Silence normally didn’t bother her, but the stillness that stretched between them tonight did. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she’d been out with another guy when she’d known it would hurt him. While she hated that part, she desperately needed to keep her distance from Liam. When she was around him, it was difficult to think straight. Tonight it was even worse. She felt wildly off-balance and that spicy, earthy scent of his was driving her crazy.
“Are you sure you can stay away from the ranch tonight?” she finally asked, just to break the tension.
His dark eyes flashed with something she didn’t recognize. “I’ve been doing it the past few days. Why would tonight be any different?”
His words slightly rattled her. “Am I supposed to feel guilty about that?”
“No. I’m just pointing it out. I’m staying here and if you want me to sleep in your car, I will.”
“You are trying to make me feel guilty.”
He grunted and she dropped her fork.
“Enough with the barely monosyllabic answers.”
Sighing, he placed his utensil down too. “I don’t want to do this tonight.”
“And by talking we’ll automatically argue?”
“I didn’t say that. I’m just pissed.” His words were almost a growl, as if he was trying hard to talk normally.
“The whole situation. I’m pissed you went out with that asshole and that he attacked you. If you hadn’t reacted the way you did, this night could have ended a lot differently. Most of all, I hate that you won’t let me take care of you. I just want to keep you safe.”
“I’m letting you take care of me now.”
Her words earned a ghost of a smile from Liam. “Heating up canned soup and serving you cold pasta doesn’t count.”
She shrugged and took another bite. Other than her brother she’d never had anyone take care of her. Her parents had died when she was eight and she and her brothers had been sent to live with their alcoholic uncle. He hadn’t been physically abusive, just horribly neglectful. So they’d always had to fend for themselves with Parker being her only parental figure. When she was old enough, she’d started taking care of herself. Depending on someone wasn’t something she wanted to get used to. People left, died, or simply changed. Usually for the worse. She had a lot of friends, but she’d always kept them at a certain distance. It made life easier.
“What are you thinking about?” Liam’s deep voice tore her out of her thoughts.
Placing her spoon in her empty bowl, she shook her head. “Just how full and sleepy I am. It’s not even that late.”
“Your body had a shock tonight. You’re lucky you didn’t go into actual shock, but the adrenaline you felt earlier has likely waned and now you’re feeling tired.” He reached out and placed one of his large hands over hers.
Unlike earlier when her date had touched her, she didn’t cringe or pull away. She liked the feel of him touching her, however slight. He rubbed a callused thumb over the top of her hand. The action was light, soothing, and totally nonerotic. Still, it made her stomach do little flip-flops.
Almost immediately guilt engulfed her. Her younger brother had died—been killed—because of her relationship with a shifter. The pain and weight of it all had nearly killed Parker. If she got involved with another one…She tugged her hand back and cleared her throat. “Let me put these in the dishwasher and I’ll show you where the guest room is.”
He stared at her for a long moment, as if he could read her mind. Then she remembered he could read emotions. Crap. Liam wouldn’t know why she was feeling guilty, but he’d sense it just the same.
He grabbed her bowls before she could move. “I’ll do it. And I know where the guest room is.” When he spoke, his voice was remote, distant.
In a weird twist of emotional insanity, she didn’t like him pulling away from her. How messed up was that? It was what she wanted, but when he did it, part of her felt lost. She rubbed a hand over her face as she trudged up the stairs. She needed her freaking head examined.
Liam resisted the urge to go after December. She needed to rest and he knew he’d already pushed her enough for one day. Why couldn’t females be more like males? She wanted him physically, but for whatever reason she wouldn’t let herself be with him. And he’d sensed guilt earlier when he touched her. Wasn’t sure what that was about.
As he closed the dishwasher, the doorbell rang. With his senses on high alert, he went to answer it. Before he pulled the door open, he was already breathing a sigh of relief. Parker might not like him, but at least December’s brother wasn’t going to try to kill him.
Parker had a scowl on his face as he strode through the front door. His tan and brown polyester uniform was rumpled and dirty. “Where is she?” he demanded.
Thanks to his extrasensory abilities, Liam could faintly hear water running upstairs. “She’s in the shower. What the hell happened to you?”
