*Rubs hands together* I freaking LOVE Killian and can’t wait for you to read it!
Have you preordered yet? You’ll definitely want this one on your ereader at midnight!!! You may not get much sleep that night. Preorder at the bottom of the page! Also, check out this kickass cover!
Please note this is unedited and subject to change.
Killian: The Fearless Few #1 ©2020 Wicked Words Publishing LLC—Ryan Michele
Ride or die. I’d used the expression often. I knew it to my core. That deep meaning of one person you stuck with through thick and thin; no matter what happened, you had each other’s backs. It resonated in my soul because I had my ride or die.
That was what Bri was to me. My person.
Brianna Waverly had been my bestest best friend since we were in third grade when she tried stealing my Oreo cookies at lunch when she thought I wasn’t looking.
I was, and we got into it. Full-blown rolling on the floor and pulling hair, yelling, and not stopping until teachers were yanking us apart—fighting, the real deal. Oreos were the best cookies of all time, and of course, I had to stand up for the chocolaty, creamy goodness. Nobody touched my snacks, ever.
Fun times, great memories. To this day we fought over them.
Needless to say our parents were called, and we were a match made in heaven from then on, bonded by a cookie. Through all the phases in life, she was my person. The one I’d do anything for, even take a bullet without blinking an eye.
It was the reason I was currently parked on the street in front of a well-lit house, wondering what the hell Bri had gotten into now. She could be a bit of a wild child and a free spirit. I loved her for it, but sometimes it landed us both up the shit creek without a paddle. Cars lined the streets on both sides, and music could be heard clearly; even though I was quite a ways away and my windows were up. None of this surprised me when it came to Bri. Apparently, it was a hell of a party.
One I could see Bri and I going to for a night of fun back in the day. We were a bit rambunctious, as my mother would say. She was using that term very loosely with me. Always said I was a handful the moment I came into the world, screaming and making my presence known.
Mostly my partying happened at my bar instead of these kinds of parties now, but Bri still went ‘living out her years,’ as she called it, getting in a few more before she got old. And who was I to judge, except maybe right now because of this.
Twenty-five minutes ago, Bri called from the bathroom of this house sounding scared out of her mind and needing me to come and get her. Even though I was at the bar working because there was a rush, I dropped everything and motored as fast as I could to get here. All the while my mind ticked off every passing minute worrying for my friend.
Bri was a wild child, and not much fazed her, so knowing she was scared concerned me because that wasn’t like her one bit. Therefore, I risked a speeding ticket just to get to her in five minutes instead of the twenty it would usually take.
The cell in my hand rang, and I answered, seeing Bri’s name. “Where are you?”
“In the bathroom.”
Saying “duh?” would only delay this process, and there was no time for that. “What side of the house are you on?”
“The right.” My eyes scanned down the right seeing light peer through the curtains into the night. “No wait. My right. Your left.” She went back on her first answer. I loved her, but if she didn’t pull her shit together, I’d get her out of this mess and strangle her.
“Bri, seriously. Focus, snap out it, and tell me what window I need to go to.”
We were opposites. I tried to think things through, where she was the walking definition of scatterbrained. Bri mostly went with the flow of things. Loved to have fun and just be. She had a very free spirit and sometimes was a bit forgetful. Loved her, but it was the truth. It added to her wild child ways, and one day they were going to catch up with her. Today wasn’t going to be that day if I could help it.
But now wasn’t the time for her to get confused. I wanted to get her and get out of here as soon as possible.
There was some rustling on the other side of the line like she was shaking her head, then she said, “Look at the front door, on your left side. I’m in the back corner.” Pulling her shit together, yes, that was my Bri.
Just then the sounds of banging on a door filled the line with muffled demands. “Open the fuckin’ door. Bitch, I’m gonna get your ass.”
Her voice dropped low. “I’m okay, but I have to get out of here now.”
“You have some serious explaining to do.” I got out of my Jeep Wrangler, black with black interior and a ragtop. She was one hell of a ride. Quickly, I moved to the left side of the house. Luckily there was only one man outside smoking, and he was on the opposite end from where I was headed. Not that it would matter much, considering I had no weapon.
I should’ve grabbed my bat from the bar, but I didn’t think of it at the time. Being in a hurry and all. The least I could’ve done was grab a knife from behind the bar. Note for next time. Hopefully, though, there wouldn’t be a next time.
“Get ready to jump out.” There were more muffled words, but I concentrated on my surroundings. With the cloak of darkness hiding me well, I surveyed the home. The area was pretty dark with a few streetlights off in the distance giving a very eerie glow.
The first two windows had curtains, and I peeked through the tiny cracks of the first window and noticed it was a living room packed with people. I moved down to the second window and peeked inside, someone getting lucky in what appeared to be a bedroom. Nobody noticed me. A small stroke of luck, but I’d take it.
A puff of blonde hair came from the furthest window down, and my heart squeezed seeing my girl. I shoved my phone into my back pocket and raced to her.
“Thank god you’re here. These guys…” she said as I reached out for her.
“Later,” I ordered, hearing the door crack behind her from whoever was pounding on it like their life depended on it. They obviously were going to do anything to get inside, including smashing the door down. We didn’t have much time and needed to get the hell out of here.
Bri began to swing her legs out, and I was ready for her. Suddenly a huge crash came from the room, and Bri let out a shrill scream as she started to fall. I wrapped my arms around her quickly and pulled her the rest of the way down. She stumbled on the heel of her sandal as she tried to steady her footing. A large beefy man with a black and gray goatee stuck his head out the window then reached his arm out, trying to get at Bri. His eyes were filled with rage directed at my best friend.
“You little slut! Get back here!” he charged, reaching as far out the window as he could. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he fell out at this point, he was so far out.
What the hell did she do to him to make him so mad? That was a question for another time.
Luckily, she was far enough away that he couldn’t get her, but that didn’t stop his furious face from taking both of us in. I didn’t know who he was friends with here, and we were far from being in the clear—meaning the safety of my Jeep!
Screw that and screw him. Bri and I knew from experience how parties could go bad in the blink of an eye. We’d had our fair share. Add in the sneaking out to go to them and drinking, we’d just about seen it all.
This, though, was new, in that no one had actually gone after one of us. We didn’t like this much.
“Come on!” I gripped her arm and started to pull her in the direction of my Jeep, hearing the man behind us. It appeared he was too big to get out of the window. Bonus for us.
A strong arm came across my stomach, pulling me back and Bri with me since we were attached. A scream left me, and a hand clamped over my mouth while Bri was torn away from my grasp.
Fear gripped me. I shook my head, trying to get a handle on my emotions. One thing I knew—always keep your head about you. Meaning, I couldn’t get wrapped up in fear. I had to be prepared to fight.
“Ellie. Shut it.” The low growl came from deep within the chest of whoever this man was.
Freaked out was taking it lightly. My mind went into hyper drive. Inhaling deeply to steady the fear coursing through my chest, I noticed he smelled of man, and I was trying to decipher the exact description as I tried to fight free. His voice was calm, firm, and deep. His arm around my waist was thick and firm, as was the body behind me that he pulled me against. He was taller than me and easily maneuvered me the way he desired.
Wait, he knew me? On an inhale the smell of bourbon, honey, and leather wrapped around me, but I didn’t let it detour me. I continued fighting and could hear Bri doing the same next to me.
