When I Find You: A Trust No One Novel (8 page)

BOOK: When I Find You: A Trust No One Novel
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Her smile broadened. “How old are you? Twenty-nine? Thirty? I’m twenty-four. I might be innocent, but I’m old enough to be kissed . . . I think. Although it’s been a long time. I might not remember how. Or maybe high school kisses don’t even count in the grown-up world.”

“You’re kidding, right?” His eyes met hers and the sadness that swept across her face assured him it was true. How in the hell could that be?

She released her hold on his shirt and tried to smooth out the wrinkles she’d made. As she ran her fingers down his chest, every muscle in his body tightened in response, and blood rushed to places he’d just as soon not have to deal with right now. His breath caught and he snatched her hands away more roughly than he’d intended. Holy hell. She was playing with fire. What she didn’t know was the fire was about to get away from him. His fingers encircled her wrists and held her when she tried to pull away. For a moment, he wanted to kiss her . . . more than anything he’d wanted in a long time. It wouldn’t be enough. He wouldn’t stop at just a kiss. Was it lust in her eyes? Or did fear quicken her breath and cause her chest to rise and fall in uneven gasps?

He forced himself to breathe deeply, the chill night air cooling the fire in his blood. He wasn’t so much older than her in years, but in experience they were worlds apart. He was jaded and cynical. She was idealistic and innocent. His gaze met hers again as he released her wrists and got to his feet.

“I’m thirty-three.” He turned toward the fire.

“Oh, I understand your hesitation . . . you being over
thirty
and all.” Laughter burst from her lips even though she clamped a hand over her mouth in an effort to contain it.

“I’ll get some more wood. You should sleep.” He escaped, grateful for the darkness beyond the campfire. Damn it. His body’s reaction to her had been swift and undeniable. It surprised him and he almost hadn’t caught himself in time. How a grown man kissed a woman probably wasn’t on his list of things to pass along to this girl. His boss would blow a gasket if he thought Walker sullied the cargo he was supposed to intercept.

He drew in another deep breath and breathed out the last of the tension from his body. Now that he knew what to guard against, he could do this. Just do the job—get the girl someplace safe and turn her over to the U.S. marshals. He collected an armload of dry limbs and turned back toward the fire.

Darcy didn’t move when he walked back into the camp or when he dropped his wood near the fire. Leaning back against the rock, his coat pulled up to her chin, she slept huddled within its folds, her neck bent at an angle that couldn’t possibly be comfortable. She was slender and petite, no more than five foot four. His coat hid everything else except her shapely legs. Her windblown hair fell about her face, now streaked with dirt, and her lips continued to hold that half smile as she slept. Earlier, right before the tree branch she swung connected with his head, he’d been mesmerized by her beautiful eyes. When she laughed a few minutes ago, dimples appeared in her cheeks. It was the tear tracks through the dirt on her face that undid him, though. The protectiveness surged to the forefront, followed by anger at the man who had put her in danger.

He sat carefully beside her and tugged her toward him until her head again rested on his shoulder. She didn’t wake. The Scotch had evidently worked its magic, allowing her to forget the events of the day long enough to fall soundly asleep. She needed her rest.

That Grant guy must have caught up with her and boarded the plane in Chicago. To put a hit on her so fast had to mean DeLuca was dead serious. Walker glanced at her as she slept peacefully against his chest. He tightened his arm around her as fierce possessiveness engulfed him. Then, shaking his head at his foolishness, he turned away and fixed his eyes on the fire. She was one hell of a strong young woman. Hopefully the courage and determination she’d exhibited today, that had kept him walking around in circles half the night, wouldn’t desert her now. He’d bet money she’d need all of that and more in the days to come. DeLuca didn’t strike Walker as a man who gave up easily.

 

Chapter Four

D
ARCY JERKED AWAKE
to the piercing scream of a hawk overhead, and her eyes flew open only to scrunch tightly shut again, blocking out the brilliant morning sun. Blood-red dots put on a dizzying display on the inside of her eyelids, keeping time to the hammer that pounded a steady rhythm in her brain, what was left of it. Any minute now she’d remember where she was and figure out how she got here . . . and why. Curled on the hard ground with something lumpy under her head, she lay perfectly still and prayed the bits and pieces of memory slowly returning were only part of some dream. When she cracked her eyes open again for a few seconds, she was still lying with her back against a hard stone wall in a small clearing surrounded by trees. The acrid smell of smoke came from the nearly burned-out campfire they’d warmed themselves by last night.

