59,476
07.03.2019

Her choice of clothing doesn’t suit her face.

She’s pretty. And when I say pretty, I mean pretty. And she doesn’t even know it. Which doesn’t help me in the slightest. Her long, dark-reddish hair has half come out of its ponytail. It’s thick and has a wave to it. Her face is clear and her skin has a peaches-and-cream thing going on. She’s pale. Almost like she’s never seen the sun, but it suits her. Her bright-green eyes are encased by long dark lashes. She doesn’t wear a stitch of makeup. She’s naturally pretty. But that hair…that fucking hair. I haven’t seen anything like it. It’s thick and shiny. She’s got nice hair.

And that blows.

When you have a job like mine, you expect to come across contracts that you don’t like from time to time. Solution? Get it done quickly and forget about it. I’m being paid a lot, and I mean a lot, to babysit Miss Delilah Flynn for as long as it takes, so unfortunately, the quick and forget thing might not be happening.

I’m sorely regretting the decision I’ve made. I should’ve passed this job on.

Without a word, I place my hands under her arms and lift Delilah up onto the kitchen counter top. She yelps then growls, “Would you stop picking me up like I’m a freakin’ sack of potatoes!”

Leaving her, I open the cabinet above the pantry, take out the first-aid kit, and bring it over to her. She looks down at the kit with obvious confusion but doesn’t say a thing. I lift her leg and place her foot to rest on my thigh. It’s then she sees her scraped and bloody knees and mutters, “Of course. Great. Just great.”

Dear god, please give me strength to make sure that I don’t become the threat against the girl I’m trying to protect.

This little woman is grating my nerves something fierce. With her smartass comments and talking back, I’m gonna go nuts locked up here with her. Especially when I’m technically not allowed to let her out of my sight for as long as this thing takes. And I don’t know how long that’ll be. As far as I know, the threat hasn’t actually been confirmed just yet.

I tear open an antiseptic wipe, and as soon as I press it to her knee, she squeals then bursts into laughter while trying to kick me away. “No!” She quells her laughter and scowls, “No. Give it here. I don’t like people touching my knees.”

Shaking my head, I wonder why she didn’t just tell me she’s ticklish. I hand her the cloth and she carefully wipes her knees until they’re clean. I take out two square bandages and hand them to her. She places them on her knees and jumps down from the counter.

Shit. Now she actually looks like a kid. Skinned knees and all. And I feel like a prick for checking her out earlier. I know she’s not underage or anything, but firstly, it’s not professional, and secondly, I am not going there, so I shouldn’t even be thinking about her like that. I never get involved with anyone I protect. I distance myself as much as possible. It maintains a clear mind.

Boo carries over a plate full of sandwiches then excuses herself. She’s on watch until midnight, so we won’t see her again until then. As soon as Boo walks out, Rock walks in and jumps up on the counter, semi-glaring at Delilah. “You tried to knock me out, woman.”

Her eyes widen in acknowledgment. She swallows her mouthful of sandwich before she speaks. “I knew that was you in my room! What the hell was with the freaky-slow head shake? Of course I tried to knock you out, bonehead, you kidnapped me!”

“Hey now, we did that for your protection. And by the way, you might’ve connected with my face, but you’ve got a weak hook. All you did was piss me off, babe.” He grins.

“I am not weak. I’m badass.” She scowls at him. Her lips pout a little. It’s pretty damn cute. “And don’t call me babe.”

Fuck.

Rock lifts her hands high into a boxing stance. She watches wide-eyed with complete interest as he shapes her fists the way he wants ‘em. She stands taller and mimics his pose. “What you wanna do is hold ‘em high, but not right in front of your face, just high enough so you can deflect any incoming blows. You might not deflect ‘em all, but you will stop some of ‘em. So what you gotta do is…” Rock looks up at me smiling. His smile fades when he catches the look of disbelief on my face. Clearing his throat, he leans down to Delilah and says, “We’ll continue this lesson later.” And then he’s gone.

