a Touch of Revenge (Romantic Mystery - book 6): The Everly Gray Adventures (10 page)

BOOK: a Touch of Revenge (Romantic Mystery - book 6): The Everly Gray Adventures
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The laugh lines around his eyes crinkled, but he headed for the bathroom without a word.

I kicked off my shoes, then dipped my shoulder, letting my handbag slide onto a big chair that was nestled in a corner of the room. It was probably big enough for me to sleep in, but no. That would be cowardly. It wasn’t like Pierce had cooties or anything, it was just that he oozed sex appeal and all that free-floating testosterone tended to put my nerves on edge.

The toilet flushed. The ancient-plumbing clinkety-clank of pipes that were reluctant to work sounded from the bathroom, and then water ran in the sink. My delightful, charming room, the one with character to spare, had shrunk into a space that would fit on a tip of a pin.

The bathroom door rattled, Pierce stepped into the bedroom, strolled to the left side of the bed, sat, and unlaced his boots.

I took in the tired lines creasing his face, the gray tinge that had barely faded when he’d eaten, and my heart flinched with…worry? Or was it just the aftereffects of the run-in with Nolla, and spotting Cait at the Connor estate? I shook off the sensation, then strolled across the room to take my turn in the loo. It took mere minutes to use the facilities, wash my face, and brush my teeth. No way was I sharing a bed with Tynan Pierce unless my girly defenses were in place. Silly, considering all we’d been through together.

I inhaled, carefully opened the bathroom door, and peeked into the bedroom. Pierce was sprawled on his back, arm thrown over his face, and a soft snore came from his throat. A smile unfolded in my chest. Somehow with all the training I’d been doing as a warrior and healer, I’d forgotten that I was a woman. Yep. That part had completely slipped my mind until I faced the reality of having a no-sex-allowed man in my bed—on top of the bed, but same difference. How the hell was I going to deal with this?

I eased onto the right side of the queen-sized bed, trying not to jiggle the mattress. Pierce didn’t move, his breathing steady and even. I inhaled long and deep, snuggled into the soft feather mattress, and then began a yoga-type relaxation exercise starting with my feet and working up to my head.

It didn’t relax so much as my pinkie finger. My curiosity was screaming to know what had happened to make this bigger-than-life man turn into a gray shadow, and for the first time in months my fingers itched to touch someone. To touch Pierce.

He turned toward me, blue eyes awake and fully aware. Before I could blink, he’d slipped his arm across my abdomen, hauled me to the middle of the bed, and spooned our bodies together. “Sleep, Belisama,” he said, and skimmed my belly diamond with the tip of his finger.

I shivered. And then the warmth of his body flowed through me, melting my tension, the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest steady against me. It had been over a year since a man held me, comforted me. It wasn’t until an ache began to throb in my chest that I acknowledged I was lonely. I’d have to be careful of that. Pierce was a friend. A decent man who I respected, and I wanted, needed, to honor that. It would be so easy to just give up and let him take care of me.

I studied the blank emptiness of the wall and grinned. Fat chance. Tynan Pierce was
not
the coddling type, and I enjoyed sparring with him way too much to go all girly about his super-quick mind and powerful muscles. Not that I didn’t ap-appreciate… I yawned. And slept.

 

A FORCEFUL STREAM OF AIR
brushed against my nape. I yelped, bolted upright, and then recognized Pierce sitting on the side of the bed. He’d been blowing on my neck.

Damn it! He’d scared the crap out of me. I inhaled, ready to ream him out, then caught the uncertainty clouding his eyes and squashed my temper. “I…forgot you were here. Startled me.”
Roll with the awkward, Everly. You’re gonna be sharing space with this man for a bunch of days.

His shoulders straightened, barely enough to move the air around. “Uh-huh. Ready to introduce me to Cait?”

The fresh scent of castile soap washed over me. Pierce’s hair was damp and he had on a clean t-shirt. Black. “You showered,” I said, rolling to his side of the bed, then standing. It wouldn’t be smart to maneuver around him, or to try and push him off the bed. Why waste time and energy on an immovable force?

His gaze was a mix of twinkle and serious. “Being a gentleman, I didn’t use all the hot water.” He stood, made his way toward the door. “Be ready to roll in twenty.”

