Page 55 of Tripping on a Halo

“Right. I have fourteen months to go. And there are a lot of hoops I have to jump through first. Like a quarterly meeting with a shrink. But I get an allowance now. And honestly, it’s really all that I need.” It was almost hard to spend money. With a paid-for house and my scant wardrobe, my expenses were limited to Declan-surveillance activities and safety gear. I’d considered buying new furniture for the house, but Mr. Oinks just broke all of the old stuff in. With the exception of life-saving measures, I was still stuck in Mom’s tight-fisted thinking, and the thought of throwing money away on crap just because I had it … didn’t make much sense.

Declan studied me for a long moment, before refocusing on the road, and it was strange, but it seemed like he was sad.

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He shouldn’t be upset. It was dumb to be upset, especially over something like this. He cared about her. He should be happy that she was financially stable and didn’t have to worry about money. So, why was he suddenly pissed?

It was idiotic of him, to take her to a rundown cabin in the middle of the woods, with a cooler packed with homemade sandwiches, and expect to woo her there. He’d taken her to Tony’s Subs, for shit’s sake. How had he not realized from the expensive heels she’d abandoned downtown to the paid-for home they’d found on the tax rolls, that she’d been rolling in cash? Hell, even her staple gun was three times nicer than his.

She didn’t need him to provide for her. She didn’t need anyone. She had her pig, and her sister, and a bank account that must be packed as full as Scrooge’s vault, and he was an idiot to think that he had any sort of chance with her. Hell, she had all but shoved him away anytime he tried to touch her. What was he doing? Holding his safety over her head for a chance to spend time with her? How much of a dickhead move was that? Chances were, she didn’t even want to be here. She probably hated him. Right now, she was probably contemplating the easiest way to extract herself from this situation.

“Are you okay?” She peered over at him. “You seem upset.”

Great. His thoughts were plastered across his face. She’d probably steal his truck at the next gas stop and hightail it back to Tallahassee. He forced himself to smile. “I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not.” She turned in her seat, facing him, her knee bumping against his thigh, and crossed her arms over her chest. “What is it?”

Yeah, telling her the truth was definitely not an option. “I’m having some indigestion. I think it was something I had for breakfast.”

She immediately launched into protective mode, unbuckling her seatbelt and springing across the cab toward him. “What kind of indigestion? Upper or lower intestine?” She crawled forward, examining him, and he took his eyes off the road for a split second to meet hers.

Damn. Those deep blue eyes, filled with concern… what was he going to do with her? He’d never seen someone care about him so … intently. How could he keep her in his life? She broke eye contact and spun to the rear of the truck, bending over the bench seat and messing with her bags.

“What are you doing?” He struggled to keep his eyes on the road, but her position was too tempting to ignore. Her torso hanging over the seat, her ass was eye-level with his, in cut-off jean shorts that were currently riding high on her cheeks. His hand tightened on the gear shift so he wouldn’t reach over and grab her.

“Pull over.” She stretched forward, one bare leg extending to help, and he watched as a flip-flop fell off her foot and down to the floorboard. Putting on his turn signal, he changed lanes and headed to the shoulder of the road. She emerged from the backseat, her hair astray, cheeks flushed, and triumphantly held up a huge yellow book, the words MEDICAL EMERGENCIES: STOMACH AND DIGESTION.

He came to a stop on the side of the highway and undid his seatbelt. “Look, it wasn’t really—” His confession died on his lips as soon as she knelt on the seat next to him and tugged at the bottom of his shirt.

“Bite.” She held the bottom of his shirt in front of his mouth and waited. He obeyed, taking a mouthful of the shirt and holding it up, his abs clenching the moment she brushed her hand over them.

“Where’s the pain?” She walked her fingers up his bare stomach, from the top of his jeans to his ribs, the pads of her fingers gently pressing into him. “Here?”

“Lower,” he grunted, and he was officially going to hell for this.

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