The man who had me was strong, holding me with little effort, and fear like no other crawled through me. Was this the guy from the window’s friend? Was this a setup to get us out here and take us out?
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
This man picked me up off the ground, into his arms, and took off running as if he were out for a Sunday jog and not carrying a woman kicking, clawing, and fighting.
“What are you doing?” I screeched as I heard Bri’s voice beside me, another man carrying her. Clawing the guy’s arm to get his hand removed did nothing, and I dug my nails in deep. Kicking did nothing. Hitting did nothing. Shifting my body, same—nothing. He completely ignored every move I made.
When I looked up at the man, ready to scratch his eyeballs out—because that was something I learned watching television, a good scratch or poke to the eyes would have anyone throwing you to the ground—everything inside me froze.
Hell, even my eyelashes stopped blinking briefly as I stared in astonished amazement. I had to be seeing things. Had to. This entire situation had to be a figment of my imagination, and I had a damn good imagination. But still, I’d never been in a scenario like this before.
Killian Graham was holding me in his arms.
The very Killian Graham, mind you, I hadn’t seen in years, but here he was carrying me away from a house where I was attempting to rescue my best friend.
Was he friends with these assholes?
No, he couldn’t be. Could he?
At my apparent shock, he removed his hand. “What are you doing here?” I bit out because you only lived once, and frankly, I wasn’t much for having a filter on my words.
“Saving your ass,” he growled low, and I swore I felt the words race through my body like small cars. Gravelly. That was his voice. A combination of that low rumble, but with a rough edge to it. One you could listen to for hours and never get tired of it.
Killian set me on my feet next to a black Escalade with tinted windows. “Listen,” he said, grabbing my attention. The other man placed Bri on her feet next to me. “Get in, and do not move,” he ordered, and by the look on his face, he truly expected me to obey.
What the hell?
Since when did he think he could command me to do something? No one ordered me to do anything. Bri and I had to get out of here before the beefy man saw us again.
My hands went to my hips, ready to give him some serious attitude, because what the fuck! He moved in closer, his body heat pressing against mine and throwing a bit of the wind out of my sail. “Bad guys, Ellie. We don’t have time for this shit right now. Get. The. Fuck. In.”
The seriousness of his tone had me reining myself in for a moment. It had to be the edge to his voice that did it because there was simply no other reason for me to comply so easily. Yes, it had to be something. I was not a woman who got ordered around and told what to do.
“What are you going to do? My Jeep is—” I started to point off to where my Jeep sat, but he cut me off.
“Now, Ellie.” This time he didn’t wait for me to contemplate his words. He opened the SUV door, lifted me clean off my feet, put me inside. He put Bri in, then the door was shut and locked. My mind was racing, trying to focus on Killian.
Only he was already gone. Like a figment of my imagination, just up in smoke, as if I dreamed this entire evening’s actions. Blinking didn’t wake me, nor did the customary pinching of the skin, so it must be real.
I turned to Bri, and her mouth was hanging open in shock or surprise—I wasn’t sure which. I asked, “You did see Killian, right?” needing her to confirm what I’d just seen.
Her head shook, unable to form words.
“And he just grabbed us from that house and ordered us in here, right?”
She nodded again.
“Say something!” I cried out in frustration. I was a bit freaked out and pissed by the turn in events, but she was my bestie, and she’d get over it. I needed something from her. I didn’t know what, but something!
“Girrll…” she drawled out like we weren’t in this crazy situation, but instead sitting at her house drinking. “That was so him. Where did he come from?”
“Hell if I know.” I looked out the window seeing nothing but light filtering from the windows of the house. We were much farther away from it now, but I saw no trace of Killian or his friend anywhere.
“I haven’t seen him in years. You remember all the rumors?” Bri asked, and oh boy, did I remember the rumors. Killian Graham was the talk of the town. The stories were wild. Anything from Killian worked for the CIA, to a mercenary, and some even eluded to him being a drug kingpin. No one actually knew what Killian did, and that aura of mystery made the man utterly intriguing.
It was then everything went off the Richter scale crazy. Police sirens heard in the distance were fast approaching, and within a couple of seconds the house was bathed in the headlights of police cars and SUVs. The officers hopped out, guns at the ready and standing behind their vehicle doors.
Shit! What did we find ourselves in the midst of? This wasn’t good.
My brother Elliot got out of his cop car, gun pointed at the house like his brethren. “Fuck! Elliot’s here!”
“I can see.” Bri added, “Along with the entire force, it seems.” She wasn’t wrong.
I knew many of the men from my brother. None of which would be happy about me being here. At all. They’d taken on a protective role in my life, either doing it for Elliot or just because they were kickass men.
Sometimes it served me well, other times not so much. My Jeep wasn’t far enough away for my brother and his brothers-in-blue not to see it and recognize it was mine. They would all know in seconds I was in the area. An area I clearly shouldn’t have been in.
“Shit. He’s gonna…” I started to vocalize my thoughts, scanning the area. My eyes drifted over to where my Jeep was parked only to find that spot empty. “Where’s my Jeep!”
I made a move for the door handle, yanking it and trying to get it opened. It was to no avail because the damn thing was locked from the outside. Killian had to be joking. “He locked us in!”
Bri’s arms went around me tight. “Take a deep breath. We’re safe. Let them do whatever they’re doing, and stay out of the way.”
Anger, fear, frustration. All these emotions flooded my system, and I was stuck sitting in this SUV with not a single answer to the eighteen hundred questions consuming me. So I went with the ones Bri could answer. Since she was in the predicament beforehand, I didn’t ask anything as I made my way to her. Now, well, now it was time for the inquisition. “Why the hell were you here alone, Bri? That’s not like you.” And it wasn’t. She may party, but she always had someone with her. Usually it was a friend of ours named Khloe who was her single wingman.
“You remember Landon Dane?” she asked.
“Four years older than us. Running back on the football team. Works for his father.”
“Right. He invited me here with him. He called Khloe and asked her to come too. Even told her I was with him. When Landon hung up, he had a huge smile on his face and told me Khloe would meet us there. Khloe didn’t show and Landon disappeared, leaving me in the living room not knowing a single soul.
“And you know I can talk to anyone. These people, though, weren’t the talking and chatting type. After checking my phone a billion times to see if Khloe had answered my texts, I went in search of Landon so we could leave. The vibe did not feel good. I found him making out with a short-cropped blonde. I tried to leave, and the big guy who busted down the door wouldn’t let me. He blocked me from every path, asking my name and who I was there with. I was able to get away and ran to the bathroom and locked myself in, calling you.”
I gripped her hand. “Bri! You always come with your partner. Never any guys!”
“I did. I thought…” She trailed off.
I knew exactly what she thought. That Landon was successful and showed an interest in her, therefore she went thinking he’d have her back until Khloe showed up, and we all see where that got her. Yes, strangling her might knock some sense in her. Except this was Bri, and she tended to take life as it came with no plan. Believing in people she shouldn’t.
“I…” A loud commotion started from outside the SUV. Loud grunts and curses could be heard from several different people. Some of the guys from the house were face-down on the front lawn while others were being hauled out and getting their hands tied behind their backs.
My brother had his knee in one of the men’s backs, slapping cuffs on him, while other cops were putting men inside the van that pulled up.
Jesus. This was a planned thing. Like a sting operation.
I gave it to my friend exactly how it was. “You do realize this was a raid, and you and Khloe could’ve gotten caught up in that shit?”
