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“I’m going to come inside and take a look around,” he announced.
“Shame,” she said, sighing, “you don’t need to do that.”
“I do.” He opened the door and met her halfway around the car, eying her as she walked and noting that she was steadier than she had been. “You’re steady now.”
“I am. I think it was just the adrenaline. You did him a lot more damage than he did to me,” she pointed out.
“I didn’t do enough.” He waited until she started for the house, then he fell into step with her, taking the keys from her to unlock the door. He held it for her, but with a hand on her shoulder, kept her from moving deeper into the house as he hit the lights and did a quick walk through the kitchen, then the living room and the rest of the lower level.
“Are you going to go upstairs and check my bedroom next?” she asked tartly. “Make sure that guy didn’t follow us out here and somehow manage to hide under my bed?”
“You’ve got a smart mouth,” Shame said, cutting a look at her. And because he was weak, he found himself staring at her mouth.
The faint swell in the middle only made him more aware of the fullness of the entire curve of her lower lip. “I don’t like seeing marks on you,” he said, voice raw.
“I know you don’t,” she said softly. “But I’m fine, and you can stop worrying.”
He told himself to do just that. But instead, he moved closer. “Did he touch you anywhere?” Shame demanded.
She blinked, looking caught off guard. “I… He grabbed my arms. They are sore, might bruise a little, but it’s no big deal.”
“Bruises are a big deal to me,” he said, his vision going a little hazy. He wanted to hunt the bastard down and put a few bruises on him.
“Shame…for crying out loud.” She sounded exasperated. To his surprise, she shrugged out of the gauzy blouse she wore.
His heart started to thud in slow, heavy beats as the material was peeled away, revealing pale skin that never freckled and sleek, toned arms. She turned to the side and brandished one arm, bared completely. She wore a tank top with thin straps and all he could think was that he could strip that shirt away in a second.
Then he saw the mottled discoloration on her arm.
“You are going to bruise,” he said, voice thick. He didn’t remember closing the distance between them, but he had, and now, as he reached out to gently trace the mark with his fingertip, he noticed that her skin had broken out in goose bumps. “You’re cold.”
Charli wasn’t looking at him. “No. I’m fine.”
But a light shiver raced down her spine.
Cupping her chin, he dragged her face around so he could see her eyes. He loved her eyes—steel blue and incisive, all the intelligence she had shining in them.
Sometimes, she looked at him and those eyes were soft, and emotions she shouldn’t be feeling for him would flicker there. When he saw that, it made him weak.
And now, those emotions were glinting in her eyes.
Groaning, he went to pull his hand away.
She caught his wrist.
“Let go, Charli,” he said.
“That’s not a reason,” she said, her voice a challenge.
“It’s reason enough,” he told her. “Let me go. I shouldn’t have come in here.”
“But a monster might have been hiding under my bed,” she teased.
There was a monster standing in front of her and she seemed blind to it.