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Blair Mallory Book 1: To Die For (Chapter Thirteen)

I woke some hours later shivering with cold, hurting, and generally miserable. I couldn't get comfortable no matter how I squirmed. Wyatt woke and stretched to turn on the lamp, and mellow light flooded the room. "What's wrong?" he asked, putting his hand on my face. "Ah."

"Ah, what?" I asked fretfully as he got out of bed and walked into the bathroom.

He came back with a glass of water and two tablets. "You're feverish. The doctor said you probably would be. Take these; then I'll get another pain pill for you."

I sat up to take the two tablets, then huddled under the covers until he came back with the other pill. After I took it, he turned out the light and got back into bed, cuddling me close and sharing his body warmth with me. I pressed my nose against his shoulder, inhaling the heat and scent, and my heart turned over. No doubt about it: he cranked my tractor. I could probably be near death and he'd still turn me on.

I was still too cold and uncomfortable to go back to sleep, so I decided I might as well talk.

"Why did you get divorced?"

"I wondered when you'd get around to that," he observed in a lazy tone.

"Do you mind talking about it? Just until I get sleepy?"

"No, it's no big deal. She filed for divorce the day I quit pro ball. She thought I was crazy to walk out on millions of dollars to be a cop."

"Not many people would disagree with her."

"Do you?"

"Well, see, I'm from your hometown, so I've read the articles in the newspaper and I know that being a cop was what you always wanted, that you majored in criminal justice in college. I would have expected it. She was surprised, I take it?"

"Big-time. I don't blame her. She signed on to be the wife of a pro football player, with the money and the glamour, not the wife of a cop, with never enough money and never knowing if he's going to come home or die on the job."

"You didn't talk about the future before you got married? What you wanted?"

He snorted. "I was twenty-one when we got married; she was twenty. At that age, the future is something that happens in five minutes, not five years. Throw in rioting hormones, and there you go, one divorce in the making. It just took us a couple of years to get there. She was a good kid, but we wanted different things out of life."

"But everyone knows-everyone assumes-you made millions while you were playing ball. Wasn't that enough?"

"I did make millions-I had four of them when I quit, to be exact. That didn't exactly turn me into Donald Trump, but it was enough to turn things around for the family. I took care of all the repairs and renovations on Mom's home, set up college funds for my sister's kids, bought this place and remodeled it, then invested the rest. There wasn't a huge amount left, but if I can leave it untouched until I retire, it should give me a comfortable retirement. I took a hit when the stock market bottomed out five, six years ago, but my stocks have come back all the way, so things look okay."

I yawned and settled my head more comfortably on his shoulder. "Why didn't you buy a smaller place? One that didn't need so much work?"

"I really like the location, and I thought it would be a good house someday for a family."

"You want a family?" I was a little startled. That usually isn't something you hear a bachelor say.

"Sure. I'll get married again someday, and two or three kids would be nice. What about you?"

The bottom dropped out of my stomach, and it was a moment before I realized that wasn't a very offhand proposal. The pain medication must be kicking in, if I was getting that punchy. "Sure, I want to get married again," I said sleepily. "And have a munchkin. I have the perfect setup. I could take a baby with me to work, because it's my business and it's an informal, relaxed setting. There's music, no television, and lots of adult supervision. What could be better?"

"You have it all planned out, huh?"

"Well, no. I'm neither married nor pregnant, so everything is still hypothetical. And I'm flexible. If circumstances change, I'll adjust."

He said something else, but I was in the middle of another yawn and missed it. "What?" I asked when I could talk.

"Never mind." He kissed my temple. "You're fading fast. I thought it would take the pill half an hour or so to work."

"I didn't get much sleep last night," I mumbled. "Accumulative effect." He was the reason I hadn't had much sleep the night before, because he kept waking me every couple of hours to have sex. My toes curled at the memory, and for a moment I flashed to how it felt when his big body settled on mine. Wow. I definitely wasn't cold now.

I wanted to climb on top of him and take care of matters, but I'd told him no sex, so I couldn't violate my own edict. Probably I should have put on underwear before getting in bed with him, though, because of course the shirt had ridden up to my waist. That's what shirts do when you sleep in them. He'd been very gentlemanly, not feeling me up or anything, but that was only because I was hurt. I expected that would change, because being a gentleman was probably a strain for him. Not that he didn't have great manners, because he did, but his instincts were aggressive and competitive. That was what had made him such a good athlete. Besides the physical ability, he had that ruthless drive to come out on top. I wondered how long he would be considerate because of my arm.

I went to sleep on that thought, and found out the answer around six in the morning when he gently turned me on my back and settled between my legs. I was barely awake when he started, but wide awake when he finished. He was careful with my arm, but ruthless in his attack on my neck.