Bri wasn’t looking at me, though. She was staring out the window, her hand going over her mouth. Killian, dressed in all black, was coming our way, but he wasn’t alone. He had Landon, arms behind his back and a cut over his right eye. Killian had a grip on Landon’s arm so tight that when he tried to get away Killian didn’t allow him to move an inch.
Damn, he was strong.
“What’s that about?” I mumbled to Bri.
Killian didn’t even look at us. He walked right past a few paces and lifted his chin to someone. A mountain of a man came out of the shadows, grabbed Landon, and they vanished. How in the hell could big guys like these just mysteriously disappear? Maybe this was a movie, and all this shit was just for show.
One could hope, even if it were for a moment.
“I have no idea why Landon would be with Killian and not the police. I couldn’t make this up if I tried,” she answered, eyes still glued on the scenario in front of us.
“Do you think Killian is going to kill him?” Bri asked, and I paused.
“What? Kill him?” A gasp came from my lips. Surely she didn’t really think this, did she?
“Yeah. I mean, you’ve heard about Killian, and he looks like he could break Landon in half.”
“Yeah. But I doubt the cops would let Landon go with Killian if he was, in fact, going to kill him.”
“True. I just want to go home now,” Bri heaved out, resting her head on the headrest. She closed her eyes like she wanted to be anywhere but here. I couldn’t blame her. I felt the same way, but I needed to get back to the bar and close things out. Not to mention, have words with Killian to find out what was going on and find my damn Jeep. My mind raced. I did the worrying, while Bri was ready for a nightcap and some shut-eye.
This night turned into a clusterfuck of epic proportions. Going from laidback at the bar helping fill drink orders, talking and having fun, to being trapped in an SUV with my best friend who I just pulled out of a party that got raided by the cops and whatever Killian was.
The driver and passenger doors opened simultaneously. The guy who grabbed Bri sat in the passenger, while Killian sat in the driver’s. Both of them gave off an energy that had the SUV pulsing, and not with happy go lucky vibes either.
Killian started the Escalade, but I needed to find out about my car. “Wait. My Jeep. It was here, but now it’s…” I stared at the blank spot. “Gone.”
“It’ll be at your place,” Killian said nonchalantly. There were so many questions floating in my head, so I let some of them rip.
Passenger seat guy turned to Bri, giving her a small smirk. I had to admit, even though the man kidnapped us, he was very attractive. I might have been in a fucked-up situation, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t appreciate the maleness that was sitting in front of me.
Passenger seat man had dark blond hair, espresso colored eyes, one of the hottest grins and was built.
Killian had dark hair that was cropped around his head, but longish at the top. He let it go wherever it wanted to, and it was unruly in this sexy way. His hand was on top of the wheel, pulling out onto the road. Not responding to my demands. Jerk. He could at least answer.
“Killian. Seriously. I need my car. My purse is in there.”
Killian clenched the steering wheel to the point his knuckles turned white. Guessed he was pissed, but I didn’t care. I was too, and with each second that ticked by, that fury was brewing.
After a while of silence, I broke. “Who has my car?” Note to self: Don’t leave the keys in the ignition to rescue Bri. Always put them in my back pocket.
The vehicle jerked to a stop, and Killian turned in his seat, his sapphire eyes drilling a hole through me. His face was tight, obviously not feeling like my question had merit. Too bad for him. It did. I stared back, not giving him an inch.
“One of my men is takin’ it to your place. You’re both fine. Now shut it.” He turned around, put the SUV in drive, and took off. Once again pissing me off. Who the fuck did this guy think he was?
Why the hell did he get to be pissed at me? I didn’t do anything but save my friend. Only God knew where Killian had been, what he’d been doing, yet he thought he could tell me to shut it after taking my car? Hell no! Fury boiled inside me.
“Seriously, Killian. You just told me to shut it. How about you kiss my ass?”
He shook his head slightly but said nothing.
I looked to Bri who was staying quiet for some damn reason. She loved to talk, yet here when Killian and his monster friend kidnapped us, she had nothing. Great. Just great.
Reaching over, I took her hand and held it tight, giving her comfort. This must have freaked her out a bit for her to go radio silent.
Bri looked to her phone, then turned it facedown. Obviously, Khloe hadn’t called or texted back yet.
“Fine. Want to tell us what the hell that was back there?” I fired again.
This time Killian answered, but it was short and terse. “No.”
“Too damn bad! Where did you take Landon?”
Killian’s head twitched just a bit, but he said nothing. While I knew that twitch meant something, I had no idea what. It only spurred my curiosity.
“Geeze.” My head fell back to the headrest as I closed my eyes, briefly needing to gain my control. This man was infuriating. Out of the damn blue he showed up out of the shadows, and I was supposed to roll with that because he said so?
Umm … no thank you.
The vehicle stopped, and I looked out to see a well-lit parking lot. We were at the local Spend n’ Save, and it was only a mile or so away from the bar which was good. We could get out, and I could call Corey from the bar to come and get us. There was another Escalade exactly like the one we were in parked.
“Come on,” the brute said as he opened the door. I looked at Bri in confusion, and her face was masked in concern.
“What’s going on?” I asked Killian, crossing my arms over my chest. No fucking way we were getting out of this SUV with that man. I didn’t know him at all, barely knew the driver either. It had been years since I had a conversation with Killian Graham, so he was as much a stranger as the big guy. “We’re not getting out until you answer my questions.”
Killian turned around and huffed out a breath. “You aren’t going anywhere! Oliver here is takin’ Bri home.”
“What? No. That’s not happening.” I grabbed onto Bri’s hand tightly. She wasn’t leaving my side. No way was I letting her leave with some stranger. I didn’t get her out of one situation to put her right back in the middle of another one.
“Let me put this to you another way,” the asshole, Killian, started. “You pissed off some serious as shit men. Men who now probably think you were in on what happened back there. They’ll be after you. The both of you.”
My heart started thumping hard as Bri squeezed my hand. Killian continued, “That said. We’re getting you safe for the night. Going to check on a few things and need to make sure you don’t get into any more trouble. So Oliver is taking Bri home and checking her house. He’s gonna keep your friend alive while I deal with you, and maybe we can all manage a little sleep before we see what tomorrow brings.” That man so did not look like an Oliver, and I bet no one called him Ollie for short. He looked like he could rip someone in two with very little effort.
Trouble? “Trouble?” I questioned. “Are you serious right now? What ‘more’ trouble could we get into?”
Killian stared at me, and I was seriously starting to despise that irritating blank look.
I tried a different tactic, noting this wasn’t working. “How about you drop both of us at the bar instead? I’m perfectly capable of keeping myself and my best friend safe. Plus, if something feels off, I’ll call Elliot.”
“No. Out,” Killian barked at Bri. She jumped, and her hand went to the handle and pulled it.
I tugged her hand, holding her to the seat. “What are you doing?”
“I don’t think these are the bad guys, Ellie. They got us out of there, and I just want to go home. I’ll be safe with Oliver. My gut says we’re fine now.”
Bad guys. Hell, I didn’t know what kind of men these two were. Bri always followed whatever way the wind blew and what felt good to her. She wasn’t one to think things through. That free spirit was a beautiful and dangerous thing.
True, Killian and Elliot were friends in school, but that was a long damn time ago. Things changed. People changed. Life changed. Killian definitely changed. Good or bad was yet to be determined.