A small smile played across the sheriff’s face. “A drunk tourist thought it would be fun to throw beer cans at some night skiers. When they brought him in, he tried to…” He trailed off as if he remembered whom he was talking to. “Never mind. I’ve got one of my deputies dusting that car for prints. Didn’t you say you got the keys?”
Liam pulled out the plastic bag from his pocket. He’d put the keys in there earlier so he wouldn’t accidentally touch them.
“December needs to make a statement,” Parker said.
“You gonna drag her down to the station now?” From his limited experience with the man, Liam knew the sheriff was a stickler for the rules. Except where his sister was concerned. For her he’d not only bend them—he’d probably break them in two and run over them with a semitruck.
That was probably the only thing the two men had in common. They both cared deeply for the woman upstairs and would do anything to keep her happy and safe.
Parker raked a hand through his dark red hair. “No.”
“You think she’ll listen about getting that security system now?” Liam asked quietly.
The sheriff shrugged. “Damned if I know. Make the call anyway and send me the bill. They can install it while she’s at work. Did you get a good look at her date?” he asked, quickly changing subjects.
Liam clenched his teeth. He’d be the one paying for her security system, but he didn’t voice that. As he described what December’s date looked like, Parker jotted everything down. He went over everything from what he was wearing right down to the small mole behind his left ear. The man’s image had been seared into Liam’s memory forever.
Once he was finished, the sheriff flipped his notebook shut. His blue eyes were the same bright shade as December’s. They narrowed at Liam. “Where are you sleeping tonight?”
Liam wanted to be offended by the question, but if he had a sister, he wouldn’t be showing as much restraint as the sheriff. “The guest room.”
Parker was silent for a long moment as he eyed Liam. “If you wanted to hurt her, I know you would and could have by now. I get that you care for her, I really do, but you realize you’ve brought this on her, don’t you?”
Liam fought back a growl at the sheriff’s words. “By existing?”
Parker shook his head. “I don’t mean this is your fault. The people who want to hurt her…well, somehow I doubt they’re alone in their thinking. I’m just saying the more you’re around her, the more she becomes a target for ignorant assholes.”
Liam knew that was true. He also knew that barely half a century ago people of different races would have been ostracized for having a relationship with each other. Racism and hatred never seemed to change and he wouldn’t walk away from December because of it. He wasn’t a coward and wouldn’t let some backwoods idea dictate how he lived. Instead of responding, he stayed silent. There wasn’t much of a response to that anyway.
Parker was the one to break the silence. “I’ve got to get back to work. We’re short staffed this week, but I’m going to send a patrol by to keep an eye on the house.”
So that was the real reason the sheriff didn’t mind Liam staying at December’s place. He needed him to protect her. A completely adolescent part of Liam smiled at the thought. It had to be killing Parker that Liam was watching over his sister.
Once the lawman left, he slid the crappy lock into place, then methodically checked the house again. It didn’t matter that he’d done it earlier—he was driven with the need to protect December. Someone who truly wanted in wouldn’t bother with locks. They’d break a window or smash a door, but Liam wasn’t going to make it easy for them. He slept light anyway and tonight he doubted he’d sleep at all.
Edward Adler leaned against the wooden post in the middle of the two-story barn. He hated waiting. Especially for this idiot. But in the war against supernatural abominations, he’d do what he had to. Even if it meant waiting two hours out in the cold for a dumbass pretty boy who’d likely screwed up his first mission. Unfortunately he needed this guy for multiple reasons. He might be the leader of the local group around Fontana Mountain, but he had a boss to report to. And his boss wanted results faster. Always faster.
Mike was well past the time he was supposed to check in. They were supposed to meet in the unused barn a couple hours ago. Edward hadn’t brought his cell phone. He wasn’t exactly worried about the government tracking him, but just in case Big Brother was watching, he didn’t want to give them an easy way to keep tabs. Paranoid? Probably. But he couldn’t be too careful.
After checking his watch one last time, he shook his head and started to leave. As he reached the door, he heard the sound of boots crunching across the snow outside. Ducking into a nearby stall, he crouched down and waited. The barn door creaked as it opened.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com