Hey,” a deep unfamiliar voice said from behind her. Every nerve went on alert. Her heart pounded with fear. Instinct told her to run, but how far could she go with him so close?
She grabbed a knife from the butcher block beside her and spun around, hurting her sore feet but not really feeling the pain. “Stay where you are. Don’t come any closer.”
Somewhere in her muddled mind he looked familiar, but the fear stole her rational thoughts. Her hands shook and she backed up into the counter, looking everywhere for an escape that seemed impossible.
“Hey now, you’re okay. I’m not going to hurt you.”
Tears filled her eyes. Too much to take in one night, she stammered, “Get out. Leave me alone.”
The stranger took a step toward her, and she took one toward him. “Get out, or I’ll gut you where you stand.”
One side of his mouth cocked up in a slanted grin. His eyes flashed with admiration, confusing her. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m looking for Owen.”
“He doesn’t live here. Why does everyone think he lives here?” she yelled.
A flash of movement came from her left; she swung to face the new danger and inhaled when Owen rushed her, pushing the knife out of his way and pulling her close. She immediately dropped it and grabbed hold of him as he kept his back to the stranger, her back to the counter, and his big body protecting her. “You’re okay, sweetheart. That’s my brother, Brody. He came to help me board up the glass door.”
He hugged her closer when she grabbed fistfuls of his shirt and held him tighter, crying all over the front of his shirt, her face buried in his chest, her bravado from a moment ago drained away, overwhelmed by her fear. Owen was here, holding her, keeping her safe. She needed him and refused to let go, even when he tried to back away.
“Brody, man, you want to give us a minute.”
“Sure. I just wanted to let her know I’m here. She’s got a lot of guts, facing off with me with that knife. I like her.”
“Yeah, I like her, too.” Owen brushed his hand over her head and settled into her, holding her tight and close. Brody left with a chuckle and an “I bet you do.”
All of a sudden she felt foolish, but it didn’t stop her from staying in Owen’s arms. She shifted on her feet, and he slid his big hands down her back to her waist, hoisting her up onto the counter. His warm hands settled on her thighs, spreading them wide so he could stand between them. Close. Intimate. Their eyes met, and he reached up and swiped his thumbs across both her cheeks, taking away the tears.
She got hold of herself enough to say, “Your brother is huge.”
“You just faced off with an ex– Army Ranger. He could take you out with one lethal smile.”
“He wasn’t smiling.”
“He doesn’t much, since he got home. Unless he’s with Rain."
-Brody, Claire, & Owen