Blind Fury (Men of Steele Book 1)(9)

By: Gwen Hernandez

“Hey there, Jay,” Mick said, his voice thick and muffled.

She glanced at the glowing red numbers on her alarm clock. Eleven-thirty. “Hi,” she said cautiously. What the hell was he up to?

“Listen, sweetheart, the bartender here says I can’t drive. Unfortunately, he’s right.” The slur in his speech was more evident now. “I know it’s a bit late, but do you think you could pick me up?”

As if she could say no. The only thing that surprised her was that he hadn’t found a bar bunny to go home with instead. A smarter woman—one who sought to protect her heart—would tell him to take a taxi. But Mick was hurting, and she couldn’t bring herself to pawn him off on a stranger. “Where are you?” she asked with a resigned sigh.

Forty minutes later she walked into an Irish pub about fifteen miles west of her townhome in Fairfax. The place was clean and relatively quiet, with dark paneled walls and a large wooden bar that dominated the center of the room. Muted flat-panel TVs broadcast various sports events, and maybe fifteen people sat in little knots, hunched over their beers.

Mick was at the back corner of the bar facing the door, his hands wrapped around a soda. Hopefully just a Coke, sans rum. A pretty brunette who was perched on the neighboring stool held his attention, and Jenna couldn’t stop a little arrow of jealousy from lodging in her gut.

Fortified with a deep breath, she marched around the bar. “Do you still need a ride, or have you found a better option?”

“Jay.” He grinned at her and her traitorous heart danced. “Thanks for coming, babe.”

Gripping the bar, he slid carefully off the stool, pulled out his wallet, and threw a few twenties on the counter. Then he turned to the brunette, who was pouting at him, another victim of a Mick drive-by. “Good luck with that boyfriend of yours, Katie.”

“Yeah, thanks,” she said, the note of disappointment in her voice making it all too clear that she’d expected Mick to help her get over the boyfriend.

Oblivious, he hooked his arm around Jenna’s shoulders and pulled her toward the door. He could walk, but not very well. If he fell, they were both in trouble because he was way too big for her to help him up. She’d never seen him this sloppy drunk before, not even at one of Rob’s parties.

She wrangled him into her old Volvo and got behind the wheel. He leaned over, his warm breath feathering her neck. “You smell good,” he said.

She shoved him away. “You smell like a brewery. Stay on your side.” Focusing on the road would be hard enough with him in the car, but if he kept breathing on her—beer breath or not—she’d probably crash. And that thought was enough to break the spell.

Without looking at him, she pulled out of the parking lot. She followed the road to the freeway entrance, unable to decide if she was mad, disgusted, or sympathetic. Maybe all three.

“I’m sorry for being such an asshole,” he said, his playfulness gone. “I’m supposed to be taking care of you, not the other way around.”

She glanced at his handsome face, all angles and shadows in the dim glow from the dashboard. Where had he gotten that idea? “Why? I’m a grown woman.”

“No mistaking that,” he said, speaking so quietly she wasn’t sure she’d heard him correctly. Then louder, “I promised Rob I’d watch out for you if anything happened to him.”

Her throat tightened with the all-too-familiar need to shed tears, but she blinked them back. Rob had always been an overprotective brother, even before their parents and Jimmy died. Not that he’d stuck around to keep watch over her in person. He’d had his own demons to battle.

But he shouldn’t have pawned her off on Mick. She didn’t want to be anyone’s obligation.

“He should have made you promise to take care of yourself. I don’t need a protector. In fact, I absolve you of all duty to me,” she said, wiggling her fingers at him as if performing a spell. “After the funeral tomorrow, you don’t ever have to see me again.”

“Is that what you want?” he asked, his gaze hot on her face.

Was it? No. What she really wanted was to take him home and show him that she wasn’t the straight-laced schoolmarm he thought she was. Not on the inside. Her blood ran just as hot as any of those floozies who kept him company.

The problem was she wanted romance and love, not a roll in the sack and a note on her pillow. And she was never going to get her chance at forever if Mick was always there in the background, making every other man pale in comparison.

Still, when Mick wasn’t in the room, she always found herself wishing he were there. How dumb was that?