Colters' Lady(3)

By: Maya Banks


His chest clenched, and he moved a step closer. His foot glanced off a discarded Styrofoam cup, and her head jerked up. Alarm flashed in her eyes when she saw him, and she scrambled to her feet like a doe poised for flight.

In a lightning-fast move, he snagged her wrist just when she would have bolted. He was careful not to hurt her, only prevent her from fleeing.

A small cry of fright escaped her lips, and her eyes widened as she stared up at him.

“I’m sorry. Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you, I swear it. Do you remember me from Margie’s Place? I just served you an hour ago.”

Though she didn’t relax, she nodded, her eyes still solidly trained on his face as if judging the validity of his vow not to hurt her.

“If I let you go, will you promise not to run?”

She looked at him like he was crazy.

He held up his other hand in surrender. “Let me amend that. Do you promise not to run as long as I don’t do anything to further scare you?”


9



For a moment she studied him, and then slowly she nodded again. He relaxed his grip, carefully easing his fingers away, studying her body language for any sign that she meant to flee. He couldn’t blame her for not trusting him, but suddenly it was the most important thing in the world for her to do just that.

“What do you want?” she asked with quiet defiance.

The shock of her voice floated over him. It was pleasing. An electrical sensation that nipped at his neck and snaked through his body like a river current. He wanted her to talk again. To say his name.

“I…” What did he want? And how to say it? He laughed softly and shook his head. “You’re going to think I’m nuts.”

She smiled then, and it made her so lovely that he ached.

“I might already think you’re crazy. You stared at me so funny in the line. I worried I’d somehow made you angry.”

“No. No, of course not,” he rushed out. “Look, will you go somewhere with me?” At her look of surprise he hurried to amend his statement. “There’s a diner down the street. It’s warm and we can sit and talk there.”

She gave him a confused look. “But I just ate. So did you.”

He frowned because she hadn’t eaten much at all. “Do you like coffee? Hot chocolate?”

“I love hot chocolate,” she said wistfully.

He latched onto that like a dying man struggling for one more breath. “Then walk with me to the diner. We can have hot chocolate and you can talk to me. What do you say?”

Puzzlement still shone in her blue eyes. She nibbled at her bottom lip as she clearly couldn’t decide whether to accept or decline.

“I’m a police officer,” he said. He rummaged in his pocket for his badge. “You’re completely safe with me.”

She stared at the shield, and he could swear tears flashed for a single moment before she quickly gathered herself.

“What’s your name?” he asked. “My name is Seth. Seth Colter.”

“Lily,” she said in a soft voice. “Just Lily.”

Lily. It suited her. Delicate and beautiful.

“Well, Just Lily. Will you walk down and have a cup of hot chocolate with me?”

She took a deep breath. “Okay.”

Relief coursed through his veins until he thought he was going to crawl out of his skin. He held his hand out to her, unsure of the gesture and how she’d take it. He only knew he had to touch her.

With a curious look in his direction, she slid her small fingers trustingly into his. He gripped her hand, infusing his warmth into her cold fingers, and then he tugged her back down the alley to the street.

10




Chapter Two


Lily walked beside Seth until they reached the diner at the corner of the next street. Even then he didn’t let go of her hand. It felt strong and comforting around hers. Hard and lean like Seth himself.

She studied his profile as discreetly as she could without being caught staring. He had the look of a cop—or one she associated with police officers. His stare was alert and always moving to take in his surroundings.

He was tall and solidly built. Not overly muscled in a body-builder fashion, but he was physically fit, and he carried his strength in his features. Hard jaw, intense blue eyes, and yet there was also a quietness and gentleness to him that called to her. Maybe it was why she was inexplicably following him into a diner.

He escorted her to a booth by the window and briefly let go of her hand so he could slide in across the table from her. Immediately he reached over and retook possession of her hand.

A funny flutter began in her stomach as his thumb stroked over the curve of her hand and her knuckles. She was puzzled by this man and why he’d followed her from the soup kitchen. What did he want, and why did he insist on touching her at every turn?

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