There were three marked and two unmarked police cars. A man she recognized as a detective from another problem they’d had at the casino strode toward them wearing a stony expression. Sierra wanted to bury her face against Hayden’s chest and block everything out, but knew it was impossible. So she stepped back, ready to get the questioning and paperwork over with, but Hayden snagged an arm around her waist and pulled her close. His fingers dug into her hips, urging her to stay near.
Okay, then. She wasn’t inclined to fight him, but she was surprised by his actions. Usually he was careful about not touching her too much. She sighed and sidled up next to him. The man was a complete rock, all hardness and muscles and raw strength. She could really feel it now too. Once all this insanity was ironed out she’d be going home alone so she wanted to take advantage of the support he was offering now.
* * *
“You finally going to make your move?” Jay asked quietly as he and Hayden stood near a concrete pillar out of the way of the police and the paramedics who were talking to Sierra.
Hayden crossed his arms over his chest, hating the helpless sensation he experienced as he watched Sierra shaking her head at something one of the paramedics said. Her arms were wrapped tightly around her middle and her shoulders were hunched, making her look even more fragile than normal. Her long midnight black hair was pulled up into a ponytail and after a long day of work she didn’t have much makeup left. Even pale, tired and practically shaking, she was the sexiest woman he’d ever known. It wasn’t just her looks—though there was no arguing she was beautiful, even if she didn’t seem to realize it—she had the biggest heart of anyone he’d ever met.
When he’d started work at the Serafina, he’d had a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas. He’d been surly, not liking the direction his life had taken him. His brother Jay had left the Navy because a team of his men had died. Then Jay had gotten a job working directly for Wyatt Christiansen.
Hayden had left the Navy because he’d had to. And he’d been fucking pissed about it, even after he’d gotten such a prime position. He hadn’t been grateful to find such a well-paying job close to his only family. No, he’d focused on the negative. Until he’d met Sierra. She’d told him to stop acting like a dick about something he’d said or done, and he hadn’t been able to tell her to fuck off. He was a Southern boy through and through and never would have said that to a woman anyway, but Sierra had made him feel like shit. And he’d deserved it.
Everything had changed from that first meeting with her. It had been subtle at first, but now he was so damn grateful to be able to do another job he enjoyed. Working in the same vicinity of the woman he…damn, he couldn’t even admit the words to himself. Rubbing the middle of this chest, Hayden realized Jay was staring at him.
“What?” he snapped.
“I asked you a question. You gonna make a move on her or what? There’s a pool going on how long it’s going to take you and if you wait another week, I’ll win.”
“Man, fuck you,” he muttered, not missing the good-natured smile Jay gave him.
Hayden wasn’t sure if his brother was joking about the pool or not, but there was one thing he knew for sure. He wasn’t waiting any longer. After what had just happened to Sierra, he was letting her know how he felt.
“I’m not coming in tomorrow and neither is she. Probably not the day after either,” Hayden said quietly, making sure no one overheard them. He knew it would take some convincing, but there was no way he was letting Sierra go home alone tonight. And forget about coming in to work tomorrow.
“You taking her back to your place?”
“Yeah…if she’ll go.”
“She will.” There was a certainty in his brother’s voice that Hayden didn’t feel. “I know you want to be hands on with this, but Iris and the rest of the team have this covered. They’ll find out what the hell is going on. In the meantime, Sierra doesn’t need to be here. If this was a targeted attack on her…” Jay trailed off, not bothering to fill in what Hayden already knew.
Keeping her far away from the Serafina and under his roof was the smartest thing they could do for her.
When the detective and paramedics let Sierra go, he watched as she scanned the garage. She stopped when she saw him, relief lighting up her pale face. His body tensed with all her focus on him. “We’ll leave her car here, but keep it under surveillance. I’ve got my phone. Call me for anything.”
Jay grunted, likely because he or Iris had already planned to do just that. Hayden hurried toward Sierra, his shoes silent against the concrete. She still had her arms wrapped around her middle when she stopped in front of him.
“They’re not making me go down to the station,” she said, even though Hayden already knew they wouldn’t. Normally it was protocol but Iris had called in a favor for Sierra. Something he greatly appreciated. “And I’m not going to the hospital. They can’t do anything for me.” The way she said it sounded as if she expected him to argue.
