He expected Murray to make some smartass comment, but the man only nodded slowly and then said, “Kind of hard not to when the wee lady tossed herself in front of a bullet for you.”
Chandler’s lips twitched and he didn’t point out that what had been brewing inside him had started before her Superwoman antics. His gaze dipped to where her hand rested in his. So small and delicate…
“You need anything from me?” Murray asked.
“Could you get her rental car from her office?” When the man nodded, Chandler sighed. “That’s all I need.”
Murray stopped at the door, running a hand over his clean-shaven skull. “She’s one hell of a lady, isn’t she?”
His response was immediate. “That she is.”
Left alone, Chandler traveled his gaze to the tensed line of her mouth and brows. Was she in pain? The docs had given her something and there’d be a prescription to take with them, but it must’ve not been doing much. He knew what a bullet wound felt like—no matter how minor, it burned like being stabbed with a hot poker.
He was unsure of how much time had passed before her nose wrinkled up and her lashes fluttered. It could’ve been minutes, but it felt like years to Chandler. She moaned softly, and he scooted closer, damn near tempted to climb into the bed with her.
“Alana?” he called. Her lashes fluttered open and she blinked until her eyes focused on his face. He felt his lips stretch into a tight smile. “Hey there, how are you feeling?”
“Like I…” She paused, wetting her lips. “Like I’ve been shot.”
“Well, that sounds about right.” He squeezed her hand and watched her gaze dip to where he held hers. “It was a flesh wound. Nothing too serious. You’ll be able to go home with me in a few.”
He liked that she didn’t question the going-home-with-him part. “You passed out, probably from shock and pain.”
She winced. “So embarrassing.”
He grinned. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”
Her chest rose with a deep breath and her brow wrinkled even further. “I…I wasn’t even wearing my panties. You…took them.”
A laugh burst from him and if he could’ve without hurting her, he would’ve scooped her up. “Yeah, but I don’t think that was anyone’s concern.”
“I don’t like the sight or smell of blood,” she explained, and he was thrilled to see color pinked her cheeks. She drew in a breath and winced again as she looked at her bandaged shoulder. “Ow.”
“How bad is the pain?” He started to rise, but her grip on his hand tightened. “I can get a nurse—”
“No. I’m fine. It’s a dull ache, really. I want to sit up.”
Sliding an arm around her uninjured shoulder, he helped her sit up and then hit the button on the bed so she was in a recline. “How’s that?” he asked, sitting beside her legs. “Better?”
She nodded as her gaze went to the plastic cup of water. Leaning over, he grabbed the cup and held it to her lips. Must be the pain meds, because she didn’t fight him on the assistance or when he smoothed his thumb under her lip, chasing away a tiny drop of water.
When she settled back, exhaustion pulled at her lush mouth. “What are they pumping through this IV?” Lifting her hand, she frowned. “I feel high.”
Chandler chuckled as the muscles in his neck and shoulders finally started to relax. “Some really good stuff?”
“It is.” She settled back against the flat pillow, eyeing where he still held her hand. For one of the first times in his life, he actually wanted to know what a woman was thinking. “Did they get the guy?”
And then his muscles tensed again. “Yeah, the cops got him the second after he fired off a round.”
“Who was he? I didn’t recognize him at all. Did he say why—”
“It’s not our guy, Alana.” Reaching over, he tugged the blanket up, feeling like a nursemaid. “Basically, it was really a wrong place, wrong time kind of thing.”
He nodded, recounting what the officers had told him while Alana was being stitched up. “It was some douchebag who’d just robbed a store two blocks down. He took off on foot and the police think he was actually shooting at them. We just happened to be in the wrong place.”
She stared at him for a moment and there was no hiding the disappointment filling her cloudy gaze. He understood it. Not like she wanted to get shot or have someone who hated her that much to do something so horrendous, but then at least it would be over.
This was nowhere near over.
“He could’ve killed you.” Her face slipped into a wobbly scowl that was more cute than threatening. “And for what? Nothing?”
“Kill me?” Surprise radiated through me. “You were shot. Not me. Speaking of which, I’m your bodyguard, you little idiot. I’m supposed to protect you, not the other way around.”
A wry grin twisted her lips. “If I didn’t push you, you would’ve been hit in the back and I….”
“And you what?”
She met his stare and then her gaze flitted away as she pressed her lips together. “So you almost got shot—”
“You were shot.”
“Anyway,” she murmured, waving her hand dismissively, as if taking a bullet wasn’t a big deal. “We were shot at because we were standing in the wrong place? How f**king wrong is that?”
“Pretty wrong.” He smiled. Some guys didn’t like it when a woman cussed more than they did. Chandler loved it. He watched her lashes lower, fanning her cheeks. There had been something—something important—she was going to tell him before she’d been shot, but it could wait.
“Hey,” he said quietly, smoothing his hand over her cool cheek.
Her lashes swept up and a winsome smile appeared on her lips. “Hey back.”
Chandler bent his head, pressing a kiss to the corner of her lips. “If you ever do anything as stupid as that again, I will take you over my knee…but thank you. Thank you for most likely saving my life.”
Alana’s eyes were wide as he pulled back, and he knew in that moment, he had to be careful around her, because she was the kind of chick who could steal his heart.
Thing was, he wasn’t sure he wanted to be careful.
There was a good chance that Alana might be more than a little high after the second dose of painkillers. She was feeling rather…okay with everything.
Okay with being stalked out of her vehicle and home. Okay with missing a half a day of work. Okay with being shot for no good reason. Okay with letting Chandler help undress and then dress her in one of his old shirts. And most surprisingly, okay with being stretched out in bed beside Chandler.
