The music from the small band flowed lightly around Kerry and the rest of the wedding guests. She sipped the cool, crisp champagne as she watched Samantha dance with her new husband. She could feel their happiness mixed with the late summer breeze. Her gaze drifted over the small group of guests gathered around the bride and groom. They all had that same serene look while they watched Malcolm and Samantha share their first dance as husband and wife. He towered over her as he twirled her around the dance floor and the sound of her laughter peppered the air. The two of them hadn’t taken their eyes off each other for one second. If Kerry didn’t know any better, she’d swear they were reading each other’s minds. She chuckled quietly and sipped her champagne from the delicate crystal flute. The guests were limited to only thirty or so close friends and family members. Her own parents had sent their regrets from Europe, which was something of a relief. Kerry could only handle them in small doses and didn’t want their chilly demeanor ruining such a beautiful day for Sam.
“May I have this dance?”
The deep voice rolled over her like sudden thunder in the distance. She jumped with a yelp and splashed champagne onto her deep red satin gown. “Shit,” she hissed under her breath. Kerry brushed at the droplets which were now making dark stains on her dress. She shot an irritated glance at Malcolm’s best man, Dante. “I don’t dance.” Something about this guy threw her off balance. Kerry prided herself on her ability to stay in control and this guy rattled her.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I’d have that effect on you.”
The amusement in his voice made her want to punch him square in the mouth. Or kiss him. She glared at him through narrowed eyes and put on her most stuck up and obnoxious tone, hoping she could frighten him away. “Don’t flatter yourself, Tarzan. I was startled. That’s all.”
He had moved in next to her without a sound. How long had he been standing there? He didn’t go away. Instead, he moved in closer, just a breath away from her. She felt the warmth of his body along her bare arm and all the little hairs stood on end. She was terrified he’d touch her and at the same time worried he wouldn’t. She quickly turned her attention back to Malcolm and Sam, trying to ignore him, but failing miserably.
He was a difficult man to ignore. At five foot ten, she was usually taller than most men and this guy towered over her, even in her Jimmy Choos. He was massive, well over six and a half feet tall, a solid wall of muscle, and had a handsome, masculine face with the most enormous amber eyes she’d ever seen. His thick auburn hair was almost the exact same color as his eyes. Not that she’d noticed him or anything. Kerry scolded herself. There was absolutely no point in getting all hot and bothered over some guy she’d never be able to touch. I must be the oldest living virgin that isn’t officially a nun. She drained what was left of her drink. Her goal was to be as horrible to him as possible and get him to go away. Dante smiled as though he knew she was doing her best to upset him. She could feel his gaze wander down the length of her body.
“You’ll dance with me. Maybe not today,” he whispered into her ear. “But eventually… you and I will dance.”
Kerry turned to give the arrogant bastard a piece of her mind but he was gone. Vanished, it seemed, into thin air. Her breath came quickly and her eyes darted around the tent. Her body still quivered from the soft whisper, laden with innuendo. She was horrified that everyone in the tent would see how he’d thrown her entire body into overdrive. Her cheeks burned with anger, fear, and lust, a potent combination. Kerry straightened her back in an effort to calm her quaking limbs as a welcome voice wafted over her.
“Well now, missy. I hope you’re going to keep coming to visit me even though our girl is married off.”
Kerry let out the breath she’d been holding and smiled at Sam’s grandmother, Nonie. “C’mon Nonie, you’re not getting rid of me that easily.” Kerry placed the empty flute on a passing waiter’s tray and quickly scooped up a fresh glass. Perhaps a little more booze would calm her nerves.
“Well, you know you’ve always been like a granddaughter to me. You and Samantha are practically sisters. You can’t blame an old lady for worrying.” She smiled up at Kerry with twinkling eyes that reminded her of the summer ocean.
“Well, since Sam and Malcolm aren’t even going on a honeymoon and they’re living right next door to you… I don’t think you’ll be that lonely.” Kerry took a fresh swig of the champagne and hoped she didn’t sound as jealous as she felt. “I have to leave tomorrow for a photo shoot in New Orleans, but I’ll be back after that. To be very honest,” she said with a sigh, “I’m getting really burnt out and sick of traveling.”
