“Come on, Tink.”
In response, Chris just sighed and turned her head away from him, burrowing deeper into the seat.
Deputy Guy Miller closed his eyes and tried to mentally prepare himself.
He could do this.
He had done it before, after all.
Blowing out a breath, he reached over and unerringly freed the catch on the seat belt. As he climbed out of the car and circled around, he braced himself. Chris was tired. Chris hadn’t just had a rough day—the past few weeks had been hell and he needed to be there for her.
All he was doing was taking her inside, putting her to bed.
Just being friendly.
Yeah, because that was how she wanted things.
That was how she’d decided things would be between them, just a couple of years ago.
Friendly. That was exactly how he felt. Friendly.
Lust and love twisted inside him. Just lifting her into his arms made his dick ache. Of course, he’d been a fucking disaster all day, ever since he’d slid onto that hard bench at church, seen the red dress she’d worn. No black for Chris. Her mother had loved color, so Chris had given her color. A brilliant spray of red roses and white lilies had stood between two of the pictures and he already knew who had designed that arrangement, and Chris had worn a dress the same shade of red as those roses, a deep, dark red that had glowed against her skin and she’d left her arms bare so the tattoos had been on display.
Roses that climbed up her arms and trailed down her back.
Once, he’d stripped that delicate body naked and learned each curve, each bloom of ink, and tasted that soft flesh.
One weekend, frozen in time.
But now, he was just a friend.
Settling her against his chest, he paused, gave himself a minute to rub his cheek against the softness of her hair.
Just a friend, maybe.
Even if everything he felt inside was so much more.
“Chris, baby,” he murmured.
She hummed in her throat and snuggled against him.
Sighing, he shifted around and managed to kick the door to his car shut. He relished the soft feel of her in his arms as he carried her to the back door, using his key to unlock the door.
“You’re good at this.”
He stilled at the sound of her voice.
A low beep beep beep came to his ears and he scowled, moving inside and using his shoulder to bump her door shut. The alarm system he’d nagged her into buying had a key fob, but he’d forgotten about it. Disarming the alarm, he looked down at the pale circle of her face. “How long have you been awake?” he asked softly.
“Somewhere between the car and here.” She wiggled against him but he pretended not to notice as he carried her into the kitchen.
If she was awake, he was going to make sure she ate something before he left.
“Are you back on the medicine?” he asked, settling her on one of the bar stools.
She grimaced at him. “No. I don’t need it right now. Well, maybe it would be useful, but I don’t want it. Why?”
“Because you’re not eating.” She’d lost probably five pounds, easy.
“I never eat when I’m miserable.” She sighed and shrugged. “The ADHD drugs aren’t the only thing that kills my appetite. Finding out what happened to Mom. The memorial. Nosy bitches who don’t need to be at Mom’s memorial anyway. All of those things will make me not want to eat.”
“You’re going to eat.”
She slid him a look. “Am I now?”
He came back over to the island and planted one hand in front of her, the other on the back of her chair. “You are. You’re wasting away.” Then, because he knew she might ignore him if he bossed her around, but she’d never ignore him if he asked, he softened his voice and said, “Please, Tink.”
Reaching up, he cupped her cheek, wished he had the right to stroke his thumb over the full curve of her lower lip, maybe press his lips to hers and see if he couldn’t find some way to stir her appetite and make her forget some of her misery for a while.
She covered his hand with hers and squeezed. “You need a wife, Guy. You just love taking care of people.”
“Not all wives want to be taken care of.” He shrugged and turned away. He wasn’t about to tell her that the only woman he wanted to take care of was her, that the only woman he wanted was the woman he’d never have.
Just a few more days…have you ordered?
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