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Authors: Capri Montgomery

Red Noon (8 page)

BOOK: Red Noon
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She respected him so much for treating her with respect and honoring her dignity by trying to allow her some privacy to her body. But now she had to go out where the doctor would look at it all.

“Do you want to stay in for the exam?”

“I’ll leave you and the doctor alone. It might be easier for you that way. I can wait outside the door.”

She thought it would be easier for her if he held her hand, but she would allow him the escape. The images he saw were a lot to handle and he deserved some air to breathe and not have to see the damage done to her. She nodded and gave him a lopsided smile.

“If you need me to stay, Sheila…”

“You need a break,” she inhaled slowly. “I’ll be okay.”

He kissed her forehead yet again. She realized she liked it a lot when he did that. “Yeah, you will. If you need me just scream and I’ll come in with my guns drawn.”

“Oh, both of them huh?”

“Both of them.” He guided her out the bathroom door and over to the bed where the doctor was now accompanied by a female nurse.

“I’ll be outside the door. Please get me as soon as your exam is done so we can all discuss what I need to do to help her heal those wounds.” Takahiro had such a stern voice that Sheila figured even the doctor knew not to defy his orders.

Chapter Six

Two Weeks Later…

hoa,” Takahiro looked at Sheila dressed in a fitted blue skirt with a soft pink fitted vest like top. The blue suit jacket in her hand told him she thought she was going to work. No way in hell was she going without protection and he needed more than five minutes to get an officer to drive her up to Scottsdale to work. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“Today? Nowhere actually. I know you have been super busy with work but I have dressed like this, or close to it, every day.”

He checked her up and down again. She was always still in bed when he had to go in—not sleeping, but working. The first week, after he got her out of the hospital and took her straight to his house, he had spent the mornings and the nights attending to the welted flesh on her back. He had also woken up several times to her fitful cries for help. He knew it was going to be hard for her to go to sleep without seeing the terror she had just gone through, but that didn’t make it any easier.

Each morning, after he had smoothed the creams and oils over her flesh and taken his own shower, he had gone in to let her know another officer was downstairs to watch over her and that he had to go to work. She seemed more concerned about him, reminding him to focus and not to worry about her. “Don’t even think about me because it will distract you,” she had said. How could he not think about her, on so many levels?

She had been right; thinking about her did distract him. By the time he got back in she had a note that dinner was warming in the oven and that she was upstairs in bed, not sleeping, she had been sure to write. So he saw her in night clothes, which happened to be a tank top and cotton panties only. Yeah, he had missed a lot of her daily wear but he wasn’t missing it today.

“But they do need me back at work tomorrow. They called yesterday to tell me.”

“And you’re just telling me now, because?”

She shrugged. “I forgot. You were doing so well putting the cream and oils on my back that I fell asleep.” She smiled at him what seemed like a real smile for a change. “It doesn’t hurt so much anymore. I thought I would put this one on today with the suit jacket just to be sure I can wear a similar one tomorrow for work.”

He grumbled. “What happened to them giving you a minimum of a month out of the office and then a month of working from home?”

“The layout got contorted and this one has to go to print in two days so they need me.” She laughed as she looked at his face. “You make the most serious facial expressions when you’re not happy” She laughed again. One thing he could say was that it was good to hear a laugh come from her even if it was over his facial expression. It was the first laugh he had heard, and the first real teeth bearing smile that went clear up to her eyes.

“I’ll get an officer on you tomorrow to go up with you. You will not stay there by yourself.”

“Got it,” she held up her hands in surrender. “You’re too cute, Takahiro.”

He loved the way she said his name He had told her she could shorten it like everybody else did, but she seemed to like letting his full name roll off her tongue as much as he liked hearing it come off it.

“You must really love this job if you’re going to drop recovery to go to it.”

“Recovery…hmmm…the doctors cleared me. I guess it’s as good as it’s going to get without some time for the marks to fade and some of the pain to go away. The scabs are done itching too, so that’s good.”

He was glad the scabs had formed over the parts with the broken skin because he knew that meant they were healing and not in great danger of infection now. The doctor had told him when he checked her out of the hospital that infection was a big threat so there was a strong need to keep it covered and treated.

“So you love this job that much huh?”

“Don’t you love yours?”

Question with a question—he hated that. It must have been a woman thing.