When he finally let me up, I stormed into the bathroom. "That was so not fair!" Delicious, but not fair. "That was a sneak attack!"

He was laughing when I slammed the door. Just to be on the safe side, I also locked it. He could use one of the other bathrooms.

I definitely felt better this morning, not as shaky, and the pain in my arm was more of a dull throb now. Checking myself in the mirror, I saw that I didn't even look pale. How could I, when Wyatt had just done me? My cheeks were flushed and it wasn't from fever.

I cleaned up, then rummaged one-handed through my duffel, which was still parked in the middle of the bathroom floor. I found my clean underwear and managed to pull it on, then brushed my teeth and hair. That was the limit of what I could do by myself, though. My clean clothes were wrinkled and needed to be run through the clothes dryer, but even if they had been newly pressed, I couldn't have coped. I couldn't put on a bra. I could move my arm a little more this morning, but not enough to extend to dressing.

I unlocked the door and stomped out. He was nowhere to be seen. Just how did he expect me to harangue him if he didn't stay where he could hear me?

Fuming, I gathered my clean clothes in my right arm and went downstairs. The stairs led me to a great room with ten-foot ceilings, leather furniture, and the required big-screen television. There wasn't a plant in sight.

The smell of coffee made me turn to the left, which led through the breakfast room and into the kitchen. Wyatt, barefoot and shirtless, was busy at the cooktop. I looked at that muscled back and brawny arms, the deep furrow of his spine and the slight indentations on each side, just above the waistband of his jeans, and my heart turned over again. I was in deep trouble here, and not just because some idiot murderer was after me.

"Where's the laundry room?" I asked.

He pointed to a door that opened off the short hall leading to the garage. "Need any help?"

"I can manage. I just need to get the wrinkles out of my clothes." I went into the laundry room and put my clothes in the dryer, then turned it on. Then I went back to the kitchen and took up the battle. Well, first I poured myself a cup of coffee, using the cup he had set out for me. A woman needs to be alert when she's dealing with a man as underhanded and sneaky as Wyatt Bloodsworth.

"You have to stop doing that."

"Doing what?" he asked as he flipped a buckwheat pancake.

"The sneak attacks. I told you no."

"You didn't tell me no while I was doing it. You said some interesting things, but no wasn't among them."

My cheeks got hot, but I brushed that aside with a wave of my hand. "What I say during doesn't count. It's that chemistry thing, and you shouldn't take advantage of it."

"Why not?" He turned aside and lifted his own coffee cup. He was smiling.

"It's almost date rape."

He spewed coffee all over the floor. Thank goodness he'd turned away from the pancakes. Outraged, he glared at me. "Don't you even start down that road, because it isn't funny. Date rape, my ass. We have a deal, and you know it. All you have to do is say no and I'll stop. So far, you haven't said it."

"I said a blanket no beforehand."

"Those aren't our rules of engagement. You can't stop me before I get started. You have to say it after I've made a move on you, to prove you really don't want me." He was still scowling, but he turned to rescue the pancakes before they burned. He buttered them, then got a paper towel and mopped up the coffee. Then he very calmly went back to the skillet he was using and poured more batter into it.

"That's the point! You keep short-circuiting my brain, and it isn't fair. It's not as if I can short-circuit your brain, too."

"Want to bet?"

"Then why are you winning and I'm losing?" I wailed.

"Because you want me, and you're just being stubborn."

"Hah. Hah! Using that logic, your brain should be just as fried as mine if we were on the same footing, in which case you wouldn't be winning all the time. But you are, so that means you don't want me." Okay, I knew there were holes in the argument, but it was all I could think of to sidetrack him.

He cocked his head. "Wait a minute. Are you saying I'm fucking you because I don't want you?"

Trust him to immediately see the holes, and drive a verbal truck through the argument. I didn't see anywhere to go with that, so I backtracked. "The thing is, whatever the reasoning, I don't want to have sex anymore. You should respect that."

"I will. When you say no."

"I'm saying no now."

"Now doesn't count. You have to wait until I touch you."

"Who made these stupid-ass rules?" I bellowed, frustrated beyond control.

He grinned. "I did."

"Well, I'm not playing by them, understand? Flip the pancakes."

He glanced at the skillet and flipped the pancakes. "You can't change the rules just because you're losing."

"Yes, I can. I can go home and not see you again."

"You can't go home, because someone's trying to kill you."

There was that. Fuming, I sat down at the table, which he had already set with two places.

He walked over with the spatula in his hand, and bent down to kiss me warmly on the mouth. "You're still scared, aren't you? That's what this is all about."

Just wait until I saw Dad again. I was going to tell him a thing or two about giving information to the enemy camp.

"Yes. No. It doesn't matter. I still have a valid point."

He ruffled my hair, then returned to his pancakes.