Her eyes flew wide again.
They?
A man—the stranger who pulled her from the water. Walker. Her gaze swept the clearing. Where was he? Did he leave her? Every muscle in her body cried out in protest as she pushed herself up on her good arm. Her head throbbed and her stomach lurched ominously. She groaned and lay back, squeezing her eyes shut, and waited for the world to stop spinning.

“Take these.”

She opened her eyes.

He handed her two liquid-filled tablets and a metal container full of water.

She downed the pills without argument, ignoring the commonsense warning telling her that was reckless, and lay down flat again, trying not to move any more than she had to.

“It’ll pass.” He reached to steady the container just as water sloshed over her hand.

“If I don’t die first.” Darcy ground out the words, determined she wouldn’t throw up in front of him.

“Trust me—if you died from a hangover, I’d have been dead a long time ago.”

Darcy groaned again and threw one arm over her eyes to shield them from the sun. Snippets of memories from last night plagued her. Giggling like a schoolgirl. Clinging to him while confessing her lack of experience with men—which wasn’t technically true but might as well be. The pleasant warmth of him against her while she slept.

“Oh God.” Her cheeks burned.

“Are you okay?”

“I suppose you’re going to tell me I can’t die from humiliation either.”

She cringed when he laughed. He was enjoying her embarrassment. It was probably payback for cracking his head open.

“That will pass too. Don’t worry . . . you and I are the only ones who know what was said here last night, and if it makes you feel any better, I promise I won’t get you drunk again.”

She bet he wouldn’t, after the way she’d pushed herself on him. He probably couldn’t wait to see the last of her. That was all right with her, but if she was going to face him long enough to walk out of here, she had to apologize and set things right.

“I don’t usually let everything I think come out of my mouth. I barely know you, and it was wrong to put you in that position. I’m sorry.”

“What position?” His lips trembled slightly as though he tried not to laugh.

Good grief. Couldn’t the guy just accept her apology? Did she have to relive the whole thing? Her personal life was none of his business. Of course, she probably should have thought about that before she spouted off last night. Anyway, why should she be embarrassed because she’d chosen a life of solitude rather than take a chance on the wrong person again? She’d learned her lesson well, and it certainly didn’t matter what this man thought of her.

“I . . . I’m not usually so . . . forward and, even though it was due to your Scotch, it was inexcusable.” Darcy moved her arm from her eyes and met his gaze. “I hope we can get past this.”

He watched her with a mixture of amusement and something else she couldn’t discern. “No worries. Booze has played a role in more than a few inexcusable acts of my own. Something tells me mine are worse than yours.” He threw her a wink.

“We’re good then?”

“Better than good. As soon as you feel up to it, we can get out of here.” Walker stood and went to kick apart the wood and embers in what was left of the fire, then shoveled dirt over it using a piece of dried bark.

Darcy pushed herself up and waited for her stomach to settle before she climbed to her feet. Thankfully, her headache was almost gone and she was only a tad dizzy. After a minute, she walked toward the fire to help Walker. He handed her the water bottle instead.

“Drink—lots. You’re probably dehydrated from yesterday and the alcohol didn’t help . . . and you’ll want to get dressed.” He jerked his head toward her clothes hanging on a nearby branch. “I’ll try not to look.”

Darcy eyed him as she accepted the water bottle and took a swallow. He couldn’t seriously think she’d dress in front of him. Retrieving her clothes, she looked around for any kind of cover and saw a stand of young evergreen trees about fifty feet away. His gaze must have followed hers.

“You’re right not to trust me—I probably would look.” Laughter warmed his voice.

She glanced at him, her throat and cheeks flushing with heat. His lips twitched, and he cleared his throat. He was obviously enjoying himself at her expense. Why not? She’d given him plenty to laugh about.

He nodded toward the stand of trees. “I’ll keep a sharp eye out for any sign of trouble.”