“You put your life on the line every single day for people you don’t know. Officer Keller, sweet and young as he may be, admires you all so much. He’s planning to try to get a recommendation so he can do the training and with hopes join your team. He tells me you didn’t know how many guys were in that house, how heavily armed they were, yet you came in anyway. Then he showed me some videos of SWAT tactics in action. It was very impressive if I do say so myself. So I figure you must love your job a whole lot if you’re willing to go through that every day for people who you don’t know, who probably hate you because you’re a cop, and who don’t care what happens to you in the process. Then you get those like me, who respect your job and you as a person, but you don’t know that going in. So you love your job; yes?”

“Of course, but…”

“I love mine the same way. I know it’s not life or death in the sense of I could get killed—well, not usually since Sanchez says he and his partner are starting to think my abduction was related to that very messy online thing, but for the most part it is, and could be, life or death for somebody. Because of me the bosses thought about my idea of putting in more mental health and loving the body you’re in articles for all sizes, men and women—believe it or not there are men with weight and body issues that cause eating disorders. They also diversified the models—a little, not a whole lot, but a little. And they spent less time featuring a lot of sex articles like some Cosmo issue stuck on sex. The magazine was always good and classy, and now it’s good, classy and more than just a good read. We’re adding a travel section too—fashion and travel—that was my idea but I told them I won’t get on any planes ever. They can fire me if they can’t deal with that.”

“You would get fired over that?”

“Well they won’t do that and I know that now, but yeah. No planes. The unemployment line is always open until I can find another job.” She shrugged. “No planes,” her voice tapered off to a near whisper. She stared in a trance for a minute as if memory of the past had swallowed her present “Anyway,” she brightened up a smidge. “I do love my job. I’m good at it too. It just fits me. I love designing my own clothes so this fashion thing with the magazine that is so close to what I like outside the media world…well, it makes me happier. I would hate working someplace I wasn’t happy…someplace where it was like, oh God please make the seconds tick faster, kind of thing.” She laughed again. “Wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah, that I would. But still, I wish you could stay out longer.”

“I wish I could have gone back sooner. I’m scared; I’m really scared. But I have to do this.”

He understood her words. If he sat out every time he took a bullet in his Kevlar or almost died he would be afraid to go back to work too. She, on the other hand, had gotten abducted doing the mundane everyday thing of going from home to car, so he understood how that fear could lock her in a dungeon that she was afraid to ever leave. No, she was right. She had to get back to work no matter how much he wanted her to stay here at home. Home? He mentally laughed. He had made it like her home, having another officer grab as much of her clothing as she could, and bringing the sewing supplies too. He had pretty much moved her in, and if he had his way he would keep her there. Maybe another house run for a pickup of more than just a couple photo albums this time would be a good thing to ask for. Ah hell, he was in love with this woman and he hadn’t even known her that long. He made a mental note to himself not to ever mock any of those Vegas weddings again. Then again, Vegas weddings with one of those known for five minutes and went to alter thing was kind of freakishly weird. Yeah, his falling in love was nothing like that. But he still had the problem of how they met and he needed to know if she could want him because of the man that he is. Now was not a good time to get things complicated with a romantic kind of love. She needed time before he could even think of asking her out on a date. She needed time to heal, get her mind together, and explore life without falling for the guy who carried her out of hell. He didn’t want to be just that guy to her. He wanted to be more than that. She needed time. Good thing he had the patience of a sharpshooter. He had to wait for the green light when he was the man on the roof waiting for permission to take the shot; he could wait for her to heal completely before making his move.

“Anyway,” she drew out the words. “Are you going to be home for dinner? Or do you want me to leave dinner warming in the oven?”

“Not tonight. I’m going in later today and I’m on almost all night so I’ll just catch up with you in the morning.”

“Okay, well then what do you want for breakfast? I’ll have an early start because this is San Tan Heights and I have to drive all the way to Scottsdale during rush hour traffic so that’ll take a couple hours.”

She wasn’t kidding there. Especially once she hit I-17. “Look, you don’t have to cook…”

“I’m not trying to be Suzie Homemaker, Takahiro. I’m here, you cooked for me my first week here and you’re the one working every day while still trying to take care of me. It won’t kill me to cook for you when I can. Don’t get all scared of a woman or anything like that.”

