He stared at her for one stunned beat. “Jesus, Chloe.”
“They were going to die!”
His expression still said one-hundred-percent cop, but there was a very slight softening in his tone. “You should have called me,” he said.
Maybe, she thought. “And you would have done what? They hadn’t begun the fighting yet so you couldn’t have taken the dogs off the property. And they were going to fight them tonight, Sawyer.” Even now it made her feel sick. “They were going to pit them against each other. To the death.” Her voice cracked a little on that, but he didn’t comment as he once again bent his head and studied the gouges on her legs.
He was right about how she’d gotten them. It’d happened when she’d crawled beneath the fence behind Lance as they’d made their escape. She held her breath, not knowing what Sawyer might do. He could arrest her, certainly. But he didn’t reach for his cuffs or cite her Miranda rights, both good signs in her book.
“These are deep,” was all he said.
She let out a breath. “They’re not so bad.”
“You clean them out?” He ran a long, callused finger down her calf alongside one particularly nasty gash, and she shivered. Not from pain. Maybe it was her exhaustion, or hell, maybe it was just from having him stand so close, but the stoic, tough-guy thing was sort of doing it for her this morning. He was a little on edge and sweaty, and a whole lot hot and sexy, and utterly without her permission, her brain rolled out a “Stern Cop and the Bad Girl” fantasy…
She blinked away the image of him frisking her. “Yeah?”
His expression a little wary now, he repeated himself. “Did you clean these out?”
He slid her a look, and she smiled innocently, but clearly she needed to have her hormone levels checked when she got her tetanus booster for this injury because she was way too aware of the heat and strength of him emanating through his uniform. Not to mention the matching heat washing through her, which was especially annoying because she had a personal decree that she never dated uptight, unbending men—particularly ones with badges.
The back door opened and Chloe jumped. Not Sawyer. Nothing ruffled him. Hell, he probably had sex without getting ruffled.
No, she thought, glancing up into his eyes. That wasn’t true. Sawyer would have no qualms about getting ruffled, and a little shiver racked her body just as her sister Maddie walked into the kitchen, followed by her fiancé, Jax.
Not too long ago, both Tara and Chloe had nicknamed Maddie “the mouse,” but she’d outgrown that moniker in spades since coming to Lucky Harbor. Now Maddie took one look at Sawyer wedged between Chloe’s thighs and stopped short so fast that Jax plowed into her back. “What’s this?” she demanded.
Chloe couldn’t blame anyone for the shock, as typically she and Sawyer didn’t share space well. In fact, usually when forced into close proximity, they resembled two tigers circling each other, teeth bared.
“Whatever it is,” Jax said, taking in the scene, “it looks like fun.” Jax was tall, lean, and on a mission as he poured himself a coffee and came directly toward Chloe, reaching for the drawer beneath her right thigh. “Can you move her leg?” he asked Sawyer. “I need a spoon, man.”
Mouth still agog, Maddie plopped down into a chair. She waggled a finger between Chloe and Sawyer. “So you two are…?”
“No!” Chloe said and shoved at Sawyer, who still didn’t budge, damn him. The two-hundred-plus lug was bent over her left calf again—the worst one—his hair brushing the insides of her thighs. She told herself not to think about how the silky strands would feel on her bare skin, but she totally did, and shivered again.
Sawyer looked up at her and she did her best to look cold instead of turned on. “You might actually need stitches,” he said.
With a horrified gasp, Maddie hopped up to come look. Seconds later, Chloe had her sister, her sister’s fiancé, and the man she didn’t quite know how to categorize at all, standing far too close, staring at her injuries. She tried to close her legs but couldn’t and tossed up her hands. “They’re just scratches!”
“Oh, Chloe,” Maddie murmured, concern creasing her brow. “Honey, you should have called me. What happened, and where else are you hurt?”
Sawyer’s gaze ran over Chloe’s entire body now, as if he could see through her sweats. A very naughty part of her brain considered telling him that the scratches went all the way up just so he’d demand a more thorough inspection.
Bad, bad brain. Because at just the thought, her chest tightened, and she had to reach for her inhaler, thanks to the asthma that always kept her slightly breathless.
And sexless. “It’s nothing,” she said. “I’m fine, all right? Back up.”
Sawyer gave Jax a light shove away from her. “She and Lance rescued six dogs from the McCarthy place last night,” he said to Maddie, ratting Chloe out without qualm.
