“So, how long have you been out of the Army?”
“A little over a year.”
“Did you leave when David did?”
Max stretched his arm across the back of the bench behind me. “We left at the same time; but, no, David chose not to re-enlist when his term was up. I wasn’t given any options.”
That seemed kind of harsh. Unless he was fighting or being disruptive—which I could definitely see—why couldn’t he re-enlist? “Dishonorably discharged?”
“I guess you could say that.”
“What did you do to warrant that?”
“I didn’t do anything.” What is this? Fifty Questions?”
“It’s however-many-questions-you’ll-answer,” I said nonchalantly.
“Oh, I see. And can I play this game too?”
“I guess it depends on what you ask.”
Max pivoted towards me and his right leg pressed against mine. “Okay, let’s get right down to it. What are you hiding from?”
My eyes bulged wide with disbelief. How did he know? I was no different around him than anyone else. “What? What are you talking about? Who said I was hiding from something?”
He smirked with amusement. “Denial. It’s okay. I get it. Tell me why you were so scared in the lobby? You never showed that kind of fear towards me before.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about. And I wasn’t scared. I couldn’t see your face temporarily because of the bright glare from the sun. When you grabbed me, it startled me.” As if I would confess everything to him just because he asked. Yeah, right.
“You know, you can’t ask me questions and expect answers, if you’re not willing to offer up anything in return.”
He was right.
It wasn’t fair. I should have known better than most people how hard it was to conceal personal facts about your life, and if Max didn’t want to share his, I should have respected his choice.
“You’re right. I’m sorry. I hoped to ask you some basic questions. You know, favorite color, favorite dessert, dog or cat, what you do for a living… those types of things.”
“Well, you haven’t asked me those questions. But if you must know, I don’t have a favorite color. I don’t do pets. They’re a responsibility I don’t want or have time for. And I work for a buddy of mine in St. Louis as a private investigator. It’s nothing like a full-time career, however, just whenever he needs me. I don’t need the money, but it doesn’t hurt to get paid doing easy jobs; and it keeps my mind focused on other things.” His finger curled around a lock of my hair as he shifted beside me.
“You forgot one,” I mumbled, enjoying his aimless tugging on my hair.
“Dessert. What’s your favorite?”
“Strawberries… and whipped cream, if it’s around. Lots and lots of whipped cream.”
I was about to bite into a carrot stick, but stopped with it halfway to my mouth. His words seemed to drip from his lips. If he had leaned in a few more inches and kissed me—minus the carrot—I would have let him. He was only a few inches away, and I caught his eyes flickering from my eyes to my mouth. My mouth watered, imagining how strawberries and whipped cream would taste from his kiss. I licked my lips… and ate the carrot.
He leaned against the bench with a sly grin. “Does that about answer all your questions?”
I recovered as best I could and peeked at my watch. “I supposed it’ll do for now. I have to get back.”
Max stood and held his hand out to pull me up. “Until next time,” he said, walking me to the passenger side of his car.
Settling in the seat, I gave him a curious glance, not knowing if that were a question or a statement. I answered with, “Maybe.” I still wasn’t sure what to think about Max. He was an asshole one minute, a comforting savior the next, and pure sex-on-a-stick twenty-four hours of every day.
Keep a low profile. That's what Abigale Peterson was supposed to do, especially when the person she was being protected from was one of the world's worst crime lords. After seven years in the Witness Protection Program, she felt no safer now than she did when she was seventeen. Revenge was rarely forgotten when it came to a professional criminal like Zerilli.
Low profiles meant no social life and definitely no love life.
Paranoia and lies became daily habits, going against everything Abigale believed in, but they kept her safe. They kept everyone safe.
Until a house fire puts her out of that safety and into the arms of a stranger. Max Smith is sexy, smart, and has major attitude. He’s the only one who seems to get her. He calms her fears and comforts her from her nightmares. But he also sees right through her lies.
Before Abigale can stop, she’s in too deep; confiding too much and breaking the one rule she promised herself to uphold: Never fall in love.
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