Saved by a Dangerous Man

By: Cleo Peitsche

The doorbell rang, and I stiffened. “It’s Henry,” I choked out.

“Please, Audrey. He’s dangerous. Let him go on his wild goose chase alone.”

“Dangerous? That’s hilarious coming from you.” I tried to break free, but he anchored me against his broad chest. Despite the temperature outside flirting with a winter record, Corbin wore nothing warmer than jeans and a lightweight, mottled gray T-shirt. The beating of his heart, so strong and alive, only made me that much more afraid for him.

My phone buzzed in my pocket.

“Corbin, I have to go.”

“You don’t.”

It was unfair. Other couples got to know each other. To be seen in public together. Corbin and I would never have anything except stolen moments. It made me wish for another crippling snowstorm to shut down the world and give us both a reason to disappear for a few days.

He cradled my face between his large hands and lifted my chin. His blue-green eyes stared into mine, hypnotizing me. This man. Rugged and handsome, he looked like he could have sauntered out of a whiskey campaign. He leaned in, the soothing scents of coffee and woodsmoke drifting around me.

“You don’t have to.” He said it quietly, drawing out the words like a private prayer. The hopelessness in his deep voice flooded me with a nauseating guilt. Whatever happened on this trip to Florida, I would never be able to pretend that Corbin had really wanted me to go, even if my doing so would benefit him.

Besides, we both knew I was too stubborn to change my mind. At least, I knew it. Maybe Corbin just thought I was crazy.

“I want to go.” And it was true. I did. I just hated what going would make me. “Don’t move,” I said as I extracted myself from his warm grasp.

I made the reverse trek through my little apartment and opened the front door.

Henry Heigh stood on the front stoop, sunlight gleaming brightly off his sandy-brown hair. “Ready for surf and sand?” His long wool trench coat made him look more like a banker than the accomplished bounty hunter he really was. Sunglasses masked his perceptive brown eyes.

I stared at my reflection in the dark lenses and tried to ignore the illogical and disconcerting notion that Henry somehow knew that Corbin was inside.

Henry raised an eyebrow and smiled, flashing perfect teeth. “Audrey?”

“Uh… almost finished.”

Behind Henry, a gleaming white sedan idled in the street, the color contrasting with the hills of filth-frosted snow piled along the curbs and sidewalks. The driver, a frightfully large man, bowling-ball bald, raised an enormous hand at me. After a moment, I waved my fingers at him in reply.

Henry edged closer, enough that I could smell his aftershave.

“I’d invite you in,” I said quickly, “but it’s a mess. I spilled juice all over my kitchen and have to wipe it up.” And now I knew what kind of liar I was: a terrible one. “Can you tell your friend I’ll just be a few minutes?”

The wattage of Henry’s smile dimmed. “Give me your suitcase.” He rolled his broad shoulders, reminding me why I’d allowed that one kiss.

I retrieved the bag and pressed it into his arms. “Thanks! I’ll be out in a minute or two. Or maybe five. Wanna make sure I clean it all up. Maybe I should just meet you at the airport—”

“Audrey,” Henry said, his voice soft. “It’s fine. No hurry.”

He pivoted and walked away, and I decided that his retreating backside was fast becoming the safest view of Henry.

I shut the door and hurried back to my bedroom, hoping that Corbin would still be waiting so that we could say our goodbyes.

He was leaned up against the wall between my tiny closet and one of the windows, smirking at a framed photo of me and Rob, lumpily costumed as lobsters for an elementary school play.

Even at rest, Corbin’s tall body suggested grace and easy confidence. He should be confident; he was capable as hell. Chillingly so. He uncrossed his arms and came to me.

I missed him already. “Do you think you’ll be around when I return?”

“No idea, but I’m trying my best,” he said. “Trying to get…” He shook his head.

His hand sought the bottom of my sweater, and then his palms were skimming over my bare stomach. He went higher, fingers sliding up the satin cups of my bra. I closed my eyes, allowing myself this moment.

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