Home > Seek(8)

Author: Mia Sheridan

"Crack of dawn."

I nodded. Thomas followed me out of the door and I used the small, but clean bathroom, washing my face and brushing my teeth. I changed into the yoga pants and tank top I'd brought to sleep in and then exited the bathroom, feeling strange and sort of awkward. Thomas was leaning against the opposite wall and gave me a quick once-over. I swore I felt his gaze sear down my skin and when he opened the bedroom door, I fast-walked into the room. "Lock it behind you. I'm going to use the bathroom then I'll knock—three quick ones—so you know it's me."

I nodded again and sat down on the bed, biting at my lip as I waited for Thomas. A minute later he was back, knocking just as he'd said. I opened to him, walking to the bed and turning back the sheets as he locked and checked the door once more.

He went to the window and opened it halfway. "We'll never get any sleep without some air," he muttered. I was grateful. Even though I was exhausted, the room was sweltering, and the breeze from the open window circulated by the fan felt wonderful.

I turned my back so Thomas could get ready for bed. God, what did a man like him sleep in? My heartbeat quickened and my stomach gave a strange jolt. Don't think about it. "Will you turn off the light?"

I startled at the sound of his deep voice coming from below me on the floor. I hadn't heard him move. "Of course." I clicked off the light, catching the view of him lying beneath the thin blanket, his arms behind his head on the pillow. He was still wearing his shirt, but his biceps were on full display, the chiseled power of his arms causing my stomach to tighten. "Good night," I muttered, turning quickly.

There was a very short pause then that low rumble of a voice came from the darkness, "Good night, Olivia."



"My parents called me Olivia. Everyone else calls me Livvy."

I waited but Thomas didn't answer. After a minute I turned over, fluffing the pillow under my head.

It occurred to me how vulnerable I was, lying in the dark with this powerful stranger. I worked out regularly, but I wouldn't stand a chance against him—a man whose body looked like a lethal weapon. Even if I managed to scream, the music from the bar would most likely drown out any noise from above. Plus, what if I didn't have a chance to defend myself? What if he attacked me while I slept? But why would he do that? He'd get the second half of the payment only if he got me safely to Palomino. He’d be foolish if he attacked me now, or left me somewhere on my own.

I stewed on that for a moment, turning and peeking at the gray form lying still on the floor. He was turned away from me now, his big body rising and falling minutely as he breathed slowly and evenly. Something fluttered in my belly, warmth blossoming under my skin. Lying there in the dark, I was so aware of him in the room with me; the skin on the back of my neck prickled, my nipples tightening. His maleness seemed to fill the room, making it feel even hotter, more stifling.

The fan whirled, and the sheer curtains billowed in the summer night breeze, bringing with it the faraway fragrance of jasmine or something equally heady and tropical. The warm air in the room was heavy, sultry, the distant strains of a Spanish ballad finding its way through the floor, it's beat rhythmic, pulsing. This was a night for lovers, and although I was in a hotel room with a man who oozed virility, lying in this unfamiliar bed, I felt my aloneness.

I forced myself to push the melancholy away, turning my head into the slightly musty pillow and picturing Alec's face, the way he'd looked the first time I'd met him in the frozen food section of the grocery store. He'd made me laugh, we'd talked, flirted, ended up in a nearby coffee shop where we'd talked for hours as our groceries melted in our cars. My heartbeat calmed, my purpose returning in a slow trickle, and eventually, I fell asleep.

The next thing I knew, pale yellow morning light was streaming through the window. I blinked around the strange room, memory dawning. When I realized where I was, I rolled over quickly, my eyes going to the floor. The blanket Thomas had slept under was folded, the pillow on top of it, and I was alone in the room.







I folded the map and put it in my pocket, taking another sip of the dark, rich coffee Mariana had brewed. The first light of dawn had woken me and I'd gotten up and gone downstairs. I'd taken a moment to look at Olivia as she slept, curled into a ball, her hands under her cheek the way a child sleeps. Livvy. The vision of her that way had caught at something inside me, and I'd exited the room as quickly as possible. I wasn't a man who skirted issues, so I admitted to myself I had a weird weakness for the woman. Although I couldn't say exactly why. And seeing her in that position, soft and innocent, sent an unfamiliar buzz of guilt through my system. She was going to be hurt, eventually at least. There was no way around it.

I sighed, sitting back in my chair. The truth was, sweet or not, the woman was a damned fool. She had decided chasing after a man who'd jilted her was a worthy reason to put herself at risk. So here I was. I'd protect her body—she was responsible for her heart.

Santiago returned from the other room where he'd retrieved his keys and placed them on the table next to my plate. "You take care of my car, paisano," he said in Spanish.

I smiled, taking a sip of coffee. "You know I will." Santiago had a friend in a town near the area most affected by the earthquake, and I’d drop it off to him once we arrived there. From that point, we'd be on foot as the roads were either blocked entirely, or too dangerous to travel.

Santiago chuckled. "And you take care of your lady friend, ay?" He raised his eyebrows up and down, smiling suggestively. Damn, the sun hadn't even risen all the way, and he was already smiling. I had a feeling he smiled in his sleep. But he was someone I trusted, one of the few I did, so I only shook my head. "Business, Santiago. My lady friend is a client."

He shrugged. "Eh, things change sometimes, paisano." He eyed me. "She is yours for now. You have taken responsibility for her, no?" Before I could answer, I heard Livvy descending the stairway a second or two before Santiago's eyes moved behind me and his smile grew. "Buenos días."

I looked over my shoulder to see a sleepy-eyed Livvy coming hesitantly into the room. She was already dressed, her hair pulled into the same knot she'd had on top of her head the day before. "Buenos días," she said to Santiago before looking at me. "Sorry, I must have overslept. We were supposed to leave at dawn. Why didn't you wake me?"

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