Page 50 of Tripping on a Halo

“What?”

“This weekend, it’s Nate’s birthday.” He gave me an apologetic look, and I tried to find the end of this conversational path.

“Yeah, so?”

“I was wondering, given the new parameters of our relationship—”

“Our non-relationship.”

“Whatever.” He shrugged off the rebuttal and forged onward. “I was wondering if you’d come with me. Just to keep an eye on things. It may be dangerous. Very hazard-filled. Lots of potential disasters.”

My Guardian Angel side did a happy little dance along my cerebral cortex while my common sense called bullshit. “What’s this danger-filled thing?”

He shot me an apologetic look. “It’s a hunting trip.”

“A hunting trip?” I stirred my empty Sprite with the straw, moving the ice around. “And you want me to go?”

“Sure.” He nodded, then seemed to amend his response. “I’d like you to come.”

I stared at him blankly, and tried to understand the swirl of emotions fighting for room in my chest. I hadn’t done too well in this lunch. In terms of acting crazy, I had done quite well. But in keeping my arousal in check? Pretty lousy. In keeping the conversation strictly business and away from any sex, relationship, or personal conversations? I’d failed terribly.

Now he was proposing something that terrified me in about ten different ways. He was right in his assessment of a danger-filled event, but the entire thing reeked of a set-up. What was the real reason I was coming, because he was accepting my “protecting your life” thing a little too easily, compared to the reactions of everyone else I mentioned it to. Which left the dangerous possibility that he wanted me to come so he could attempt another seduction. What had he said about our night? Voodoo magic? I blushed at the compliment, one I was close to framing in giant neon letters above my bed. And if he was bringing me on a hunting trip to seduce me, or to get another chance at sex … would I be able to resist?

“You seem to be giving this a lot of thought.”

I stabbed the straw into the ice with a little more aggression than I had intended. “I am.”

“Then let’s scratch the hunting trip. You don’t need to go.”

My deep thought process did a sharp 180. What was I doing, overanalyzing this situation? If—one week ago—I’d known that Declan Moss was going on a hunting trip, and I’d been offered a front-row seat to the event, I’d have sold my left pinky for the ticket. I swallow. “I can go.”

“No. Honestly, it’s fine. We’re hunting skeet. I couldn’t get accidentally shot if I tried.”

What a stupid statement. That’s the entire thing about getting accidentally shot. No one was trying, or else it wouldn’t be an accident.

“I can go.” I straightened in my seat, my mind made up, and if he thought he was grabbing a gun and going anywhere without me, he was delusional. “There are just a few issues I need to sort out first.”

I saved the issues until we got into the car, the process delayed by Declan’s overkill cleanup of our table, one that included wiping down the surface and realigning every condiment bottle and salt shaker in the end cap. Once we were settled in and buckled, I brought up the first problem.

“Here’s the first problem. I have a pig.”

“I’m well aware of your pig.” He drove with one hand, his arm stretched across the bench seat and resting on my headrest. We turned a sharp corner, and his fingers brushed at my neck.

“And I like animals.”

“So, you don’t want me to shoot anything.”

“I don’t want a gun anywhere near you.” In the time it had taken him to sanitize our tabletop, I had googled firearm statistics, which had been one thing I hadn’t even known to worry about. “Did you know that eight-two people died last year in hunting accidents?”

“I was not aware of that.” He brushed his fingers across the back of my neck and I swatted at his hand. “But, no pigs are in danger. It’s a skeet trip.”

“You’re still shooting skeet,” I pointed out. “I don’t like the idea of you shooting anything.” I had never seen a skeet, but they sounded adorable. “I’m not going to be able to sleep at night with a dozen skeet deaths hanging over my head.”

“You’re joking.” He shot me a look, half his mouth lifting in a wry smile, which fell when he saw my blank look. “You’re serious.”

“Of course, I’m serious!” I threw my hands in the air.

“Have you ever seen a skeet?”

I fought the urge to Google one. “Yes.”

“You have?”

“YES,” I snapped.

“And you don’t want me to shoot one…” he said slowly. “Why?”

“They’re adorable,” I said sullenly.

“Fine.” He looked to the left, out his window, his face hidden from me. “I won’t shoot one.”

“Promise?”

He looked back at me. “I swear. But you should come with me, just to make sure.”

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