Dire (Page 19)

“Okay, babe. I’ll be back in a minute.”

She smiled. “Okay.”

I glanced over my shoulder before reluctantly walking out the door.

Chapter Nine

Mary Anne

“A little protective, isn’t he?” Hunter asked as soon as the door closed behind Gage. He walked toward the fireplace, and I followed, craving the warmth of the fire.

I tried to swallow down my nerves. I didn’t want to admit to myself how much safer I felt with Gage by my side. “He’s just looking out for me.”

“Looking out for you?” Hunter crossed his arms, accentuating his biceps. Every inch of Hunter was muscle. I thought Gage was big, but this guy was behemoth. “That sounds more like an older brother than a boyfriend.”

“He’s definitely not my brother.” I thought about all of the things we’d done in the sleeping bag.

“Is he your first?” Hunter rested his chin in his hand. He had such strong features that almost seemed out of place with his thick coat of stubble and dark, almost long hair.

“Excuse me?” I glanced toward the door. I hoped Gage got back quickly.

“Is he your first boyfriend? I find girls tend to sentimentalize the first man they’re with and get unnecessarily attached.”

“He isn’t my first, not that it’s any of your business.”

“I’m not trying to offend you.” He touched my arm. The guy kept finding reasons to put his hands on me. It wasn’t necessarily inappropriate, but it set me on edge. “I’m merely asking questions to pass the time.”

“Sure.” I looked into the roaring fire in the fireplace. I couldn’t deny how good the warmth felt on my cold body.

“Why don’t you take off your coat?” Hunter’s voice came from right behind me and his hands moved to my coat zipper. “You’ll warm up faster without it.”

“Oh, that’s okay.” I shivered. Where was Gage?

“I’m only trying to help.” He started to slowly unzip my jacket.

“I can do that myself.”

“Oh, my mistake. I thought your hands might be too cold.”

Really? He was going with that excuse? “They’re fine.”

“Do you let your friend help you with things? Or are you one of those girls who likes to do it all herself?”

“I can take care of myself, but if you’re asking about Gage, he’s more than a friend. I already told you that.”

“Actually you didn’t tell me. He did.” Hunter let go of my coat. “But boyfriend, friend, it’s the same thing.”

“How are they the same thing?” I slipped out of my coat before Hunter could do it for me.

“Neither are permanent. Neither means he has a claim on you.” His eyes bore into mine.

“I don’t intend to ever have a man claim me.”

“You say that now.” He smiled. “I have a feeling you’ll change your mind later. Besides, what makes you think that being claimed or not would be your choice?”

“Yeah… I try to stay away from people who force me into things.” I crossed my arms. Come on, Gage. Hunter was turning out to be scarier than I thought.

He seemed to sense my unease and back peddled. “Oh. I didn’t mean it that way. I just mean we can’t choose who we fall for.”

Hadn’t I just said that to Genevieve the other day? “That’s true.”

The front door opened and Gage returned dressed in dark corduroy pants and a heavy thermal shirt. He was accompanied by Chet and a girl who couldn’t have been too much older than me. She held out her hand. “Hi, you must be Mary Anne.”

“Hi. Marni, is it?” I relaxed immediately and accepted her handshake. There’s something comforting about having another woman around.

“Yes. I brought over some clothes for you.” She held a pile of clothes in her hand.

“Why don’t you show Mary Anne to her room so she can change?” Hunter gave her a look I couldn’t read.

Marni returned the look. “I assume you mean the upstairs back bedroom?”

“Of course. That is the nicest room in the house.”

“No need to give me a room. I can sleep on the couch or the floor.” I wasn’t putting these people out any more than we had to. The attention Hunter was paying to me was already making me nervous, and I refused to make things anymore awkward or feel like I owed him more.

“Nonsense. You’re our guest.”

“Okay, we can take a bedroom, but it doesn’t need to be the nicest one.” I just wanted to avoid an argument. Despite Marni’s friendliness, something was off about these people. We just needed to survive the night and get home.

“We?” Hunter turned his head slightly.

“Yeah. Gage and me.”

Hunter shook his head. “Gage will be staying with Chet.”

“What?” Gage said hurriedly. “Do you have a problem with me sleeping in the same room as my girlfriend?” Despite the situation, I got a thrill hearing him call me his girlfriend so nonchalantly. I knew he was only doing it to protect me, but maybe he did want more than sex.

“I’m afraid I do. She’s your girlfriend, not your wife. I owe it to her father to keep you in line.”

“To my father?” My jaw dropped. “Are you crazy?”

“I think I am being very accommodating to you both. I’ve opened up my home, and I will be happy to provide anything you need. That being said I retain the right to determine where you sleep.”

“Why do you care?” Gage stepped toward him. “You don’t want us alone in a bedroom for some religious or moral reason, sure, I can accept that, but what’s going to happen if we sleep out here on the floor or the couch?”

He crossed his arms again. “If you are more comfortable staying under the same roof, you are welcome to stay on our couch. However, Mary Anne will be in a bedroom. Do you really want her under the eye of other men during the night? I wouldn’t want my girlfriend to be.”

“It’s fine. And Gage, you don’t have to sleep on the floor.” I tried to diffuse the mounting tension between the two. Hunter was getting heated and that didn’t bode well. I had the feeling he’d prefer to kick Gage out in the snow anyway. I couldn’t let that happen.

“All right, why don’t we save ourselves from this testosterone-fueled, idiot argument and get you changed?” Marni linked her arm with mine. “Those jeans can’t feel good.”