“You’ve got eyes on her place, right?” Zander pushed. He couldn’t stand the idea of Alice being in her cabin, all alone. Not if some freak was targeting her. Not if she was—
“Oh, we’ve got eyes on her…”
The rain had started to fall. It came down in quick, hard torrents.
“And she’s on the move.”
“Your Ms. Innocent left her cabin, in the rain, in the middle of the night, and she’s running toward your place. Yeah, that screams I’m-Not-Hiding anything to me. What about you?”
What in the hell? “I’ll call you back.” He slammed down the phone. He could hear the rain pounding into his roof. Why would Alice be running around in the storm? He bounded toward the door. He hurried outside as thunder boomed overhead.
His gaze scanned the darkness. It took fifteen minutes to walk to her place. If she was running, she’d cut that time in half. How long ago had she left her cabin? He hadn’t asked Randall. And shit, if he was just standing outside of his place, wouldn’t that look suspicious to her? He should go back in his cabin. Wait and see if she came to him.
What if she isn’t coming to me, though? What if she’s going into the woods to meet someone else? A…partner?
He had to check this out. But he hadn’t grabbed his flashlight. Or his gun. He whirled back for his cabin and rushed inside. The door slammed behind him. He got the flashlight and—
A knock sounded at his door. Zander stiffened. Then he was jerking open that door as fast as he could. Lightning lit up the sky.
Alice stood on his narrow porch. Soaking wet, with raindrops sliding off her coat. Her wet hair clung to her cheeks, and she stared up at him with eyes he’d never be able to forget, not in a thousand years.
“Alice? What are you doing?” Zander pulled her inside. “You shouldn’t be out in this storm. You shouldn’t—”
She wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Stood on her tip-toes. And kissed him. She tasted sweeter than the wine they’d had that night. She tasted like the rain. She tasted like fucking heaven.
He should back away from her. He should absolutely not kiss her like a starving man. He should not pull her closer, pressing his overeager dick against her.
“I want you,” Alice whispered.
Damn. He was in trouble.
“I thought about you after you left…about how I haven’t felt this way in a long time.” She eased back a few inches, and she stared up at him. “Do you ever feel afraid, Zander?”
He didn’t know what to say. His gaze had fallen to her mouth, and he was trying to figure out what to—
“Because I spend most of my days trying not to be afraid. And then you came along. When I’m with you, everything seems different.”
It was different because he was lying to her.
“Don’t give up on me.”
He blinked. His stare locked with hers. “I wasn’t planning—”
“That’s what I ran through the storm to tell you.” Her smile flashed, and it lit her eyes. “I wasn’t always this crazy woman who barely leaves her house. I wasn’t this woman who is afraid of her own shadow. I used to be so much more, and I’m trying—trying really hard—to be her again.”
His chest ached. “Alice…”
“I like you. You’re funny and you’re smart, and you bring me cupcakes.” She stood on her toes once more and kissed him. Alice gave a delighted laugh. “I’ve missed this. So much. Missed wanting someone. Missed just being normal.” Alice shook her head. “And I probably sound like an absolutely deranged person to you right now.” Red stained her cheeks as she retreated a few, quick steps. “I—”
He wasn’t letting her go. She didn’t sound deranged. She sounded strong. Resilient. Sexy as fuck. He stalked forward as she retreated, and he caged her between his body and the hard wood wall. “You’re not leaving.”
Her breath hitched.
“The storm is too bad. I can’t let you go back out in it.” He swallowed and grabbed his control with both hands. “You’re staying here tonight.”
Her eyes widened. “It’s not—”
The lights went out even as more thunder boomed.
“Sweetheart,” Zander said in the darkness as he inhaled her delicate scent, “there’s no way you’re leaving me tonight.”
She’d acted on impulse. Mad, crazy impulse. And she’d run to see Zander. She’d been in her home, the storm had been coming…and she’d needed to see him one more time.
It felt as if she’d been sleeping for the last twelve months. Then finally, finally, she’d woken up.
Tomorrow was the one-year anniversary of Hugh’s death. Actually…it was the anniversary. Midnight had already come. It was tomorrow.
Alice hadn’t been able to stand being alone in her cabin as she stared at the clock. She’d run to Zander. To the man who had been there for her, over and over again during the last two months. Her friend.
Maybe. Who knew what could—
p; “You’re taking my bed.”
Her head snapped up at his low, deep voice. Alice knew she wasn’t exactly thinking clearly. Or acting clearly. The fact that it was the anniversary of her wedding day, of Hugh’s death…yeah, she was a hot mess.
One thing was certain, though—she wasn’t going to hide from the things she wanted any longer.
And she wanted Zander.
He stood about three feet in front of her, a determined look on his handsome face, his arms crossed over his chest. She’d ditched her rain coat—after leaving a dripping trail across his wooden floor. Despite wearing the rain coat, her t-shirt was soaked, and her wet jeans clung tightly to her. She’d already taken off her squeaky tennis shoes and her socks. She’d left them near his front door. The power had been off for about ten minutes. Zander had grabbed a flashlight, and he’d been reaching for candles—but then the lights had flashed back on in his cabin.
“You can dry off in my bathroom upstairs. I have a t-shirt you can wear.” His gaze had darted down her body, but he suddenly whipped his stare up—and away from her. “And you can sleep in my bed.”
She wasn’t the type of woman to try and seduce a man on the first date. And it had been their first date. But then again, she also wasn’t the type of woman to fall for a serial killer so…
Hello. Been there. Done that.
So maybe it was time to start something new. Time to be someone new. “Where will you sleep?”
Her stare darted to said couch. It hardly looked big enough to hold his long frame. “I don’t want to kick you out of your bed.” She focused on him again. “I can go back to my place.”
“Hell, no. Not in this weather.”
Alice shrugged and tucked a lock of wet hair behind her ear. “Then I can take the couch.”
His fierce expression softened a little bit. “Sweetheart, my mother raised me to be a gentleman. No way will a lady ever sleep on a lumpy couch while my ass is spread out on a king-sized bed.”
“Well, if it’s king-sized, then there should be enough room for us both.” There. She’d said it. She’d just put that out right in the open.