He would take her out to dinner — give her a break from cooking. Of course she would need something to wear, other than his oversized sweats and T-shirts she seemed comfortable in.
Looking up from his computer screen at a rustling noise next to him, he spotted agent Amanda Larson shuffling through her desk drawer. He’d never really paid her much attention before. They rarely worked together, though he knew she was good at her job.
“Colby Fletcher,” she scolded. “Were you just checking out my backside?” She turned to face him, placing her hands on her hips. His eyes darted up to hers. He had been, but not for the reason she seemed to think.
She appeared to be about the same size as Savannah. “What size are you?”
Her playful grin instantly evaporated. “You never ask a girl her size. God, no wonder you’re still single.”
He wasn’t sure how she knew that fact about him, or what exactly she meant by the statement — well actually he did — that he was insensitive. And he couldn’t argue with that. But the thing was, he knew that Savannah was changing him little by little. “I need to buy a gift, and you look about the right size. Can you just help me out here?”
“Fine.” She frowned. “Size four petite pants. A small or medium on the top.”
Cole scribbled down the information on a piece of paper and stuffed it in his pocket.
When Cole got home from work, his house was strangely silent. He set the shopping bags down on the island and searched for Savannah. Not finding either her or Cuddles, he ventured outside, not bothering to change from his work clothes. He found Savannah, but not at all like he had expected. Though he guessed he knew better than to expect anything normal from her.
She was sitting cross-legged in the grass next to the guy from unit 4D, Levi something or other. Her head was thrown back and the sweet sound of her laughter tumbled from her lips.
What the fuck?
Levi was casually leaning back on his elbow, plucking at a blade of grass. Cole couldn’t hear what Levi was saying, but whatever it was, he was sure he had never seen Savannah so carefree or laughing with such abandon. Something inside him clenched with jealousy. Savannah was his. He didn’t know where that thought had come from, but there it was, insistent and possessive.
Levi’s head snapped up once Cole got closer, and Savannah’s laugh died on her lips when she saw his expression. He was sure he looked ready to kill someone. Well not just someone — the a**hole from 4D, specifically.
“Whoa there FBI man,” Levi chuckled, straightening his spine at the implied threat in Cole’s posture.
“Savannah?” His voice was low, rougher than he intended.
Savannah scrambled to her feet. “Cole?”
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down. Savannah approached him carefully and placed a hand on his forearm, which worked to relax him.
“You weren’t inside,” he bit out in a clipped tone.
“Cuddles needed to go potty.” She lifted the dog onto her hip, her eyes full of worry.
He nodded. “Everything’s fine.” He patted the top of Cuddles’ head, and rubbed his thumb across Savannah’s cheek. Watching her laughing and looking at Levi had set something off inside him. “Go on inside. I got a surprise for you tonight. The bags on the counter are for you. Get changed. We’re going out.”
“Out?” she choked on the word.
He nodded. “Go on. I’ll be up in a sec.” He couldn’t ease her mind about going out just yet, he needed to deal with Levi first. He was sniffing around Savannah like a damn dog and he was about to learn that was not okay.
The only things Cole knew about Levi were that he was twenty years old, went to the local community college and lived with his mother, a forty-something divorcee who had come on to Cole on more than one occasion.
Once Savannah had disappeared inside, Cole turned to face Levi, stepping in closer until they were chest to chest.
Cole’s intense gaze penetrated Levi’s and he shook his head slowly. “She’s off-limits.”
Levi didn’t falter. “She’s a little young for you, isn’t she?”
“That’s none of your f**king business. I’m only going to say this once. Stay away from her.”
Levi scrubbed a hand over his stubble-covered jaw. “Whatever you say man, chill out. We were just talking.”
Cole let out a huff and stalked back inside. Shit. Maybe he shouldn’t have freaked out on Levi. Savannah was allowed to have friends, after all. But there was just something that didn’t sit well with the thought of her having male friends. Still he knew he had no right to be mad at Savannah. He’d have to work on that.