Hayden nodded because he understood. It was unlikely she had anything more than a mild concussion—and he didn’t think she even had that. The bruising and swelling would heal on their own. “I don’t blame you. Do you have everything you need to leave?”
Frowning, she nodded and patted her purse. “Uh, yeah.”
“Good, you’re coming home with me. We can stop by your place and grab a bag of clothes, but I’m not letting you out of my sight tonight. You car will be safe here. Iris is going to keep it under surveillance.”
Now Sierra’s eyebrows rose. “Going home with you?”
She visibly swallowed, her expression confused. “Hayden, I appreciate the offer, but I’m fine going home by myself. I have a security system, so don’t feel obligated or anything.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” He had to rein his temper in at her words. She’d just had a traumatic experience, but still. Obligated? He didn’t think he’d done a good job of hiding his anger because she paled, making him feel like utter scum. Hayden scrubbed a hand over his face and took a deep breath. “Shit, Sierra, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell. I just…damn it, you were attacked. I need you safe.”
To his surprise, she let out a low laugh.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like this. Or heard you curse like, well, a sailor. Pun intended.” The edginess that had been surrounding her seemed to fade a little. “So you’re sure you don’t feel obligated? Because I—”
He growled under his breath and palmed his keys. “Come on. We’re leaving.” Not caring what she thought, he took her hand in his. Those green eyes of hers widened, but she didn’t struggle. Just linked fingers with him and silently let him lead her to the elevators. He was parked on another floor and couldn’t get out of here soon enough. Part of him wanted to take over and lead the internal investigation, but being with Sierra right now was more important than anything.
It was beyond time he told her how he felt about her. If he lost her as a friend…no, he couldn’t even go there. He wouldn’t. He’d seen flashes of lust in her eyes before but the woman was so damn innocent. He was pretty sure she was a virgin even though she’d never come out and said it. He knew he wasn’t remotely good enough for her, especially not if she was actually that innocent, but he wasn’t waiting any longer. If she rejected him, he’d deal. If not…he was going to give her the most intense pleasure of her life. And make sure she enjoyed it so much she never wanted to walk away from him.
Hayden tensed as he heard Sierra’s light footsteps on the stairs. After stopping by her place and letting her grab enough clothes for a few days, they’d come back to his home. He lived in a two-story place next door to his brother in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. He loved where he worked but he enjoyed being close to the desert at night. Everything out there was quiet, settled…the exact opposite of how he was feeling at the moment.
Sierra had wanted to take a shower so he’d decided to cook for her while she was upstairs. He’d had to grab chicken from his brother’s house next door because he’d had nothing thawed out. He didn’t remember making the simple rice and chicken mash up, though—because he’d been fantasizing about what she looked like in the shower. Naked, with hot water rushing over her delicious body. A body he’d fantasized about far too often. He imagined her nipples were—
“Hey, you cooked?”
He turned to find her stepping tentatively into his kitchen wearing green and blue striped pajama pants and a fitted green tank top. Unable to stop himself, his gaze zeroed in on her breasts. She definitely wasn’t wearing a bra and he was at the end of his rope pretending he didn’t feel anything for her. He simply couldn’t do it anymore.
“Uh, Hayden?” Sierra’s nervous voice drew his gaze up to meet hers.
She’d asked a question… “Yeah, I thought you’d be hungry.” He turned back around and tried to will his body under control. Too bad it wasn’t working. His cock was insistently pushing against the zipper of his pants, and he just prayed Sierra hadn’t noticed.
“Thanks. Whatever it is smells amazing.” She leaned against the counter next to him looking a lot better than a couple hours ago. Except that fucking bruise on her temple that made him want to hunt down her attacker and inflict serious damage. At least her ivory cheeks had color in them again and she didn’t have that terrified look. She’d left her jet black hair down so that it fell in damp waves over her left shoulder, covering one breast. God, what he wouldn’t give to taste her nipples. To suck on them until they were tight little buds, shiny from his kisses and—
Sierra laid a reassuring hand on his forearm and he realized he’d just been staring. “I’m okay. I hate that worried look on your face.”