When I Find You: A Trust No One Novel (10 page)

BOOK: When I Find You: A Trust No One Novel
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Would her life ever be the same?

When Walker stood and turned to face her, instant concern flickered in his darkened eyes. She tried a carefree grin, but his frown said he wasn’t buying it.

He put his arm behind her back and turned her toward the restaurant. “Are you sure you’re up to walking?”

“I think I can make it a block.”

“Hey . . . just trying to be a gentleman.” He moved her over so he was on the side closest to the road.

The protectiveness of his simple move touched her and made her feel special. She studied his strong profile when he wasn’t looking. “Oh yeah? Just what would you have done if I’d said I couldn’t walk? Get the Jeep and drive a block?”

“Actually, driving was one of the options, but I was leaning toward carrying you.” Unrepentant amusement shone from his eyes as he cast her a go-ahead-dare-me look.

Darcy snorted for his benefit, but that was one bluff she wasn’t going to call.

They walked along the sidewalk in silence. Fog rolled in from the ocean forming halos around the streetlights and muffling the sounds of traffic on the nearby highway.

“So, Tillamook? What was it like growing up here?”

“Like any other small town, I suppose. Except my father was the chief of police until he retired three years ago. He was a hard man, so the kids avoided me like the plague. I couldn’t wait to get out of here after high school.”

“You went away to college?”

“Oregon State in Corvallis. The day I graduated, I left for Chicago. A year ago, my mother got sick—cancer—and I came home to help care for her, but I just couldn’t stay. I was too selfish.”

“That’s your father talking, and I don’t believe a word of it.”

Darcy glanced at him and smiled. “Thank you for that, but you don’t really know anything about me.”

“I know enough.”

When they reached the restaurant, he held the door open for her. The aroma of steaks grilling made her stomach growl and ache with emptiness. There were two other couples in line for tables, so Walker gave his name to the hostess and found a place for them to wait. The other couples were seated soon after and then it was just them.

“Table for two, Walker?”

He stood to help her up, but Darcy froze where she was. The one person she couldn’t bear to see again. What were the odds, just passing through town, she’d run into him? Walker tensed and, judging by the concerned look on his face, she must have turned two shades of pale. Slowly she stood and drew herself up straight, then swung around to face the man who waited to show them to their table. His dark good looks and the arrogance in his expression were exactly as she remembered.

A mocking smile appeared as soon as he recognized her. “Well, if it isn’t the chief’s daughter . . . all grown up.” He gave a low whistle and raked her with his gaze.

Darcy made no reply as fear and anger melded into a turbulent storm within her. Hands fisted tightly at her sides, she glared at the only person in the world she’d ever hated. Walker stole her attention when he moved in close and rested a hand on her waist, a question in his eyes. When he didn’t get an answer, he turned a calculating stare on Robby, who apparently realized the danger immediately. Spurred to action, he quickly showed them to a secluded table and disappeared. Walker held her chair and then seated himself across from her, placing his backpack on the floor at his feet.

“A ghost from your past?” His eyes were troubled.

“Robby is just someone I used to know.” She took a deep breath and tried to dislodge the rock that had dropped into her stomach.

A dozen tables were spread throughout the room, covered with crisp white tablecloths, candles aglow in frosted holders, and lead-crystal water glasses. The lights were dim and people talked quietly. A romantic setting for a leisurely dinner. Suddenly, Darcy felt very much out of place.

The waitress came and Walker ordered a bottle of wine, glancing at Darcy for approval. “One glass shouldn’t hurt. That particular wine goes well with meat. Make sure you order some.” Walker eyed her over the top of his menu.

“Now who’s being bossy? I’m not afraid of you anymore, you know.”

“Maybe you should be, now I know how easy it is to get you drunk.” Amusement softened his serious expression as her cheeks warmed.

The waitress returned with the wine and took their orders. Darcy decided on steak, which got Walker’s nod of approval.

When they were alone again, they sat in silence for a moment before he leaned toward her. “Are you going to tell me about Robby, or should I just beat the shit out of him because I don’t like the way he looked at you?”

“It’s nothing, really.”

He reached for her water glass just as her trembling fingers slipped off the stem, and his firm grip kept her from spilling the liquid all over the table.

