Out of the corner of his eye Hayden could see Sierra trembling as she stood there, tightly gripping the fallen gun in her hand. Reaching out with his left hand, he took it from her and tucked it in his waistband at his back as he closed the few feet between them. “Sweetheart, how are you? Did he hurt you?” He didn’t want to take his eyes off the downed man for a second, not even to fully give her a visual scan.

“He didn’t hurt me but he was going to.” She wrapped her arms around herself so he threw an arm around her shoulders and dragged her close, still keeping his gaze on the other man. Marty was definitely dead. The cops would verify it when they got there.

“You’re safe now,” he murmured, wishing there was more he could do other than stand around and wait.

The sirens grew louder and when he was fairly certain they’d pulled into the parking lot, Hayden tucked his gun away. The man on the ground was still shaking in fear, his face turned away from them so he couldn’t see what Hayden was doing.

When the cops arrived on the scene, he didn’t want to be holding a gun. Even if he’d done nothing wrong, he knew what would happen if his weapon was displayed.

“We’re all going to have to go down to the station and you’re going to have to answer a lot of questions. Me too. They’ll likely separate us to make sure our stories match but video cameras inside back us up and Marty is already a wanted man.” They’d done nothing wrong but it wouldn’t hurt to have video evidence on their side.

She started to ask something but he just shook his head when two uniformed police officers rounded the building with weapons at the ready.

Now wasn’t the time to tell her about Marty’s obsession with her. She’d get her answers soon enough. And he wanted to get her away from the dead body and into the safety of a police station as soon as possible. He wanted answers about who this accomplice was and what their plans for Sierra had been.

A raw type of rage was pumping through him that he’d never experienced before. Holding her close helped soothe it, but he couldn’t get the image of her being held at gunpoint out of his head. Didn’t know if he’d ever be able to erase that nightmare.

* * *

Sierra jumped at the sound of Hayden’s doorbell ringing and almost spilled her wine. It was nearing midnight and she was emotionally exhausted. After spending most of the day at the police station answering questions and filling out reports, she and Hayden had finally been let go. She knew she should go to bed, but she’d been enjoying just curling up in his arms and relaxing. After what he’d done for her, she was worried about him too. He seemed totally fine with killing someone to protect her and she wasn’t sure how to bring up her concern for him.

She set her glass on his side table and Hayden slid her off his lap onto the couch. “Who is it?” she whispered even though there was no possible way anyone else could have heard her. He’d received a couple texts over the past hour so she was guessing his brother.

“Either Jay or Iris. Stay here,” he said in that familiar commanding voice before leaving the room.

Under normal circumstances she might have argued at his bossy tone but after the day she’d had, she didn’t care. And she knew he was just looking out for her.

Sierra heard the murmur of multiple voices then a few moments later Iris and…holy crap, Wyatt Christiansen walked into Hayden’s living room holding Iris’s hand. Sierra was wearing yoga pants and one of Hayden’s T-shirts that was a couple sizes too big. He’d insisted she put it on because he liked her in it, but staring at the mega billionaire she felt self-conscious. He was technically her boss, but it wasn’t like she ever saw him. Why was he here? Sierra stood and looked from Hayden to Iris with curiosity.

Hayden immediately crossed back to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. His presence was more than comforting. She felt like she could take on anything with him by her side. “Is everything okay?” she asked, looking at Iris. Sierra briefly wondered if she was going to get fired or something. She couldn’t imagine why but why the heck was Wyatt Christiansen here?

As if he read her mind, the tall man with midnight black hair and piercing blue eyes gave her a half smile. “I was out of town on a trip when you were attacked. Iris has filled me in on the details and I wanted to assure you that this kind of thing won’t be tolerated in any of my casinos. We run extensive security checks, but Marty had never been convicted of anything and there were no red flags. Still, I’m sorry about what happened to you and wanted to let you know that you can take off as much time as you need to adjust to everything and we’ll be paying for counseling if you decide you’d like it.”

Wow. Sierra hadn’t thought that far ahead and she doubted she would need any counseling. She was almost embarrassed to admit that she wasn’t sorry Marty was dead. He’d been a monster. But the offer was generous.

Before she could respond, Christiansen continued. “There’s no time limit on that offer. If you decide a year from now you want counseling, set it up and we’ll take care of it.”