“Call me when you get home.” It was my turn to order Bri, knowing she was stubborn enough to fight me on this. She’d be home safe, and I would be too … at the bar.
“Got it.” She jumped out the door and rounded the hood, going to Ollie’s Escalade. Did these people have stock in Caddies or something? The rides were sleek black with chromed-out wheel wells and black tinted windows. It was like celebrities were in town, and these things were used to keep everyone out and wrapped in a safety cocoon. An awesome choice, though. I had to admit, there was no smoother ride than a Cadillac.
“If anything happens to her, I’ll cut your balls off and shove them down your throat,” I said to Killian whose only response was to put the vehicle in drive, pulling out onto the road. Bri and Ollie took off in the opposite direction.
When we got close to the bar, I called out, “Stop here. I need to go close up.”
“You’ve got people to do that,” he said, driving past the bar and not fazed in the slightest by my request. My head followed it, then snapped back as a thought hit me.
He shouldn’t know anything about the comings and goings of my bar, including who I hired and what they did. Not only that, but I was safe there.
“How in the hell would you know that?” From this angle, his profile was prominent. Strong nose and jaw with a slight scruff of a beard. Maybe a day or two stubble that gave him a sinister vibe. Much more dangerous than all those years ago. That was for damn sure. It made me wonder what the man had turned into. As much as he loved to talk, insert sarcasm here, he’d for sure tell me. Right?
He ignored my question and kept on going.
“Where are you taking me?”
He didn’t immediately reply, so I repeated my question. “If you don’t shut up, I’m going to tape your mouth shut.”
I gasped. “You will not!”
He shook his head, either in amusement or frustration. I didn’t give a shit which. If he even tried to tape me, I’d poke both his eyes out. I needed to clear my head and make a plan.
Fifteen minutes of silence later we pulled up a long gravel drive encased with trees on either side. Lit in front of us was a stunning log cabin. You know the ones built from real full-fledged logs. It momentarily took my breath at the grandness.
“Where are we?”
“What!” It came out a screech.
This wasn’t happening. No way, no how! Did he really expect me to just say, “Sure, that’s a great idea. Let’s go to your place!” I knew nothing of this man anymore. Where he’d been. What he’d done. Who he was. This was ridiculous, expecting me to just roll over and do as he commanded. He sure as hell didn’t know me anymore.
Hell, he barely knew me in high school.
Staying with him at his place wasn’t going to happen.
“It’s all good, Ellie,” he said, putting the SUV in park and turning off the engine.
“Take. Me. To. My. Bar,” I bit out each word, my teeth clenching so hard I could hear my wisdom teeth grinding. Pissed wasn’t a strong enough word for my feelings at that moment. Infuriated didn’t even touch it either. If my head could explode, it would’ve. Who the hell did he think he was? Just because he thought this was the plan, it suddenly was reality. Well, no thank you, sir! I was a strong woman who could take care of myself!
“No,” he said calmly. How could he be calm? I wasn’t calm. I was a raging inferno of frustration.
“Take me to my goddammed bar!” The shout echoed in the SUV, my ears ringing just a touch from it. This guy was out of his ever-loving mind. Who did this kind of shit? Show up at a party, cuff a guy, and haul a woman to his house. Apparently, Killian did, and I wanted to strangle him.
He didn’t respond, which enraged me further. He didn’t even act the least bit fazed. Nope, he got out and came around to my door and opened it. “Come on,” he said.
Killian held out his hand, but I didn’t take it. This entire situation was bizarre, and he’d lost his damn mind. I hadn’t seen him for years. Why on earth would he think I’d be okay with going to his house? Sure, Killian, you’re hot; I’ll do whatever you say. Not!
“Ellie, I’m either going to pick you up and take you in, or you can walk. You choose.”
My mouth fell open. “What?” He was nuts. Certifiably nuts.
“You heard me.” He moved into my space.
I read him like a book. He was serious, and while I wanted to remain firm in my stance, the idea of being carried in, well, I would at least have my dignity even if I was losing this battle. “Fine.” Killian stopped his movements, his brow lifting. “If I come in, I want answers.”
A slow grin came to his lips, knocking the wind out of me. It was breathtaking and sexy as all hell.
This was a recipe for disaster. He had that dangerous bad boy thing written all over him, and it was one of my weaknesses. One of my many flaws was to fall for the man who would without a doubt break my heart at the end. Killian fit the type to a T.
I put a guard up to protect myself. I knew his type, and that was a road to heartache I had already traveled. No way was this man getting anything from me. Nothing.
“Come.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me from the vehicle. His hand was strong and warm, and I hated to admit it, but it felt nice. Too nice.
Killian pulled me through the front yard and up the steps. The place was amazing. More than amazing. Lights surrounded a huge wrap-around porch that had a very comfortable looking swing on it. It reminded me of one I’d seen in a magazine that I’d love to have if my porch was bigger. It looked like a bed, but was a swing with plush cushions. It was inviting, making you want to take a seat and enjoy the quietness of the night.
Killian went to the door and pulled out his keys.
I was not going in his house. There had to be some lines drawn in the sand, and this was one of them.
He released my hand to unlock the door, so I took off to the swing. “I want to talk; we’re doing it out here.” The swing moved a bit when my round ass hit it. The pillows were big and fluffy, a mixture of reds and blacks; perfect colors. I leaned back into them as the swing rocked a bit.
If I wasn’t pissed off, I would’ve said it was more comfortable than a bed and taken a nap on it. But I was pissed, so I held onto that feeling as Killian sat his ass on the other end of the swing. We moved a bit more, and the swing felt like it was tipping his way due his large size.
The night was beautiful, and it got lost with all the commotion. I’d always preferred the evening time. The darkness always comforted me.
Killian said nothing, and it irritated me. It appeared he was one of those people you had to ask questions in order to get answers. Not a ‘sharer’. Great.
“Why were you at the party?”
“One-word answers. Seriously, Killian?” His smirk was out of this world sexy and reminded me of when all the girls flocked to him back in school. One flash of it and women around the world would melt. Including me, but I held strong. It took more than the bad boy edge and seductive smile to work completely on me anymore.
“I’m not going to lie to you. I was there for work. Outside of that, well, can’t tell you about my work.”
“Can’t tell me, or won’t?” I challenged.
He didn’t flinch or even hesitate in his reply, “Both.”
Lord only knew what he did, but every television show I’d watched gave me a new suggestion. The rumors spread in so many different ways. Some on the good side of the law, while others not so much. I’d guess with the police involvement tonight, it was on the good side. Then again, there was that saying about assuming, and I was absolutely making assumptions here.
Realizing I was going to get nowhere on the work topic, I changed tactics. “Okay, why did you haul Bri and me to your car?”
“Because you needed out.”
I had to give it to the man. He may not say a lot of words, but what he did say made sense, especially with the cops showing up. He obviously knew that was going to happen. Hopefully we were going to get somewhere here. And hopefully, it meant he was on the right side of the law in all of this too.
“Where did you take Landon?”
He didn’t answer. I waited a few beats, and he still didn’t answer.
I took his lack of response as the mean it had to do with his work, so I moved on. “Why did you bring me here?” Maybe that would get me somewhere.
“Because you’re safe here.”
“I’m safe at my bar,” I retorted, hating that I was all fired up, and he was calm as could be.
“You’re safer with me.”
That was interesting. “Why do you think that?”
“Because I’d never let anything happen to you.”
