Moments later, Wes exits the men’s room, pulling July behind him, who looks suspiciously flushed.
“I remember you,” she tells Z, and my eyes dart between them. I’ll have to ask her later where she met him before.
“Let’s get the girls out of here, and then we’ll come back and finish up,” Wes states.
“Sure,” Z mutters, and he wraps a hand around my waist as I struggle out of his grasp.
Out in the parking lot, I’m hyperaware of his closeness. I can feel his eyes on me, and it’s both exhilarating and unnerving.
“You’re as shy as a kitten. Don’t think I’ve ever had shy in my bed,” Z growls, not bothering to lower his volume in front of our friends, and I feel my face flame viciously. I can’t even come up with a sassy retort as I take my place in the passenger seat of July’s Jeep. All I can do is stare into my lap, too shaken to my core to meet his gaze I feel burning into me. “Be good, kitten,” he rumbles, shutting my door.
“Straight home,” I hear Wes tell July.
“Straight home,” she repeats.
“We have some shit to work out, but I’ll get in there,” he tells her, before adding, “Be good.”
She nods and he slams her door. She starts up the Jeep and pulls out of the lot then looks over at me at a stop sign. When my eyes meet hers, I swallow hard then feel my face split into a grin.
“That was scary, but oh… my… God,” I breathe, making her giggle.
“No more stakeouts,” she tells me.
I snort and whisper, “No more stakeouts.”
A knock at my window makes me jump, pulling me from the memory. I look to my left and see his half-worried, handsome face.
“You gonna sleep in your car, kitten?” Z asks, and when I shake my head dumbly, he opens the door, holding his hand out to me.
The flashback was a reminder of how overwhelming his presence is. My feistiness from earlier leaves me, especially as we walk up to my front door and the memory of being grabbed inside my house overtakes all thoughts. I whimper on the first porch step, spinning around to run back to my car, but my face plants right into Z’s neck.
His arms immediately come around me, wrapping me up in a warm, safe, delicious-smelling cocoon.
“I’m here now, little one. Ain’t nothin’ bad going to happen while I’m with you. I can promise you that,” he murmurs at the side of my head, and I can’t help but relax in his embrace.
It’s like I’ve finally come home, which is funny, since we’re standing in front of my actual house that felt like anything but home only seconds before. “He…. I… I didn’t even see him coming, Z. He was already inside when I got here, and he grabbed me from behind.” I turn my face further into his skin and rest my head where his shoulder is still bandaged where I shot him.
“I know, baby. I doubt he came back tonight, but I’m going to go in first and check everything out, okay?”
I realize my fingers are gripping his leather vest when I feel my nails dig in deeper before letting go with a nod. With one last deep inhale of his intoxicating scent, I lift my head out of its nook and step to the side, allowing him to pass me up the stairs to my front door. I hand him my keys and watch him unlock the door before he steps inside.
My hands twist together as I wait for him on my porch, every sound making me jittery as I wait for either a fight to ring out into the late night air or for someone to come running out my front door in order to escape Z’s wrath. Because I have no doubt, from the look in his eyes when I was telling everyone what happened earlier, and from the conviction in his voice when he just promised me nothing would happen while he’s with me, Z would tear the intruder limb from limb with his capable bare hands.
“All clear, kitten,” I tell her, reaching out the front door with my hand outstretched to where she huddles by the porch steps. She takes a look at my open palm as if it’s a snake that might bite her, but then relaxes and puts her tiny hand in mine. Pulling her into her living room, it’s then I realize her dog never once barked at me while I was checking around her house.
She must notice too, because she immediately bends at the waist to check inside his crate. “Bonjour, LeFou. How’s my baby?”
The little dog immediately unburies himself from all his blankets, giving a rough shake before trembling with excitement. She unlatches the door and picks him up, allowing him to lick beneath her chin as she giggles. Glancing up at me, she must see the strange look on my face, because she asks, “What?”