Gone deadly secrets book.., p.6
Gone (Deadly Secrets Book 2),
He couldn’t tell Raegan that, though, and just the thought of it caused that hollow ache to reform in his chest. He cleared his throat. “Sam and Ethan survived a lot to be together. It’s a long story, but if anyone deserves to be happy, it’s those two.”
“Well, good for them,” she said quietly.
His chest tightened. He needed to change the topic. Talking about people being happy—especially another couple—was too painful.
“Sam and Ethan are partly responsible for my parents adopting Thomas too,” he said. “He was one of Sam’s students and the kid Ethan was observing when they met. When my parents found out he needed a home, well, they stepped in like always.”
She was silent for several seconds, then said, “I think it’s great your parents are giving Thomas a stable home and a real family. Every kid deserves that.”
He couldn’t stop himself from glancing over at her, and even in the dim light he didn’t miss the tension in her jaw or the way she stared at the ceiling as if lost in memories of her own childhood.
That heart he was pretty sure he didn’t have anymore contracted because he knew what she was remembering. Two parents who’d used her as a pawn in the war between them, bouncing her back and forth between LA and New York when she least expected it, rarely spending much time with her when she arrived at one or the other’s home because their personal lives were too busy for their own child.
Raegan had grown up a child of immense wealth but massive neglect. She had a soft heart and a gentle nature, and she’d turned out okay mostly because she’d learned to take care of herself. And because she’d chosen a college in the Pacific Northwest far away from either of her parents and eventually made that her home. A big, nosy family was not something she’d had much experience with before she’d met Alec, but she’d quickly grown to love his parents and siblings in a way that, even now, surprised him. Losing them in the divorce had been hard on her. Maybe harder than he’d realized until just this moment.
She rolled away and faced the back of the couch. “I think I’m finally tired now. Good night, Alec.”
“Yeah, me too,” he said because he didn’t know what else to say. “Night, Raegan.”
He forced himself to close his eyes but knew there was no way he’d be able to fall asleep. His heart beat too hard, and a thousand different memories were spinning through his head, all centered on the woman only feet away. And even though he knew he shouldn’t, he couldn’t stop thinking about the feel of her curled up next to him. Couldn’t stop imagining the warmth of her head resting on his shoulder. Couldn’t stop wishing he could banish every fear and doubt and moment of sadness from her life.
But he couldn’t. And he was the last person who should ever try.
She was a terrible liar.
Raegan wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but it felt like an eternity, and she still wasn’t the least bit tired. Rolling to her back as soundlessly as she could, she stared at the ceiling and focused on breathing. Thankfully, from the sound of Alec’s soft snoring on the floor, he didn’t have a clue she was still wide-awake.
Her stomach growled, reminding her she’d skipped dinner. Realizing lying there twiddling her thumbs wasn’t going to do any good, she decided maybe a snack would help her settle down.
She folded back the blankets and pushed to her feet. The floorboards creaked, and she stilled, looking toward Alec to see if she’d disturbed him. He didn’t move, just continued drawing in long, deep breaths and releasing them slowly.
She’d watched him sleep hundreds of times, but something in her heart turned over at the sight tonight. And in a rush of emotion, she realized why. Because this was the man she wanted, not the one she’d left at dinner. She was fooling herself into thinking she was ready to move on with someone else when she was still in love with Alec. Which meant tomorrow, when she finally got out of here, she needed to have a long talk with Jeremy and walk away from something she never should have started.
She frowned because that was a conversation she really didn’t want to have. Dating her boss had not been a smart move at all.
She moved quietly into the kitchen, the thick socks Alec had loaned her soundless on the floor. Since her slacks weren’t nearly warm enough overnight, he’d given her a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt. The sweatshirt was no problem—she’d always loved wearing his baggy shirts to sleep in—but the sweats were huge. Even after rolling the waist down three times, the legs were way too long. The only solution had been to tug the elastic hem on each leg up to her knees so she didn’t trip over the fabric.
The kitchen was nearly as big as the living room with a central empty space and counters lining the walls to the right and left. The room was dark, but there was enough light reflecting off the snow outside for her to see the island jutting out ahead, separating the kitchen from the dining area, and the sliding glass doors that looked out over the battered back porch and the layer of white beyond.
She opened cupboards one by one as quietly as she could. Most were empty. Others held a few dishes and pots. The only food she found was cereal, a couple of boxes of macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, peanut butter, and coffee. Moving to the fridge, she discovered a half-empty gallon of milk, a block of cheese, and a loaf of bread. Nothing else.
Typical bachelor food. It was the same sort of stuff he’d had in his apartment when they’d first met. During their marriage, she’d gone out of her way to make sure he ate healthy. Alec hated to cook, which had never bothered her because she enjoyed cooking, and she saw it as a winning trade-off because he’d happily done all the shopping. Clearly, though, he hadn’t paid much attention to what she’d put on her lists back then because none of it was in his fridge now.