Staring at the ceiling, she wondered how her life had gone from painfully orderly with the exception of random hate mail to sleeping beside the shirtless, sexy—and oh my God, he smells like soap, spice, man, and so good—brother of an ex-client while recovering from a bullet wound. Exactly when had her life veered in this direction? And why had she agreed to allow Chandler to scoop her up like it was their wedding night and carry her upstairs to bed—to his bed?
Oh, yes. It probably had something to do with the vroom-vroom Vicodin.
Chandler was asleep beside her, or at least she believed he was. His breathing was deep and even, and the warm arm pressed against her uninjured shoulder hadn’t moved in a while. He was shirtless, of course, because why should he cover all those beautiful ropey muscles? Now they’d have matching scars on their shoulders. How cute.
She squeezed her eyes shut, mentally cursing her addled thoughts.
There was no way she could sleep like this. She was an on-her-side kind of gal and if she rolled onto her good side, then she’d be facing Chandler and…then came marriage and a baby carriage or something like that.
So far she’d been handling things pretty damn well. Only came close to a major breakdown when she got an eyeful of her apartment. Getting shot sort of felt like the tip of the f**ked-up iceberg. Although she’d been nothing more than an innocent bystander, when she first woke up, all she could think was that someone hated her so badly that they shot her. Talk about an eye-opening experience. Had her tactics really been that bad? Hadn’t she helped these people in the long run? Not all of them. In the silence of the dark room, she could admit that to herself. There were those on the fringes whose lives were changed after Alana took a case. Sometimes it was friends, other times it was lovers or family, who had to be neatly cut out of the person’s life to succeed. And she had done the cutting.
Did she regret it now? She couldn’t, but maybe she could’ve been a little less harsh about things. Catch more bees with honey. Or was that bears? While she wanted this little ditty of self-realization to change things, it wouldn’t. Her job, well, it was all that she had at the end of the day. This—whatever this was with Chandler—wouldn’t be forever. She wasn’t so stupid to believe in that, and she would never allow herself to fall into that trap.
But in the shocking seconds after she’d felt the searing pain in her shoulder, she had seen the horror in Chandler’s gaze, the raw emotion that surprised her. He’d stared at her like he was facing the loss of something precious to him.
Glancing at the man beside her, she sighed. No matter how damn sexy and sinful that trap was, it was still a trap. Because when his job was complete and he grew bored with her, he’d leave and all she’d have was her job. Blowing out a breath, she squeezed her eyes shut and willed her brain to shut down and for her heart to stop racing.
A few seconds later, the arm between them lifted. “Come on.” When she didn’t move, he grumbled something under his breath. “I won’t tell anyone.”
Her lips curved up at the corners, but she still didn’t move. Doing so may not seem like such a big deal to others, but to her it was a monumental step.
Also another nail in the coffin.
Chandler sighed. “Waiting.”
And he was waiting for her. Arm in the air, face turned to her. In the darkness, she felt his gaze searching hers out. Her body and the sometimes-treacherous muscle in her chest yearned to do so. Was there really any harm in it? Probably. And if she was being honest with herself, she wanted nothing more. Later, she could blame it on the pain pills.
Drawing in a deep breath, she decided she’d face the consequences later. Right now, this was what she needed and wanted. Easing onto her uninjured shoulder, she placed her head on the crook of Chandler’s arm and sighed. The sound cracked as loud as thunder in the silence and she waited for him to make some smartass comment, but he didn’t. His large hand landed on her hip and urged her closer. After a bit of wiggling, she was fitted to his side in a way that had her wondering if their two bodies were designed for this.
Definitely the pain pills talking now.
Moving her arm carefully, she placed her hand on his bare chest and closed her eyes. Several moments passed and then she felt his hand flatten along her hip. The weight was intimate and cozy and…suffocating.
No. She forced herself to take a breath. It wasn’t suffocating at all. Truthfully, it was relaxing and nothing like the other times she’d attempted to do a little cuddling.
“Can I ask you a question?” she asked, staring at the moonlight.
Her heart sped up at his quick response. Chandler was…well, he was nothing she had expected.
“The scar on your shoulder? Were you shot?”
His thumb smoothed over her hip, and she liked the constant, idle motion. “Yes. About four years ago.”
“How?” She winced, feeling awkward. “Sorry. That’s none of my business.”
“It’s okay. I was doing a job in Chicago. A white-collar was about to turn state evidence and wanted security before he met with the police. Thought the guy was paranoid, but turned out, he wasn’t.” His chest moved in deep, slow breaths, the effect lulling. “When I was taking him to pick up his daughter at school, some bastard lit up the vehicle with gunfire. I took two bullets, but the client didn’t get scratched.”
“Christ.” She lifted her head, staring down at him. The way he said it was like it was no big deal. “You could’ve died!”
“But I didn’t.” His lips tipped up at the corners. “You could’ve died today.”
She was seriously trying not to think about that or why she had so readily pushed him out of the way. “I didn’t, but you…you do this every day.”
“What I do is my job.” He moved his other hand, gently cupping her cheek. “It’s not every day, and what I do doesn’t come cheap.”
They hadn’t even talked price yet, but lying in bed together didn’t seem like the right moment to bring it up. She let him guide her cheek back to his chest and his hand stayed on her cheek.
“Can I ask you a question?” he asked.
She tensed. “Yeah.”
“You grew up with your grandmother, right? You’ve said some stuff about your mom, but what happened to her?”
Unease formed little knots in her stomach. Talking about her family was hard, but she’d already gone there with him, opened the door so to speak. “I moved in with my grandma when I was seven. It became apparent that Mom couldn’t take care of me. She still visited, off and on, until I was thirteen, but then she…”
The hand on her hip started to move again. “What?”