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“Maybe because you’re showing up at my house unannounced?” A thousand thoughts ran through her head, but the one that was truly alarming was that this wasn’t the Angel she’d known three years ago. He’d been a jerk, no doubt, and had smoked a little weed and drank, but she’d never been afraid of him.

After recalling his explosion at the theater, though, she started inching the door shut.

He laid his hand against it, stalling her movement. Shasta’s rumblings intensified, and Angel’s gaze narrowed on the dog for a second before returning to her. “Now, why are you trying to close the door? I just want to have a talk with you.”

“Fine, talk.” Giving Shasta an “okay,” she wasn’t surprised that the dog quieted but refused to leave her post.

“Is my kid here? Can I meet him? Or her?” Angel was craning his neck to look past her, but she stepped back into his line of vision.

“No, he’s at my parents’ house,” she lied smoothly. “They take him for me every other weekend.”

“Him, huh? So I got a son? Well, that’s really nice. You know, my mom has been so excited to meet him ever since I told her I saw you. Maybe sometime we could come over—”

“No, Angel, I don’t want you coming back here. If you want visitation, you’re going to have to go through legal channels to get it, because the way you are now . . . showing up here, obviously high, there’s no way I’m letting you around my son.”

His face screwed up in a menacing glare, and he pressed harder on the door, widening the opening. Shasta lunged past her legs, snarling and snapping at him until he stumbled back. She caught Shasta’s collar just as Bella flew out the door, circling Angel with a series of high-pitched barks.

He kicked out at the fat pug, who was surprisingly fast for her size, and Dani, afraid he wouldn’t miss again, snapped, “Bella, inside. Now.”

The dog hesitated before bouncing back in. Probably not the brightest move in the world, Dani stepped outside and shut the door on both dogs. The last thing she wanted was Shasta to bite him while protecting Dani. She didn’t need to give him any leverage against her, like saying that she owned a dangerous animal.

Angel, who’d seemed to get his bearings back, got in her face. “Who are you to judge me, huh? You were nothing but a little slut who was willing to spread her legs for anyone who’d buy you a drink. Yet you’re going to stand there and preach to me? You’re looking down your nose at me and telling me you’re gonna keep me from what’s mine?”

And like that, Dani’s temper snapped in two, all common sense and fear fleeing with every insult, every dig. “You didn’t want him! Don’t you remember that?” She hissed the words angrily, stepping into him so he either needed to move or she’d run over him. “Don’t you remember telling me to get rid of ‘it’? That I shouldn’t count on you to help because you were leaving? And I kept up my end. I never tried to find you. Never pressured you or sued you for child support. Nothing. Because I don’t want your money, Angel. I want nothing from you.”

“You’ve got a real brass set on you. Especially since you’ve all but admitted you’re alone here.”

“Except she’s not alone.” Tyler’s deep, angry voice made them both jump, and she glanced toward the top of the driveway with relief. He seemed larger in the shadows, taking up the entire entrance to the walkway with his broad shoulders, and she watched Angel visibly swallow.

Whatever apprehension he’d felt was obviously fleeting, because the next second he sneered, “Well, if it isn’t the hero.”

Tyler had a pizza box in one hand with a plastic bag on top. Duke sat by his side calmly, watching the humans as if they were discussing tea and crumpets.

“It’s Mr. Hero to you.” Tyler’s tone was devoid of his usual good-natured humor as he approached. Handing her the pizza box and movies with a kiss on her cheek, he whispered in her ear, “I want you to take this and Duke inside. I’ll come in a few minutes.”

Dani didn’t like leaving Tyler alone with Angel. As she gripped Duke’s leash, she warned, “Thirty seconds, and then I’m calling the cops.”

As Tyler opened the door to let her back inside, Angel’s cheerful good-bye sent a shiver down her spine. “I’ll see you soon, sweet pea.”

Please, Tyler, make those thirty seconds count.

Chapter Eighteen

TYLER TURNED TO face Dani’s ex, trying to appear casual when all he wanted to do was pound the guy’s head into the wall of the house. He’d parked at the end of the drive, noticing the Chevelle next to Dani’s car, but he’d figured it was a friend or that the babysitter had come through after all. But when he’d heard Angel practically threaten her, he’d been about to drop everything, including Duke’s leash, and tear the guy apart.

What really pissed him off was that the arrogant little fuck was either too high or too stupid to realize the danger he was in.

“Here’s the deal. You’re going to get into that piece of shit car, and you’re going to drive away. And you aren’t going to come back here ever again. You got it?”

Angel sniffed at him. “You think you can tell me what to do? She’s got my kid, and I want to see him.”

“Then I suggest you hire a lawyer. But if you show up here again, it’s not going to end well for you.”

“What, are you threatening me now? Ain’t you a cop or something? You got that look that screams pig. I’ll report you.”

Tyler smiled coldly, and he knew it’d had the right effect on Angel when some of the puff went out of his chest. Stepping into the shorter man, Tyler said, “I’m not a cop. I’m a Marine.”

The door swung open behind him.

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