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He pulls back suddenly, his chest heaving, his eyes dark and accusing.

I’m so delirious I don’t know if I should be upset or what, but I do know that I am really turned on. There’s a pull in my lower belly that is so strong and unlike anything I’ve ever felt before.

His hand tightens around the base of my neck. “I’m going to take care of the business with your father. Stay in the house. And when I get back, we’re going to talk about that kiss.”

All I can do is nod my head. My lips are still tingling.

He turns to leave and stops suddenly. “You better be here when I get back. But know this, Emma: I will find you if you’re not.”

I shake my head. “I’m not leaving.”

He stares at me, as if he’s wondering if I’m telling the truth when finally he nods his head and turns on his heel and walks out the door.

I walk to the couch and fall into it, putting my hand over my pounding heart.



I drive over to Emma’s hometown, and the whole way I’m thinking of that kiss. I don’t want to put my faith into another woman. My ex that decided small town life wasn’t for her and left me at the altar. That should have taught me something. But without even really knowing her, I see that Emma is different. And regardless of what or how I feel, I can’t desert her. I can’t just walk out on her or push her away. Not until I know she’s safe.

I drive straight to the address that Emma gave me. It takes me almost two hours to get there and I’m able to think the whole way. Can I let her in? Unguard my heart to see how this goes? Just from one night with her, I know she needs someone to be on her side. Can I be that man? Already, I know there’s no way I’m going to let her go to jail. Knowing I may have to lie to keep her with me, I’ll do it. I won’t have a choice. I can’t let anything happen to her. Fuck, I don’t understand why I’m even going on about it. Obviously I’ve already come to think of her as mine.

My GPS takes me straight to the house. The closest neighbors are around a hundred feet on each side. I walk straight to the door and knock. I wait to see if there’s any sound from inside, but I hear nothing. When no one answers the door, I walk around the house and see that Emma was right: It’s sealed up like Fort Knox. Maybe from the street it looks like a normal house, but looking in the windows up close, there’s some kind of covering on the inside and wiring everywhere.

I walk back around to the front porch. I know it’s probably a waste of time, but I try the door and am surprised when it opens. I walk through the house, stopping in the living room where the broken glass is still lying on the floor. Quietly, I walk room to room, and no one is home. I breathe a sigh of relief. I thought I would be walking in on a dead man, and even though he probably deserves it, I don’t want Emma living with that kind of guilt for the rest of her life.

I walk through the house and find what I assume is her room. She has some books on her nightstand that look like they came from the library and a few clothes in her closet, but that is it. It’s obvious that she has been living with the barest of essentials. The kitchen is bare, only a few condiments and packs of cheese.

Sick of this house already, I pace on the porch and use my phone to search hospitals. There’s one close by, and I call it asking if a Mr. Tyler Bates has been admitted. They say no.

Unsure what the next move should be, but knowing I can’t go back and wonder, I decide to stop at the police station in town. I walk in, and if I didn’t already realize it, it’s definitely a small town. All three of the men in the precinct stare at me and drop what they’re doing to talk to me.

I decide the best way is to just get straight to the point. “Hi. I’m here to see if a Tyler Bates is here.”

“Who are you?” one of them asks.

I shrug my shoulders, not wanting to give away a lot. “Someone that wants Tyler Bates behind bars.”

“He’s in holding, but you can’t see him. Plus he’s still drunk. He seems to have gone on a bender yesterday.”

Holding my hat in my hands, I ask, “So what’s he in for?”