Savannah carried the shopping bags into the guest bathroom. She removed each item to inspect it. A pair of dark-washed stretchy jeans, a heather gray sweater that was super soft and thin, and a pair of white cotton panties. She brought the clothes to her face and inhaled. Mmm. They smelled new, like a department store. She’d rarely had new clothes bought just for her, having worn hand-me-downs most of her life. She quickly changed and threw the sweats into the bathroom hamper.
When she turned toward the mirror, she stared at her reflection in disbelief. The clothes fit perfectly —the jeans sat low on her waist, hugging her h*ps and bottom, and the top was so fine and soft, she couldn’t resist wrapping her arms around herself for a squeeze. She felt pretty for the first time in a long time, and she had Cole to thank. Awareness of her growing debt to him prickled at the back of her mind. She owed him for Cuddles, and now the new clothes.
She finger-combed her dark hair and glanced at her reflection one last time before going to find Cole. He was sitting on a barstool at the kitchen island, drinking a bottle of beer. With only his profile in view, Cole hadn’t yet noticed her. Savannah took a moment to study him uninterrupted. She had come to love just looking at him when she knew he wasn’t watching. His back and shoulders were powerful with muscles that bunched under his shirt. Even his forearms were masculine —she could see where he’d pushed his sleeves up and thick veins strained against his arms. He was beautiful, yet ruggedly masculine. He was her safety, her comfort. She owed him everything. But she had no idea how to repay him.
She straightened her shoulders and cleared her throat. Cole turned toward her, the bottle of beer suspended halfway to his lips. His eyes began at her denim-clad thighs, and moved slowly over her hips, her flat belly, up to her chest and lingered there a moment before finally settling on her eyes. He didn’t try to hide the fact that he was checking her out, and made no apologies for his behavior. Savannah squirmed under his gaze. She was amazed that one look could make her feel hot all over and so feminine at the same time. Without dropping his gaze from hers, he dragged the bottle of beer to his lips and pulled down a healthy swig, his throat moving with the effort.
“Thank you for the clothes,” Savannah offered, needing to break the heavy silence that hung between them.
“They fit,” he murmured, his eyes still refusing to leave hers.
She blushed and looked down, suddenly realizing that he had shopped for her, picked these things out, even the panties that now seemed to accentuate the throb in her groin. She pulled in a deep breath and headed for the kitchen, unable to stand on display for his perusal any longer. She retrieved his empty bottle of beer and rinsed it in the sink before adding it to the recycling bin under the sink.
Cole was right behind her when she turned, holding her captive against the counter with his large form. She never felt frightened of him, more like intrigued. But she was always aware of where he was in relation to her, and how large and masculine he was physically. And at this exact moment, dressed in nice clothes that he had taken the time to pick for her, she felt womanly, soft and pretty next to his raw masculinity.
“Cole?” She looked up, meeting his dark eyes.
“Damn, Savannah, when I saw you talking to Levi…” he trailed off, resting a heavy hand on her hip. The weight of his warm hand surprised her, and her lungs refused to cooperate. “I didn’t like it,” he admitted, staring at her point blank.
Her stomach dropped. Savannah wouldn’t do anything to upset him. Couldn’t. He was everything she had right now. “I’m, I’m sorry,” she stammered.
“No.” Cole stepped in closer, until his thighs were pressed against hers, and their faces were just inches apart. They had touched many times, but not like this — not when Cole was angry and rough, his gaze filled with intensity. Warning bells went off in Savannah’s head. She gripped the counter behind her. “You should be able to talk to whoever you want without me getting all possessive.”
“Oh.” Savannah was at a complete loss, having never experienced this type of relationship with a man before. He seemed angry, but more so at himself than her. She wasn’t sure what to do, so she remained completely still. His hand tightened on her hip, clutching her close to him. And his other hand cupped her cheek as he leaned in closer. For a second Savannah thought he might kiss her and her heart jumped into her throat. She held her breath, waiting, but he only stroked her jaw lovingly with his thumb. “You look nice,” he whispered, before dropping his hands and moving away.
