Bear to the Rescue(Bear Claw Security Book 3)By: Terry Bolryder
“No big deal,” he said. “Just don’t bring it up again. I’m touchy about it.” His half smile said he was joking, but she wasn’t sure.
“Okay,” she said. “Nothing to be ashamed of.”
“Really?” he asked, raising an eyebrow as they stopped at a stop sign just out of the garage. “So you didn’t judge me at all when you found out, thinking I was just born with a silver spoon up my ass?”
“You were born with a silver spoon up your ass,” she said. “It just happens to be a very nice ass.”
He raised a thick, dark-blond eyebrow at her and then grinned. “Thanks. Glad you noticed.”
“Hard not to. You’re huge.”
He flexed his arm and palmed the wheel with his other hand. “Works great in the bodyguard business.”
“So you like being the muscle? Being basically a bullet shield?”
“Being useful,” he corrected her. “I like being useful. I was raised to think I was better than anyone around me, and I hated it. I like to think it’s a little bit of economic justice, me putting my life on the line for others.”
“People who can afford it,” she said, not liking how much she admired him for what he’d said.
“Not when I was in the army,” he said. “It’s not a money thing to me. If someone comes in and they can’t pay, or I hear about a friend of a friend in trouble, I’ll help out. I don’t discriminate.” He gave her a knowing, teasing look. “Not even with sassy, nosy hackers.”
“Meh,” she said. “You’re too good to be true.” She gave him a sidelong glance. “I just don’t trust you yet.”
He shrugged. “Your prerogative.”
She pulled out her phone to check messages, and he turned on the radio, listening to a hard rock station as they drove. She was amused to see him bobbing his head and tapping his fingers to the music.
But only minutes later, they were pulling up to her place, and he was staring up at it slack jawed, both hands draped over the wheel as he leaned over to look at it.
“Yeah, that’s not going to work,” he said, shaking his head. He ran a hand through his blond hair and leaned back. “I know you aren’t going to like this, but you’re going to have to come to my place.”
She looked at the brown brick four-plex. Hers was the top right apartment. They were old but pretty nice inside. No cockroaches. It was in an older part of the small town where she lived, but the landlord did a good job keeping them up. And the rent wasn’t too high.
Besides, she’d rather spend her money on computer stuff than fancy living quarters.
“What, not fancy enough for you, highness?” she asked, feeling slightly defensive of the way he was scowling at her house.
“It’s not that,” he said. “Though, now I worry if I take you to my place, you’re just going to scoff at it.”
“Maybe,” she said. “Depends if it’s fancy and snobby pants like you.”
“I’m not a snobby pants,” he said quietly. “Whatever that is. Anyway, the issue here is I would need to install a lot of security equipment to feel like we were safe here, and you’d need landlord permission, and even if he or she gives it, it’s gonna take time and cause some damage.”
She sighed. “I didn’t think of that. Why didn’t we just go to your house in the first place, then?”
“I assumed you would be more comfortable, seeing as you seem to think I’m some kind of predator waiting to jump you.”
He had it all wrong. She feared she was the predator waiting to jump him. She needed him to be the strong one.
She needed to not beg.
The problem was, as he helped her go inside and gather her things, she was already starting to want to.
* * *
“Is that everything you need?” Bronson asked when she appeared at the front door with her duffle packed and a backpack slung over her back.
“Yup, for now. I may think of something later,” she said, walking past him and sending a longing glance at her computer setup. “Gonna miss it, though.”
“Hopefully we’ll figure it out soon,” he said, taking her bags from her and not allowing any protest about it. “If they turn up again, I’ll go after them.”
She felt that pesky flush moving up her cheeks again. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” he said, looking slightly affected as well but moving out of the way so they could go down the stairs and back to his car.
“So where’s your home?” she asked.
“Back in the direction of the business,” he said. “I like living close by.”
“So tell me about you,” he prompted, trying to cut through the awkwardness.
“Not much to say,” she said.
“You mean not much you want to say,” he replied.
“Yeah, same thing,” she said.
He let out a chuckle and turned up the radio again, leaving her to her own thoughts.
They turned down several streets and passed numerous swathes of forests interspersed with old buildings. It was just starting to turn to evening, and the light was bright as it flared between the trees.