Fiction: The Art of Mutual Destruction Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Nineteen

Adam stared after Iman’s retreating back and felt a slight twinge of guilt. He knew that he’d made her uncomfortable, and probably scared her too – it had been written plain on her face. But he couldn’t bring himself to feel too bad. What had she expected, honestly?

He dreaded to think of how she’d react when she found out he only had one bedroom. Well, Iman was just going to have to deal with it. Adam had no plans to give up his bed and ruin his back. If she was that uncomfortable, she could sleep on the couch.

Adam ignored the voice in his head that shrieked in dismay at letting a woman sleep on a couch while he took a bed. It wasn’t his fault, he reasoned grumpily. He hadn’t made her live with him.

The next thing he was aware of was a strange feeling of weightlessness before he toppled head first to the floor. There was a loud crack that just barely drowned out the sound of his yell.

Adam lay there for a minute, cheek to the floor, and cursed his life. Then he took a deep breath, pushed himself to his feet and stalked toward the bedroom, ready to do battle with the tiny woman currently occupying it.

She was asleep. And she’d forgotten to close the curtains. The light pollution from the city was bright enough that he could make out her features clearly from where he stood in the doorway.

She was even tinier asleep, with her knees tucked up against herself. She fit neatly in the far corner of the bed, leaving the majority of it empty. There was space for even his big frame, with enough left over that they’d still have a decent gap between them.

Adam wrestled with himself, giving in when his head gave a particularly nasty throb. If she had a problem, he’d deal with it in the morning, he decided as he settled himself, carefully making sure he didn’t touch her.

Iman woke slowly. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept that well. She propped herself up with one arm and swept the hair from her eyes with the other. Her eyes landed on the mattress in front of her, and, more importantly, the man sprawled across it.

Her reaction was immediate and instinctive. She shrieked and scrambled away from him, stopping only when her back hit the wall.

Adam’s head jerked up and he glared blearily at her.

What are you doing?” she demanded, her voice embarrassingly shrill.

Adam lazily scrubbed a hand across his face. “I was sleeping.”

Why in here?” Iman asked shakily. She folded her arms around herself and her right hand came into contact with the holster she’d refastened around her arm earlier. She glanced down at it, startled.

Adam snorted. “I told you, that won’t kill anyone.”

I wasn’t-” Iman tried to defend herself. But he wasn’t listening. She watched as he got to his feet and made his way to a chest of drawers on the far side of the room.

He tossed something on the bed. “If you want to stab someone,” he said in a teacherly voice, “you need something a bit bigger. See?”

Iman glanced at the knife on the bed. “Yeah,” she squeaked, scooting even further against the wall. “I see.”

Keep it,” Adam offered.

No, thank you.” She was liable to hurt herself rather than anyone else with something like that.

Adam rolled his eyes, looking impatient. He grabbed the knife, then took her arm. “Keep it,” he repeated, sliding the holster up her arm and tightening the strap.

Iman shook her head stubbornly. “No.” She unfastened the big knife and held it out awkwardly. She did not want to keep that thing.

There’s only one bedroom.”

What?” Iman furrowed her brow in confusion. What was he talking about?

There’s only one bedroom,” Adam repeated. “That’s what I was doing in here. I’m not sleeping on the couch, it was uncomfortable enough for the few hours I did it last night. You can sleep there or you can keep the knife and sleep in here.”

I’m not going to do anything to you either way,” he added. “Keep the knife or don’t. Sleep in the bed or don’t. It makes no difference. I just don’t want you waking me up with the screaming.”

That was… fair, Iman had to admit. Still… The fear she’d been grappling with since the previous day raised its head.

Will it even make a difference?”

What?”

The knife,” Iman elaborated. “If you wanted to hurt me…” She looked him straight in the eyes. “Would it make a difference?”

Yes,” he said calmly. “It would.”

Enough to stop you?” Iman pressed.

No,” Adam admitted. “Probably not. But,” he added, “it would probably hurt a lot.”

Iman couldn’t decide whether to be scared or amused.

Adam yawned then and she eyed him guiltily. “Sorry.”

Don’t do it again.” He stretched. “Are you going back to sleep?”

Not with him in there!

No,” Iman scrambled off the bed. “I’ll just… go somewhere else.”

She snatched up her shoes and hurried out. It was only later that she realized she’d kept a hold on the knife.

Iman regretted her decision as soon as she lay down. Adam’s couch was the most uncomfortable thing she’d ever felt. She was almost sure that the floor wouldn’t be as uncomfortable.

After an indeterminable amount of time shifting around trying to find an if not comfortable then less uncomfortable position, she finally gave up. It was dawn, she may as well accept that she was done sleeping for the night.

But what was she going to do for the next few hours? All she had with her were her shoes and a heavy, scary knife.

She studied the doorway. Was it rude to go exploring? It wasn’t her apartment… But she was going to be living there for the foreseeable future.

It wasn’t really an invasion of privacy if she didn’t start opening cupboards, right?

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