Sighing, she decided a peanut butter sandwich would do the trick. Grabbing the milk and bread, she moved to the counter, set the items down, and reached for a glass from the cupboard.
“What the heck are you doing?” Alec asked just as she lifted a glass of milk to her lips.
Raegan jerked in surprise, and the glass slipped from her fingers. Wide-eyed, she watched as the tumbler hit the edge of the aged tile counter, ricocheted off the surface, and shattered at her feet.
Glass and milk sprayed over her socks and across the floor. Something sharp stabbed into the flesh at her shin. She winced and was about to step back, when Alec yelled, “No. Don’t move.” Then, “Shit. There’s glass everywhere. Just stay still.”
He disappeared through a doorway she hadn’t noticed to her right and reappeared with a flashlight, which he flicked on and set on the edge of the counter, a broom and dustpan, and a towel. “Here.” He pushed the towel into her hands. “That’s for the milk. Wait until I get the glass out of the way first, though.”
“You scared me.” Taking the towel, she pressed it against her chest and breathed, trying not to move so she didn’t slice up her feet. Her socks—correction, his socks—were soaked.
“Sorry.” He pulled the broom through the milk, sweeping up the glass. “I didn’t see you had a cup in your hand. I—dammit.”
When the broom stilled, she looked down. “What’s wrong?”
“You’re cut.” He leaned the broom against the counter and stepped toward her.
“Wait, you’re going to step on gla—”
His strong arms swept her up off the floor, and he carried her across the kitchen and set her on the far end of the island counter. Tugging her left pant leg up, she saw what she’d missed because of the thick, blousy fabric: a piece of glass at least an inch long and an eighth of an inch thick sticking straight out of her shin.
“Oh my.” Her head grew light, and she must have swayed because Alec’s arm was suddenly around her waist and she was leaning into his weight.
“Don’t pass out on me.” He shifted her injured leg so it was stretched out on the counter, then moved her back so she could rest against the wall where the counters formed an L shape.
“I don’t do well with the sight of blood,” she
“I remember. Here.” He lifted the towel in her hands up toward her face. “Cover your eyes while I pull out the glass.”
Her stomach rolled, and she knew better than to try to look again. Covering her head with the towel, she held her breath and waited.
With one hand on her thigh to hold her leg still, Alec said, “Okay, on three. Ready?”
A sharp, burning pain shot across her shin, and she cried out. Something warm and soft covered the spot.
“Done,” Alec said. “You can look now.”
Breathing heavily, Raegan lowered the towel and glared at him. “That wasn’t three.”
He flashed one of his charming, devilish, adorable grins that made him look ten years younger. “It’s out, isn’t it?” He lifted a hand towel from her leg she didn’t remember him grabbing and checked the wound, angling the towel so she couldn’t see the blood. “Damn but that was a big piece of glass. Bet it hurt.”
Her glare deepened, which only made his smile widen.
“Here.” He reached for her hand, tugging her to sit more upright, and placed it over the towel at her shin. “Keep pressure on this. I need to go grab some first-aid supplies.” He stopped a step away and glanced back at her. “Don’t look at it.”
She flashed him an irritated glower. With a roll of his eyes, he moved through the arched doorway back into the living room.
When the stairs creaked, indicating he’d headed up to the second floor, she lifted the dish towel from her leg. Blood oozed from the gash. Her stomach twisted, and her head grew light all over again. Lowering the towel back over the wound, she swallowed hard, but the room was already spinning like she were in the middle of a pendulum ride at an amusement park, and spots began to form all along her vision.
“Dammit, Raegan.” Alec’s voice sounded really far away. “I told you not to look.”
“I didn’t . . . look. I just . . . peeked.”
Warmth seeped into her spine. Her head fell back against something solid. The familiar scent of pine and citrus surrounded her.
“Right, just peeked,” he said somewhere close. Really close. “Good thing they’re grooming you for an anchor job instead of on-scene reporting.”
She rolled her head. When the tip of her nose brushed his throat and she inhaled his familiar masculine scent, she realized he was holding her up from behind, her back against his chest, his muscular arms wrapped around her waist so she wouldn’t fall off the counter. “Don’t know what . . . you’re talking about.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, you do.”
God, he felt good. Strong, solid, warm . . . right. Her eyes slid closed as she relaxed, loving being close to him.
Long seconds passed where all she did was breathe and sigh.
“Feeling less woozy?” he asked softly above her.
“Good. Because I need to get pressure on that wound.”
He shifted behind her, pulling her back along the counter once more. Cool air swept along her spine, replacing all his sultry heat. Before she could stop him, his arms were gone and the wall was once more pressed into her back.
“Don’t fall over.” He stepped away and laid his hand over the towel covering her shin.
Pain spiraled outward from the spot, and she hissed in a breath.
“Sorry.” He lifted the towel again so she couldn’t see and inspected the wound. “It’s deep, but I think it got you at an angle. It’s not very long. Hold still while I get a bandage.”