Those words seared into my brain, making all the warm and fuzzy feelings come to life. I wasn’t a warm and fuzzy kind of a woman. I was a kickass, take names, and get the job done kind of woman. So where in the hell did these feelings come from? And why did they hit me so hard?
I wouldn’t be detoured. Feelings or not, I wanted answers. I wanted to go back to my bar, back to my life.
“I’m not staying, Killian. I need you to take me back.”
“It’s not happening. May as well come in and get comfortable.”
Smooth talker. Something I saw in my bar on a nightly basis with men and women. And they always got what they wanted at the end of the night. Too bad I was immune to it. “No. Tell me why you were there.”
My eyes rolled to the sky. “I got that part.” Time to change tactics again because I was getting nowhere fast with Killian right now.
“Do you own this place?” Looking around the house, I thought I knew that answer considering it looked like it cost a ton of money and appeared to have been here a while. The pieces of the puzzle were not fitting together. It was another plus on his side because I always loved a good riddle and had a hard time backing down from it. Fuck.
He shrugged. “Yep.”
Killian’s face softened, the lines and angles appeared to thin out. Wow. It was a beautiful look. For a handsome man with such rugged features to look beautiful was a feat, but he did it with no effort at all. “Yeah. For now.”
“Fine.” I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my phone, scrolling to the number I needed. He was at work, but he’d come and pick me up, getting me out of here and away from Killian. I hit the green button, put it to my ear, and it was swiped from my hand. “Hey!” I cried out as Killian held the phone up to his ear like he knew who I was calling and wanted to have a chat.
I lunged for the phone, and with practiced ease Killian wrapped his arm around my stomach and held me at arm’s length. We sort of wrestled on the swing, making it rock this way and that, giving way to a few creaks and groans from the chains. It wasn’t one of my finest moments because I lost, horribly.
“No, it’s Killian,” he said into my phone. “I’ve got Ellie here with me.”
“Elliot! Come and get me!” I shouted. Killian might have been able to subdue my body, but he couldn’t shut my mouth up with only one hand. No matter how much he wanted to try it. My brother would hear me and come. That I had no doubt. My brother and I were close. He wouldn’t let me down.
Killian chuckled. Actually chuckled. What was going on here?
“She’s fine.” He paused. “I’ve got her.”
“He does not! Elliot!”
“Right. Later.” Killian tossed my phone on the swing, and I stilled, staring at the disconnected phone like my brother would pop out of it at any second.
“What just happened?”
Killian’s other arm came around me, and I was plastered to his front, our faces entirely too close. The smell of outdoor woods invaded me and part of me—a small part—locked it away inside my memory banks, wanting to remember. Pathetic. I know, but the truth.
“Your brother knows you’re here with me. The end.”
I pulled back just a bit to try to shake off whatever Killian was doing to my body. Spoiler, it didn’t work.
My body was raring to roar. Good thing my brain was screwed on tight tonight. Or, at least, I hoped it was. “This is not ‘the end’. And he doesn’t even know you!” While I knew they were friends in school, that was a long damn time ago.
He leaned forward and brushed his nose along my jaw. The move stunned me still. It was sweet and felt strange coming from this rugged man. “He’s known me for more than two decades, Ellie.”
“No, he hasn’t.” My brother never talked about Killian. Never once brought him up in a random conversation. Never talked about meeting up with him or hanging out. Elliot had a ton of friends, and I knew most of them because he’d brought them into the bar when he was off duty. Killian never came to the bar.
“Yeah. Clue in, babe. Never lost touch with him, Ellie.”
“What? Wait? How? This is all confusing.” Killian rolled us so I was now on my back, and he was hovering on top of me. It was a very dominating position, and a prickle came to the back of my neck. “What’s going on here?” I was obviously missing something big. Huge.
He was so close. His lips right there, plump and ready. What was I thinking? No. No. No! “You need to give me some space.” He didn’t and grinned.
A cell started to ring, and since it wasn’t my tone, it had to be Killian’s. He shifted just a bit, grabbed his phone, and answered with a, “Yeah,” all the while pinning me to the swing. The more I moved, the more jostled we became. I loved swinging, but these jerky movements weren’t fun. The chains rattled noisily, so I settled a bit. I didn’t want to add crashing down to the deck on my list of fun things I did tonight.
“Fuck,” he said, and I wanted so badly to know what that meant, but Killian gave nothing away. He listened, his brows furrowing. Then he was up, I was up, and he pulled me to the house and pushed through the door before I could even register what was happening.
I didn’t protest. I blamed it on the shock of the night, and Killian looked hacked off already. No need to poke the tiger, at least not in the moment. Killian shut the door, then locked it. He moved to a security panel and punched in a code, then another.
“Right. Keep me updated.” He flipped on lights as he made his way to the kitchen where he tossed his phone on the island. This kitchen sucked the breath out of me.
The walls and cabinets were made from the same logs the cabins was made of. They went together seamlessly. Stainless steel appliances and a marble countertop set it off beautifully. The island had two high-backed chairs along one side, and it opened up into the spacious living room.
If the kitchen took my breath away, the living room was even better. A stone fireplace and the most comfortable looking furniture made for relaxing. It was the perfect place for reading or just sitting and thinking.
Hands came to my arms, and I jumped. Killian stood there, his face blank. I did not take this as a good sign. I wasn’t wrong.
“We need to hole up inside and get some sleep.”
“Tell me what’s going on.”
He stood there, and it appeared as though he was coming to some conclusion. It took a few moments, but what he said next freaked me right the hell out.
“A major player we were looking for tonight wasn’t at the party. We’re taking precautions.”
I looked to the walls seeing gorgeous large windows that probably allowed the sun to warm up the entire place and gave great views of the trees. “Um … can’t they just break the windows?”
“Custom-made bulletproof glass. Then there’s this.” Killian moved to the far wall and hit a switch. Suddenly a clanking noise filled the room, and steel came down and covered all the windows.
“Why the hell do you need this? Do you get attacked a lot or something?”
It was starting to feel like Fort Knox. This only made my curiosity about Killian Graham rise more.
“No. It’s just a fail-safe.” He reached out and grabbed my hand. “Come on. We need to get some sleep.”
“Wait.” He didn’t. He pulled me through the house, down a hall, and into a large bedroom. More like mammoth. One wall was solid steel, probably covering windows. The bed was across from it, and it could probably fit four people comfortably. The thought of him having that many in it didn’t sit right with me, so I shook it from my brain.
He let go of my hand and went to a dresser, pulling out a t-shirt then tossing it to me. I caught it reflexively.
“Hold up, Killian. This is going too fast. We need to slow this down.” He couldn’t expect me to go to bed with him. I didn’t even know him anymore.
He pulled off his shirt in that sexy way with one hand over his shoulder and boom—it was off. Yeah, that way. The way that had every inch of my body coming alive. Why was that so damn sexy? Sigh, it sure was.
His body caught my undying attention, though. The lines of his muscles and the angles of his torso as he twisted was mesmerizing.
My brother was thirty-five, so that was around Killian’s age; maybe a year older. He did not look like a man who sat around eating cupcakes and playing video games. No, he looked like a man who worked out on a regular basis and kept himself tight. Then there were the tattoos, so many tattoos—another weakness of mine. If I were thinking clearly, I’d have been able to smash the urge to look at every single one of them. Except, I had no willpower, so I was lost to the view in front of me. Shit.