Delilah looks up at me while finishing her sandwich; she speaks around her mouthful. “Will you please stop fart-assing around and just tell me what’s going on?”

Picking up another sandwich, I bite into it and watch her. She rolls her eyes at me and nibbles at the rest of her sandwich. I have to show this girl that she can’t demand things of me. There are reasons I do things the way I do them. I do not explain myself to anyone apart from my superior, Mitch. A question sits upon the tip of my tongue, and I just can’t seem to stop myself from asking. “Why don’t you like to be called Delilah? It’s a nice name.”

She scoffs, “Yeah, right.” She swallows the last of her sandwich before picking up another. “Okay. So you know the Bible, right?” I nod. “Well, whenever we were in church and there would be reference to the story of Delilah and Samson, everyone would stare at me. And I mean everyone. Even the freakin’ priest. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now. I prefer Lily.”

“What’s the big deal about that story?” I ask confused. I’m not religious but my mom is. She’d box my ears for not knowing. We were a church going family.

Picking at her sandwich and avoiding my gaze, she answers, “Delilah betrayed Samson. She was basically a nark. She used her sex appeal to her advantage and deceived Samson. She watched while they humiliated him, and that sucks because Samson was a good man. His only crime was falling in love. And she fucked him over…fucked him right up the ass.” She looks up at me, eyes blazing. “Delilah was a gold-digging whore.”

Still confused. “But that’s not you.”

“I know that’s not me. It didn’t stop people from looking at me like I was destined to become someone like her.” She yawns. “Please tell me why I’m here so I can go to bed.”

Since she doesn’t give any appearance of dropping the subject, I figure it’s time to drop the bomb.

“Well, Lily, someone’s trying to kill you.”

Chapter Four

A cell fit for a king

Lily

“What?” I shriek. Shaking, my chest heaves with every heavy breath I take.

Nox looks stunned by my outburst. He stands with his hands outstretched in front of him in a pacifying gesture. “Calm down. You asked, so I told, but you only heard one damn sentence. Let me finish, will ya?”

So many thoughts rush through my head but I can’t seem to voice any of them. I nod and he looks a little more relaxed. “Your father contacted us about a month ago. He asked for protection for your family after someone anonymously sent him a threat. The threat looked false to me so I declined the job, but something didn’t feel right. A few nights ago, I hacked into your father’s email and saw there were other things being sent there. Hate mail and more threats. I immediately saw a pattern regardless of the threats being sent from multiple email addresses. I declined the job because I thought there was nothing to it, but when I saw the other things he hadn’t told me about, I decided to make a snap decision and get y’all out of there quick.” There’s a twang to his voice I hadn’t heard before. “So that’s when we broke into your house, and as you like to call it, kidnapped you.”

I’m stunned speechless. After a few moments silence, I ask quietly, “Why didn’t I know about any of this?”

Nox shrugs. “I assume your dad didn’t want you to worry. I don’t blame him. Women tend to overreact.”

I blink a moment before I screech, “Someone is trying to kill me! I think I have the right to overreact!”

He runs his hands down his face and mutters, “There she goes again.”

Shaking my head in disbelief, I ask, “What exactly were the threats?”

“One threat. Kidnapping and murder of Miss Delilah Flynn. Just one threat made multiple times.” He says this as if he’s reading out of a diner menu. No feeling. No emotion. Just cold.

I’m confused. “Why me? I don’t go out or anything. I’m at home ninety-nine percent of the time. It doesn’t make sense.”

Nox leans his hip against the kitchen counter. “Well, from the past few days surveillance I’ve had you under, it has shown me that your father is more protective of you than your sister. I think that has something to do with it. But I could be wrong.”

He’s right. My dad is a lot more protective of me than of Terah. I never really understood it. When I asked my parents if I could go to college, dad got angry. He said he expected that one of his girls would take over the business and Terah wasn’t interested. She was already at college. I was basically guilt-tripped into doing an internship at Flynn Logistics. I do all my studies externally in the warehouse office and send it off to a training institute to get signed off. It feels like I’m being home schooled.

