Page 23 of Starlit Skies

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“Oh. Right.” There was a prolonged silence, and she wondered what sort of hidden meanings he might have been reading into her name. It was just a name, nothing more. Her hand absently began playing with the corner of Nash’s shirt. Slowly, she disentangled her fingers. This wouldn’t do. They might be huddling together to stay warm, but she didn’t need to get carried away with the moment.

By way of diversion, she asked the first thing that popped into her mind. “What about you? Where does the name Nash come from?”

It was his turn to give a gentle snort of contempt. “My story is much the same as yours. My mother thought it was a good idea. It’s short for Ignatius, but I hate that name. So, if you ever tell anyone, I’ll have to kill you.”

She laughed out loud, then quickly covered her mouth, belatedly remembering they were supposed to be staying quiet.

“Well, Nash is a nice name. Very manly. It suits you. And I promise I’ll never let your secret out.”

She felt rather than heard the deep rumble of mirth pass through his chest. Then he went still, and Skylar wondered what’d happened to his good mood.

“I’m sorry about all this.”

“Sorry? About what?” Where had that come from?

“If those thugs were after me, and I put you in danger…” she felt him tense beside her. “And if Paul died, because of me. Well, I’ll never forgive myself.”

Poor Nash, she hadn’t realized he was beating himself up over something that might not even be true. She lay a hand on his chest as a comfort. “Perhaps it was Paul they wanted. Or…” She’d meant the words to appease his guilty conscience, but nowthat she thought about it, the possibility was more than a little real. “What if it was me who was the target?”

“I can’t see why—”

“No, listen.” She broke through his protestation. “Hear me out for a second.” Her mind was racing as she considered this new angle. “What if this is something to do with Dan Sanders? He threatened me on the night you arrested him. I ignored the threats at the time, because I thought he was just a crazy wife beater.” She hesitated for a beat, then sucked in a fortifying breath. “And I should’ve told you this earlier…but when Dan spoke to me in court yesterday…”

“Yes,” Nash said softly, but she could hear the quiet censure in his tone.

“He said I would pay for my lack of obedience.”

“Hmm.” Nash looked down, and she caught the glimmer of starlight reflected in his eyes. “Yes, you should have told me yesterday,” he growled. “It does cast more of an ominous light on this whole thing.” Nash paused as if considering his next words. “Sanders would certainly have the money to fund this sort of operation. But what would he stand to gain from it? He’s already going to prison, that’s pretty much assured.”

Without thinking, her fingers began to trace small circles on his shirt again. “Revenge perhaps? He struck me as the sort of man who doesn’t let any perceived wrong done against him to go unchecked.” The more Skylar turned the idea over in her head, the more certain she became. And if it were the case, maybe it was both of them the gunman had been aiming for. Dan would see them both as equally guilty in putting him away. That’d mean poor Paul was merely collateral damage.

“It’s possible,” he conceded. “But I think it’s more likely something to do with an arrest I’ve made, or someone I’ve pissed off during my career.”

“Hm.” Skylar still wasn't sure. Suddenly, she realized what her hand was doing. She was stroking Nash’s chest, enjoying the feel of the ridges of firm muscle beneath her fingers. Had Nash noticed?

She slowly withdrew her hand, and they sat in silence, both contemplating who their enemies might be. The silence stretched on, and Skylar decided they had a long night ahead of them, and they may as well fill it up with something. Even though Skylar knew it was a dangerous path to go down, because the more she found out about this man, the more she liked him, she asked, anyway. “What made you want to become a police officer?”

His hesitation was slight, but she felt it, anyway. “It’s a bit of a pathetic story, are you sure you want to hear it?”

Skylar doubted that anything Nash did was pathetic. She nodded and then tipped her head back, using Nash’s arm as a rest so she could stare at the sky as he talked. “Yes, please.”

“You might not believe this, but I was a bit of a rebel in my youth.”

“No.” She made a mocking sound with her tongue. But it didn’t surprise her, he had that air of being a risk-taker around him. It was tempered by his police uniform and his professional personality, at least when he was on the job. But there was an underlying aura of Nash being a little untamed.

“Yes. I was into fixing up old cars, tricking up the engines, and giving them a new paint job. Turning them into street machines.”

“Nice,” Skylar mumbled. She could see it now, Nash as a young hothead, hanging out the window of some hot rod as he did burnouts in the street. Pissing off all the neighbors. She laughed to herself. Good on him. It was nice to know he hadn’t always been Mister Perfect.

“My father taught me everything I know, he loved tinkering in the back shed. He was always doing up some old car out there. My mum hated it, said her backyard looked like a spare parts shop.”

“Your poor mum.” It was the standard cry of women all over the world, having to deal with the messes their men produced.

“Yeah, I think she probably would’ve eaten her words after dad died, though. She told me once that she would’ve put up with a hundred cars in her backyard, if only dad was still alive.”

“Oh, that’s terribly sad. I’m so sorry for your loss.” His dad was dead? That was a surprise twist.

“I was only fifteen. He died of a heart attack at work. They said it was so quick, he didn’t stand a chance. He was such a fit bloke, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”