I could see arguing with him wasn't going to work. Somehow, I'd have to keep my wits about me enough to tell him no when he got started again, but how could I do that if he kept jumping me when I was asleep? By the time I was awake enough to think, it was already too late because by then I didn't want to say no.

He took the bacon out of the microwave, divided it between our plates, then dished out the buttery pancakes. Before sitting down, he freshened our cups of coffee, and also got a glass of water for me and set out the antibiotic and a pain pill.

I took both pills. Though my arm felt better, I wanted to stay ahead of the pain.

"What am I doing today?" I asked as I dug into breakfast. "Staying here while you go to work?"

"Nope. Not until you can use that arm. I'm taking you to my mother's house. I've already called her."

"Cool." I liked his mother, and I really wanted to see the inside of that giant Victorian she lived in. "I assume I can talk to my family whenever I want, right?"

"I don't see why not. You just can't go see them, and I don't want them coming to see you, either, because they could lead this guy straight to you."

"I don't see why y'all are having such a hard time finding out who he is. He has to be a boyfriend."

"Don't tell me how to do my job," he warned. "She didn't have an exclusive relationship going on. We've checked out the guys she was dating, and they're clear. There are some other angles we're exploring."

"It wasn't drugs, or anything like that." I ignored his rude comment about telling him how to do his job.

He looked up. "How do you figure?"

"She belonged to Great Bods, remember? She didn't have any of the signs, and she was in good shape. Not great; she couldn't have done a backflip if her life had depended on it, but she wasn't a druggie, either. It has to be a boyfriend. She came on to all the guys, so I figure it's a jealousy thing. I can talk to my employees, find out if they noticed anything-"

"No. Stay out of it. That's an order. We've already interviewed all your employees."

Insulted that he seemed to be totally dismissing my views on the subject, I finished eating in silence. Typical man, he didn't like that either.

"Stop sulking."

"I'm not sulking. Realizing that there's no point in talking is not the same as sulking."

The dryer dinged, and I got my clothes out while he cleaned up the table. "Go on upstairs," he said. "I'll be up in a minute to help you get dressed."

He came up while I was brushing my teeth again, because pancakes make my teeth feel sticky, and he stood beside me at the vanity, using the other basin while he did the same. Brushing our teeth together made me feel strange. That was something married people did. I wondered if one day I'd do all my tooth-brushing here in this bathroom, or if some other woman would be standing in my place.

He crouched down and held my capri pants for me, and I balanced myself with one hand on his shoulder while I stepped into them. He zipped and buttoned, then eased his shirt off me and slipped my bra in place and hooked it.

My blouse was sleeveless, which was good, but the bandage was so big the armhole was just barely big enough. He had to tug the cloth across it, which had me wincing and mentally thanking Dr. MacDuff for the dope. He buttoned the tiny buttons that marched up the front of the blouse, then I sat on the bed and eased my feet into sandals. I continued to sit there, watching him as he dressed. The suit, the white dress shirt, the tie. The shoulder holster. The badge. The handcuffs clipped to the back of his belt. The cell phone clipped to the front. Oh, man. My heart was jumping like crazy, just watching him.

"Are you ready?" he asked.

"No. You haven't put up my hair yet." I could have gone with it down, since I wasn't working out today, but I was still pissed at him.

"Okay." He got the brush, and I turned so he could gather my hair in a ponytail at the back of my head. When he had it all caught in one hand, he said, "What do I put around it?"

"A scrunchie."

"A whatie?"

"Scrunchie. Don't tell me you don't have a scrunchie."

"I don't even know what the hell a scrunchie is."

"It's what you use to hold up ponytails. Duh."

"I haven't worn a ponytail lately," he said drily. "Will a rubber band do?"

"No! Rubber bands break the hair. It has to be a scrunchie."

"Where do I get a scrunchie?"

"Look in my bag."

He was very still behind me. After a few seconds, without saying a word, he let go of my hair and went into the bathroom. Now that he couldn't see me, I grinned to myself.

"What the hell," he said about half a minute later, "does a scrunchie look like?"

"Like a big rubber band with cloth on it."

More silence. Finally he came out of the bathroom with my white scrunchie in his hand. "Is this it?"

I nodded.

He started the process of gathering my hair again.

"Put the scrunchie on your wrist," I directed. "Then you can just slide it off around the ponytail."

His thick wrist just about stretched my scrunchie to the limits, but he grasped the theory at once and got my hair in a decent ponytail without any more delay. I went into the bathroom and checked out the results. "That's good. I think I can go without earrings today, if that's all right with you."

He rolled his eyes up to the ceiling. "Thank you, Lord."

"Don't be sarcastic. This was your idea, remember."

As we went down the stairs, I heard him mutter behind me, "You little shit," and I grinned to myself again. It was good that he knew I'd got back at him, because otherwise what would be the point?

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