She took her clothes and the water bottle and trudged the fifty feet, feeling his gaze follow her all the way. Humor had softened his otherwise hard features, and although she had no reason for her theory, she wanted to believe that this was the real Walker. As she dressed, she tried to figure out what it was about him that made her feel protected and safe when he was so clearly a dangerous man. Was it simply the circumstances? Certainly, she needed help. Was it foolish to put that much trust in a man she barely knew? Maybe . . . but Darcy did trust him. For reasons beyond her understanding, she had complete faith in this man who wouldn’t even tell her his first name. What was up with that, anyway?

The fire was out and he was ready with his pack slung over his shoulder by the time she got back. She handed him his coat.

He accepted it and held it open for her. “I’ll take it back when you don’t need it anymore.”

Darcy hesitated only a second before she slipped back into the coat’s warmth.

“Don’t try to be a martyr this time. Let me know if you need to stop and rest.” He held her gaze until she nodded, then started walking at a moderate pace.

Darcy caught up and walked beside him. “Do you do this often—rescue damsels in distress?”

“Rarely. My boss usually sends someone with a little more finesse when there’s a lady involved.”

“Why?”

“I can be a little intense.”

“I hadn’t noticed.” She grinned when he rolled his eyes. “Why is that a bad thing?”

“It’s not necessarily bad. It’s just that some women get a little excitable in situations where they’re being shot at or threatened. I’m not good at excitable.”

“Well, I apologize on behalf of women everywhere. It’s the way we’re made. We’re emotional creatures.”

“I never said I didn’t understand it—just that I wasn’t good at it. Besides, you don’t need to apologize. You handled yourself just fine . . . except for running from me instead of letting me help you.”

“How could I be sure you were trying to help me?”

“You mean other than me telling you twice and the fact I didn’t shoot you off that rock?” His voice teased her. He smiled when she met his gaze. “There’s no way you could have known, Darcy. I’d have done the same thing you did, with the exception of trying to cross that river. I’m not a big fan of drowning.”

“You just won’t let that go, will you?”

The path he chose led up a sharp incline and Darcy fell in behind him as they climbed single file. She was glad it was Walker who had come to rescue her. His calm and steady control kept her from panicking. She worried her lower lip between her teeth as she thought about the future and what she might have to face. She’d survived an attempt on her life, but something told her things were only going to get worse.

“S
TAY HERE
. I
’LL
get your bags from the car.” Darcy’s gaze followed Walker as he hiked up the road toward the blue Toyota Corolla, no doubt still parked where Grant had intended to kill her. A sudden chill ran through her and she leaned against Walker’s black Jeep to remind herself she was safe.

A few minutes later, he returned with a light green carry-on bag and her purse. She didn’t ask about Grant, and he didn’t volunteer anything. Reggie Allen would soon find out Grant had failed and he was sure to send someone else. Another shudder racked her body. Walker eyed her curiously. She turned away and climbed into the passenger seat. He threw her bag in the back and slid behind the wheel.

With the key in the ignition, he paused. “We’re about forty minutes from Tillamook. I figured if we got a motel room on the edge of town and stayed pretty close, the chances of someone recognizing you and telling your parents would be slim. We’ll only be there long enough to clean up, rest, and get a good meal, but if you think that could be a problem, we’ll go on down the coast.”

“My parents live south a few miles, and they don’t spend a lot of time in the touristy part of town. My aunt and uncle retired a couple years ago and moved to Florida. I’d be surprised if anyone else in town even remembers me.” That wasn’t entirely true. There was at least one person who would remember her, and she desperately hoped she’d never see him again.

“Put your seat belt on.” Walker started the Jeep and cranked the heat on full-bore. “The road is bumpy, but we’ll be back to the main highway in twenty minutes and, in another twenty, you’ll be in a nice hot shower.”

“I need to call my parents. They were expecting me yesterday and my mother will be worried.”

“That reminds me.” Walker grabbed her purse from the floor and placed it in front of her. “Find your cell phone.” When she did and handed it to him, he rolled down the window and tossed it out.

BOOK: When I Find You: A Trust No One Novel
4.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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