Maddie shook her head, clearly horrified. “Chloe. God. That was…crazy dangerous.”
Hearing the worry in her voice had guilt tugging at Chloe. She couldn’t believe how much she’d grown to care about the two strangers that were her half-sisters, or for that matter, about Lucky Harbor and the people in it. The fact that she’d let down her guard enough to care at all was new.
For most of her childhood, it had been just Chloe and her mom, and the lessons had been clear: Connections weren’t meant to last past the overnight camping pass. Only traditionalists let themselves get trapped by things like boring relationships or full-time jobs. The special people were destined to spread their wings and live life fully and freely.
Like Chloe and Phoebe.
“Raybo is crazy,” Maddie said, moving to get coffee. “It could have gotten ugly.”
Chloe wished Sawyer would move, too, and gave him a nudge with her foot. Actually, it might have been more like a kick. Didn’t matter, he was a mountain and didn’t move.
“It’s awfully hot in here,” Maddie said, and opened the window.
“It’s called sexual tension.” Jax sent an eyebrow wiggle in Sawyer and Chloe’s direction.
Humor from the peanut gallery.
Sawyer sent Jax the sort of long, level look that undoubtedly had bad guys losing control of their bowels, but Jax just smiled. “If I was going to make that move on a woman, I’d at least have bought her breakfast first.”
Chloe nodded. “That’s what I said.”
Maddie plopped into Jax’s lap to cuddle up to him. “You made plenty of moves on me before you ever bought me breakfast.”
“I’m not making moves,” Sawyer said. Maddie and Jax stared pointedly at his position between Chloe’s thighs. He lifted his hands from her as if he’d been burned, backing up with his hands in the air. “Okay, I’m going to bed now. Alone.”
“You know what your problem is?” Jax asked. “You don’t know how to have fun. Haven’t for a long time.”
“Does this”—Sawyer pointed in the general vicinity of Chloe’s lower body—“look anything like fun to you?”
Jax choked back a snort, and even Maddie bit her lower lip to hide a smile.
“Jesus,” Sawyer said with a small head shake. “You know what I mean.”
Yeah. He’d meant the sorry mess Chloe had made of her legs, as well as the risks she’d taken last night, but she said “hey” anyway in token protest. Because dammit, her lower half could be lots of fun.
If she ever got to use it, that is.
“If things don’t seem right, try going left.”
One week later, Sawyer Thompson walked into his bedroom, dropped his gun and cell phone onto the nightstand, and glanced at his bed. It’d been a hell of a day, and the only thing that could have saved it would have been a woman waiting for him.
With nefarious intentions in mind.
He should have thought ahead when he’d broken it off with Cindy a few months back. But after four dates, the sweet, quiet, unassuming middle school teacher had already been unhappy going out with a guy who was on call just about 24-7.
He couldn’t blame her. But nor could he change for her.
Needing a hot shower, he stripped and stood beneath the spray. Pressing his palms to the tile wall, he dropped his head and let the water bead over his aching neck and shoulders. Today should have been a day off, but the county was perpetually understaffed, and fellow sheriff Tony Sanchez had taken a personal day to help his wife take their newborn twins for a checkup. This left Sawyer covering not just Lucky Harbor but two neighboring small towns as well.
By midmorning, he’d faced a dead homeless guy slumped on a park bench—natural causes, according to the ME—and delivered a newborn out on Highway 37 from a woman in labor who somehow thought it was a good idea to drive herself to the hospital with contractions only one and a half minutes apart.
After that, there was still time left in his day to break up a barroom brawl, deal with a domestic dispute call, and his favorite, rescue a five-year-old and his puppy from a muddy storm drain.
The shower removed the residual dirt clinging to him from that last call, but it didn’t revive him or numb the unrest coiling in his gut. A pizza and a beer might make a dent, but he didn’t have time for that. Earlier he’d heard a rumor that Nick Raybo had procured more dogs and was planning a midnight event. Sawyer was going to make sure that didn’t happen. Maybe he’d get pizza and beer afterward with Ford and Jax. Either of his best friends would join him no matter the time, but Sawyer knew he’d be shitty company tonight.
And in any case, what he really craved was a woman to bury himself in, and it wasn’t sweet Cindy who came to mind as he soaped up. Nope, against all the reason and logic that he prided himself on, he wanted the one woman whose favorite pastime seemed to be pushing his buttons.