Snow Bound

By: Dani Wade



Didn’t even know if he wanted to.

Dragging his gaze away from her parted lips, he shifted the hand lying against her to slowly lift the hem of her nightgown. He encountered the spreading patch of red first, then the already purple bruising at ground zero. No wonder she was limping. The skin was puffy and discolored, the speed with which the damage appeared telling him how bad it was. Her fair coloring would bruise easily and heavily.

“Do you have any ice in the freezer?” he asked.

“What?”

He would have expected sharp surprise or high-pitched outrage, but the sultry, languid quality of her tone brought his gaze back to her face, drinking in the unconscious invitation in her lowered lids and parted lips.

One thing that gaze lacked was knowledge—she seemed unaware of the signals she was sending, which intrigued him even more. He’d been around plenty of women, both before and after the military, who knew the right looks, the right body language to signal their interest to a man. Here, Tori didn’t appear to be calculating the size of his cock or the length of his ride; she was simply a woman who wanted him… and she couldn’t know what a hell of a turn-on that was.

Which meant he had to get out of here before he did something really stupid… like kiss her, for God’s sakes. The last thing he needed was to get involved with a woman who held children’s tea parties for a living. One night in her bed and she’d be picking out china. His history made family out of the question. So even if he wanted nothing more than to slip beneath that cotton T-shirt, his mind needed to focus on the long haul.

Rising stiffly, he turned to the kitchen, letting his booted feet take him back through the doorway and across the dimly lit room. He gathered the tea towel hanging from a drawer pull near the sink and opened the freezer in search of ice. The swelling was uncomfortable more than anything, but the ice would help keep it under control. As his gaze swept over the freezer’s interior, he spotted an ice pack resting on one of the shelves in the door. So much easier. Armed with what he needed, he made his way over to the back door and checked both the lock and the deadbolt.

Mystery Dude would be stupid to attempt to break into Tori’s place after realizing there was a man here, but you never could tell about these good ole boys. Some of them didn’t have the brains God gave a pig. He added to the security with a chair wedged under the knob, then glanced out the glass pane. The curtain of snow seemed just as heavy, so he could only make out about half the backyard, though what he could see remained empty. Hopefully ole Bobby Joe had forgone another attack by finding a place to spend the night and ward off frostbite. But Damon wasn’t holding his breath.

He made his way back through to the living room, finding Tori resting on the couch in the same position he’d left her. Firelight flickered, casting both shadows and highlights over her light blonde hair. He knelt beside her, the sight of her delicate body awakening a primitive urge to protect. His right hand tightened around the icy-hard pack. He’d protected other men in his unit because that had been his job; civilians had fallen under a similar order. As a natural-born Texan, his gentlemanly urges were well developed enough that he would have extended the same courtesy to any woman or child he’d encountered on the street. After all, that’s what men were on the earth to do.

But this burn in the center of his chest, the pressure in his core to stand between this woman and harm was something he was unable to actually feel anymore. Growing up as he had, being swept aside while his mother took beating after beating, having her belittle his concerns, had thwarted his naturally protective instincts until he’d been left with only the shadow of them. Yet this tiny woman, with a single look, had awakened what he’d always assumed was lacking in him.

He’d been wrong. She wasn’t simply a genteel, proper southern woman. She was a dangerous flame set to light his match.

Draping the towel over her thigh, he eased the ice pack into place over it and the added protection of her T-shirt. Her sharp intake of breath shot through the stillness, making him wonder what sounds she would make under other, more pleasurable circumstances. A quick shake of his head allowed him to focus on more neutral territory, like getting as far away as he could.

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