What did you think when I first told you about the animals I found?”
He seemed confused. It obviously wasn’t what he’d expected. “Violet, I was seven years old. I thought it was badass. I think I was probably even jealous.”
She made a face at him. “Didn’t you think it was creepy? Or that I was weird?”
“Yeah,” he agreed enthusiastically. “That’s why I was so jealous. I wanted to be the one finding dead bodies. You were like an animal detective or something. You were only weird ‘cause you were a girl.” He grinned. “But I learned to overlook that since you always took me on such cool adventures.”
Violet released a breath, smiling. She knew he was telling the truth, which only made it funnier to hear him saying the words out loud. Of course, what little boy didn’t want to go scavenging through the woods and digging in the dirt?
She tried again. “Did you ever tell anyone? Does your mom know?”
He lifted her hand to his mouth and rubbed her knuckles across his lower lip, his gaze locked with hers. “No,” he promised. “I swore I wouldn’t, not even her. I think she knows something, or at least she thinks you have the worst luck ever, since you found all those dead girls.” He lowered his voice. “She was really worried about you after the shooting last year. You’re like a daughter to her.” He leaned close. “Of course, that makes it kind of creepy when I do things like this.”
He kissed her. It was intimate. Not soft or sweet this time, it was deep and passionate, stealing Violet’s breath. She laid her hand against his chest, savoring the feel of his heartbeat beneath her palm, and then traced her fingertips up to his neck, into his hair.
He pulled her over the console that separated them, dragging her onto his lap. He ran his hands up her back restlessly, drawing her as close as he could.
It was nearly impossible for her to pull herself away. “Wait,” she insisted breathlessly. “Please, wait.” She had her hands braced against his shoulders, struggling more against herself than him.
His glazed eyes teased her. “I thought I was the one who was supposed to say no. I’m the girl, right?”
She sighed heavily, leaning her head against his shoulder and trying to recapture her runaway thoughts. She still wanted to talk. She wanted the other things, too, but she needed to sort through her thoughts first.
“Sorry, it’s just…I have a lot of…” She shrugged against him. His damp T-shirt was warm and practically paper-thin, tempting her to touch him. She ran her finger down the length of his stomach. She knew it wasn’t fair to tease him, but she couldn’t help herself. He was too enticing. “…I have some stuff I need to work through.” It was the best she could do for an explanation.
He caught her hand before she’d reached his waistline, and he held it tightly in his grip. “I’m trying to be patient, Violet, I really am. If there’s something you want to tell me…Well, I just wish you’d trust me.”
“I’ll get there,” she explained. “I’ll figure it all out. I’m just a little confused right now.”
He let out a shaky breath and then he kissed the top of her head, still not releasing her hand. “So, when you do, we’ll pick up where we left off.”
She nodded against him. She thought she would keep talking; she still had so many doubts about what she should, and shouldn’t, be doing.
But instead she just stayed there, curled up on his lap, absorbing him, taking relief from his touch…and strength from his presence.