“It could be really late,” he warned. “It might not even be until tomorrow morning.”
“It doesn’t matter. Just text me in case I’m asleep,” I told him. “Just come when you can.”
“Will do. I’ll see you then.”
My breath caught as I clenched the phone. “Please be safe, Reece.”
There was a pause and then, “I will. See you soon.”
Turning from the window, I placed the phone on the table as I stared at the painting. Sure, I was disappointed that I might not get to see him, but what I was feeling had nothing to do with that. It paled in comparison actually.
Reece had told me not to worry and he honestly sounded like this wasn’t a big deal, but it was a hostage situation. How can that not be a big deal? I had no idea he was on the SWAT team. Not that being a police officer wasn’t dangerous all on its own, but throwing SWAT team in there? God, I hadn’t really thought about how dangerous it was for him.
My stomach in knots, I folded my arms across my waist. It was like being thrust back to when Reece was first in active combat and dealing with the constant gnawing dread that something terrible would happen.
This was why I could not really fall for him. Sex was okay. Dating was great. But really falling for him, letting myself get so deep with him? Hell no. I could lose him like I . . . like I was losing Charlie.
Like I’d already lost Charlie.
And that was a different kind of love, and look how painful that was turning out.
I returned to the painting, and whenever my thoughts started to wander, I refocused. It was close to seven when I took a quick shower just in case Reece wasn’t that late, and when nine o’clock rolled around, I made myself a tuna sandwich and ate while obsessively staring at the phone.
Against my better judgment, around eleven, I pulled up the local news on the Internet. A breaking news headline flashed under a picture of red and blue lights outside of a heavily wooded area.
My stomach tightened as I scrolled through the short write-up. There wasn’t a lot to be known about the standoff Reece was currently at except that it was a man holding his wife and—it was believed to be—two small children in the home against their will.
“Oh God,” I whispered, unable to imagine what that woman and her kids must be going through and how anyone could put their family through something like that.
Restless and unable to watch TV, I ended up changing into one of the oversized shirts I’d lovingly borrowed from my older brother. It reached just below my thighs, long enough to pass as a dress. It was covered in dried paint, perfect to work in. I pulled my hair up and back from my face and then got back to work on the painting.
Hours blurred together, a haze of mixing together shades as I tried to capture the right tone for the bronze statue and began the almost painful sketching of the horse and Andrew Jackson. Drawing it in faint pencil on the canvas was the only way I could do it, but once the paint was on, I didn’t think people would notice it had been sketched first. Sometimes I felt like a cheat for doing that, because there were artists who could paint anything freehand. Me? I was so not one of them.
I probably should’ve spent the time working on the web project, but I promised myself I’d do that Tuesday evening. I had several days left before the deadline on this one, and painting . . . well, it was what I needed right now.
Paint was dried on my aching fingers when my phone dinged, alerting me to a text message. I shot off that stool like it bit my behind and grabbed the phone. It was from Reece. Two words.
I responded quicker than a gunslinger in the Wild West, firing back a yes. After a moment, he shot back be over in a few.
My heart was racing as I glanced up to where the time showed on the phone. Holy crap, it was almost three in the morning. Hurrying out into the living room, I placed my phone on the coffee table and was about to haul ass back to the bedroom to change when I saw headlights through the front window.
I dashed over and yanked the curtain back. The headlights were right in front of my car. They’d stopped. A second later, they turned off. Deep inside, I knew it had to be Reece, and he must’ve texted me while he was on his way here.
Like a wild animal that had run out in front of a car, I couldn’t move as I watched a tall shadow take form and head across the sidewalk. When a soft knock on my door sounded, I might’ve squeaked. A little.
Spinning around, I dropped my glasses on the coffee table and then darted over to the door and stretched up. I couldn’t see crap out of the peephole, but knowing it had to be Reece, I opened the door.
Holy hot guy . . .
It was Reece and he was dressed like something out of my fantasies. A tight black shirt accentuated the broad shoulders, defined upper arms and chest. There was no mistaking how cut his tapered waist was. The shirt was tucked into black tactical pants and the black boots he wore completed the badass ensemble.
Okay. I was totally down for this part of the SWAT uniform.
I dragged my gaze up as I stepped back, letting him in. He stalked forward, a large duffel bag in his right hand. His knuckles were bleached white. So caught up in eyeball screwing him, I hadn’t realized he was checking me out in the same hungry, intense way I’d been doing to him. It was in that moment I realized I was only wearing the shirt.
I so did not even need to look down at myself to know I looked like a hot mess.
Reece closed the door behind him, locking it without peeling his eyes off me, which I thought, took some talent. I drew in a deep breath. “Is . . . is everything okay?”
There was something in the way he stared at me as he placed the duffel bag behind the recliner. It was raw, wholly unfiltered and a bit . . . unstable. As if he were a band stretched too tight.
He shook his head. “No.”
I didn’t know what to say as I stared up at him. A shiver danced over my shoulders.
His chest rose and fell with a deep breath. “The guy—the hostage situation. There was no talking him down.”
I held my breath.
“When he started shooting out the windows, we were ordered to go inside.” As he spoke, his blue eyes darkened to a stormy sky. “It was too late. He’d shot his wife and himself. Wasn’t a small caliber, either. The kids saw it. One of them was too young to understand, but the boy . . . yeah, he knew what happened. He’ll always know.”
Tears rushed my eyes as my mouth dropped open. “Oh my God, Reece, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say.” Not a part of me had thought that night would end like this for him. I’d known it was a serious situation. Obviously, I’d known it could end badly, but it was hard to fathom how he’d felt waking up this morning and making plans, then getting that call, having no idea he was about to see someone end another person’s life and then their own. The same with that poor woman and those kids.