Home > Pulled Under (Walker Security #2)(6)

Pulled Under (Walker Security #2)(6)
Author: Lisa Renee Jones

“It really doesn’t,” I say. “But like I said, I’m—”

“Don’t apologize again,” he says firmly. “But when the time is right. Say my name, Sierra, like I just did yours. Now more than ever, I’m going to want to know you really do know it’s me you’re with.”

I cut my gaze, afraid this man who is a stranger will see more than anyone has in years now that I’m honest with myself. Afraid that comment already infers that he does. Afraid of the intimacy he infers, as much as I crave it, when I cannot. It’s wrong. It’s unfair to him. It’s dangerous to him. Because I still have a Prince Charming who I now know is really The Beast.

“Sierra,” he says, a prod in his voice that I can’t seem to resist. I look at him and he adds, “What happened tonight is done, but we aren’t.”

“There is no we.”

“We work together. And in answer to your earlier question about the gas. I’m an ex-Navy SEAL. I’ve done extensive gas training and Luke is Blake’s brother, who I served with in the SEALs.”

“Oh,” I say, surprised and embarrassed. “You were—but—you—you’re—”

“Tatted up and have long hair?” he asks.

“Yes, actually.”

“A blond pretty boy American screams military overseas. It would have been a death wish.”

“I see.”

“I don’t. My eyes are fucked right now. My vision is waning in and out. And for the record, I’m capable of functioning with this stuff in my eyes and on my skin. That doesn’t mean I enjoy it.” He pushes off the wall and looks down at me. “Either take me to your place or I have to find a place I won’t contaminate to rinse off.”

“I’m not letting you go someplace else,” I say. “Can you walk?”

“I can walk. I can fight if I have to. Apparently, I can survive armed assassins, but not a five-foot-four brunette named Sierra with mace.” His lips curve. “But that’s okay. Next time it might not be me.”

“I really am sorry.”

“You don’t need to keep saying that. Just take me to water.”

“Right.” I turn and start walking and he’s quickly by my side. The streets are deserted except for a homeless man lying on a step in front of a small church. The wind is non-existent, the night a warm September evening, and I don’t know New York City enough to know when that will change. I just know that I don’t have a coat which is on my list of must-buys with the cash in my purse. We walk the full two blocks and I don’t speak and Asher doesn’t speak, but I am aware of this man in ways I’m not sure I’ve ever felt with anyone, even my Prince Charming once upon a fake fairy tale. But then, I’m different now than when I met him and everything with Asher has been up close and personal from the moment I met him tonight. I’m not sure how I correlate those two things. Actually, I do. He’s overwhelmed me in too many ways to count, mostly good. Obviously, I’ve overwhelmed him now, too. I sprayed the man with mace. I know how to leave a lasting impression.

“We’re here,” I say, halting our progress in front of the ancient concrete building that cost me a small fortune, despite it being a rat trap, quite literally. “And I hate to break the news to you,” I add, “but we have to walk up four flights of stairs.” I punch in the code to the door that buzzes open, and turn to face him. “My place is pretty bad. I just moved here and—”

“I don’t care about your apartment, Sierra,” he promises, and I notice that he’s using my name still, not some generic endearment. “Let’s go inside,” he adds.

I nod and turn to open the door, he catches it and holds it. I walk inside and turn to him again. “The stairs and your eyes—”

“I’ve navigated much worse than stairs in much worse conditions.”

“Because you’re a Navy SEAL,” I say, telling myself that means The Beast can’t hurt him, but that’s a lie I want to believe.

“Ex-SEAL,” he says, a distinction that seems important to him, and it is to me too. He can’t be plucked from a mission and killed by one of the many powerful people in the government that owe The Beast favors. It’s a ridiculous way to comfort myself for obvious reasons. The Beast could still come after him and for nothing more than looking in my direction.

Inhaling on that thought, I turn away from Asher and cross the small foyer to the narrow, steep staircase where I begin the treacherous climb that kills me daily, but I’m not thinking about the pain. I’m thinking about Asher behind me. About how good it feels to be with one of the good guys for once, which is how I read Asher. But then what do I know? I haven’t exactly proven my assessment of character to be stellar, which would be a problem if I still had a future as a clinical psychologist, but I don’t. That career choice, and my internship with a world renowned clinical psychologist, and mentor, crashed and burned nine months ago when I’d been forced to start my city and state hopping to finally land here.

I shove that thought away, as we reach my floor and the tiny hallway I share with only one other tenant. Pausing at my door, Asher joins me, and I unzip my purse and grab my key, quickly sticking it in the lock. Asher steps to the landing with me, so close I can feel the warmth of his body encase mine. “Wait to go inside, Sierra.”

I leave the key in the lock and turn to face him. “Afraid I’ll spray you with mace again once I have you trapped inside?” I ask, using the witty remark to hide the fact that his nearness, and the way he’s towering over me while smelling all deliciously earthy, jolts me.

“You’ve already maced me,” he says. “Find another way to torture me that we can both enjoy. If you need ideas, I’ll offer a free tutorial on another occasion. But right now, my clothes are contaminated and yours most likely are as well. Tear gas has a way of finding places to settle and can become a problem later. You need to take off your clothes, bag them, and shower. Stand in the bathtub when you undress and bag your clothes there. And I mean everything. You can wash your clothes, but trash your purse.”

“It’s my only purse.”

“Replace it,” he says.

That costs money, I think, but I bite my tongue. “Is this really necessary?”

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