Page 39 of Starlit Skies

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“I know why he’s doing this,” Skylar said dully. Her face had gone blank, as if the news of Patty’s death had shut down all her emotions. “I think it’s much more basic than that. I think it’s out of plain old spite. He wants payback for being sent to jail, simple as that. He’s a man who thinks he can control everything. Including his wife. He’s the sort of man who lives by the rule that if he can’t have something—meaning Patty—then nobody can.” There was a bitter twist to Skylar’s mouth that Nash had never seen before.

Nash studied Skylar for a few moments. She was probably right. The sad part was that once again, Skylar was using Danas justification to fan the flames of her belief all men were bad. All men were control freaks who weren’t to be trusted. He was worried that all his hard work over the past few days to break down her barriers was all for nothing. Because now those barriers were back up, higher than ever.

Robinson gave a noncommittal lift of his eyebrow. “Sanders is refusing to talk, but don’t worry, we’ll get to the bottom of this. Meanwhile, I think it prudent if Skylar stayed somewhere safe. Where we can keep an eye on you.” He directed his last statement at Skylar, intentionally ignoring Daniella.

Daniella opened her mouth to say something, then, as if realizing this wasn’t her choice to make, shut it again and turned to stare at Skylar.

“I really want to go back to Stormcloud,” Skylar said. “Couldn’t you organize a police guard to keep an eye on me out there? Surely, that’s the safest place? I’ve got Dale and Steve, and even Wazza, who will all protect me.”

“I don’t like it,” Robinson’s nostrils flared, and Nash knew it was a sign he was trying to hold on to his temper. “The station is far too open, with too many entry points. Anyone can just come and go as they like. You also have up to twenty guests at any given time. How do you know one of those guests isn’t really a hitman? I’m assuming you wouldn’t close the lodge?” He looked at Daniella.

Daniella hesitated. “I suppose we could, but…”

Nash was surprised she’d even considered the idea, but he knew it wasn’t an option. Not when they had no clear timeline, and no clear suspect. It could take days to find the gunman, or weeks, or even months. They couldn’t afford to close the lodge for that long.

“No, you’re not closing the lodge for me. That’s not an option, and we both know it,” Skylar said. She was becoming agitated, pacing back and forth between his bed and the wall.

“We have places we can take you. Houses that no one knows about where you’ll be safe,” Robinson interjected.

“Where are they? Cairns? Brisbane? No. I need to be near my home. I’m not going to be locked in some police safe house like a naughty schoolgirl.” She stopped pacing to glare at Robinson, like this was all his fault, which really it wasn’t.

“You’re blowing this out of proportion,” Robinson replied. “Your life could be at stake here, isn’t that more important?”

Nash scoffed quietly. Robinson didn’t know Skylar very well. Her cooking was the most important thing to her. She wouldn’t want to give that up for anything. He had another idea, but he wasn’t sure how Skylar would take it.

“I’m blowing this out of proportion, am I?” Skylar stamped her bare foot on the linoleum floor. “Well, you can just take your protective custody and shove it up your a—”

“Whoa,” Nash said loudly, holding up his hands to get their attention. This was getting out of control. “Sarge, what if Skylar came to stay at my place for a few days?” Skylar swiveled to face him, blue eyes flashing with barely controlled anger.

“I don’t need your charity,” she snapped.

“Skylar,” he said, a warning in his tone. “This isn’t about charity; this is about keeping you safe. And you’ll be helping me, as well. I’m going to need assistance over the next few days with my convalescence. We can stay safe together.”

That seemed to stop her in her tracks. She probably hadn’t thought about how he was going to cope once he was discharged from hospital. He knew he was stretching the truth, but if he needed to play the invalid for a few days, that was a hardship he was prepared to endure.

“It’d be easy to post a guard outside my place,” he said to Robinson. “And I’m assuming you’ll fill my position at the station while I’m on sick leave?”

Robinson nodded, a thoughtful glint in his eye. “Yes, I was going to keep Constable Willow on to act in your position. He’s already been inducted into your station, so it makes sense to keep him there.” He rubbed his chin. “That might work. With you protecting her on the inside, a cop out the front, Willow doing a regular drive-by. It’s not quite as good as a safe house, but it’s not bad. An interesting solution to keep her safe.”

“Hello!” Skylar waved her hand in the air. “I’m right here. Please don’t talk about me as if this is already decided.”

“We’re not.” Nash hit her with one of his best grins. One he knew would melt most women’s panties right off them. But Skylar wasn’t most women. “But you did promise me you’d cook a meal once we were safely out of the jungle. Well, this is your chance.”

“Really? You’d stoop to that? Play on my conscience? Use the promise card? Use the invalid card?” She threw her hands in the air.

“You bet?” he said with a wicked smile. If making her feel guilty would get her to say yes, then so be it.

“It’s actually not a bad idea,” Daniella said. He could hardly believe she was backing him up on this one. But she threw him a look that told him he wasn’t off the hook yet, and he sobered quickly.

“It seems you’re all in on the conspiracy,” Skylar huffed.

“So, is that a yes?” Nash held his breath.

“I guess so. But only for a few days, no more.” That was okay, Nash would take whatever small win he could get.

* * *

“There’s no food in this house.” Skylar slammed the refrigerator door shut. “I can’t believe you managed to cook anything with so few ingredients.”