Bringing Maddie Home - Page 85

COLIN’S MOOD WAS grim the next day. He wouldn’t tell Nell much, only that the police chief had “lawyered up”—his words—and that he was having to expand the investigation. When she asked how, he said, “Better you don’t know.”

The conversation was taking place in his kitchen. Felix had taken her grocery shopping and she had cooked dinner for Colin again. Her reward was the relief on his face when he came in the door and saw her, and then smelled Hungarian goulash cooking.

“Is this all happening because of me?” she asked, turning from the stove.

“No.” He kissed her lightly. The lines on his face were deeper than she’d seen before. “Can I do anything?” he offered, checking out her dinner preparations.

“I already have a salad made. Dinner will only be a few minutes. Relax.”

He disappeared to his bedroom and came back having shed his suit coat, tie, badge and weapon. He was rolling up his sleeves when he walked back into the kitchen.

“What do you mean, ‘no’?” Nell asked. “If Beck was killed because of me...”

“He might have been, and he might not. I may turn out to be wrong, but I really don’t think whatever Bystrom got himself involved in has anything to do with you, unless you’re the one who took the picture of him talking to someone he shouldn’t have been associating with.”

“And maybe picked up the deposit slip.”

“Yeah.” His smile eased the strain on his face. “Nancy Drew.”

After dinner, while they were clearing the table, he asked if she’d stay at the house with him.

“Because you’re worried about me being alone?”

“A little bit.” He tugged her to him, then rested his forehead against hers. “Mostly because I want you in my bed.”

Happiness blossomed in her. How long he’d want her in his bed—well, that was something she’d worry about later, when she had to.

Suddenly she laughed.

Lifting his head, Colin quirked an eyebrow at her.

“Felix says Mom is a master of denial. It just occurred to me that I’ve got her beat in that department. Refusing to think about anything that’s uncomfortable? That’s for amateurs. Me, I can really put things out of my mind.”

His rich, husky laugh sent shivers of reaction through her. Colin noticed—and somehow the dishwasher didn’t get loaded that evening.

* * *

THE NEXT MORNING, Colin dropped Nell at Emily’s house. It was Saturday, and they’d arranged to spend the day together. He wanted to issue all sorts of protective orders again, but resisted.

“You should be safe enough with her,” he said finally, unsatisfied but resigned to the fact that this was the best they could do.

He’d have been embarrassed if Nell had known how relieved he was to find her in one piece and even cheerful when he picked her up at five. He liked her friend, who was such a contrast to Hailey that he’d been surprised by her. Emily was class, Hailey irreverence. Somehow Maddie had attracted both as friends.

“You sure you don’t mind cooking again?” he asked during the drive. “And for company?”

“Which happens to be my family. And no. I bought what I need yesterday. I might as well at least make myself useful.”

He frowned at her. “I don’t want to take advantage of you.”

Nell laughed. “Admit it. You love having a break from cooking.”

He gave her a crooked smile. “You’re right. I do.” He liked even better not having to say good-night to her at the foot of the stairs to the apartment. That first night after she arrived in Angel Butte, he’d taken comfort in seeing the light on in the window up there. Now he didn’t want to be standing alone, looking out and seeing that light again. Tomorrow morning, he was going to suggest she move the rest of her stuff to his bedroom.

He might still be confused, but he sure as hell wanted her with him no matter what. The idea of going back to his solitary existence held no appeal whatsoever.

Nell kicked off her boots and padded around in stocking feet while she put dinner together. Tonight it was purple socks with big, splashy red flowers. A green stem twined around the toes on each foot. Every day he looked forward to seeing her socks. She admitted they were something of a fetish.

Tonight was to be sweet-and-sour chicken on brown rice, he learned. As Colin worked on the salad, he couldn’t help noticing that she was getting quieter and quieter.

“You okay?” he asked.

She barely glanced at him. “Sure. I’m just feeling a little anti-family right now. With the exception of Felix, of course. But he says he likes Uncle Duane, so I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Tags: Janice Kay Johnson Billionaire Romance
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