Page 58 of Starlit Skies

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“We’ll still have the police escort to see us back to Dimbulah, so that’s fine,” Nash replied, but he continued to glare at Daniella, and she continued to ignore his stare.

Skylar was glad the rest of her family was going on to the wake. It made her non-attendance a little less obvious. She knew she wouldn’t be able to cope with all the questions and the sympathy, and perhaps the reproach she’d have to deal with, if she went.

“Great, we’ll see you at home soon, Skylar. Then this will all become a distant memory.” Daniella put a protective hand on Skylar’s shoulder before she turned back to Steve and Dale to let them know what was going on.

Nash spoke quickly to Robinson, then rounded up Schroeder and her sidekick, and they were back in his car inside of fiveminutes, following the police cruiser through the media throng at the front gate.

Nash had lulled her into a false sense of security on the drive up to Cairns by keeping the conversation to a minimum. Keeping his manner strictly professional, calm, and polite. And for the first part of the trip home, he remained tight-lipped, the same as before.

But then, a little over an hour into the drive, Nash launched a surprise attack.

He turned the volume down on the radio. That was her first clue something was up. Then he drew a couple of deep breaths, as if he was pulling in strength for things to come. She tensed as he turned to look at her.

“Skylar, we need to talk.”

No, we don’t.She kept her mouth shut and continued to stare through the windshield. Even though he’d been her rock throughout the funeral, had been his kind-hearted self once more, that didn’t change things between them now.

“All right, how about I talk, and you listen?” he continued when she didn’t answer.

She lifted her shoulder in a shrug. It was a free country; she couldn’t stop him if he wanted to get something off his chest.

“I want to apologize for what I said the other night. I was out of line. You confided in me, and I used that information to hurt you, and I’m sorry.” His gaze drifted from the road to look at her. “I mean it,” he added. He left a space for her to fill, but she refused to answer, and so he continued, “I also want to give you my solemn promise, that I would never try and coerce you into speaking about Craig, or convince you to report him. It’s your life, and it’s ultimately your decision.”

As apologies went, it was a pretty good one. He almost had Skylar believing him. She guessed she owed him something in return.

“Thank you, Nash,” she said politely. “I appreciate that. But I’m not sure I completely believe you.”

He opened his mouth to argue, but she held up a hand.

“You are a cop, first and foremost. It’s your job to put right any wrongs. To put the bad guys away, where they belong. So, I don’t expect you to understand my reasons for keeping this to myself. And for asking you to do the same.”

“Yes, I’m a cop, but I’m not the straight-down-the line sort of guy you’re making me out to be. I realize everything is not merely black-and-white. There are shades of gray to most stories.”

She considered his words. Watching his hands resting easily on the steering wheel. He had long, graceful fingers. Skillful fingers. That knew exactly where to touch her. He’d taken his jacket off and rolled the sleeves of his dark shirt up to the elbow as soon as they left the chapel, and her gaze travelled up his exposed forearms, focusing on the tiny blond hairs covering his tanned skin. Then she merely looked at him, not knowing how to answer.

His grip tightened on the steering wheel. “You can trust me to keep your secret, Skylar. I know you’ve lost your confidence in most people. But you need to learn to find that trust again. I can help you.”

She looked at him. He was possibly correct. She could feel the significance of his words shooting holes through the vulnerable walls around her heart. Over the past week, she’d been slowly coming to the conclusion that Nash was the most trustworthy man she’d ever met. But what if she had faith in his words and began to believe in him, and he let her down? That would be far worse than not letting him into her heart in the first place. Wouldn't it?

“Maybe you’re right,” she said finally. “Maybe I do keep myself shut off from people too much. But that’s the way I’vechosen to live my life. And it suits me. I’m happy to leave things the way they are.”

But was she really? Nash was offering her something. An olive branch. A potential life outside of her self-imposed cocoon. If only she’d reach out and take it.

Nash sighed. “Even if you won’t accept my apology, will you please consider staying on a little longer at my place? If you go home to Stormcloud, we can’t keep you safe; I can’t keep you safe.”

“I know, but it’s okay,” she said softly. “It’s not your job to keep me safe, It’s mine. I’m going home, Nash.”

They sat in silence for the rest of the trip home.

Just as they hit the outskirts of Dimbulah, the police radio Nash had installed in his console, so he could stay in touch with Schroeder on the drive, crackled to life.

“Constable Willow has requested our help. He picked up a drunk and disorderly this morning, and he’s going crazy in his cell. Really ripping the place up. He thinks he means to do himself harm. Can you head toward the station? It should only take a few minutes.”

Nash glanced at Skyler. “Skylar wants to swing past my house and pick up her things before we head out to Stormcloud. Why don’t you come around there when you’re finished?”

She’d already discussed this with him this morning. She had a bag of clothes to collect, as well as a box of food that Nash had insisted he’d never use, if she left it in his pantry.

“If you’re sure, sir?” Schroeder said. Even Skylar could hear the distraction in the young constable’s voice. It was clear she wanted to go and lend a hand to calm the unruly prisoner.