One Snowy Night (Heartbreaker Bay #2.5)(7)

“Come on,” she said. “This is Willa we’re talking about. I love her, but she’s incapable of not sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong, especially when it comes to me. What did she want?”

Shit, it’d been two minutes and he was already regretting his “gentle” promise. He looked her right in the eyes. “Nothing.”

Her eyes went to little slits. “Liar.” She opened her door, revealing that the slush had turned to snow, as she swung his keys from her fingers. “Tell me or say goodbye to your keys.”

“That’ll strand you too,” he pointed out.

She raised her eyebrows and he got the message. She didn’t care.

“Fine,” he said. “She told me to be nice to you. Actually, she said gentle.” While she gaped at that, he snagged the keys from her lax fingers, feeling like an * when he leaned into her, reaching past her to slam her door shut.

She didn’t shrink back, which meant that their bodies once again bumped up against each other, and it was like they knew what his brain couldn’t seem to comprehend—-he wanted her. He was a little thrown by that, and the now familiar zing of electricity, only slightly mollified to realize by the way her breath hitched that she felt it too.

“If you even try to be gentle,” she said, “I’ll get out and walk.”

He pinched the bridge of his nose and laughed. He couldn’t help it. She drove him insane. “Got it.”

“I mean it.”

“I believe you.”

“Good,” she said, sounding only slightly appeased. “Now tell me what she told you to make you agree to such a thing.”

Christ, she was good. “How do you know she told me anything?”

“Again, it’s Willa,” she said. She crossed her arms and stared at him, and for a second he was pretty sure she could see right inside his head and read his mind. “She told you something to make you feel sorry for me,” she guessed.

He schooled his features into a blank face, or so he hoped. “I don’t feel sorry for you,” he said.

“Ha!” she cried, pointing at him. “She did! What was it? That I applied for an internship at a local vet, which I need for the animal tech credential I want, and got turned down flat for lack of credible references?”

Shit. No, he hadn’t known that and his heart twisted for her. “Why didn’t you ask someone to give you a reference?” he asked. “Archer, Joe, Spence, Finn . . . me? Any one of us would’ve jumped to help you.”

She hadn’t taken her eyes off of him. “Okay,” she said slowly. “So it wasn’t that.”

Yeah, this conversation was about to go south fast. He reached to start the engine again because no way did he want this little guessing game to take a dark turn, which it would if she landed on the truth.

“There was only one other thing she could’ve told you that would have made you feel sorry enough for me to give me a ride,” she said, staring at him. “But if she’d told you that, I think I’d be able to tell.”

He met her gaze and she gasped softly, her eyes holding his prisoner. “Oh my God,” she whispered, leaning back away from him. “Damn her.”

“You were attacked in the park when you first landed in San Francisco,” he said quietly, finding it a shocking effort to keep his voice calm. “That shouldn’t have happened to you. It shouldn’t happen to anyone.”

She turned away. “We’re not discussing this.”

“Did you press charges?”

She looked out into the starry night. “Drive.”

“Rory, please tell me he’s rotting in a jail cell.”

“Drive, dammit.”

“Hang on a sec—-”

“I didn’t press charges and he’s not rotting in a jail cell because I don’t remember what he looks like!” she burst out. “I accepted a drink from a stranger, he drugged me, and I remember nothing. Not his face, not anything about him, and not a single second of that night at all. So no, I didn’t turn him in. I had nothing to turn in. I was an idiot, okay? I was a complete idiot and I paid the price, and now if you don’t mind, I don’t want to talk about it ever again.”

“I get that, but—-”

“Not. Ever. Again,” she said tightly. “And I mean it, Max. Bring it up and I’m out. I’ll walk to Tahoe, I don’t care.” She turned to him then, eyes blazing with strength and temper. “We clear?”

Her strength was . . . amazing. “Crystal,” he said quietly.

She nodded and relaxed marginally. “Good. And one more thing. If you so much as try to be gentle or handle me with kid gloves, I’ll kick your ass. And I could do it too—-your boss taught me some mean moves.”

He believed her. If Archer had taught her then she was lethal, and he was glad for it. No one would take advantage of her again. He started the truck and navigated their way through the falling snow back onto the highway, where they left most of civilization behind as they hit the wild Sierras.

It was always a surreal thing to drive in heavy snow in the dark of night. In the black landscape, the snow came at them in diagonal slashing lines across the windshield. The road narrowed to two lanes, winding back and forth in tight S--turns as they began to climb the summit.

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