The loss of his body near hers was almost painful. Somehow in the past few weeks Savannah had begun to crave his physical contact, and when he wasn’t near, it left an ache that settled over her skin and inside her chest. But before she had time to dwell on any of that, Cole led her to the door and ushered her outside.
They rode to the restaurant with the music playing low. Cole turned the radio on scan and told her to stop at whichever station she liked. She frowned at the heavy metal, twang-y country and hip hop music, but when she heard the soulful voice of a woman, she leaned forward in her seat and asked Cole to leave it. It was someone named Lana Del Rey, he said. They listened to her sing about blue jeans, big dreams and love that lasted a million years. Savannah listened to the words, saying a silent prayer that love like that was real and would find her in this crazy world.
They arrived at the restaurant — a bistro type place that served the best wood-fired pizzas, Cole said.
When they stepped inside, Savannah noticed the restaurant was small, but upscale, decorated in reds, browns and creams. It was dimly lit and had a cozy, rustic feel.
The entrance was filled with people waiting for tables. Savannah wasn’t used to being in crowds of strangers, but the feel of Cole’s fingertips against her lower back soothed her. She crossed the room toward a long dark bar, lit with tiny lamps every few feet.
“Is this okay?” He motioned for her to have a seat on the stool he’d pulled out for her. “I usually come by myself and sit up here. You don’t have to wait, plus you can watch the action in the kitchen.” He motioned to the large wood-burning oven that looked more like a fireplace. She took the stool and could immediately see why Cole liked to sit there. Watching the cooks work, stretching pizza dough, and adding sauce and toppings like they were in some sort of race was fun. Plus, it was neat to see the ingredients they used. Her mouth was watering for one of those pizzas after just a few seconds.
“They have salads and pasta too.” Cole handed her a menu while a server delivered two ice waters. “Get whatever you want.”
“I’ll just have whatever you’re having,” she said.
He frowned. “I thought you could sort of practice being out —you know, ordering for yourself, things like that.”
Oh. So this wasn’t just an enjoyable evening out — he was giving her a lesson. Teaching her how to be a normal person. She ducked her chin, suddenly ashamed that she thought she could just blend in with him, enjoy their time together. She was being scrutinized instead, and needed to earn his approval.
She opened her menu and began studying. Everything sounded delicious, but she knew she wanted to try one of those pizzas.
“Hi, have you guys been here before?” A bubbly server appeared in front of them.
“I have,” Cole said, “but Savannah hasn’t.”
“Oh, well welcome. Do you guys want to hear the specials, or do you already know what you want?” she asked, looking between them.
“Savannah?” Cole waited for her to answer.
“Um, I think I know what I want, but yes, I’d like to hear the specials.”
A smile tugged at the corner of Cole’s mouth, seemingly pleased with Savannah’s response. The waitress pulled out a notecard and read the specials. “Okay, our chef’s pizza tonight is fig and artichoke. The appetizer is a four-cheese grilled flatbread served with marinara sauce. What can I get for you?”
Savannah hesitated for a second. “Get whatever you want,” Cole whispered, placing his hand on her knee.
His touch reassured her, even if it was a little distracting the way his large hand fit around her thigh. “I’d like the vegetarian pizza with sausage, and a sweet tea, please.”
The waitress looked up from her pad. “You want meat on a vegetarian pizza?”
“Yes. And I’d like an order of that four-cheese bread too.”
Cole chuckled under his breath. “That sounds good. Make it two orders. Oh, and an Amstel please.”
After checking Cole’s ID, the waitress scurried away. Cole removed his hand from her leg and draped it casually across the back of her seat.
“Did I do okay?” she asked, resisting the urge to nuzzle into his side.
“You did perfect.”
Savannah glowed at his compliment, fiddling with her napkin as she placed it across her lap.
Their drinks arrived and as she sipped her tea, Cole turned to study her, his brow furrowed like he was thinking hard about something. “How are you feeling about staying with me?” He took a swig from his beer.
She thought of how to answer. Several words flitted through her mind. Safe. Relieved. But she said the first one that came to her lips. “Happy.”