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Upon the Midnight Clear (Page 3)

Upon the Midnight Clear (Dark-Hunter #13)(3)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

If you don’t do something she’s going to freeze out there. Her death will be on your hands.

So what! Let her die for being stupid. Sometimes Darwinism was the best way to go…

But no matter how much his anger gnawed at him and his inner voice called him an ass, he couldn’t leave her out there to die.

You’re a freakin’ idiot.

"Ten minutes," he snarled as he snatched open the door. "That’s it. Then I want you out of my house."

"Thank you," she said, stepping inside.

Aidan kept his lip curled as he watched her drift toward his fire. She left a trail of snow on his hardwood floors. "Don’t mess up the place."

"I’m sorry," she said, her voice still distorted by her pink woolen scarf that she had pulled up over her mouth and nose. All he could see of her face was a pair of eyes so pale a shade of blue they practically glowed. "It’s really cold outside."

"Like I care," he said under his breath before he moved to get his cell phone from the countertop. He went back to her and held it out. "Make it quick."

She pulled off her white leather gloves to expose dainty hands that were bright pink from the cold. Shivering, she pulled the scarf down.

Aidan couldn’t breathe as he saw her face, and a wave of lust bombed his system. Fine boned and patrician, she was beautiful. But more than that, it was the same woman he’d seen in his dream last night who had stopped the rain.

How freakin’ weird…

Without a word, she took the phone from his hand and dialed it.

He couldn’t move as he watched her. What were the odds of some unknown person coming out of his dreams and showing up at his door needing a phone? Especially the woman whose face had been haunting him all day.

You should play the lottery…

She shut his phone, then held it out to him. "Yours isn’t working either."

"Bullshit." He flipped it open, then realized she was right. There was no signal at all. Baffled, he scowled at it. "I was just on it a minute ago."

She shrugged before she returned to his fire. "Looks like we’re both out of luck then."

"I’m not out of luck. I live here. You’re the one who’s screwed, ’cause you’re not staying."

She gaped in disbelief. "You would really throw me out of your house in the middle of a blizzard?"

He scoffed. "There’s no…" His voice drifted off as he looked outside and realized she was right. It was a total whiteout.

When had that happened?

"Un-friggin’-believable," he snarled. Then again, it was just his luck. His uncle had always told him he was born under an unlucky star. The man had been more right than either of them had ever guessed.

She turned her haunting eyes toward his. "Should I leave?"

Yes. Something in his soul screamed for him to shove her out the door and then lock it tight. It was that part of him that had been battered to the brink of suicide.

But even after all he’d been through, he couldn’t bring himself to cause her death. Unlike him, she most likely had someone out there who would actually mourn for her if she were to die. Bully for her.

She gave him a look that rivaled the freezing temperature outside before she pulled her muffler back over her face and started for the door.

"Don’t be stupid," he snarled. "You can’t go out there."

She raked him with a stern look, then lowered the muffler. "I don’t like staying where I’m not wanted."

"So you want me to lie?" He fell into the acting that had won him his Academy Awards. "Oh, baby, please stay with me and don’t leave. I need you here. I can’t live without you."

Leta arched a brow at his words, which lacked the sarcastic tone she was certain lay beneath them. Little did he know how true they were. He did need her here because she was the only thing standing between him and death.

"How nice. You practice those lines much?"

"Not really. Usually I just tell people to f**k off and die."

"Ooo," she said in a seductive tone. "That just gives me goose bumps all over. I love it when a man sweet-talks me."

"I’ll bet you do." Scratching his jaw, he indicated the wooden tree by the door. "You can hang your coat there until the storm or the phone clears."

She shrugged the coat off and unwound the scarf from around her before she pulled away her hat and tucked it in the pocket of her coat. "What’s the gun for?"

"I would lie and say it’s for bears or snakes, but mostly I use it for trespassers."

"Wow, Dexter," she said, using the name of the serial killer from the Showtime series M’Adoc had shown her. "I’m impressed. Since we’re not in Miami and you haven’t a boat to hide the hacked-up bodies at sea, where are you keeping them?"

"Under the woodshed out back."

"Nice." She smiled. "At least that explains the odor I smelled coming up the driveway."

His gaze lightened as if he found her entertaining. "You’re right. That’s the septic line. I’m not stupid enough to put corpses that close to my house-it’d bring the wildlife too close to my back door. I leave the bodies in the woods for the bears to eat."

"What about when they’re hibernating?"

He shrugged. "The coyotes get them."

He was quick, she’d give him that. "Well, then, I guess you need to go ahead and shoot me and get it over with. The coyotes are probably starving in this weather."

Aidan was completely baffled by her lack of fear. "You’re not afraid of me, are you?"

"Should I be?"

"You’re trapped in the woods during a snowstorm with a man you’ve never laid eyes on before. My nearest neighbor lives six miles away. I could do anything I wanted to you and no one would ever know."

She looked to the corner behind her. "True, but I’m the one closest to the gun."

"You think you could beat me to it?"

Leta wrinkled her nose at him. She didn’t know why but she was enjoying this banter and she shouldn’t be capable of enjoying anything at all. "I think I can handle you, Dex. After all, you don’t know anything more about me than I know about you. For all you know, I could be a crazed serial killer on the run from the authorities. Might even be a body in the trunk of my car waiting for me to bury it."

Aidan was intrigued by the fact she was playing the same game that he’d started. He admired courage and she seemed to have more than her share of it. "Are you a serial killer?"

She lifted her chin. "You first, Dexter. Who are you and why are you up here alone?"

