Avett pulled back and put one of her hands on my cheek as I slowly let her slide down my body. Her eyes sparkled with mischief when her middle dragged across the obvious arousal now tenting the front of my pants. “How was court?”
I rubbed my thumb across the plump and damp curve of her lower lip and looked past her into the house to make sure I wasn’t going to have to dodge one of Brite’s flying fists for groping his daughter in broad daylight. “Court was court. How was your day with your folks?”
She shrugged and stepped away from me, eyeing the bulge in my pants with a sexy little leer.
“It was fine. I talked to my mom and worked some things out, so that was good. She reminded me that everyone has a story … not only me.” She looked down at the ground and then back up at me with what I was pretty sure was pride shining out of her colorful eyes. “I told my parents everything that happened with Autumn and everything that happened afterwards. My dad didn’t look at all surprised and my mom cried. It was a good talk.” Her gaze skipped away from mine and landed on the front of my pants. “Do you need a few minutes before we go inside?” She was laughing at me and while that normally made me feel furious and affronted, coming from her, all I wanted to do was smile at her and indulge her.
“I do need a few minutes, but not for that. I want to talk to you about something.” Her eyes widened and her brow wrinkled in an adorable fashion. I reached out to smooth the lines with my finger. “The police determined your house was burned down on purpose, Avett.”
She gasped a little and lifted a hand up to cover her mouth. “Really?”
I nodded and brushed my thumb over her winged eyebrow. “Yeah, and they think the guys that came looking for you when Jared ran off with that last stash are behind it. They’re looking for the drugs and if they can’t get their hands on the goods, then they’re going to come after you.”
She scowled and crossed her arms across her chest in a defiant manner. “I never saw the drugs. I knew he was using, but I didn’t know how deep in Jared was. I would never agree to participate in something like that.”
“I know that, but the guys with the missing drugs don’t. Jared is all about Jared, so there is a high possibility he is telling the guys in charge that you took the product and stashed it somewhere. He’s buying time while he’s locked up, and his story is still that you were behind the robbery. He’s put you directly in the line of fire.”
Her mouth moved, but no sound came out as cold, stark fear moved into her eyes. “What if they come after my parents? What if they come after you?”
Her voice was barely a squeak and I couldn’t resist reaching out and pulling her into my chest. I rested my cheek on the top of her head and told her, “They want the dope and they will go about the most efficient means of getting it. I’m going to tell your dad what’s going on so he can keep an eye out, but I think you’re the one that needs to be protected. Not everyone else. We should take the weekend and go out of town. We can take a few days off so you don’t have to worry about what’s next. What’s next can wait until we get back, and hopefully by then the police will have a better handle on things. We’ll take the bike and go for a ride. I promise to take you someplace safe.”
She looked a little shell-shocked but nodded at me as she bit down on her lower lip. “What happens after the weekend, Quaid? The threat isn’t going to go away and it’s going to affect the people that matter the most to me.”
“Let’s get through the weekend and the trial, then we’ll figure something out. Once Jared realizes he’s facing serious time behind bars, and that his lawyer has a bigger agenda than defending him, the kid might change his tune and we can leverage that to get to his supplier.” I didn’t have a better answer for her than that, and I wasn’t going to placate her with easy words and assurances, because I wanted her to stay alert and ready. The threat to her was very real and it made me want to wrap her up in padding and bubble wrap and put her on the highest shelf so no one could ever get to her.
She bobbed her head up and down under my chin and her arms went around my waist so that she could squeeze me back. “Sounds like you’re suddenly working for the prosecution, Counselor. That’s the other team.”
I let her go and set her away from me far enough so that I could bend down and brush my mouth across hers. “I’m Team Avett right now. That’s the only team I’m interested in seeing win. Now, why don’t we go in before your dad comes looking for us.”
She barked out a laugh and turned to lead me into the house. “He’d be madder about your imported bike than he would that you had your hands on me, Quaid. He’s knows exactly how I am, but not buying American … well, that’s an unforgivable sin to a Harley man.”
I’d heard it from more than one motorcycle enthusiast, but I didn’t like the idea that her dad, a man I had nothing but respect and admiration for, had a reason to find fault with me. No matter how superficial it was.
“I like to go fast.” And I liked the way the Italian bike handled. I also liked that when I rode, I had to concentrate, to focus on the asphalt and the turns. When I rode, there was no room for anything other than the ride. It was the closest thing I had to wildness and freedom in my life. At least it was until Hurricane Avett crashed onto my shores.
Speaking of my tempest, she looked over her shoulder at me with a grin I wanted to kiss off her face. “Don’t I know it.”
We made our way through the comfortable and cozy ranch-style home and my senses lit up with how normal and welcoming it all was. Brite rose from where he was sitting on the couch, offering me a hand to shake, and Darcy gave me a smile that was missing so much of the tension and strain that had been on her face the last time I saw her. Avett patted me on the arm and told me she was going to finish up in the kitchen and that we could all eat in ten minutes. When she mentioned food, I realized the entire house smelled like something fragrant and delicious. That was no Ragu or Hamburger Helper coming out of the kitchen.
“Smells good.” I took a seat on a well-worn recliner and looked at Avett’s parents. I was waiting for the third degree or an interrogation. All I got was nods and easy smiles.
“The girl is a natural in the kitchen. She can cook circles around me and I’ve spent years running professional and not so professional kitchens.” The pride in Darcy’s voice was evident.