Sighing, she nodded instead of attempting to argue. By the firm set of his jaw she knew that no matter what she said, he’d stay. Even if she managed to kick him out, he’d sleep in his vehicle. If she was being honest with herself, she was glad he wanted to stick around. After the way Orlando had manhandled her, she was shaken up and Porter’s presence was reassuring. On a personal level he might put her on edge but that was just a physical reaction. “I’ll grab an extra pillow and blankets. Just don’t expect me to cook dinner for you.” Completely offending her mother’s Cuban sensibilities, Lizzy had never picked up the knack for cooking.
“How about I cook for you instead?” The low baritone of his voice sent a shiver curling through her until it settled low in her belly.
Her eyes widened in surprise. He could cook? Something she hadn’t known about him. She definitely needed to get away from this man. “Uh, sure, but I’m going to take a shower first,” she muttered and skirted past him. She was careful not to touch him though. Touching him sent her senses haywire and turned her brain to mush. He was only going to be here one night anyway. She could manage to avoid him for a few hours and tomorrow her life would return to normal. She’d make sure of it.
Lizzy opened her eyes and sat straight up in bed as she heard a low creak from somewhere in her house. Her heart pounded wildly against her chest as she eased out of bed. Something felt…off. She didn’t know what it was, but could feel it straight to her bones.
Her house had been built in the fifties so it was always making settling sounds. The noise she’d just heard could be nothing but she wasn’t taking the chance.
Porter was sleeping on her couch and Benny was still in her guest room. She’d checked on her brother an hour ago and he’d looked a lot better than he had when they’d brought him home. A lot of the swelling on his face had gone down.
She tiptoed across her room and cringed when the floorboards groaned beneath her. Easing the door open, she peeked out to find the hallway empty. Good. Porter must still be asleep. She nudged the half-open door to the guest room all the way open. Her throat clenched at the empty bed. The sheets were rumpled but Benny wasn’t there. He always did this. Just left without saying goodbye. She should be used to it, but it hurt more than she’d admit. When she felt wetness on her cheek, she brushed away a few stray tears that managed to leak out.
“He left fifteen minutes ago.”
She swiveled at Porter’s voice and barely refrained from screaming. Her hand instinctively flew to her throat. “You almost gave me a heart attack… You saw him leave?”
Porter nodded, his face an unreadable mask. “He must have called someone to pick him up because he snuck out the front door. I watched him get into a car and drive off.”
Anger punched through her, swift and hard even though it had nothing to do with the man standing in front of her. This wasn’t his fault. “Why didn’t you try to stop him? Or wake me up?”
His shoulders lifted in a casual shrug. “He’s a grown man. If he wants to leave, it’s not my business.”
She started to respond when she realized how little clothing Porter had on. No shirt and pinstriped blue and white boxers that did little to cover the bulge between his legs. Oh my… She forced her gaze upward but his entire body was drool worthy and she couldn’t stop her gaze from roaming everywhere.
His broad chest was male perfection. With a ripped eight pack and just a smattering of dark hair covering his pecs, he was all sharp lines and taut muscles. She’d never thought much about male legs before, but his were something she’d definitely remember. Muscular and lean but not bulky. Runner’s legs. Why had they never gotten naked together again? Right now she was having a hard time remembering her own name, let alone why she’d ended things with him. She nervously licked her lips as she imagined what it would be like to wrap her own legs around—
“Don’t look at me like that.” His voice was a low growl.
As her eyes snapped up to meet his, she fought the heat creeping into her cheeks. Thankfully the only source of illumination was the moonlight streaming in from the blinds. She wondered how long she’d been staring at him like he was a slab of meat. “Like what?” she whispered. Immediately she wanted to take the question back. It was lame and she knew exactly what she’d been doing. She’d been undressing him with her eyes and she was only sorry he’d stopped her.
He reached out and tucked a wayward curl behind her ear. Instead of withdrawing his hand, he cupped her cheek.
“Lizzy,” he softly breathed out her name.
Her lips parted when his pale gaze zeroed in on her mouth. Porter was always so careful about not touching her since they’d ended things, but now he wasn’t showing that normal restraint. When he didn’t pull away, it was like a switch flipped inside her. She wanted his touch so bad she ached for it. For months they’d been dancing around their still burning attraction for one another and he’d just lit the pilot light on her desire. If he didn’t kiss her, she was going to scream in frustration.