“Thank you. That’s very kind.” Sierra tightened her grip around Hayden, feeling near her breaking point. She just wanted to be alone with him and decompress.

Iris motioned to the loveseat. “Mind if we sit?”

Hayden murmured an agreeable sound then they all sat, facing across from each other. There was obviously more to this visit.

Iris leaned slightly forward, sitting on the edge of the seat. Wyatt leaned back against the loveseat, and Sierra imagined the man would be comfortable anywhere. His hand rested casually at the small of Iris’s back in a possessive gesture. “I could have called,” Iris said. “But I wanted to let you know all this in person. Hayden has been cleared of the shooting, not that there was ever a fear he wouldn’t be. Marty’s partner got a lawyer and tried to cut a deal but with Marty dead and since Nevada is a three-strike state—Terry Hess will be going to jail for a long time. He confessed to being hired by Marty to attack you at the Serafina, then to helping him attempt to kidnap you today. About a month ago it seems Marty overheard a friend at Cloud 9 joking with you about…”

Iris cleared her throat, clearly uncomfortable, “…you being a virgin. I guess he became obsessed with you and well, wanted you. He paid Terry a lot of money to help him kidnap you. We’ll never know what sent him over the edge but I’m guessing your relationship with Hayden played a factor.” She pushed out a long sigh. “Personally, I don’t give a shit what that lunatic’s reasoning was. I’m just glad he’s dead.”

Sierra wasn’t surprised by the other woman’s bluntness. But she wished she could feel more relief. She felt some, for Hayden’s sake. She was so thankful he was cleared of the shooting. “Will I have to testify?” She’d do it, but the thought of seeing that man again, especially knowing he was the one who attacked her in the parking garage was intimidating.

Iris shook her head. “No, he admitted to most of his crimes in exchange for waiving a jury trial. It shaved a few years off his sentence, but not many. I don’t think he wanted to risk going away for longer than twenty-five years.”

Now real relief surged through Sierra. That was a long time. “Thanks for letting us know in person.”

Iris nodded and stood, her husband following suit. “Take the next week off. I’ve already got you covered at the restaurant.” Sierra started to protest but Iris shook her head. “I’m not asking. You too, Hayden. I don’t want to see either of your faces at the casino unless you’re there to enjoy yourself.”

To Sierra’s surprise, Hayden quickly agreed and tightened his grip around her shoulders. After they said their goodbyes and walked the couple out, Sierra once again found herself in Hayden’s lap on the couch.

He nuzzled her neck, lightly kissing that sensitive spot behind her ear. “Even though I want to take you right here, I think it’s time for bed. You need rest.”

She lightly pushed his shoulder, making him look at her. “You need it just as much as me. But first…are you okay with what happened?”

His eyebrows pulled together in confusion. “I hate what happened to you.”

“No, I mean, killing Marty.” It felt weird to even say the words.

His expression immediately cleared, but he paused and she could see that he was choosing his words carefully. “I’m not sorry he’s dead and I won’t suffer from any guilt over killing him if that’s what you’re worried about. I did what I had to in order to protect you and I’d do it again.”

She was tempted to ask him if he was sure, but she could see the truth in his eyes. They’d talked about his Navy career many times and though he’d never been able to tell her much about his missions, she realized now that he’d killed in the past. She’d figured he had, but now she knew without a doubt. Considering how much he’d given for his country, she was more than okay with that. Seeing death up close and personal had jarred her and it wasn’t something she ever wanted to experience again, but she didn’t want to talk about that right now. If he could deal with it, she could too. “Okay.”

He continued looking at her, an intense expression on his handsome face. “I love you,” he blurted.

She blinked.

Before she could even think of a proper response, he continued. “I know it’s the wrong time and probably too soon for you, but it’s true. I’ve felt this way for a long fucking time. Since about two months after we met.”

Sierra blinked again. “Why didn’t you say anything then?” The words came out louder than she’d intended, but Lord, she’d been harboring a crush on this man since the moment she’d met him. And she felt the same way too. Especially now.

“I…didn’t think I was good enough for you. I knew you were pretty innocent and I was still trying to transition to civilian life. You remember what I was like,” he muttered.