I whisper, “Are you wrong a lot?” Holding my eyes, he shakes his head. I sigh, “I was afraid of that.” Then I remember something he said and glower at him. “You had me under surveillance?”

He nods. “Yup. Sure did, darlin’. And don’t look at me like that. You never would’ve known if I hadn’t just told you.”

He’s right again. Shit. Folding my arms in front of my chest, I ask, “How do I know I can trust you?”

A small smile lifts the corner of his lips. “You don’t.” My shoulders slump in defeat and he asks seriously, “Have I given you any indication that I mean to harm you? Any indication at all?”

Being my smartass self, my mouth opens before I can think about what I’m about to say. “Well, now, let me think. There was the time when I was minding my own damn business, and I got restrained and kidnapped. Then I was blindfolded and taken to a place I’m not even sure is on a map. Then I was thrown down to my knees while I was being…” I use my fingers to make slow quotation marks, “…protected. Now I’m here being told that I can’t see or talk to my family. Indefinitely. You have no idea of the harm you’ve already done, Nox.”

Although it felt good to get all that off my chest, as soon as I see Nox scowling down at me, I regret my decision to run my mouth. Too late to apologize now. He leans down until we’re almost nose to nose. “I have a mind to tell you exactly what you can do with your thoughts, Delilah.” He smirks when he says my name.

He smells good. My cheeks heat. I try one last plea for tonight. “If you’d just let me speak to my father-”

But he cuts me off. “No.”

My eyes burn with unshed tears and I hate myself for it. I don’t dare blink because they’d be sure to fall.

You’re so weak, woman. Walk it off.

Dipping my chin, I shift from foot to foot. I don’t look up when he says, “I like this situation about as much as you do, Lily. We just gotta make the best of it. I am not a babysitter.” I raise my head at this comment. I’m close to calling him some choice names when he adds, “Not that I’m calling you a baby. Because you’re not. I’ve never had a job like this before, so take it easy on me, okay? We’re both experiencing something new here and it would go much easier for all of us here if we got along. We’re gonna be spending a lot of time together.”

We’re gonna be spending a lot of time together? …Well shit.

His eyes bore into mine, his brow bunched in a way that I know he’s expecting me to say something nasty. If I were more myself, I probably would, too. But right now, I’m so damn tired that sarcasm evades me. That’s pretty damn tired, if you ask me. My eyes are suddenly heavy, too. I puff out a long breath. “Whatever, boss man. Can you please show me where my room is? I need a shower and sleep.”

He steps towards me and reaches for my arm. I flinch back and his brow furrows. I tell him, “Don’t do that. I’m not going to run and I’m sick of being manhandled. Just escort me, please.”

His arm still outstretched, he nods once, and drops it before walking ahead of me. “Follow me.”

Following him up the stairs, I can’t help but look around. All the rooms are open and immaculate. The beds are made, the bathrooms are sparkling, and the windows gleam. This place is beautiful and has such a homey feel to it. I suppose it really doesn’t matter. I’m not fooled. I know what this place is. You can dress a prison cell any way you like, but it’s still a prison cell. Speaking of cells, I need to get my hands on a cell phone and I know Nox has one. Being sly as I can, I ask innocently, “So where do you sleep?”

His eyebrows raise in question. Once I realize how that question could’ve been construed, I flush bright pink but don’t say a thing. His gaze falls to my cheeks and he grins. “I sleep in the west wing with the rest of the guys. You’ll be in the east wing with Boo since she’s the only other woman here. I should warn you, though, that you won’t get much privacy while you’re here. If I see your bedroom door closed, I don’t care if you’re half naked or not, I will open it. The only place you’ll get some consideration is in the bathroom and while you’re in there, you’ll be timed. You’ve been warned. I don’t like closed doors. Locked doors in this house get broken down.”

My heart skips at that statement. Oh, I really don’t like it.

What choice do you have?

I’d say none and then some. When I walk in front of one room in particular, I stop and stare with a gaping mouth. Nox walks ahead of me and up the hall where he announces, “This is your room.”

❮❯