No, you're not dreaming, this is an actual update. No more beating about the bush. It doesn't really move the story onwards, but I think you'll still like it.

The Chase

Chapter 10 - Of Crossbows and Baths

After settling in their respective rooms which – since they barely had any possession left – took very little time, Charlie had parted way with Adam and Monroe, going alone in the market to find herself some new equipment – and additionally some peace of mind. The Patriots had been kind enough to take away her weapons and her diamonds, so she had to borrow some of the latter from Adam, who was more than happy to provide.

Speaking of borrowing, maybe she should also find Monroe another shirt, since he had been forced to put on one of Adam's, much to his dismay. But going around half naked into the town was out of the question, it attracted too much attention. Plus, Charlie wasn't sure she could resist another hour of his bare torso staring at her face – and not the other way around!

Following her own advice, she had tried very hard not to ponder on her "mistake" of the previous night, because the more she thought about it, the more she kept hitting her head on tables, walls or doors, depending on her location. Of course, "trying" meant "not succeeding".

To think that she had quite literally attacked him... It would have been alright had it been in the physical sense, and not the sexual one. But alas, her body had succumbed to the living temptation that was Sebastian Monroe, while her mind – that she usually considered very smart and sensible – had simply turned itself off and enjoyed the ride.

Her mother would kill her if she ever found out. Miles would probably kill Bass. Her brother was most surely turning over in his grave. Point was, if anyone found out, mayhem would follow, that was for sure. The best thing to do was to bury it very deep and never speak of it again. So that's what she kept saying to herself…

Buying some new clothes was a welcome distraction. After some digging around, Charlie had found two tops, some – very much needed – new undergarments, a kaki backpack with some precious first necessities, and a black V-neck shirt for Monroe. But most importantly she had bought an awesome crossbow. It was completely black with little red flames painted on the side, and it fit perfectly in her hands. She had always been kind of obsessional with her weapons, especially bows. This one had cost her all of Adam's remaining diamonds but it was worth it.

Feeling invigorated, she went back to the Lions' Den with what could be mistaken as a smile, if you didn't know her well enough to know that she never smiled.

Charlie ignored the looks she got when she went up the stairs. She was intent on taking a bath, a real one for a change. To her relief, neither Monroe nor Adam was here. They were probably somewhere inside the city, gathering information.

Her room was actually quite pleasant. It had a double poster-bed with red sheets, a beige carpet and paintings on the walls. It was perhaps the nicest place she had ever stayed in. Luckily for them, Adam was paying for their expenses.

The bathroom was equally agreeable, with a large hip bath in white ceramic and scented candles placed on the sink. Before going out, she had asked the owner to prepare a hot bath for when she returned. So it was at the perfect temperature when she sipped in.

She washed herself thoughtfully, getting rid of several days of travel dust, dried blood and overall stink. It had been forever since she had actually smelled like soap. She wasn't superficial, but it still felt nice.

The bath was actually so delightful that she fell asleep…

...only to be awakened by some presence in the room. She opened her eyes abruptly, ready to yell and defend herself. Except that the presence was in fact Sebastian Monroe, leaning on a wall with his arms crossed.

"You know, I could've killed you at least a hundred times," he said seriously.

Charlie hesitated between being extremely mad or remaining calm, after all she was pretty sure he was aiming to annoy her. He was starting to develop a bad habit of appearing while she was bathing. And this time, it was clearly intentional. "Good thing we're on the same side, then," she replied, opting for the detached answer.

"I thought we were just, and I quote, "traveling together"," he smirked.

"That hasn't changed. But it doesn't mean we're enemies either, at least I can safely say that we're past that now."

There was a moment of silence. Charlie was pretty sure they were thinking about the same thing, so she promptly changed the subject.

"I assume you have a valid reason for ogling me in my bath? Other than ogling me, I mean."

"As a matter of fact, I do. And I was not ogling you."

"Of course, that's very presumptuous of me to say you did," she said sarcastically, "Shoot then, it's not like the water is cold and my skin is dangerously starting to look like a wrinkled old lady's."

"I'll be quick, don't worry. I'm here to talk about Adam."

Color her surprised… Or not.

"What about him?" she asked with caution.

"I don't trust him," Monroe said, resolute. As if his sentence was enough to encapsulate all his hostility towards the man.

"I think even a blind man could see that. Your point is?"

Monroe gritted his teeth, obviously not happy with her answer. "He's a bounty hunter," he elaborated, "And bounty hunters are renowned double-crossers. All they care about is money. Don't you find it strange that Adam is so eager to share his diamonds? It strikes me as a really good investment on his part. We're going to the Patriots' camp, the same people who wanted me alive or dead, remember? Won't it be easy for him to play along, only to betray us at the end and collect the bounty for my head?"

"I won't argue with you," Charlie sighed, "And I'm not saying that I blindly trust him. But truth is, I don't trust my own mind these days. I say we play with the cards we're dealt. If I can use him, fine. If he betrays us, fine. I'll be prepared either way."

"I'd rather we handle this with only the two of us. He's too much of a liability," he insisted.

And seeing him, the grim set of his lips, Charlie finally understood. It wasn't about Adam betraying them so much as Adam and her that bothered him. He was jealous.

She didn't know how that made her feel. Part of her was flattered that the great, infamous Sebastian Monroe felt threatened by Adam on her behalf. The other, rational part felt something shift inside her. This had begun with her chasing him, trying her very best to end his miserable life, and now, in some way, it was the other way around. He had ended up being the one chasing her. Unknowingly, or at least unintentionally, she had set things in motion. She had only thought of her own feelings then, without any regards for Monroe's. But it seemed her actions hadn't left him completely indifferent. And his way of showing it was through his possessiveness, whether he realized it or not.

However, she needed time to think on this. She couldn't ignore their history and simply follow this yearning that stired every time he was nearby. Even now, the fact that she was naked only a few meters from him disturbed her a lot more than she let on. She could already imagine him coming towards her and… Bad line of thought.

Before he could read her mind, as he tended to do very well, she said evenly, "This is not a competition to see who's needed and who's not. We may have started this together, this war against the Patriots. But just you and me against the world ain't gonna cut it, Monroe. We need more armed muscle. I agree with you that Adam is probably going to screw us over the minute he has a better opportunity. But from what I've seen, he seems to be a decent man. I'm not some naïve girl who thinks everyone's nice and trustful, at least not anymore. But look at us, only a few days ago, I was trying to kill you. And now you're staring at me while I'm naked in my bath. We've come a long way, haven't we?"

"Don't remind me…" Monroe said, his face contracting a little.

Had she said that to test his reaction? Probably. Her mind was doing somersaults. One moment, she wanted nothing to do with him. The other, she wanted very badly to finish what they had started in that cabin. It was getting awfully frustrating.

Charlie knew that her next sentence would determine his course of action. But, as always, she ignored her body's reaction and chose safety instead, "Now please get out of this room before I kick you out."

Awfully frustrating, is it not ;) ?

See you soon (I hope).