Questions tumbled through my thoughts, but Pierce was gone before I could utter a syllable. Typical. Note to self: ask Pierce about fading into thin air, gray shadows, and inky blackness. If he could do it, why not me?

I showered, smoothed the wrinkles out of a clean t-shirt, tugged it on, and then slathered product through my wet hair, hoping it would tame the frizzies.

Pierce sauntered into our room just as I stretched my arms into a black hoodie and yanked it over my head. He wasn’t the only one who looked good in black. I flipped the hood back and shouldered my handbag. “What’s in the sack?”

“Equipment.” He took something from the paper bag and tucked it into his front jeans pocket.

It took me a scant second to recognize the tracking device. I wrinkled my nose. “Who do you plan to track?”

“Plan? No one.” He pressed his hand to the small of my back, and ushered me out the door, locked it, then pocketed the key.

I stopped dead. “You asked Mrs. Brumley for a key?” Heat flashed up my neck. It was one thing to share my room with Pierce, but a totally different thing to have
him
request a key to said room. “I would have done it. It’s—”

“Seemed best to introduce myself. We’re engaged, by the way.”

Panic cut into me. “No.”

“It’s our cover, Belisama.” The words were bland, but his mouth had locked into a tight line.

I waved my hand, impatient. “That’s not the problem. I should have had some say in the decision-making process. After Mitch, I—”

Pierce’s face softened. “I’m not Hunt. I won’t lie to you. But I will make on-the-spot decisions.”

He brushed his thumb over my cheek.

My heart didn’t have enough room to beat.

“You’ve worked hard. I respect that.” Another soft flick of his thumb. “But good as A.J. and Boulay are, they haven’t had enough time to completely prep you for field work. This is real time with live ammo, and you’re gonna have to trust me.”

Temper licked at my annoyance, shooting it up a notch. Pierce was right. But only technically. “I get that.” My fingers twitched. “My ESP has been on forced hiatus for well on to nine months, because I wanted to learn everything Annie and Whitney could teach me without…cheating. Without
inside
help. And
you
have to respect that. My wounds from what happened with Mitch are far from fresh, but the scars haven’t faded yet. This is
my
family, Pierce. My revenge. Don’t shut me out when you plan something.”

The color had drained from his face when I mentioned family. It surprised me, but more important, it scared me. Something was definitely off with him, and it was past time to bring my fingers out of retirement. I flexed my hands, captured his gaze, and held it until he looked away.

Had Pierce ever broken eye contact with me before? I filed the question for later consideration, and relaxed my hands. Now wasn’t the time to touch him. We were standing in the middle of the hall in a bed and breakfast, so it wasn’t the place, either. Not that those things had ever stopped me before, but this was different. A partnership in its infancy, and I didn’t want to screw it up. I shrugged, smiled. “This must be one of those communication things women and men do differently. We need to find a common ground.”

Pierce dropped his arm over my shoulders and jostled me through the door and outside. “Lead the way, Hot Shot.”

 

TEN

 

THE EVENING AIR WAS CRISP
and filled with the fragrance of the many different foods being prepared in neighborhood restaurants. I inhaled, searching for the distinctive scent of fish and chips served at The Moon and Star. I caught a whiff, stopped walking, and nudged Pierce. “Smell that?”

“Possibly.” He was wearing his serious face, but his eyes shimmered with laughter.

Of course he wasn’t getting it. How could he? “The fish and chips. The wind is blowing toward us in a direct line from The Moon and Star pub, and every time the door opens we get a whiff of whatever secret ingredient they put in their batter. It’s fabulous.”

He tugged on my hair. “Or you’re hungry.”

I couldn’t deny my tummy rumblings, so took his hand and zigzagged through the tourists who were either searching for last-minute bargains before the shops closed, or stopping at one of the pubs for a taste of the local delectables.

“Come on. We’re here.” When the door closed behind us, I paused for a minute, letting my eyes adjust to the dim light, then beelined for an empty booth in the back corner.

We settled across from each other on the well-worn wooden benches, and I gave him an intimidating stare. To the casual observer, it probably looked like I had a bad case of gas, but I gave it my best shot. “So, where’d you get the GPS?”

His grin was instantaneous. “I know people who know people.”

