“And what was last night?”
She sighed with irritation, her eyes showing her frustration. “What kind of freedoms can I earn?”
She could have whatever she wanted if she played her cards right. “A special team will escort you wherever you want to go at any time. You’ll have my cash so you can buy anything you want. If you want to visit your family, you can. If you want to go out with friends, you can. But you will always sleep here with me. It’s the safest place for you.”
She probably wanted her own apartment for independence, but she didn’t argue with me when I offered most of the things she wanted. “And when will that start?”
“When you’ve earned it.”
“I need a time frame. My brothers haven’t heard from me in a long time, and they’ll get worried.”
“I gave you a phone.”
“I can’t remember their numbers. Who memorizes phone numbers anymore?”
“Then they’ll have to worry about you a little longer.”
She turned angry, like she wanted to throw the bowl at my head again. “This is a two-way street. You want me to work for the things I want, but you need to give me the things I need. My family is everything to me, and I can’t make them suffer like this. You will take me to them so I can explain what’s going on.”
No one else would attempt to make demands when it came to me. They would just accept what was offered out of fear of being stabbed in the throat. But this petite woman fought for the things she wanted and held her own in an argument. It was impressive. “I’ll consider your request.”
“I said I would consider it.” My plate was empty, so I rose to my feet and carried it into the kitchen. I took her bowl too since it was obvious she was done with it. I enjoyed watching her make her demands, but I had to keep the authority in the situation. She had to understand she couldn’t get what she wanted simply by issuing commandments. I responded to action, not words.
Instead of arguing with my captor, I needed to accept my situation. Balto wasn’t as cruel as Lucian and respected me to a certain degree, but he wasn’t a pushover. He had all the control in the situation, and he refused to accommodate me. Unless his demands were met, he would hold out forever.
I had to be whatever he wanted me to be, to be so valuable that he would never want to give me up. He wanted me to be his lover, the woman who satisfied all of his needs. Once I upheld my end of the bargain, I’d finally reclaim some freedom.
It was bullshit, but that didn’t matter.
Life wasn’t fair—and it certainly wasn’t fair to me.
My tantrum lasted the entire day and past dinner. I stayed in my room and tried to subdue my stubborn attitude. I examined this situation from every single angle, and there was no escape. There was no possibility of me ever walking free. Even if I could, Lucian would hunt me down, and I’d be back to square one.
Balto was right about one thing—he was the only one who could protect me.
Making the best of this situation was the only option I had.
I went into the dining room and found him at the table. He’d just finished a plate of grilled chicken with a side of broccoli. He skipped the carbs for every single meal, and it was so extreme that it was nauseating.
I couldn’t eat like that if I tried. My family owned a pasta company, so forsaking carbs simply wasn’t possible. My mother had made pasta at least three nights a week. It was how I grew up.
Balto relaxed in his chair as he looked at me. “I have extra if you want any.”
He rose from his chair, set his dishes in the sink, and then headed to his bedroom. He wasn’t bothered by my coldness. He seemed completely indifferent to it.
“Are you leaving tonight?” I dreaded the nights when I was left alone. I didn’t have a choice but to sleep on the couch and wait for him to return. There was a powerful man hunting me. Lucian wouldn’t give up so easily. He might be afraid of Balto, but he was extremely intelligent. He wouldn’t let me go without a fight.
He stopped and turned around, wearing nothing but his black sweatpants. The muscles of his back were always so tight, so thick with strength. Even the slightest movement caused a rippling effect. “No.”
I couldn’t hide my relief. When I’d slept in his bed last night, it had been the greatest evening of sleep I’d ever gotten. There were no depressing dreams or nightmares. I didn’t have a care in the world because this behemoth of a man was beside me.