He started to unbuckle his belt while talking, and I wasn’t able to take my eyes off of him. “We’re both tired. Let’s sleep, and we’ll talk in the morning.”
“I can sleep on the couch,” I replied, tearing my gaze from him and looking to the bed. The big bed. The one he wanted to sleep with me in. The bed that was personally inviting me to slide beneath its sheets and fall into a blissful slumber. I could only imagine the intoxicating scent of the linens. I wouldn’t have any issue if this were a hotel or somewhere impersonal. But this bed was not in a hotel or any other place where I could retreat from the energy radiating off Killian Graham.
“No. You’re with me.”
His belt hung open through the loops of his jeans as he came to me. “Because I can’t keep you safe when you’re away from me. I need you next to me.”
Something about his tone and demeanor hit me, and fear actually crept up inside me. “Are we really in that much danger?”
“Could be.” His hands came to my arms and rubbed them up and down. “I’m gonna close up the house.” He pointed to a door across the room. “Bathroom. Go in and get changed.”
Then I shit you not, he leaned in, kissed the top of my forehead, rubbed his nose along my jaw and was gone. Like a ninja, in and out.
“What’s happening?” I whispered to the room, feeling off-kilter. The room didn’t answer.
Changing didn’t take but a second, but Killian was gone for a while. A long enough while that I’d thought about the sleeping arrangements. Then I thought about what I could do to convey to him that we were not sleeping together. Along with the rumors about his occupation, there were a ton more about the women he’d slept with. None of that I wanted to be a part of.
A smile crept across my lips.
The comforter was a deep blue and super soft. It was a shame I wouldn’t be using it. Maybe I could sneak just a little bit considering how huge it was. Killian had to have had this entire place custom made.
I rolled it back and set it in the middle of the bed, dividing it into two separate spaces. One for me, and one for Killian. That would work. Right? I considered this a compromise.
Killian still hadn’t come back, and I felt the fatigue of the day set deep inside my bones. My body was used to staying up late and working behind a bar. But a scared friend, police raid, and being kidnapped had taken its toll on me.
I crawled into the left side of the bed, slipping between the sheets that felt like heaven and smelled of Killian. The mattress was so soft, I felt my body sinking into it. With only two bedside lamps on, the room felt calm and peaceful. If you didn’t count the metal on the windows, that was.
It didn’t take long for my eyes to start drooping. The warmth of the bed cocooned my body, and I began to drift into sleep.
A bark of laughter had me bolting upright, hand to my chest, eyes crazed and panting. Killian stood in the doorframe, laughing. Yes. Laughing all the while giving me a damn heart attack. I lived alone and hadn’t had an overnight guest in so long it was embarrassing. Getting woken up like this wasn’t anything I enjoyed or found entertaining.
“What’s so funny? You made my heart stop,” I accused, watching him move into the bedroom. He now had on gunmetal gray pajama pants that hung low on his hips, no shirt, and no socks. There was something about a man walking around the house barefoot that was a huge turn-on for me.
It was lame. Most women would say abs or bare chest. Don’t get me wrong—I loved those too, but bare feet got me every damn time. He was racking up too many points in my Is a guy hot playbook.
He put a knee against the mattress and pulled my barrier away as I tried to grab it to keep it in place. Damn man was stronger and faster than me, though, and yanked it clear away.
“You think a piece of fabric is gonna keep me at bay?” He had a light in his eyes, like he was teasing me. This guy, one who grew way the hell up, was now teasing me. What was up with that?
“I just think we need boundaries,” I started, but was interrupted by him spreading the comforter on the bed.
“I won’t fuck you in your sleep, Ellie. Not that kind of man.”
That wasn’t what I meant. “No. That wasn’t… Fuck. I just thought it was for the best.”
Killian climbed into bed and laid his head on the pillow. I followed suit, our eyes connecting from across the bed. My body was all shades of warm and hot. Yes, we really needed a barrier for both of our own good.
“Can’t keep your hands off me, huh?” he joked, but he had no idea what my body was screaming at me to do to him. It was lit up and ready to roll. An attraction this strong was a serious problem.
“Oh, I can,” I argued back and tucked the fabric under my cheek. “I’m just afraid you can’t.”
“Good. Because I can’t.” He reached over and flipped a switch, bathing the entire room into darkness. The only light was from the alarm clock on the bedside table, which wasn’t much. Everything else—pitch black.
Killian didn’t make me wait for any explanation to his words as he reached out and maneuvered us both in the middle of the bed. He placed my head on his shoulder and his arms around me. It happened so fast that I didn’t even have a moment to protest.
He didn’t let me finish. “Go to sleep.”
“I can’t just…”
“This was not what we agreed on,” I retorted, loving the smell of him so close and the warmth of his chest. Trying to move away wasn’t an option because he had his arms around me tight like he knew what my plan was. Escape.
“There was no agreement. You’re in my bed. Not really a place for negotiations, babe. You’re here. I’m here. End of discussion.”
I tried getting up on an elbow, but couldn’t. Damn man. “This is too fast, Killian, and it isn’t something I do.”
“While I’m glad to hear that. You are with me.”
I was speechless for a few moments, and I felt Killian’s breaths start to even out. Even as tense as I was the rhythm caught me, tempting me into sleep.
“Tomorrow we’re having a big conversation,” I said, the night taking its toll on me. I drifted off to sleep, hoping he’d forget about talking. I knew whatever came out of his mouth wouldn’t be good for me.
My body jolted awake, and I knew instantly I wasn’t in my bed. I thought back to last night. The room was pitch black, but I could feel him. His warmth, his hard body, his even breathing; there was no denying his presence. Our legs were tangled, and I was half on top of him with my arms wrapped around his torso. Could you believe I wrapped my body around him like a damn octopus? Like I couldn’t get close enough to him. I was not a cuddler, always liking my own space.
But it was true. I did. And damn, it felt nice. He felt nice. Too damn nice.
Trying to move, Killian’s grip tightened in a way that felt instinctive. I guessed he knew I was trying to get away because his eyes were certainly still closed. The clock read nine thirty-eight. It was too early for all of this, but I needed to get up and moving so I could get to the bar, get everything ready for the night, and put this craziness behind me. While I normally started my day around ten and got to the bar at noon, I needed space from Killian.
“Mornin’.” Killian’s gravelly voice was damn sexy with sleep still intermingled with it. What in the hell was wrong with me? No, Ellie. Just no. Even though I would never admit it, I swore his voice was better than any cup of coffee I’d ever had.
“Morning. You ready to talk?”
His body shook as he chuckled. At least he was playful in the morning. Too bad this would be the last one I spent in this bed, and I couldn’t enjoy it. I was tenacious, and the time for our overdue conversation was now.
“Go ahead.” He nuzzled his face in my hair extremely close to my neck, and my body wanted to succumb to the desire he was inflicting. He appeared not to have a care in the world, all the while my body was getting totally uprooted by the second. “Talk,” he commanded, and I struggled to focus.
There were so many questions I wanted him to answer; this wasn’t going to be a fast run. I needed space. Being this close to him made my brain not want to fire on all its synapses, and I needed those with Killian. His touch was life fire.
I tried to pull away, but didn’t get far. I tried to pull my hands up and push him. Nothing. Not even a nudge. How hard and strong was this man? “Can you let me go?”
“No,” he said calmly. “You want space to shut me out.”
“This whole calm thing you have going on is pissing me off.”
