Thankfully, they reached their destination, and she hurried to the protection of the porch. The rain intensified, and she dodged the cold drops falling down her neck. The patter of the raindrops on the veranda’s roof seemed loud and insistent.
“Nice place.” He looked around with interest when he joined her. “How many apartments?”
“Six,” she explained as she opened the door of what had once been a great Victorian house. Much of the grandeur still clung to the facade, but the inviting hominess of the place had long faded. “I’m upstairs.”
Stepping inside the foyer, she gulped as his size overwhelmed the tiny space. His broad shoulders nearly brushed the sides of the narrow doorway.
Once the door was closed and the patter of the falling rain muffled, silence pressed in on her, making her question again the sanity of bringing him to her home.
“If you’d feel better, I’ll just leave these things here. They should be safe enough. You can come back and get them.”
She stared. “How did you know?”
“That you’re nervous about bringing me here?” Morgan laughed, but it wasn’t a teasing laugh or a laugh that mocked her. It was almost self-deprecating. “You’re not stupid, Tara. You should be cautious. I appreciate that.”
Carefully, he stacked the cans on the small side table by the metal mailboxes in the wall. He’d wrapped a couple pasta boxes in the torn plastic bag, and, pulling them out now, he examined them to make sure they were dry. One looked the worse for the wear. “Sorry about that.”
He turned to go, nodding at her as his hand curled around the old-fashioned door handle. “I’ll be on my way.”
He’d almost reached the other side of the porch before she broke out of her stupor and called after him. “Wait!”
Morgan looked over his shoulder at her.
He stood on the edge of the rain, the streetlight’s bright glow falling over him the same way the raindrops did. So close. He was so close. Body-heat-sharing distance. Tasting the scent of him, she almost sighed at the rawness of him mingling with the damp night. She didn’t want him to leave. There was so much more to him, and she was intrigued.
“The least I can do to thank you is let you dry off.” This was ridiculous. She’d never been paranoid, never been inhospitable before. Why start now?
He turned around fully.
“I really do appreciate your help,” she added.
“You’re welcome,” he said softly, though the depth of his voice echoed around the empty foyer.
“Come on.” Reaching into her pocket, Tara pulled out her keys, then headed up the stairs.
* * *
MORGAN FOLLOWED TARA through the front door of the big, old house. He could see where it had been a grand place in its day, but where the foyer would have opened to several rooms, it was now a lobby of sorts, closed off and small. A door to the right had a brass A on it. B was across the hall, and straight ahead beyond the stairway was a door with C sitting a bit sideways.
A curved set of stairs led up, the carved handrail and delicate spindles showing definite signs of wear. As she stepped on the runner that ran up the center, each stair gave off a deep groan. He didn’t hesitate to grab the groceries he’d just set down and followed her.
Three more doors branched off the upper landing. She stuck a key in the door straight ahead. Apartment E. It opened soundlessly, and she led him inside. She tossed her purse on a small table and shucked her jacket, putting it on an old-fashioned coat tree a few inches beyond.
Fading daylight and the streetlight’s glow flooded the room through a turret-shaped alcove on the opposite wall. It looked inviting, and he took several steps before realizing he’d moved. He stood in the center of the room where he could easily turn and see everything. A small kitchen. The main room. Two wooden doors, both ajar. A bathroom with a claw-foot tub and a bedroom beyond. His gaze clung to that shadowed view. Rumpled bed, covers tossed up but not made.
Tara frowned but didn’t argue or try to stop his perusal. “Just put those on the kitchen table,” she directed, and he stepped into what seemed like a simple kitchen. Not what he expected in the home of a chef.