Page 51 of Starlit Skies

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Schroeder sought Nash’s gaze, almost as if asking him silently how he coped with her demands. Nash bristled slightly at her implied criticism. Skylar was in a unique situation, and she was only trying to survive the best way she knew how. If hecould do this one little thing to help her through, then it was worth taking the risk. Willow had confirmed in his report last night that all the media had now left town, so they shouldn’t be a problem. Although what Skylar needed to buy from the supermarket was beyond him; it seemed as if she’d bought enough to keep them fed for a week yesterday.

“Can you see if you can clear it with Robinson, please?” He said, making it abundantly clear this wasn’t a request.

“Yes, sir.” She knew a command to a junior officer when she heard one. “Right away.”

Skylar came back to sit on the couch once Schroeder went out the front door. She lay a hand on his knee. “Thank you. I know I’m still being…difficult.” Her lips quirked up at the word. “And I don’t mean to put us in any more danger. It’s just…”

“I understand,” he said softly. “We’ll get through this.” He ran his hand down the side of her cheek, just to feel the glorious softness of her skin beneath his fingertip.

Skylar leaned into his hand for a second, then she said, “I don’t want this bastard to win. And after that fright yesterday…well, it made me start second-guessing myself. But if I’m too scared to go into town, then he wins. Do you understand?”

“Completely,” he replied.

Skylar got up to take Schroeder her eggs with a smile on her face.

The trip to the supermarket an hour later was uneventful. Nash strapped on his gun holster and stood guard at the register the same way he’d done yesterday, posting Schroeder out the front. By then, the painkillers had kicked in, and his leg was feeling better. Almost good enough so that he could hide the limp. The locals still stopped to either stare or wish him a good morning. And Nash returned their greetings, trying not to resent their curiosity. It was only natural they were curious about the goings-on in their little town. Especially when it includedthe district cop and a reclusive chef from the renowned luxury lodge. He could see the questions written all over their faces, but he closed down any further queries with his brusque tone and serious manner. This wasn’t the time to curry the favor of the community. He could do that later, mend his bridges later, if need be. His only priority at the moment was to keep Skylar safe.

Same as yesterday, he saw nothing unusual. Nothing to make him think there was anything out of place in his little town. But Nash couldn’t shake a vague feeling of unease. There were more tourists wandering the streets today, eating ice cream and waving away the flies. But none of them looked remotely like they meant to do him or Skylar harm. They were just individuals, minding their own business.

Skylar heeded his request and kept her shopping trip brief, but she still returned to the cash register with an overflowing basket. He didn’t ask, he merely helped her pack the items and carry them to the waiting police vehicle.

He scanned the street as they made their way back to the car, searching for the reason behind his illogical agitation. The same as yesterday, he got Schroeder to clear the house and surrounding garden before he let Skylar out of the car. But such was his unease that he even questioned Schroeder quietly as they helped Skylar to unload the car, asked if she’d seen anything out of place. Her blank look and shake of her head told him he must’ve been imagining things. Perhaps he was being hyper-vigilant because it was Skylar’s life at stake. And his own; he had to keep reminding himself of that small detail.

Following Skylar up the stairs onto his porch, he noticed a small quantity of red stones scattered near the edge of the wooden platform, partially hidden by one of the pot plants that sat each side of the door. Where had they come from? Had one of the guards walked them up on the bottom of their shoes? He kicked at the stones, sending them cascading over the edge. Theyreminded him of something, but he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what.

He shrugged and took the shopping bag inside, soon forgetting about the stones, when Skylar asked him to put the milk away in the refrigerator.

Later, Skylar made her phone calls while Nash pretended to read a book on the couch. He was supposed to be recuperating, after all. And he had a vested interest in getting his leg healed as quickly as possible. He hated feeling like a burden, and if this phantom gunman ever did turn up, he wanted to be as fit as possible to be able to fight him off.

She made them a lunch that she calledsimple sandwiches—they were anything but. Dark-rye bread with Swiss cheese and honey-smoked ham, carved straight from the bone. They were delicious, melting in his mouth.

She said she had something of a surprise for him for dinner, and anticipation simmered in his belly all afternoon. But it wasn’t merely anticipation of the food that was giving him an appetite. It was the thought of what might happen after dinner that intrigued him the most. There was an air of tension in his house. Could Skylar feel it, too? Every time she passed by him, his skin buzzed with unrequited need. He was extremely aware of wherever she was in the room. His gaze followed her swaying hips as she sauntered through to the bedroom, talking on her mobile.

Skylar had been a surprising delight last night. So unfettered and uninhibited. After her revelations about her ex, Nash had been expecting to have to take it slow with her. To treat her with kid gloves, in case he inadvertently triggered an adverse memory for her. He’d been more than ready to stop at any stage, if she’d merely looked at him the wrong way. He still didn’t know the extent of Craig’s mistreatment of Skylar. He suspected it was physical as well as mental abuse, but she’d been insistentlyvague about any details. But it was almost as if she were a different woman last night. He wondered if that’d be true all the time? Or if it was a one-off thing, where she’d put Craig away in a box inside her head and decided to forget he even existed?

Nash had experience enough with trauma to know it was never as easy as that.

Later that afternoon, Nash watched Skylar putter around his kitchen. If she kept feeding him like this, he was going to need to do some serious exercise to lose all the extra weight he was going to put on. He could get used to having her in the house. Having someone to fuss over him was nice. He’d opened his pantry door earlier, to find it stuffed full of items he’d never use in a million years; wouldn’t even know what half the ingredients were.

He had to keep reminding himself that she was only here for the next three days. They were not living in some sort of domestic bliss; this would all end soon.


SKYLAR STRETCHED, LETTING the sheets slide down her naked body, feeling as languorous and satiated as a cat who’d got the cream. Nash lay flat on his back beside her, his chest rising and falling in a soft rhythm. His eyes were closed, but she knew he wasn’t asleep. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, after the sexual tension hovering around them all day, but Skylar could still hardly believe it when Nash had led her to the bedroom again after dinner.

For some reason, she’d been loath to bring up the subject of their lovemaking the night before during the day, almost as if talking about it might taint it somehow. Nash must’ve caught her vibe, because he seemed to be avoiding the topic, as well. So, they’d never discussed their intentions, whether it would happen again, or if it was just a one-night fling. Last night, Skylar would’ve been happy with just that one sweet moment of release. A chance to get outside herself. But this morning, her treacherous body had craved more; she wanted more of him.

So, when he took her hand this evening and asked with his eyes, she knew her answer would be yes.

Nash was a revelation. He was such a giving lover, making sure she felt safe, making sure she got everything she needed, and more. Not once had she felt threatened or vulnerable. In fact, it was the exact opposite. Nash made her feel powerful and cherished.

Of their own accord, her fingers moved up to find the smooth shape of his collarbone, then eased up to the heavy muscle of hisshoulder. She loved that she was learning his body, the contours of it, the way the hair on his chest curled, all golden and soft, even the scars on his arms and legs.

Nash stirred and opened his eyes. “Hey, gorgeous.”

Her heart did a stupid pitty-pat at his sweet talk. For some reason, when he called her gorgeous, she really did feel like she could live up to that name.

It must be nearly midnight by now. They should try and get some sleep. But her body didn’t want to sleep, it wanted more of him. As if she just couldn’t get enough. Which was probably true—no sex for nearly four years was making her want to binge on him like she hadn’t eaten in weeks, and he was an unending packet of chocolate cookies. She’d discovered what the wordinsatiablemeant in the past few hours.