Skylar’s glance took in everything around them. The street was still that of the same sleepy little town, but it now had an air of menace that’d been missing when she’d entered thesupermarket. All she wanted now was to get back to Nash’s cottage and out of sight.
“You don’t have to apologize for doing your job,” she replied.
They hustled the rest of the way to the police cruiser, and Skylar remained silent on the trip back to the house, vaguely aware that both Nash and the young constable were super vigilant, checking the street as they drove down it, making sure no one was following them. The constable made them stay in the car until she’d checked the house thoroughly, both inside and out, and then let them in through the front door. It’d been a false alarm, but it’d made Skylar more aware that she was still in danger. That Nash was still in danger.
“Can I get you anything before I start dinner?” she asked Nash as she placed her haul on the kitchen countertop.
“No, thanks. I’m gonna take it easy on the couch for a while.” His face had gone a tad pale, and Skylar suddenly felt like a right witch for the way she’d been treating him. Even though he was uncomplaining about his wound, it was clearly still causing him pain.
She took him a glass of water and some paracetamol and put them on the table next to him.
“Thanks,” he said, laying his head back against the cushion. “Can I ask what you’re cooking tonight?” He sounded hesitant, as if she might bite his head off at the question. She mentally reprimanded herself for behaving like a she-devil, and was determined to make up for it.
“It’s going to be quite simple tonight, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t you dare apologize. Anyone who cooks food for me is definitely an angel in disguise,” he said. “I don’t get too many home-cooked meals.”
Judging by the minimal ingredients in his cupboards, she believed him. “Good. Well, I’m doing a roasted-cherry-tomato,basil, and goat cheese pasta, with some home-made damper and garlic butter.”
“Sounds divine,” he said, a spot of color coming back to his face. “Especially the damper. I haven’t had homemade bread like that in ages.”
“I hope you like it. You rest there, and let me know if you need anything.” She made her way back to the small kitchen. Nash’s house was an old weatherboard cottage that’d been renovated. The main living space was open plan, and had enough room for a comfortable couch and two wing chairs, a TV, and a dining table with four chairs. She could see the top of Nash’s head from where she stood in the kitchen as he leaned back into the couch. There were two bedrooms, and only one bathroom, with a small porch to sit on out the front. A wall-mounted air conditioner kept the main living area cool, as the heat of the afternoon swirled outside. It was cute and comfortable, and like he’d said earlier, it was all he needed right now. Skylar tried for a moment to imagine herself living here. But the kitchen wasn’t nearly big enough for her needs, and after living at Stormcloud for so long, she’d gotten used to the rustic luxury and the open spaces.
Half an hour later, the damper was in the oven, along with the tomatoes to roast for the pasta sauce. She put a saucepan of water on to boil on the stove. Everything else was prepared. It was an easy meal, as she’d already told Nash.
She glanced over at the couch. Nash hadn’t moved, his blond hair falling over his eyes as he watched the TV.
A few faltering steps took her to the edge of the rug in the small living area.
“Hm?” He looked up at her, eyes lidded, as if he’d almost been asleep. She took a second to appreciate his poor, battered face. The scar on his left cheek was healing well, but that,combined with the other small nicks and bruises, still gave him the look of a prize-fighter freshly returned from battle.
She took a seat at the other end of the couch. “I’m sorry I’ve been so…difficult.” It was time she apologized. He’d been nothing but obliging and hospitable toward her. She’d been the one spitting at him like a cornered cat.
And she knew the reason why, but she wasn’t about to reveal that to him.
She was scared. Scared of being alone in this house with him. What it meant. Because she had no idea how she was supposed to react to him. It was as if her skin had a million tiny gnats underneath it, and they buzzed and tingled whenever he came close. And they weren’t lost and alone in the jungle, anymore. As funny as it might sound, she felt like she was on unstable ground with Nash now. In the jungle, they’d only had survival on their minds. A clear objective. And she’d allowed her emotions to be controlled by that need. To overrun all her natural senses of caution and let herself get carried away with her feelings for Nash.
But now they were back in civilization, in his house, and her feelings were all mixed up, a jumble of emotions. Her attraction to Nash was as strong as ever, there was no denying it. But she’d soon be going back to her life, and he to his. There was no point in continuing with this infatuation she had going. Was there? She’d sworn off men after Craig, was determined to live the rest of her life without male companionship. And then Nash had slammed into her world, giving her heart palpitations, and showing her that he was different. That he could be trusted.
She hated to feel like this. She had no mechanism with which to cope with these conflicting emotions.
She stared out the window, unable to meet his gaze.
“Difficult, is that the word?” he asked, but his broad smile belied his words.
She frowned at him. She was trying to apologize and all he could do was mock her?
“I don’t see you as difficult, Skylar.” He moved closer, shifting down the couch so their knees were touching. His voice was tender, not what she’d been expecting. “I see you as a woman who knows her own mind. Who’s been through a terrible ordeal, but faced it with courage and humor.” Nash lifted a hand to her chin, forcing her to look at him. “It’s okay if you’re struggling to find a way to deal with the past few days, you’re only human, after all.” His thumb traced softly down the line of her jaw, and it felt so good she wanted to lean her cheek into his palm. “But you’ll get through it. We’ll get through it, together. If you’ll let me help.”
If she’d been standing, she was sure she would’ve gone weak at the knees at his words. How did he know exactly what to say? And how could she argue with that? He was letting her off the hook. Giving her an excuse for her bad behavior.
His other hand came up to cup her face as he stared into her eyes. Goddamn, he had the bluest eyes. Always with a hint of a smile behind them. And those lips. She already knew how generous and giving he could be with those lips. What would it be like to kiss him right now? Without the jungle as their bed and without fear driving her emotions? Skylar had dismissed their kiss at the waterfall that night as a one-off. Something borne from shared adversity, as a way to put into action some of those emotions that’d been threatening to overwhelm her.
But shereallywanted to kiss Nash again. Here. Now.
She leaned toward him, right at the same moment he drew her chin up to his face.