She had to
He was sleeping on his back and his large hands were at
his sides. His head was turned slightly away from her.
The part of her that remembered what they'd meant to each
other, or rather what she'd believed they'd meant to each
other, wanted to linger. It wanted to trace the arch of
his brows and feel the roughness of his beard. It wanted
to once again be taken in his arms and to be cherished.
For God's sake, stop it, she scolded herself. The map,
remember the map. Remember the lies, the hurt.
To that end, she deliberately kept her gaze off his
face. Reaching forward, she slid her hand into the pocket
of his jacket. Her fingers brushed against the paper and
Claire's heart leapt to her throat. She had it!
She slowly pulled her hand away. When Nate didn't move,
Claire exhaled a trembling breath.
She looked at him once more, had a moment when she
wished things could have been different. But knowing they
weren't, could never be, she backed away from the berth,
tucked the folded map into her undershirt and turned for
She got as far as the base of it before she was grabbed
The scream ripped from her throat.
"Goddammit, Claire," he swore as she thrashed to break
Her arms flailed wildly, desperate to connect with some
part of him that would make him release her. Her elbow
struck his chest. Her foot came down hard on his.
Growling, he spun her around. Her right knee came racing
"No, you don't," he said as he deftly wrapped a large
hand around the back of her knee and held it there, a mere
breath away from where she'd intended to strike him. His
other hand grabbed her left wrist and held it shackled down
at her hip.
Luckily Claire was right-handed. Smiling sweetly, she
aimed for his jaw.