“My safety?” Folding my arms across my chest, I eyed the watch again. “Isn’t this the kind of thing people give to their kids or elderly relatives?”
“Yes, to ensure those relatives can have their independence but still be safe.” He cupped my face and breezed his thumb over my cheekbone. “I need the peace of mind that you can reach me whenever you need to. I need to know that if something happens and I can’t contact you, I have a way to find out where you are so I can still get to you.”
“You think Smith will make a try for me.”
“I’ve made it hard for him to get close to you, but I can’t make it impossible unless I keep you here at all times. You’ll never go for that, and although I’d feel better knowing you were here where you’re safest, I’d hate that we’d given him that power over your life. He vented his frustration on your apartment. He could go after you next time. I need the peace of mind that you can always reach me and that I can always find you. Give me that, Kensey,” he coaxed, brushing his nose with mine. “Let’s be smart and make things as hard for him as we can.”
How could I bristle over it when he put it like that?
“Would you really begrudge me that peace of mind?”
“Would you wear one?”
“If it meant that much to you, yeah. But it’s not me who’s being harassed. Look, you don’t have to wear it once all this is over. Just until we’ve caught Smith. Tell me it isn’t smart and I’ll let it go.”
To my utter annoyance, I couldn’t. “It looks expensive. What if I break it?”
“If you break it, I’ll replace it. But these things are hard to damage. They’re waterproof too. It would be much easier to damage you, and that plays on my mind far too much. Come on, baby, wear it for me.”
I sighed. “Would it mean Rossi could have a life beyond escorting me places?”
“No. Rossi will still follow you to and from work, because one thing the watch can’t tell me is whether you’re being followed. He can.” Blake brushed his thumb along my cheekbone. “Wear it, Kensey. For me.” My resigned, long-suffering sigh made him smile. “Good girl.”
“Where did you get this?” I asked as he put it on my wrist.
“Emma recommended it. Don’t forget we’re going to her house tonight.”
“You sure you want me to come?” From what I’d heard from Sarah, who’d also been invited, Emma always threw a mini house party for Adam’s birthday. By mini, I meant that the only guests were Blake, Bastien, Tara, Laurel, and the two PIs who worked for Emma. Sadly, Adam didn’t have any family. He liked small affairs.
Blake frowned, like I’d asked the most idiotic question. “Yes, I’m sure. Even if Emma hadn’t invited you, I’d take you. I want you with me.”
“Tara might not like it,” I pointed out. “I don’t care what she does or doesn’t like, but you said she can be an ugly drunk. I don’t want her being bitchy on Adam’s birthday. It wouldn’t be fair to him.”
“According to Emma, Tara’s bringing a date.”
My brows lifted. “Really?”
“Really. It’s unusual for Tara.”
“She’s never done it before.”
I figured that either Tara had made the decision to move on or she was bringing someone in the hope of making Blake jealous. I sure hoped it was the first, but I wasn’t holding my breath.
I liked Emma and Adam’s house. It was spacious and inviting with a mix of old and modern. I particularly liked the living area with the plush upholstered sofa, lacquered antique table and chests, the soft patterned rug, and the gold-colored drapery. Mostly, I liked the snug reading nook near the fireplace and wall of books.
That was where I found Sarah, browsing the shelves—she loved historical romance, which I thought would surprise a lot of people.
While Blake and Bastien chatted with Adam in the kitchen as Emma did the last of the preparations for dinner—I’d offered to help but she’d politely shooed me away—I walked to Sarah with a smile. “Just what is that around your neck?” The choker was clearly a gift from Bastien. “Wait, I’m changing my question. How did he get you to wear it?”
Sarah touched the velvet collar, mouth curled. “He can be very persuasive.”
“I’m serious. How did he do it?” Sarah never thought of her partners as ‘boyfriends.’ Never truly committed herself to anyone. To wear a symbol of ownership was something major for her.
She bit her lower lip. “He said he loved me. I didn’t react well at first. Kinda walked out on him. But I went back later. He wasn’t even mad at me. He said he knew I was scared. He also said that whenever I’m feeling vulnerable or afraid, I should touch this and remember that there’s someone who loves me.”
Oh, that was sweet. “He understands you.”
“I like him for you.”
“Me too. So, how’s life with Blake?”
“Same as it was when you asked me that yesterday morning. Only I’ve agreed to live with him permanently.”
Her eyes widened in delight and surprise. “How did he get you to do that?”
“To use your words, he can be very persuasive.”
She chuckled. “I’ll just bet he can.”
There was a knock at the front door that was quickly followed by Adam striding down the hall. “That might be Laurel,” I mused.
Sarah shook her head. “Adam said she can’t make it.”
When I heard Tara’s voice, I couldn’t help snarling just a little. Then I heard another voice; one that made my head tilt … because it was very familiar. I looked at Sarah, who’s eyes bulged.
“No, it can’t be,” she said.
“You’re right, it can’t.” Could it?
Tara and her guest came into view as they began a slow walk down the hall. Tara caught sight of me and grinned. “Hello, girls. Lovely to see you.”
I didn’t respond. I was too busy staring at her guest, thinking how satisfying it would be to punch Tara right in the tit.
My ex-boyfriend blinked in genuine shock. “Kensey.” His lips set into a lopsided smile. “This is a surprise.”
“Gage,” I greeted simply.
“You look well.”
Tara looked from me to him. “You two know each other?” she asked, all innocence, but it was obvious that she damn well knew the answer to that.
“We’ve met,” I said.
Tara’s eyes twinkled. “Small world, isn’t it?”
That was when Blake came into view, eyes instantly searching me out, completely unreadable.
Tara quickly turned to him. “Hi, Blake. Gage, let me introduce you to one of my oldest friends. This is Blake Mercier. He owns the Vault.”
Gage looked impressed. “Never been there, but I’ve heard it’s worth the cost of the membership.”
“It is,” Tara confirmed. “Blake, this is Gage Milton. He’s a dear friend of mine. And a tattooist; he’s done some fabulous work.”
As Gage’s gaze flicked to me, I almost groaned. Don’t say it, Gage. Don’t say it.
“Kensey wears one of mine,” said Gage. “Don’t you, sweetness?”