He chuckled then pulled his head back so we were looking at each other. Even though it was dark because the shutters were still down, I could see a hint of the most beautiful sapphire eyes shining back at me, dragging me in and pulling me under.
Taking in a steadying breath, I closed my eyes then opened them. It did nothing to break the connection I felt with him or to shut my body off.
First thing was break up the intimacy of this situation. “Can you please turn the lamp on?” I needed light to see him clearly and attempt to read something from him. I wasn’t getting any clues as to what would happen next.
He reached over without letting me go and flipped on the light. It was low and cast a yellow hue over the room instead of those bright LED lights that burned your retinas.
My breath caught. There wasn’t time last night to really see his face with all the running, driving, and yelling. Right now, though, I took in all the rough sexiness that was Killian Graham, and it was a gorgeous sight. He’d grown up since the last time I saw him, turning into a hunk of a man. My fingertips itched to touch his face and drag along all the contours. His jawline was strong, defined, and his lips were thin, but not so much so. In fact, subconsciously I found myself licking my lips and wondering what his would feel like against my own. His nose was a perfect balance in the center of his face. His cheeks were sculpted, and I simply wanted to feel every inch of the beautiful man in front of me. I clenched my hands to keep them in place. He smirked like he could read my thoughts. I ignored that and moved on to the pressing issue we had here and now.
“Are Bri and I actually in danger?” That was the most important of all the questions at this point. Bri and I had lives to live, and having someone after us would be horrible. We hadn’t done anything, but with the way Killian was acting, it appeared that didn’t matter.
I couldn’t stop staring at him. His face was perfectly symmetrical in a way I had never cared to notice in anyone before. Everything lined up in an exact balance. All of it gave him a gorgeous, yet dangerous look, and I had a feeling I wasn’t off the mark with the dangerous part.
There was a small scar in his left eyebrow. One would think it would be a shame to mar up a face like that, but all it did was make him even more attractive, more intriguing like you wanted to pull every bit of information out of him just to figure him out.
He smiled like he was reading my thoughts again, which I knew was impossible, but it sure felt like it. “My guess, no.”
I jolted back. “No? Then why…” His finger came up and pressed against my lips in a silent Shut up. I’m not done yet move. I shut up.
“The guys are still in lockup. The earliest they could post bond would be tomorrow afternoon. That being said, once they get out, there’s no way of knowing. While I doubt they have reached out to anyone on the outside, there is a small chance they have someone on the lookout.”
“So right now we’re fine?” I asked, slightly exasperated that he took things to such lengths when the danger wasn’t exactly present.
I pushed on him hard and shouted, “Then why am I sleeping in your bed?”
“Because I wanted you here. Wanted you where I knew you were safe.”
I wanted to tell him, Killian, your reasoning doesn’t make this okay! However, I didn’t give in to my frustrations. For now, I was going to let it go and switch gears. There was no dwelling and since I was safe, my ass was leaving. After I managed a few more questions. In the end, I had him literally beside me, so why not use the time to my advantage? I didn’t expect to have any other reason to talk to Killian, after all was said and done.
“Alright. How did you know I’d be there last night?”
His expression changed instantly, jaw hard and set. It appeared he wasn’t happy about this question, and I knew it without a doubt when he spoke. “You weren’t supposed to be there. Bri wasn’t supposed to be there. We had to change plans quickly.”
I bit the inside of my cheek. “So what were you doing there?” I knew why I was there, even why Bri was there. What I didn’t know was how Killian fit into all of this. Even though I tried this last night, it wasn’t going to stop me from asking again.
His lip tipped at the corner. “Already answered that.”
Dammit. He had a quick wit, that was for sure.
He leaned in, his lips just a hairs’ breadth from mine. Holy shit. Was he going to kiss me? My gut clenched, and tingles ran up my arms. Did I want him to kiss me?
Yes. Just this once.
When his nose brushed mine and he pulled back, I couldn’t help feeling a bit disappointed.
“Fine. Then what’s all this? Me staying here. You don’t even know me, Killian. Why have me here? In your bed.” I should have pushed him away, but something held me back.
“I want you here.”
“You’ve already said that,” I bit out, fighting my aggravation with his vague answers.
Without a single change in his tone, he replied, “And that’s all you’re getting for now.”
I did not like that answer, so I shoved him. He didn’t budge.
“Why?” I charged back. “I want answers, Killian. Why won’t you give them to me?”
“Because you’re not ready for the rest.”
I wanted to pull my hair out. He didn’t get to make that judgment. He didn’t know me well enough to tell me what I was or was not ready for. A cell started to ring, and I knew it was Killian’s from the tone.
“Fuck!” He reached over to the nightstand and grabbed the device, but he kept me close. “Give me a sec.”
Give him a sec! Whatever, I’d give him a lifetime at this point. I just wanted to get home and get on with my life as if I hadn’t spent the night with Killian Graham.
He answered, “Yeah.” I couldn’t make out what was being said on the other end of the line. “When?” Killian kept calm and held me to him while giving his attention to the call. “Right. Twenty.” Then he swiped off his phone. He released me quickly, and I knew something was up. “Gotta go. Get dressed, and I’ll take you home.” Instantly, I found myself a bit cold at the loss of contact from him.
He got up from the bed, his strong back sexy as hell and on full display as he walked to the bathroom. A tattoo laid on his side of a howling wolf. I’d need to ask him about that because it was beautifully detailed.
Killian didn’t shut the door, and I heard him peeing. I didn’t know why this meant something to me, but it did. That function was something you did with your best friend or boyfriend. Not with a woman you hadn’t laid eyes on in years. It was a different level of intimacy all together. Strange and something else that called for me to get answers.
Whatever. I rolled out of the bed, found my clothes, and tugged them on. This was what I’d wanted for a while now. To go home. I was going to seize this opportunity and roll with it. The time for questions was over, and I needed to forget the last twenty-four hours and move on.
He barely looked at me when he came out of the bathroom and began to open drawers and toss clothes on. He also had no problem with dropping his pajama bottoms and giving me a glorious view of his bare ass that I would pack in my memory bank for all the lonely nights for years to come.
“I’ll go out…” I trailed off, just needing to get out of that room and away from Killian, needing space. After using the bathroom and taming my hair by throwing it up in a bun, I set upon escape.
My ass had barely sat on the stool at the kitchen island when Killian came in. “Babe. We gotta roll.”
I actually felt a little let down, not that it showed on any part of my body. But for him to go to all the trouble to get me here, put me in his bed, and lock us up tight, then say we’re leaving without an explanation why… It rubbed me the wrong way.
We went out the door and hopped into his SUV. He got on the phone and said very few words, like he was hiding whatever was on the other line—because he was. I wasn’t that damn dense.
It didn’t matter. Whatever was going on in his life didn’t mean it was going on in mine.
Once we got to town, I asked, “Do you need directions?”
He looked over, his face blank. It was a look I didn’t like, but it was there all the same. “No.” His reply, being far too simple, didn’t settle with me. He turned back to the windshield and drove me straight to my house without a word.
I didn’t ask him how he knew where I lived because I didn’t care. I needed to get away from him for a while and piece last night together in my head. Calling my brother was also on my to-do list. Elliot needed to explain how he could let Killian have his way last night.
Killian pulled up to my house, and I didn’t wait for him to put the SUV in park. I hopped out, got to my front door, and picked up a piece of dog poop. Okay, so it wasn’t real dog poop; it was just a hide-a-key that I had stashed in my bushes. So far it worked well. Who wanted to pick up shit? I saw it on Pinterest and thought what the hell.
