Wow, Frankie thought ten minutes later. Even Curt found Blake’s nonstop chatter a challenge at times, but not once had Thornton looked bored. If anything, the man actually seemed to be having the time of his life. It was almost enough to have her buy into this whole love-at-first-sight business (even if it had started one-sided), and maybe she would have…if not for one thing.

Frankie waited until a couple of customers had occupied Blake’s time before walking to the counter. “Mr. Blackwood?”

Thornton glanced up, and as Frankie passed him the documents the mayor wanted him to sign, she asked under her breath, “Have you told her yet?”

In the process of signing the documents, his fingers stilled, the pen hovering mid-air. A moment later, he put the pen down and turned to face Blake’s friend. “No.”

And there was the Thornton Blackwood she knew, Frankie thought. She waited for him to say more, but when he didn’t, she asked finally, “Why not?”

“Why not what?” Blake piped in as she handed the customers’ purchases for Thornton to ring in.

“It was just a curious thought.” Frankie was doing her best not to panic, and having the local John Wick glaring at her just wasn’t helping.

“About?”

“About why…Mr. Blackwood…”

“Thornton,” Blake corrected her just before turning to her boss-slash-boyfriend. “She can call you that now, right?”

Thornton shrugged.

Blake turned back to face Frankie, saying optimistically, “That means yes. But anyway—” She quickly changed the subject so her friend wouldn’t have any chance to burst her bubble. “What was that you were saying earlier?”

Seeing how Blake’s friend was about to break down, Thornton heard himself lie, “She was asking why I felt your grandmother might not like me.”

Frankie nearly wilted in relief. That…was such a perfectly plausible thing for her to have said, it was kinda scary knowing Thornton was the one to think of it.

But still.

At least she was out of the woods with Blake now, Frankie told herself. And as for Thornton’s reasons for still not telling her friend about Hartland Initiative…

Thornton was unsurprised when Frankie headed back his way as soon as Blake had another set of customers to attend to.

“I owe you for that,” Blake’s friend muttered.

“You do.”

She glared at him. “I know my hands are legally tied and there’s no way for me to force you to tell Blake the truth. But if you ever hurt her…”

“I won’t.”

Frankie was unimpressed. “We’ll see, Mr. Blackwood. But just so you know…I’m not the only one who’ll be after your hide—”

“Curt Teller.” The way Frankie jumped told Thornton he had guessed correctly, and his lips tightened. “I know he likes her.”

Frankie had a hard time keeping her face expressionless. Oh no. Getting Curt to make Thornton potentially jealous had been her idea, and it had seemed like a good one…before. But now that the two were a couple?

She cleared her throat. “About that—” But before she could say another word, they both heard Blake’s mobile phone ring.

“Hello?”

Thornton’s gaze narrowed when he saw something flicker in Blake’s eyes. “Oh. Hey. It’s you…Kate.”

Frankie winced. Oh, Blake. She took a peek at Thornton’s expression and found it utterly, terrifyingly bland. Oh, shit. That look just about said everything.

Thornton suddenly found his view of Blake blocked when her friend jumped in front of him.

“It’s not what you think, Mr. Blackwood,” she said in a rush. “Curt—”

“Is what?”

Shit, shit, shit.

“You don’t have anything to be jealous about,” she tried convincing him.

“Can you prove that?”

Shit.

Thornton’s jaw clenched at Frankie’s helpless look. Fuck. Fuck. FUCK. Who the fuck was this Curt guy to Blake anyway?

Chapter Seventeen

It was close to seven by the time the last customer left, and Blake could barely keep herself from fidgeting while watching the old woman head for the door with her newly-purchased cozy mystery paperback clutched between her fingers.

Come on, come on…

The moment the door swung shut behind the customer, she immediately dashed towards the reading nook. Thornton was seated on one of the chairs, browsing through a history book, with a look of concentration on his beautiful bearded face.

As if sensing her gaze on him, Thornton glanced up, his gaze questioning.

Here goes…

One moment, Blake was standing a few feet away with a guilty expression on her too-pretty face, and then the next moment, she had launched herself without warning, and Thornton had to quickly grab hold of the table to keep both of them from toppling over.

Blake quickly threw her arms around his neck the moment she righted herself in his lap.

Thornton could feel how fast and hard her heart was beating. Scared. Blake was scared, and even though he still had the urge to pulverize something – anything – into pieces, he could already feel his concern for Blake overpowering his anger.

Which means I’m fucked, Thornton thought.

Blake sensed her boyfriend lifting a hand and tensed uncontrollably. She knew he wouldn’t hurt her in any way, but…


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