“Not even the impact it’s had on you?”
“Clear’s put me before herself thousands of times, but never when it comes to Michael.”
“If you tell me she’s not evil or crazy, I believe you. I won’t pretend that I don’t judge her for marrying him—I doubt there are many people who wouldn’t. I know she’s your mom, baby, but it was a fucked-up thing to do. I’d say, ‘to each their own’ if her selfishness hadn’t affected anyone but herself, but it also deeply affected you. That’s not at all good with me. Still, I’ll keep my opinions to myself; I won’t be a bastard to her.”
I looked at him, brow pinched. “Why do you want to meet her?”
“I told you, I want to be part of your life. I may not know an awful lot about being in a relationship, but I know that couples generally introduce each other to their families.”
Yeah, but I suspected part of it was that he wanted everyone, including my mother, to know I was his. Not that that was a problem. It was just that he had no idea how weird it could be, listening to Clear talk about Michael—not only how sweet and doting he was, but her concerns about his health and the conditions he lived in, expecting sympathy for him. I’d need to have a word with her beforehand. “Fine.”
He gave my knee a little squeeze. “Good girl.”
Just then, we arrived at my apartment building. As I got out of the car, I glanced around. No silver Sedan anywhere. No loiterers.
Blake skillfully swiped my bunch of keys from my hand and unlocked the main door. When we reached my floor, he insisted that I wait outside the apartment until he’d confirmed it was safe to enter. I didn’t like him searching the interior alone, but I agreed to wait at the door purely to keep the peace.
Satisfied that all was well, he signaled for me to come inside. He then leaned against the doorjamb of my bedroom while I changed out of my dress into fresh clothes, watching me intently with what could only be described as a wolfish glint in his eyes. I’d agreed he could watch providing he didn’t move from the doorway, since I was at serious risk of being late for work.
“When you leave work, Rossi will be waiting outside,” said Blake. “He’ll follow you home in his car and then check your apartment to be sure it’s safe.”
I paused with the brush halfway through my hair. “That’s not necessary.”
“I disagree.” He folded his arms. “I was thinking about this while you were snoring beside me this morning.”
“I don’t snore.”
“You can’t argue that it’s not good for you to be out alone. This bastard hasn’t tried to harm you yet, but that doesn’t mean he won’t. His behavior is escalating, and I’m not willing to risk you. Are you so willing to risk yourself?”
My shoulders sagged. “No.” I styled my hair into a high ponytail as I added, “It just galls me that he can disrupt my life like this.”
“Think of it this way, then. His goal is to get rid of me. Instead, his actions are just making us spend more time together.”
That did make me feel better.
“I originally thought of having Rossi take you to and from work, but I know your independent streak will balk at that. Also, he can’t stay with you all day, and I want you to have your car in case you need it. So, he’ll follow you to work, make sure you get inside without a problem, and then go back when your shift is finished to follow you home. He’ll check your apartment before you go inside, just to be safe.”
My brow creased. “Rossi isn’t going to want to—”
“Already talked with him about it. He wants to help and he’s on board. He doesn’t like that some sick fucker is on your case.”
“Rossi doesn’t even know me.”
“He thinks you’re good for me. He’s right.” Blake slipped his arm around me and drew me close. “I think you’ll be safe enough at the bar, since you’ll be surrounded by people. Sherry will shoot the face off anyone who tries to harm you anyway.” He glanced around. “I don’t much like you being in this apartment alone, considering how easily he got in.”
“That was before I improved my security.”
“There are ways to bypass alarms, no matter how good the systems are,” Blake pointed out gently. “I’ll feel better if you spend your nights with me, whether we’re in my place or yours.”
I bit my lip. “Blake, when I said that you need to let me into your life, I didn’t mean you had to spend time with me every day. I know you’re super busy and don’t have a lot of spare time. I don’t expect you to—”
He put a finger to my lips. “I like having you with me. I’ve let myself accept it. Why would I then fight it?”
“I don’t know.” It made sense when he put it like that.
“I am busy, yes, but I plan to shuffle some things around so I’ve got time to devote to sorting this fucking mess out before that asshole can do anything else. I have people I can delegate to. I just don’t like delegating much.” His lips curled. “I have issues with giving up control.”
“I never would have guessed,” I said, deadpan.
He lowered his smiling mouth to mine and kissed me. “Ready to go?”
“Yep.” I locked up and walked outside with Blake. Again, there was no one loitering, and no Sedan.
“I’ll follow you to work, and then I have to get going,” said Blake. “Don’t tell me you’ll be fine. Get in the car and drive.”
I huffed but did as he asked. When I finally pulled up outside the bar, I saw that Cade was just parking his bike in the lot. I expected Blake to keep driving and head off to wherever he needed to be. He didn’t. He whipped his car into the space next to mine and climbed out.
I slid out of my own car and raised my brows at Blake in question. And then he was on me. His mouth moved hard and hungry against mine, feasting and dominating … and marking his territory in front of God and everyone. Or, more specifically, Cade. Even half-dazed from racing chemicals, I saw that for exactly what it was—a territorial display.
Breaking the kiss, I shot him a cool look. “That wasn’t necessary.”
“It was very necessary.” He looked up as Cade walked toward us, eyes narrowed.
Cade sighed. “I figured it was like that. You gonna help keep her safe from the bastard who’s messing with her?”
“I’m going to find and rip him apart limb from fucking limb,” said Blake in a matter-off-fact tone.
Cade nodded. “Good. But if you hurt her, I’ll smash your fucking jaw.” He then cast me one of his bright smiles and strode off, whistling.
I gave Blake a pointed look. “See, no jealousy.”
Blake watched him walk away. “It was there. He just hid it well. Very, very well, in fact.” His brow wrinkled. “Does he know about your penname?”
“Yes.” I saw the glint of suspicion in Blake’s eyes and shook my head fiercely, pretty damn shocked that Blake’s mind went there. “Cade wouldn’t hurt me.”
“So far, you haven’t been hurt. Cade knows enough about you to write a story. He knows your cell number. Knows where you live. Knows your schedule.”
I shook my head again. “Cade wouldn’t hurt me physically or emotionally. He wouldn’t mess with my head like this. He has no reason to anyway.”