“Bruce, heel,” he orders, and Bruce immediately lowers his front paws to the ground and looks between us with his tail wagging. “Good boy.” He takes us closer to Bruce and the window.
My eyes are zeroed in on Mouse, who’s watching us, and I read his next move before he even makes it. “Don’t do it,” I hiss. His golden eyes blink at me before he leaps into Tyler’s house.
“Well, at least he’s in there and not out on the street somewhere,” Tyler says.
“Yeah.” I try to tug my hand free but give up when he doesn’t let go. “And this time, I don’t have to climb through the window or have a gun aimed at me.”
He laughs and drags me with him toward the window and shuts it from the outside, and then he continues to drag me around to the front of the house. He lets us inside, and Bruce starts to take off down the hall but stops when Tyler growls, “Bruce, bed.”
With a longing look in the direction he was going, Bruce moves to a dog bed placed next to the fireplace in the living room and sits down. “Now, let’s see if we can get your cat.”
“Can I have my hand back?” I ask, liking his firm hold a little too much, and his eyes drop to my hand still held in his.
“For now,” he answers, looking at me, and my stomach dips as he finally releases my hand.
I ball it into a fist at my side and then sweep my other hand out toward his back hall. “After you.”
He leads the way and stops at a closed door. He turns the handle, and Mouse—never one to miss an opportunity to frustrate me—runs past us as soon as it’s cracked open. Thankfully, there’s no way for him to get outside. Still, I don’t know if Bruce will eat him for a snack, so I take off after him. When I reach the living room, I scan for his hiding place, then shake my head at him when I see he’s next to Bruce on the dog bed.
“You’re in so much trouble, mister.” I pick him up, and he hisses and tries to get free. I tighten my hold, then look at Tyler. “Sorry.”
My nose scrunches up. “I don’t know. I just feel like I need to apologize.”
He grins and comes toward me, then plucks Mouse from my hands. “I’ll walk you two back to your place.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I think I do,” he counters, heading for the door, and then he stops to look at Bruce, who’s at my side. “Stay, bud. I’ll be back.”
Bruce sits, and I give him a quick rubdown before Tyler opens the door and leads us out. When we reach my porch, I try to take Mouse, but Tyler just shakes his head, so with a sigh I let us inside. When I see and smell smoke filling the air, I rush to the kitchen and pull the hot pan off the stove. I drop the pan into the sink and turn on the water over the now-blackened meat.
“Was that your dinner?” Tyler asks, looking over my shoulder and still holding Mouse.
“It was.” I sigh, looking back at the pan as steam rises off it.
“Get your coat.”
“What?” I glance at him in confusion.
“Get your coat. I haven’t eaten dinner yet. We’ll go out.”
My stomach flips and growls. I shake my head and open my mouth, but before I can get anything out, he cuts me off.
“Don’t try to feed me some lame excuse of why you can’t go. Just get your jacket on.”
I look into his eyes, then down at the pan. I’m hungry, but am I hungry enough to go out with him?
“Leah, we’re neighbors. You can’t avoid me forever.” He drops Mouse to the floor, and he runs off, but not before glaring at me over his shoulder.
“I haven’t been avoiding you.”
“Babe.” He grins. “Seen you watching me more than once out the window, yet you avoid coming outside when I’m in my yard. And just today, when I was getting out of my truck, you made sure to look away before you could catch my eye.”
Oh my God. My face heats. “I’ve never watched you when you’re outside in your yard.”
“Whatever, just get your jacket so we can go.”
“Fuck it, you don’t need a jacket.” He grabs my hand and starts to pull me toward the front door, and my heart begins to pound like crazy against my rib cage.
When his hand lands on the handle, I squeak, “Fine. Fine! Okay, let me get my coat.”
He releases me, and I take a step away from him, keeping my eyes locked on his.
“Maybe—” I start, but I stop when he takes a step toward me. I turn quickly and go to the coat closet and pull out my jean jacket. I put it on and turn to face him. “Happy now?”