He muttered something unintelligible and covered her mouth with his lightning fast as if he was afraid she’d change her mind. His kiss was soft, yet somehow still demanding. He coaxed her mouth open until their tongues were hungrily clashing against each other. She’d missed his taste so much. When he pulled her bottom lip between his teeth, she didn’t bother to hide her moan. She’d never stopped wanting him. Wanting what he always made her feel.
He threaded his fingers through her hair and held the back of her head in a dominating grip. The pressure was just enough to drive her wild. She clutched his shoulders and held on tight, savoring the feel of all that strength and power under her fingertips.
When he pulled back she felt the loss immediately but he wasn’t going anywhere. He dipped his head and feathered light, sensuous kisses along her jaw until he reached her earlobe. Just like he knew was guaranteed to drive her crazy. “I want you so bad, Lizzy.”
There he went with her nickname again. His voice softened and his eyes darkened every time he said it. And like magic, heat pooled deep in her belly each time. She couldn’t see his eyes at the moment but the man’s voice was the strongest aphrodisiac. Potent and intoxicating. If she could bottle it up she would.
She opened her mouth to tell him she felt the same way when loud staccato pops somewhere outside made her jerk back. In a haze, she stared at him. “What—”
His expression was tense. “Stay here!”
Porter turned and sprinted back down the hallway. Instead of doing as he said, she hurried after him. When he grabbed his gun from the coffee table in her living room, she realized what he was doing.
“Stay down,” he threw over his shoulder as he neared the window.
Crouching low, she peered around the corner of the couch and watched as he slowly lifted one of the wooden slat blinds covering the window in her living room. Fear for whatever was going on outside exploded inside her like fireworks. But more than anything, she wanted to pull Porter down to where she was. She had no doubt he could take care of himself but that didn’t ease her panic any. The back of her neck tingled as he stood off to the side of her window. It sounded like gunfire outside though she couldn’t wrap her mind around something like that happening in her quiet neighborhood. Maybe it was just some kids lighting fireworks.
Porter muttered a curse under his breath.
The pops sounded again and they were followed by loud shouts and whoops. The noise grew farther and farther away, but her heart still pounded erratically. “What is that?”
He moved away from the window and grabbed his neatly folded jeans from the coffee table and started to tug them on. “You need to pack a bag. For at least two weeks.”
She cautiously crept up from behind her hiding place. “What’s going on?”
“Someone just made a mess of your lawn and shot off a few rounds overhead—probably to make sure you woke up to see what they were doing. We’re lucky they didn’t aim at your house,” he growled.
“What did they do to my lawn?” An unbidden tremor raced through her voice.
“See for yourself.” He motioned with his head as he zipped and buttoned his jeans.
Fighting panic, she headed toward the window and lifted one of the wooden slats a fraction. Her heart caught in her throat. Someone had burned something into her front yard. Burning orange embers danced and floated under the moonlight. “What is that? It looks like numbers. Why would someone burn numbers into my yard?”
Porter wrapped his arm around her waist from behind and pulled her away from the window. She nearly jumped out of her skin. Despite the fear humming through her, she enjoyed the intimacy of the way he held her. Turning, she faced him and didn’t move out of his embrace. The rational part of her brain told her to move away but instead, she wrapped her arms around him. Screw rational. Right now she needed that extra bit of strength.
He tugged her completely away from the window and into the shadows of the living room. “Those numbers mean you’ve made a serious enemy, Lizzy. It’s a seventy-nine.” His tone was so dark and ominous and he made the statement with such finality, as if she should have any sort of clue what he meant.
“And…what? I’ve got seventy-nine days to live?” She tried to sound light but her question came out raspy.
“It’s a message from the Seventy-Ninth Street Gang. They used to do a lot of low level work for Alberto Salas before he died. Looks like they’re working for his son, Orlando, too.”
“Why would they or he come after me?” She might have made him angry earlier today but her brother owed Orlando money, not her.
Porter’s face was a virtual mask. “This is probably about your brother. He could be trying to threaten you in order to get Benny to pay whatever he owes. Or maybe I made Orlando angry by knocking him out and he feels like he needs to save face in front of his men. I don’t know enough about Orlando to know the answer. Either way, I’m keeping you under lockdown until we have a better idea what his intentions are.”