Not only couldn’t I argue with that, but I didn’t even bother to probe, because my curiosity was more interested in something else. “How soon do we need to get the Citroën back to your mother?”

And there it was. The exact shuttered expression I’d been watching for. My vision had completely adjusted to the pub’s low lights, and the Tiffany-style lamp on our table provided a clear view of the sudden pallor that took over Pierce’s face. My ESP fingers weren’t needed to establish his distress. The man had family issues. Didn’t we all? As much as I wanted to poke into his private business, I had to respect that it was just that—private. And since we were going to be glued at the hip until we found out what Fion Connor was up to, I could afford to back off and wait it out.

However, when he returned that car, I’d be snuggled so tight to him we’d be sharing an aura. It’d be the next best thing to turning my fingers loose on him. Well, hell. Didn’t that thought bring up a flash of heat? Embarrassing. Maybe Pierce wouldn’t notice.

He tipped his head to the side, eyeing me. “When I’m done with it.” He tossed the words out, casual, then narrowed his gaze. “You’re flushed. Sick?”

I was saved from answering when a young, gangly man stepped up to the booth. “Welcome to The Moon and Star. I’m Jon. What would you like to drink?”

I didn’t have to think about that one. “A hard cider, and I’d like the fish and chips with mushy peas, no tartar sauce. Would you bring us a bottle of malt vinegar as well, please?”

He winked. “A woman after my own heart. The chippies are nothing without a splash of the malt.” He turned to Pierce. “And for you, sir?”

“Same.” There was a warning in his tone, and it took me a very long minute to place it as jealousy. Surely that couldn’t be right. Pierce jealous of a college kid flirting with me? Every womanly cell in me did a happy dance, and then skidded to a libido-shattering halt.
Bad, bad, bad, Everly. You’re not ready. Not. Ready.

Jon had long since left to place our order before I realized that Pierce was waiting for me to say something. I ran through my internal tape of our conversation. Sick. He’d asked me if I was sick. The heat spreading through me intensified. Where the heck was my hard cider? “I’m fine except that I haven’t seen Cait yet.”

Pierce shifted his body, scanned the room. “Description?”

“Dark brown hair, bordering on black, and her eyes are a deep blue. Young. Pretty. And she has a nice smile. Solid, you know. Like she really means it.”

Jon strode back to our table, interrupting us. “Hard cider for both of you.” He placed a bottle of malt vinegar and pile of napkins on the table. “Chippies’ll be up shortly.”

He turned toward the kitchen, but before he took a full step I caught his arm. “Is Cait working tonight?”

Jon’s mouth tightened. “She is. It hasn’t been her best night, but I can send her over if you’d like.”

The concern in his voice sent a shiver of trepidation under my skin, and I cut a glance at Pierce. He nodded. Subtle. “When she has a moment, but please let her know there’s no rush.”

Pierce took a long drink of his cider, grimaced, then set it down with a thud. “How do you drink this stuff?”

I sipped mine, licked my lips. “I’m not all that big on most beer, although they have an excellent lager here, and Diet Coke doesn’t go with fish and chips. This is a tasty compromise.” I attempted to cover up my babbling by giving the dining area another once-over. “There’s something wrong. I didn’t like the way Jon sounded.”

Pierce slid his glass of cider toward me, then stood. “Uh-huh. I’m going to get something to drink. Stay out of trouble, Hot Shot.”

I ogled his backside as he made his way across the eating area to the bar, and a sigh welled up from my toes. I liked it a lot better when Pierce called me Belisama. There was something…distant about Hot Shot. Was he trying to separate us? Or maybe he was reminding me that my detective skills weren’t all that polished yet? Whatever, it left an empty feeling in my chest.

I was chugging a swallow of cider when the kitchen door swung open, bounced off the wall with a bang, and a tray-laden server stormed out. Cait stood in the opening, hands on hips, leaning toward someone I couldn’t see. The door closed briefly, but its momentum kept it moving in the other direction until I got another clear view of Cait. She was obviously yelling at someone, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying over the Irish stepdance music playing on the pub’s sound system, the undercurrent of restaurant conversation, and the normal banging and clanging from a busy kitchen.

BOOK: a Touch of Revenge (Romantic Mystery - book 6): The Everly Gray Adventures
6.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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