He stepped around the counter to approach her. Pausing before her, he held out his hand. "Aidan O’Conner. Former actor, but I’m sure you know that."

She shrugged. "It means nothing to me. I’m Leta."

"Leta what?"

"Just Leta." She hesitated a moment longer before she took his hand and shook it. "Nice to meet you, Dexter."

He studied her carefully. Her winter-white clothes, while nice, weren’t extravagant. They didn’t say much about her except that she was caught in a snowstorm unprepared. She didn’t have any jewelry or anything else that marked even the most basic thing about her. She was like a blank slate. "And what do you do for a living, just Leta?"

"I’m a professional bodyguard."

He laughed at her unexpected answer. "Yeah, right."

She shook her head slowly. "Nope. All true. I know seventy-two ways to kill a man and sixty-nine of them look like an accident."

That should probably scare him, but instead he was intrigued. "And what brings a bodyguard to this neck of the woods? Did Mori hire you to protect me from my brother?"

"I don’t know any Moris. I’m currently between assignments and was looking for a change. I heard there was work in Nashville and it seemed like a good place to start over. So here I am stuck in the freezing cold with a… serial killer. Has the making for a great horror movie, huh?"

He still wasn’t satisfied with her answer. "How are you in the profession of protecting people without knowing who I am? I’ve been told I have one of the most recognizable faces in the world."

"Wow… Just out of curiosity, when you go to bed at night, do you find yourself ousted off the mattress by that ego?"

"It’s not ego. It’s the truth."

She folded her arms over her chest as if she didn’t believe it for a minute. "Well, then, if I admit I know who you are and really couldn’t care less will that assuage your damaged manhood enough that we can get past this and move on to something that ends with your giving me a sandwich?"

He ignored her question. "So you do know me?"

"Yes, Dexter," she said, her voice laden with sarcasm. "I know who you are. You feel better now?"

Not really. Her sarcasm rather sucked all the joy out of being right. It also made him see red. "Then why the lie?"

Leta realized she’d just made a big mistake with him. This was a man who’d been lied to enough, and it was obvious if she were to stay, she’d have to be as honest as possible. "Well, since you’re hidden away in the middle of nowhere, I figured you didn’t want to advertise the fact you’re a world-famous actor, though to be honest the Oscars on the mantel aren’t exactly subtle."

A tic worked in his jaw. "Are you a reporter?"

She rolled her eyes. "No. I told you what I am. I protect bodies."

"How do I know I can believe you?"

"You don’t. But why would I lie?"

If anything, that made his anger increase. "You lied about knowing me. You could lie about anything. People lie all the time, usually for no reason whatsoever."

"But I’m not lying about being hungry." She gestured toward the loaf of bread on the counter. One of the problems with entering the mortal realm was that it tended to make Dream-Hunters extremely hungry, and right now her stomach was cramping and aching. "Could you toss me a piece of bread before the interrogation continues? Or do I have to beat your butt for a spoonful of peanut butter?"

Aidan grabbed the bread from the counter and chucked it at her. She caught it with one hand. Stepping back, he swept his hand toward the door next to the fridge. "Peanut butter is in the pantry."

She narrowed her eyes on him suspiciously before she moved to open the door and search through his staples. She emerged a few minutes later with the peanut butter. Her gaze unamused, she set it on the counter. "Knife?"

"Drawer in front of you."

After opening it, she twirled the knife in her hand with an expertise that said she wasn’t lying about her occupation.

"Who was your last job?" he asked, tucking his hands under his arms.

"Terrence Morrison."

He frowned. "Who?"

"A billionaire playboy who made the mistake of putting his balls on the wrong billiard table."

Aidan could just imagine the trouble something like that could get a man into, especially depending on who thought they had rights to that billiard table. "Why did you leave?"

She spread the peanut butter over a slice of bread. "I took care of the person harassing him. Threat gone. Job eliminated." Her look smug, she took a bite of her sandwich. "Anything else you want to know? Dental records, fingerprints? Retinal scan?"

"Urine sample would work."

She rolled her eyes. "What cup you want me to use?"

He was intrigued by her comebacks and the fact that she didn’t appear angry over his questioning and word choice. "Does anything faze you?"

"I fight people for a living. Do you honestly think peeing in a cup is going to frighten me?"

She had a point… providing she wasn’t lying about her occupation.

Without a word, Aidan pulled a glass out of his cabinet and handed it to her.

Her jaw dropped. "You’ve got to be kidding me? You really want a urine sample?"

He actually smiled at her question. "Not hardly, but I thought you might be thirsty. The drinks are in the fridge."

For once he saw relief in her gaze before she went and poured herself a glass of milk. "Thanks for showing some mercy."

"Yeah," he said bitterly. "Just remember to return the favor."

"Is that supposed to mean something?"

He shrugged. "Just in my experience, all people do is take. None of them give a damn about helping someone else."

"And sometimes people can surprise you."

"Yeah. You’re right. I’m constantly amazed by the unprovoked treachery they’re capable of."

She shook her head. "Wow, you are jaded."

If she only knew. Besides, he had every right and then some to it. He’d had enough knives planted in his spine to make a stegosaurus envious. "Look at you." He indicated her body with his hand. "Do you protect people because they need it or do you protect them because they pay you?"

Leta hesitated. She most certainly didn’t get paid for what she did, but he’d never believe a human would be so altruistic. So she opted for a semitruth. "Girl’s got to eat."

"And I rest my case. People will knife you in the back for a stinking crumb and then go on with their lives as if you’re nothing but a worthless roach."

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