His head snapped up, almost as if she'd hit him. And then it came down, his chin close to his neck, his brows drawing down over those piercing blue eyes.
“You have three seconds to tell me why you just said that, or you'll get your mouth washed out right here where there ain't any water. I'll march you to the next river with a bar of soap in your mouth, girl.”
He wasn't playing. He seemed bigger and angrier and meaner than before, and Chloe kind of liked it. It gave her something to fight against. Something to be angry at.
He took a deep breath and shook his head at her. “I can't work out what's going on with you. One minute you're sweet as pie, the next you're mad as a rattlesnake.” As he spoke, he set down his pack and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was going to make good on his promise to put soap in her mouth. He reached for his toiletry bag and pulled it out, looking her dead in the eye. “Last chance, Chloe. You're already going to do the next three miles on a crutch. You want to do it foaming at the mouth too?”
“I don't care.” Fuck. The words were reckless, and a total lie. She did care. She just couldn't bring herself to admit what it was she cared about.
No zip had ever sounded as loud as the one on that damn toiletry bag. Paul reached for the little bar of soap, took it out and dropped the bag back into his pack. She glared at him as he advanced upon her, holding it in his left hand. Ordinarily, she might have tried to run away, but her leg wasn't going to allow for that. So she stood her ground, as if a glare might stop him in his tracks.
He grabbed her hand and held the soap up to her lips. “Open.”
Chloe clamped her mouth shut hard and rolled her eyes at him. As if she'd help him put soap in her mouth. Did he think she was an idiot?
“Open up, brat.”
“Nu uh.” She could make that noise without any need to open her mouth.
“You are in for such a thrashing once I get to assess that ankle properly,” he promised her. “I am going to take my belt to that butt of yours...”
The threats weren't going to work on her. Chloe parted her lips to tell him that and he thrust the soap in over her teeth and tongue. It was only for a second before she spat it out, but it was long enough for the bitter taste to stick to her tongue and inner cheeks and get stuck on the ridges of her teeth.
“Asshole!” She swore at him through the bitter taste . “You... dick!”
“What the hell has gotten into you?”
She could hear the frustration in his voice, and a part of her, a small part that was able to observe everything with a dispassionate distance, saw how silly she looked with a soapy mouth and a sore ankle, yelling at a man who was more confused than he was angry. He really didn't know what was wrong.
“You're fucking leaving!” She threw the words at him. “After this movie! You said there was something between us, but that was bullshit, because you're leaving!”
He stared at her. “THAT'S why you're angry!?”
“Yeah that's why I'm angry,” she growled. “Give me some goddamn water.”
“Ask nicely and maybe I'll give you some.”
“Ugh!” Chloe rolled her eyes, but that didn't do anything. “Fine,” she said through gritted, soapy teeth. “Can I have some water, please?”
Paul handed her a water bottle and stood over her as she tried her best to wash her mouth out. Unfortunately, the water only made things worse. The little scraps of soap stuck in her teeth got wet and dissolved into the water, filling her mouth with a soapy soft foam.
“Did it ever occur to you that you could come with me?”
She stared at him, a few bubbles of soap rolling down her chin.
“I'll take that as a no,” he said sternly.
“I can't go with you,” she said, confused. “I can't go to Africa...”
“Why not? You don't like your life as it is now,” he pointed out. “You're on the verge of throwing it all away. Why not get some basic medical training and come with me. Make yourself useful. Having someone famous out there would help the cause a lot. It's not like you can't come back to do movies.”
It was sort of a nice idea, but... she shook her head. “Chase says I have to work as consistently as I can for the next five years. He says I won't be worth anything after that.”
“Chase is a leech,” Paul said bluntly. “He's a man who makes his living off other people's talent.”
“He took care of me when nobody else did.”
“He took care of himself,” Paul said. “The same way a pimp does.”
“Are you calling me a hooker?” Chloe asked the question with cold fury in her voice. “Is that what you think of me? I'm some stupid whore being used?”
“That's not what I said.”
“It's what you implied,” she said. “If Chase is a pimp, what does that make me?”
“I didn't say he was a pimp, I said his methods are the same. You're about to go back over my knee if you're not careful.”
Chloe spurted another stream of water between her lips and rinsed her mouth out yet again, spitting the water in Paul's general direction. Some of it landed on his dusty boots.
“Oops,” she grinned unrepentantly. “Sorry.”
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