“By the way you’re shaking, I don’t think you’re being truthful. Tell me it’s none of my business if you want, but that just seems to kick my imagination into overdrive and makes me look around for someone else to get the story from.” He took the glass from her and returned it to the table, then scooted his chair back, never taking his eyes from her face.

Her breath caught in her throat. “Where are you going?”

“To have a little talk with your friend.”

“He’s no friend of mine.” She spoke so quietly she wasn’t sure he would hear her.

“I got that much. What did he do to you?”

“Why do you care?” She was angry. It really wasn’t his business and reliving that time in her life made her want to crawl under the table.

Walker sat back, relaxing slightly, as a puzzled expression crossed his face. “Good question. Not sure I have an answer, but that doesn’t change the fact that I care. Maybe it’s because, if you were my woman, I’d want someone to look after you if I couldn’t.” He leaned forward and braced his forearms on the table. “Maybe I think you’ve been through enough lately and I selfishly want to see you smile, or maybe I’m just looking for a damn good brawl. All I know for sure is the need to protect you has tied me up in knots and, whether I’m overreacting or not, I intend to find out what put that I’d-like-to-kill-you look on your face when you saw that creep.”

His voice, smooth and dangerous, somehow calmed her frazzled nerves. She sat up straighter. Should she tell him to mind his business? Give him the cleaned-up version of the truth she’d told her father? Or could she fabricate a story that would satisfy him?

He broke into her thoughts as though he could read them. “So, do you want to tell me—the truth—or do I go see Robby?”

Determined eyes held hers as he reached for her hand and sandwiched it gently between his two. “I already don’t like the guy, so you might as well talk.” A muscle ticked in his jaw.

The paradox between the hardness of his words and the gentleness of his hands confused her. It seemed as though he stared straight into her soul. Surely he’d know if she lied, and he wouldn’t hesitate to make good on his threat to talk to Robby. God knows what Robby would tell him. It would be better coming from her.

Suddenly, she needed to tell someone—wanted the whole thing out in the open for once. Desperately, she searched for the right words. Words that had never crossed her lips before. Words she’d probably choke on.

“Robby asked me to the prom my junior year. All the girls wanted to go out with him, and I was so excited.” She kept her gaze on the table in front of her and spoke softly. “He had something else in mind, though. He wanted to prove to his friends he wasn’t afraid of The Chief, and he thought sex with The Chief’s daughter would do the trick.” She couldn’t keep her voice from shaking as waves of despair washed over her. Walker’s stare weighted her down.

“And?” He growled the single word.

She studied her wineglass as devastation stole every possible answer she could give him. There were no words to contain the shame, the helplessness, or the violation in the memories that made her hate Robby, but herself even worse. Slowly, she raised her eyes to meet his, sure everything was there for him to read.

“I tried to stop him. I said no,” she whispered.

He rose, pushing his chair back violently. “I’m going to kill him.”

“No, please don’t, Walker. It was my fault.” Sudden alarm pushed aside her shame, and she grabbed his shirtsleeve, blinking back the tears that threatened.

He laughed coarsely. “Is that what the little bastard told you?” He took a deep breath and held it for a moment. “Why isn’t he still in jail? What did your father do?”

“My father doesn’t know.” Darcy shook her head.

He released her hand and took a step toward the kitchen.

“Who’s going to protect me from Reggie Allen when you get arrested for assault?” Panic rang in her voice, tears rimmed her eyes, and her chin trembled, even though she fought valiantly to hold it together.

Walker stopped and turned back. Concern softened his expression as he pulled his chair back into place and dropped into it, never taking his eyes from hers. “I guess Robby just got a reprieve.” His voice came out gruff and raspy.

“Please don’t make it worse.”

“How the hell could it be worse?”

Darcy flinched as the angry words hit her.

“Robby gets a fucking free pass today, but someday soon he’s going to pay.”

Relieved Walker wasn’t going to cause a scene, at least for now, she allowed a wisp of a smile. “You swear a lot.” The observation came off her tongue seemingly of its own accord, and she watched him nervously.

He took a deep breath, let it out, and slanted a glance at her. He still looked tense and angry. “Hell, I’ve cleaned it up for you.”