Raegan caught a flash of red on the towel and quickly looked toward the ceiling, breathing through her nose so she didn’t pass out. She felt Alec’s warm hands at her leg as he cleaned the wound, then pressure when he applied a bandage and finally wrapped her whole calf in gauze.
“I used a butterfly bandage,” he said when he was done. “It still might need a stitch or two. We’ll have to check it in the morning. You steady now?”
Raegan chanced a look down at her leg, covered in white gauze. The room was no longer spinning, and the nausea seemed to be lessening. Slowly, she nodded.
“Good.” He moved around the island. Seconds later, a cupboard door opened and closed, followed by water running in the sink. The water quickly shut off, and when Alec reappeared, he held a blue plastic cup in one hand and two white pills in the other. “Acetaminophen. It’ll help the pain.”
Raegan reached for the cup and held out her other hand so he could drop the pills in her palm. “Don’t trust me with glass, huh?”
She popped the pills in her mouth, swallowed them back with a mouthful of water, and lowered the cup to her lap with both hands. “Sorry about the mess. And nearly passing out.”
“The mess is no big deal. And I remember how you are with blood.” He lifted his right hand from the edge of the counter near her knee and turned it so she could see the thin white scar down the back of his middle finger. “Remember this? You hit the floor before I’d even completely unwrapped the towel from my hand.”
Her cheeks heated with a memory of the night he’d broken his finger playing softball and she’d had to drive him to the ER. “Okay, in my defense, that wasn’t just because of the blood. The bone was sticking out of your finger. Bones aren’t supposed to protrude from the skin.”
A wry smile pulled at his lips. “And the injured person’s driver isn’t supposed to wind up in an X-ray machine, but mine did because she hit her head on the side of the gurney on the way down. I was stitched up and in a hand brace before you were done having pictures taken.”
She couldn’t help but smile at the memory. They’d gone to the hospital for him, and she’d been the one who’d wound up needing the most medical attention. “You’re lucky I have such a thick skull or that could have been one expensive night.”
“Yeah, it would have been. It was already expensive enough with the surgery to fix my finger. If you’d needed a brain transplant, that would have decimated our savings.” His clear blue gaze skipped over her features in a familiar, loving way, and when she remembered the thousands of times he’d looked at her like that just before he’d kissed her, the heat in her cheeks spread down her neck and straight into her belly.
This was the old Alec she remembered. The easy-going, sarcastic, fun-loving Alec who’d always been able to make her laugh, whose quick smile and warm eyes could brighten even her worst day. The one she desperately wanted more of right now.
Nerves jumped around in her belly. She swallowed and tried to settle her suddenly racing pulse. Told herself this wasn’t then, that things were different now, that he didn’t feel the same. But when his gaze dropped to her lips, she couldn’t help but wonder . . . maybe.
Slowly, she set the cup at her side, braced her hands on the edge of the counter near her legs, and looked up at him. His body responded. She saw it in the way the vein at his throat pulsed. Watched the way his skin flushed. Felt the heat all but seeping from him into her at this close distance. And when his hand drifted to the edge of the counter, brushing hers, and she recognized the way his eyes darkened with need, she knew he wasn’t just thinking those same things, he was feeling them too.
The same combustible chemistry they’d always shared flared hot inside her. She leaned forward, wanting to touch him, to kiss him, to taste him. His body drifted her way, and her eyes fell closed. Heat surrounded her, but seconds later she still felt nothing. No warmth of his touch. No brush of his lips. No lingering slide of his tongue over hers that she could sample and savor and get lost in.
Confused, she opened her eyes and looked up. Then wished she hadn’t.
Unease filled Alec’s blue eyes as he angled back, away from her, out of her reach. “Raegs, don’t.”
Her heart contracted, not because he’d moved away but because he’d used that long-ago nickname, the one he’d called her by a million times when things between them had be
“It’s late.” He stepped farther back, putting more space between them. “You’re tired, I’m tired, and it’s been a really long day. Neither one of us wants to do something we’ll regret in the morning.”
That one word—“regret”—was like a swift punch to the stomach. Rejection burned like lava in her veins, heating her skin all over again, this time not with arousal but with mortification.
She looked away. Sat up straighter. Told herself he was right. But all she wanted to do now was run.
Except she couldn’t. She was trapped with him here tonight because of the snow. Trapped with an ex-husband she’d just tried to kiss and who’d made it more than clear he was no longer interested.
“Yeah, it has been a long day.” She scooted off the counter. Winced when her foot hit the floor and pain echoed around the cut. Turned quickly away so he couldn’t see. “If you’d just show me where the cleaning supplies are, I’ll take care of that mess.”
“No, I’ll do it. You just go on back to bed.”
Go back to bed. Like a child. Yeah, that made her feel waaaay better.
The etiquette her wealthy socialite mother had ingrained in her screamed she should argue and offer to help, but she didn’t want to help. She wanted to go back out to that couch, throw the blanket over her head, and pretend like the last twenty minutes had never happened.