Grabbing it and unlocking the door, I could feel Killian at my back as I turned around, hand on the door, not inviting him into my house. We’d had enough of this craziness, and I didn’t need any more for the day.
“Bye, Killian,” I said, starting to close the door. His hand came out, stopping it from moving. I waited. I had nothing to say. This little whatever it was, was over. Which meant he and I were over. Not that we’d even started.
“Jeep’s in the garage. Key’s on the counter.” I did not like the fact someone I didn’t know had been in my house. “You go anywhere, you let someone know where you are. Even if it’s just driving to the bar. You call Bri or anyone and tell them.” There was a lot to say about this one. “And let me add, Ellie, this isn’t over,” he said ominously.
He was wrong. The attraction. The time together. It was all over. Even the fact that he kept ordering me around. Yes, that was most certainly over. “First, I’m not a woman who wants to be watched over. Second, there is no this, Killian. So, yes, it is over. Have a great life.”
His phone started ringing in his back pocket. He closed his eyes with what appeared to be frustration. He opened them and then bore into mine, telling me in no uncertain terms that no, this was not done. Leaning in, he wrapped his hand around my neck, pulled me to him, kissed my forehead and was off. Poof, like a damn magician.
I didn’t get the last word. Nope, Killian was gone, and I was left twisted up inside without the first clue as to what came next.
I closed the door, locked it, pressed my back to it, then slid down the wood, my ass hitting the floor.
What in the hell was that?
* * *
My brother didn’t answer when I called the dozens of times, which wasn’t surprising. We had a good relationship, and he could read me. This meant he knew I was pissed about last night and didn’t want to hear it. But he would, even if I had to bang on his door and wake up his neighbors. I just had to attend to my bread and butter first.
When I got to the bar, Corey was there getting things sorted for the day, tablet in hand and punching away at it. Corey was my right hand here, doing schedules, inventory, and managing. Without her I’d be working every day and night non-stop. Everyone needed a break.
She was also a great friend. Hard not to be when we were with each other day in and out. She knew me well, and I trusted her with my business which was huge for me. Corey excelled at managing the bar for me.
Things weren’t overly crowded at this time of day. There were a few regulars, Redd and Hank, who sat next to each other every day, but they didn’t seem to say a single word to one another. They’d talk to me, or the other bartenders and waitresses, just not each other. Even though, day in and out, they bellied up to the bar in the same spots at the same times. Hank always arrived within twenty minutes of opening. He preferred draft beer to bottles, while Redd came in around the second hour of our doors unlocking. He wanted to have an ice-cold longneck bottle as soon as his ass hit the stool. They both changed their food orders regularly, but I could count on feeding each of them at least once and sometimes twice a day. It was strange, but somehow it worked. They were silent friends. A simple nod between them seemed to be a complete conversation.
Others were scattered throughout the place. Some in the booths to the left eating burgers while a few others were up on the landing that held the pool table, darts, and video poker. No matter what time of day it was, those poker machines were always in use.
Me. I worked too hard for my money to give it away. People had to know the house always won. One may get lucky every once in a while, but overall there was no comparison. Those who wanted to gamble, more power to them. It wasn’t my thing.
“What happened?” Corey fell in step with me as we went through the bar to the right where the office was located. My office was completely organized from top to toe. Yep, I was one of those people who liked to have everything in order when it came to the business side of the bar.
Everything was labeled, and the laptop had a ton of spreadsheets to keep everything organized. It helped that Corey was even more compulsively organized, and she handled most of the data entry.
“Sorry. Bri needed me and, well, the night went to hell.” I tossed my purse on top of my desk and set my phone beside it, running my hands through my long dark brown hair. How to explain last night? That was a tough one that some wouldn’t believe.
“And…” Corey prompted, her eyes wide, waiting for me. With the way I blew out of here last night without a word about where I was going, well, these questions weren’t surprising. It was out of character for me, but when your friend called you responded.
I sighed, falling back into the chair that rolled a bit with my movement. “Have you heard anything about Killian Graham?”
Her brow quirked. “Yeah. Who hasn’t heard of Killian is more like it. He’s like a legend around here.”
A laugh almost escaped. Mostly for all the wrong reasons. There were so many stories going around about the things he did growing up, they could write a book or make a movie out of it. A lot of it was rumor, but there were a few eye witness accounts.
What could I say? I liked the bad boys. Always got me in trouble.
“Have you heard anything recently?”
Her hand went to her hip as her eyes narrowed. “What’s this about?”
“I’m getting to that. Just answer please.”
She rolled her eyes, but she didn’t mean it. “He’s not exactly on my gossip meter, Ellie, but I’ve heard his job is a mystery. People know kind of what he does, but not really. That’s about it.”
“I’ve never seen him in the bar.”
Corey shook her head. “Me either. You piss him off or something?”
If she only knew. I let the thoughts escape my mind and mumbled, “I don’t get it, and considering he and my brother have something going, it’s strange he hasn’t been in.” I heard my name being called.
Bri was in the bar. I tossed a hand up to Corey. “Hang on to that thought.”
Peeking my head out the door, Bri saw me and charged into the office. Corey and Bri greeted each other, then Bri launched in. “What happened?”
At least I wouldn’t have to tell the story twice. Kicking the door shut with my foot, I launched into my night. From the time I got to the house to get Bri, to the time I entered my house. Everything.
“You’re shitting me,” Bri said. “No way,” Corey said, both speaking in unison.
“You slept in the same bed with Killian Graham, and he didn’t try to sleep with you, like really sleep with you?” Corey sounded astonished, and there for a moment, a feeling I didn’t like came over me. One that said I wasn’t good enough for him, but I tapped it down. Now wasn’t the time for me to get caught up in emotions. It had been a long time since I’d felt that way when it came to a man, and no way I was starting down that road once again. No man got to have that kind of power over me anymore.
Not only that, but Killian had a reputation with the ladies. Needless to say, I was glad I scrubbed the hell out of my body today. If Killian put me in a bed where he’d fucked another woman, that would seriously piss me off. It was gross!
“Do you think we’re okay?” Bri asked, chewing on her thumbnail. She had a tendency to do this when she got nervous. She should be, at least, according to Killian.
“He said they won’t be able to get a hearing until tomorrow. After that, who knows. Have you heard from Khloe?”
“Nope!” Bri explained with an exasperated tone. “Went by her place, and she didn’t answer the door. I’m going to swing by her parents’ house and see if they’ve talked to her.”
“And she was supposed to meet you?”
“Yep, but haven’t heard a word.” My brain kept turning over and over, trying to figure out what really went down last night.
Fuck, none of this was okay. Inside, I didn’t feel good about what was to come. “Did you know Landon was into whatever was going on in that house? Have you heard from him at all?”
Bri shook her head. “Nothing.”
“You think he’s in jail?”
Her head shook. “I have no idea.”
Keeping a level head like my brother had always told me to do, I pushed back the anxiety trying to creep up. “All we can do is wait. We didn’t do anything, so I don’t know why our asses would be on the line.”
It was true—we had nothing to do with the bust. With the new day and all the chaos out of my head from last night, I could see it more clearly.
It still didn’t explain why Killian wanted me in his bed with him. There were many questions I wanted answers to, but alas, they wouldn’t get answered. Last night was a one-time thing. No way I’d be spending the night with him again.
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