She laughed the first honest laughter since she’d left Johnny’s house.

Walker smiled and reached for her hand. “You might have to cut me some slack. I’ll try to watch it, but I’ve been swearing a long time, and I’m pretty set in my ways.”

She shook her head. For some reason, his self-confessed attempt to clean up his language in front of her spoke volumes about the kind of man he was. She didn’t believe for a minute he was as hard and unredeemable as he seemed to think. For sure he thought she was silly and immature. What did he call her? Sweet and innocent? Well, now he knew about Robby. He wouldn’t consider her sweet or innocent any longer. Maybe somehow she’d find a way to prove to him she really was a woman. She lifted her water glass. “Could we just enjoy our dinner—Mr. Walker?”

He groaned but squeezed her hand before releasing it as the waitress brought their food.

“I’m curious.” He filled her glass with wine after the waitress left. “Was it Robby that made you swear off men for the rest of your life? You said you hadn’t been kissed since high school, and I assume it had something to do with that teenage hoodlum. A girl as beautiful as you has surely had other opportunities.”

“I was busy with school and work. There was no time for anything else.” A smile spread slowly even as her cheeks flushed with heat. “You do say the sweetest things, Mr. Walker.”

“Aren’t you afraid you might be missing something? We’re not all like him, you know.”

“No, some are like Grant.”

Walker snorted a laugh and didn’t reply.

“Tell you what. You give me your first name . . . and we can discuss my love life, or complete lack of one, to your heart’s content.”

“Why didn’t you tell your father?”

She immediately sobered as the familiar pain surfaced. “My father would have blamed himself.”

“That’s what fathers do. He wouldn’t have wanted you to go through that alone.” Walker’s brows drew together in a frown.

“You don’t understand.”

“Explain it to me.”

His sincerity drew her gaze. “Dad was my best friend. We were always together, hiking, camping. If I expressed an interest in something, he’d figure a way for us to try it. I’ve collected more than my share of bruises and scars from the crazy things we did.” Darcy paused and drew a raspy breath. “When Robby . . . when it happened, I couldn’t tell Dad because I was afraid of what he’d do. But he knew something was wrong, and I think eventually he guessed what happened. I tried to save him by not telling him, and I ended up driving a wedge between us with my silence. I lost my innocence and my father that day.” It had been a long time since she’d allowed herself to remember that painful period in her life. Grief for the loss of the friendship between her and her father caused a stabbing pain deep inside and tears blinded her for a moment. When Walker gently squeezed her hand and she felt the intensity of his gaze, she forced a faint smile. “He’s the one who taught me how to survive in the wilderness.”

Walker rubbed his temple. “So, he’s responsible for my sore noggin?”

She laughed and shook her head. “You have no one to blame but yourself.”

He glared at her, but his eyes sparkled with humor. “Tell me about Nick and Eddy Fontana.”

She’d put them completely out of her mind for the last few hours. Now the worry came crashing down. Tears threatened again as she pictured their faces.

“Eddy is ten now. Nick is twelve. They’re so smart and funny. They both attend St. Thomas Catholic School in Chicago . . . or at least they did. What’s going to happen to them now? Will they be safe?”

“They’re safe. The U.S. Marshals Service won’t let anything happen to them. As soon as we get to Gold Beach tomorrow, we’ll call and see what we can find out.”

“Am I in protective custody too?”

“Not exactly. Since I’m not officially a marshal, I can’t legally make you stay with me, and you can’t be charged with assaulting an officer.”

“Good to know. If you bring that up again, I just might find another tree branch and finish the job.” They both laughed and the last of her unease melted away.

When they had finished eating and each enjoyed a second glass of wine, in spite of Walker’s warning to Darcy, he paid the ticket, picked up his backpack, and they walked out into the chilly, foggy night.

“Sure you don’t want me to go back and even the score a little? It wouldn’t be any trouble.” He raised an eyebrow, but his expression was totally serious.

“I knew I shouldn’t have told you.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, but I won’t mention it again. I promise.” Walker crossed his heart and held up two fingers solemnly.

BOOK: When I Find You: A Trust No One Novel
13.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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