“He’s coming up to our door now,” Rue whispered.
Pippi’s heart was beating so hard and fast she could barely hear her thoughts. “I’m sure it’s nothing.” She stood up, her sense of responsibility making her feel she should take charge of the situation. “You guys sit tight. I’ll answer the door.”
Astrid started to protest, and so did Vik, but Pippi’s frown had both women reluctantly settling down. Vague recollections of local crime reports assaulted her mind as she walked towards the door. Wasn’t there recently news about a policeman who had gone berserk and started shooting down civilians for no reason?
The thought caused her fingers to shake slightly as she turned the knob, and she barely managed to keep her voice from croaking when she saw how much taller and larger the officer on their front door was. “H-Hello.” She found herself staring straight at the name embroidered in big yellow letters over the cop’s breast pocket – C. Ostume – and this had her imagination going into overdrive for some reason.
What if he was a Japanese police officer sent to the United States as part of a secret joint operative program targeting a criminal mastermind who happened to be one of the guests checked in at—
She heard the officer cough, politely, and the sound made her realize that panic had her gaping at the cop for no apparent reason. “S-Sorry.” Pippi forced herself to look up, just in time to see the officer remove the dark glasses covering his gaze.
He looked familiar, she thought uneasily. Was that bad or good?
The glasses were tucked into an empty pocket before the officer turned black-as-midnight eyes on Pippi, and her jaw dropped.
This was definitely bad!
She rubbed her eyes, but the vision didn’t even waver. It really was Acheron, dressed in a police uniform, and God help her, he looked so yummy sexy hot wrong!
He looked wrong!
His voice was alluring as ever, but the sound of it was more than her heart could bear. Suddenly, everything – every darn little thing that had to do with him and her – came rushing back, and before she even realized what was happening, a lone tear was already trailing down her cheek, followed by another and another until it became an endless stream wetting her skin.
I don’t want to cry in front of him!
Acheron whitened at seeing Pippi cry. “Pippi—”
She let out the tiniest sound of pain, but it was more than enough to have her whole family rushing to her aid.
They careened into her all at once, and Pippi found herself falling as she inadvertently lost her balance.
“Gotcha.” She had fallen into the safety of his arms, and as Acheron slowly pulled her upright, she had a sinking feeling that this man had caught her…for good.
“If you need anything,” Astrid said, “we’re just downstairs.” Pippi’s mother pulled the door closed after giving her eldest daughter’s guest a friendly smile. Outside, she found herself the subject of several expectant looks, and it was obvious they were all wondering the same thing.
What was a cosplaying Greek billionaire doing on their doorstep?
Astrid flashed them an okay sign. There’s nothing to worry about. A smug smile formed over her lips. Because I’m absolutely certain your big sister has the man smitten!
Everyone celebrated…silently, with her daughters exchanging high-fives while Astrid’s aunts started smiling smugly. Pippi had obviously inherited their good taste in men, and thank God for that!
Inside the room, Acheron and Pippi were gazing at each other, both of them waiting for the sound of footsteps, but all they heard was silence.
When he raised a brow at her, she could practically hear him asking, ‘Do they truly believe we don’t know they have their ears to the door?’
She lifted her shoulders in a shrug. I guess. Excitement was probably why her family was acting unusually dense.
A smile curved over his lips. I don’t mind, though.
Pippi lifted her chin. Who says I care about what you – oh my God. It finally dawned on her that both of them were communicating silently like some stupid, lovesick couple, and dismay turned to mortification when she saw the gleam of amusement in his eyes.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” she muttered. “You’re just…you’re just easy to read.”
“If you say so, mikrí mou.”
She saw his gaze absently roaming his surroundings as he spoke, taking in every inch of the tiny bedroom she shared with her sisters, and Pippi couldn’t help feeling defensive. “I’m sorry if it’s not what you’re used to,” she said stiffly. No doubt, the combination of bunk beds and Spartan-style furniture would remind him of army barracks, and, if it did, well – so be it. She had nothing to be ashamed of—
“I’ve lived in far worse conditions.”
Pippi’s thoughts came to a halt at Acheron’s words.
“I’m sure you’ve read at least some of the rumors about my past, and suffice to say, not all of them was made up. My uncle – Yehor Kokinos – had offered my then-pregnant mother to disappear, and she was…the type that took kindly to bribes. Based on what I know of my uncle, I’m also fairly certain he meant for her to dispose of me—”