The loss of that touch hits me like a punch in the chest.

It’s not fine. None of this is fine. Not by a long shot.

If the fucking Russians and Irish don’t kill us, my dumbass probably will.

Gabriel begins to stomp around the house, checking all the doors and windows.

“Did anyone bother you while I was gone?” he asks, peering out the front window after checking the lock.

“No,” I push out of my throat.

He grunts and snaps the curtains shut.

Once he’s satisfied with the exterior entrances, he moves deeper into the house.

Eventually, my thoughts and heart begin to calm down enough for me to wonder what the hell he’s doing.

Putting one foot in front of the other, I walk down the hall, keeping a safe distance as I follow behind him.

There’s so much anger in the way he moves, I can practically see it radiating off him. Pushing into each room, he checks it before closing the door behind him.

Ever since that first night, I’ve never seen him close an interior door before, I realize. In fact, he has this awful habit of leaving them all open.

“Gabriel…” I say to get his attention but trail off as he keeps stomping around in his big black boots, ignoring me.

Oh god, did I just ruin this thing blossoming between us with my panic? Have we ended like we began? I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s decided to wipe his hands of me now. After all, how many times can I expect him to put up with me pointing a dangerous weapon at him?

The need to apologize, to make him understand why I did what I did, causes the words to tumble out of me as I follow behind him.

“I didn’t recognize the car. I’ve never seen it before. I thought you were still driving the truck and expected the worst.”

Without glancing back at me, he says, “I know. You did good, I’m proud of you.”

That brings me up short.

What the hell is going on here?

If he’s so proud of me, why does he seem so pissed off?

He begins to stomp up the stairs, taking them two at a time, and I race to catch up with him.

“I almost killed you. I thought you were Alexei,” I huff out as I grip the banister.

Suddenly he stops before reaching the top and I hear him take a deep breath. I watch the muscles in his neck, his shoulders, and his back bunch up through his tight black shirt as his entire body tightens with tension.

He’s so rigid, I’m surprised I don’t hear his bones crack from the stress of being so stiff.

“Gabriel, what’s wrong?” I ask, reaching out to touch his back.

I feel his muscles tighten even more before they relax.

Both hands squeezing into fists, he cracks his neck to the side, then he slowly turns around to face me.

The black look etched into his rugged features is so terrifying I find myself taking a hasty step back.

Glaring down at me, his lip curls up as he says, “If you fucking killed me because you thought I was that cockroach, I’d still be proud of you, baby girl.”

His words don’t match his expression at all, and I don’t know how to reconcile what I’m seeing with what I’m hearing.

Is he truly not angry with me, or is he only saying it for some unknown reason?

He takes a step down, and I find myself instinctively taking another step back.

“Then why are you looking at me like that?” I finally ask.

“Looking at you like what?”

“Like you want to kill me and bathe in my blood.”

Stilling at my question, he closes his eyes for a moment and then lets out what I think is supposed to be a sigh but it comes out more like growl.

“It’s not for you,” he says, and spins back around.

He moves back up the stairs with a renewed purpose, and I hesitate, wondering if it’s wise to chase after him.

He’s upset about something, and perhaps it’s best to give him some space…

But the need to know what’s made him so angry has me pumping my legs to follow him up the steps.

“Who is it for?” I ask, but he doesn’t answer.

He ignores me, pulling the door open to the bathroom. He pops his head inside before slamming the door shut.

“Gabriel,” I frown, trying to step in his way.

“I have to check the house, Meghan. I have to make sure it’s secure,” he grits out, then the big fucking ogre literally picks me up by the waist and moves me out of his path.

My jaw drops and I stare after him as he walks away.

Snapping my jaw shut, I grind my teeth together as he checks on the bedrooms, still treating me as if I don’t exist.

Well, fuck him if he’s going to be that way. Picking me up and moving me like I’m a damn child…

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