“What? No, that’s…”

“Not what you meant? Sure it was. I get that I’m too disgusting for you to really look at as something more right now. Some of these marks aren’t going to go away at all and I’m not living with rose tinted glasses on so I’ll learn to accept it eventually, but you don’t have to.”

He grabbed her arm and spun her around to face him. How dare she sum him up to some shallow piece of machinery? He was not trying to distance himself because of some marks on her body. He was not trying to run away from her.

“Those marks don’t make you less beautiful than what you are. You’re gorgeous, and you need to believe that more than anybody else does. And I’m not afraid of you.”

“Sure you are.”

He wasn’t. He was afraid of himself because looking at her made him want to kill for her, die for her, protect her and conquer her heart, her body and her mind. The stark realization that what he felt was love, not lust, hit him hard. Trying to reign in his emotions was like biting bullets right now.

“If you’re not afraid of me why won’t you look at me sometimes? After you put the cream and oil on my back you never hold eye contact with me. It’s like you can’t stomach it…me.”

He growled and took steps forward while making her step backwards. Once she was backed up against the corner of the island he placed his hands on the counter and lowered his head to look directly into her upturned eyes.

“I am not disgusted by you. I’m a man, Sheila. I’m a man who has touched your body, heard your voice, listened to your words, and couldn’t get enough. But I’m being a gentleman here and that takes work.”

“I care for you, so what’s the big deal?”

“You’re coming out of something that hit you hard and you’re not ready for it. It takes time to heal, but you can’t just fall for me because…”

“Because you rescued me? Yeah…that’s not even why I fell for you.”

“Sure it is.”

“No, it’s not. I will admit having you take care of me with such care means everything to me, but…yes, I feel safe with you. Yes, I felt safe the moment you put me in your arms and protected me. Yes, I think it let me open my heart faster because I knew you were a good man. Your job ended when you got me out. You didn’t have to ride to the hospital with me. You didn’t have to stay in the room with me. You could have left before they even started the exam, but you stayed. So yeah, maybe all of that has something to do with me realizing you’re a good man. But my feelings for you aren’t locked in some savior theory. You saved my life, yeah, I’ll give you that. But don’t tramp on my intelligence. My heart doesn’t rule my mind and my mind is telling me that you’re the best man to come into my life on this level ever. My mind is telling me you’re hot as all shades of heaven and hell and I want you. Maybe that sounds sick because of what I’ve gone through…but maybe going through that circle of hell finally made me realize that life is too short to keep your heart so heavily guarded. When you decide that too come talk to me.”

She pushed past him and he let her. The words that came out of her mouth had him both flabbergasted and set straight all at the same time. He had put his own pseudo science diagnosis on the vibes he felt coming off her. He could tell she was feeling a certain kind of way, but he had assumed it was because she had some sort of hero worship thing going on. He had assumed wrong. If they had met under different circumstances he still would have gone for her, and from her words he was starting to realize she still would have gone for him too. But what were the odds they would have met? It was rare that he got up to Scottsdale; it wasn’t a city he felt the need to visit and living so far away he didn’t feel the need to waste the gas going either. While he did get out sometimes he wasn’t chomping at the bits for places to go hang out at. The heights had some stuff, just down the road in the opposite direction had something, and if he felt the need to venture out farther than that he could hit up Gilbert, or even Coolidge without wiping out his tank. And if he needed farther than either of those places he could always take a shorter drive to Tucson. Yeah, they wouldn’t have met at all because there wasn’t much here that would make a Scottsdalian feel the need to come visit unless they wanted a rustic western dinner experience at the nearly upscale meets desert cowboy feel establishment in the Heights.

She had walked away from him for the first time. Usually she was trying to stay nearly under him. Maybe that was a good sign as to just what she thought about him. If she was only interested in him as a “savior” she wouldn’t have told him off in one of the most polite ways he had ever heard somebody tell anybody off let alone walk away from him. Before he left for work she had come back down and told him to be careful, to have a good day at work and once again she had told him not to think about her while he was working. He thought about her every minute of work, but fortunately he was able to pull his head together when they got called out to the last home invasion standoff. A few tear gas bombs through the window and a peaceful resolution, less than bullets anyway, had been achieved. Just another day with SWAT, he had said when he finally got back to the station. Day—heck, it was still morning. If the morning had started off like this he would hate to see what the rest of the day was going to look like for him.

BOOK: Red Noon
7.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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