“You’re going on a shoot, already? Well now, don’t you think you’re jumping back into things awfully fast?” Nonie’s voice hovered somewhere between panic and anger; Kerry couldn’t quite tell which one was going to win out. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Nonie, so she kept her eyes trained on the happy couple.
“I’m fine, Nonie. Sheesh, did you and Sam go the same worry-wort school? I’m not in any more danger from AJ. My cousin was obsessed with Sam, remember? I just got in his way. He’s long gone from here, anyway. Every cop in Rhode Island has his picture. Westerly is a small town. Millie’s even got his picture up at the diner with a big ‘DANGER’ sign plastered above it. I’d be more worried about Samantha,” she said with a nod.
Nonie’s mouth set in a grim line. “Samantha will be fine. She’s stronger than you think and besides, she has Malcolm. I worry about you, Kerry. You shouldn’t be traveling by yourself. You just never know what can happen. I would think you’ve learned that as a result of recent events.”
Kerry rolled her eyes at the scolding tone and turned to face Nonie. She looked into her worry-filled eyes set in a soft, wrinkled face and any irritation she felt melted away with the ocean breeze. Kerry had the overwhelming urge to scoop the old woman up in a hug but knew the cost would be too great. Instead she swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat and turned quickly to face the calm, blue sea.
Nonie and Sam were the only two people in the world she really loved and she’d almost lost them both because of AJ. He’d been completely obsessed with Samantha and had coerced Kerry into luring her into his sick trap. Her mind drifted to that awful night. She had fought back as much as she could, but he’d overpowered her. She was disgusted with herself. If she had touched him before that, just once, she would’ve seen what he was up to. She would’ve seen through the façade to the evil underneath, but she’d been too weak. Her stomach roiled at the memory of her cowardice.
Samantha’s bright laughter tumbled through the air and brought a smile to her lips. Nonie was right. Sam would be fine. If it weren’t for Malcolm, AJ would’ve killed them both. He’d scared the little worm off and there’d been no trace of him in the weeks following the attack. It was as though he’d vanished from the face of the earth. Samantha had been hurt because of her and she would never forgive herself for that.
Nonie stood silently by her side as they watched the waves roll gently onto the sand. Kerry wanted to tell Nonie and Sam the truth, but was terrified at what they would think. They were all that she had and she couldn’t afford to lose them. What was she supposed to say? Hey, guess what, I have visions when I touch people. Oh, by the way, it’s so painful I want to vomit. How about a hug? They would think she was insane, just like her twisted cousin AJ. She cringed. If she lost them, then she would really be alone. Kerry pulled the burgundy wrap tightly around her as the cool ocean breeze picked up. She shivered, knowing it wasn’t from the wind. Taking a deep breath, she finally broke the silence.
“I’ll be careful, Nonie. Listen, I’m going to New Orleans, not Iraq. I’ll be perfectly safe.”
“Yes, you will.” Samantha’s all-too-chipper tone came over Kerry’s other shoulder. “Malcolm and I have hired someone to make certain of it.”
Kerry narrowed her eyes and looked warily at Samantha. “What are you babbling about? Has marriage made you lose your senses already?”
“Oh, I make her crazy. There’s no doubt about that,” Malcolm said softly. He stood behind Sam with his arms wrapped around her waist and nibbled on her ear.
“Malcolm,” Sam giggled. “Cut it out. This is serious.” Kerry rolled her eyes but couldn’t resist smiling at them and fought the urge to look around for Dante. “You two are gonna frighten the guests. Get a room. Jeez.”
“What my lovely bride is trying to tell you, is that we’ve taken measures to be sure you’re kept safe on this next trip. It’s only been a few weeks since the unfortunate events of late. We just want to be certain that you have an extra measure of security. That’s all.”
Kerry eyed the three of them one at a time. Each of their faces held steely resolve and she saw there was no point in arguing. “I can see that I’m being totally ganged up on. Aren’t I?”
“Yes!” Samantha wriggled out of Malcolm’s embrace, popped up on her toes and planted a quick kiss on Kerry’s cheek. The wolf image whisked fleetingly through Kerry’s mind, leaving as quickly as it came. Kerry shook her head as Malcolm led Samantha back out to the dance floor. “It better not be some crotchety old cop or something,” she shouted after them.
“I’m not crotchety or a cop.” Dante’s deep, male voice rolled over her. Instantly she was aware of his body behind hers. So close. Too close. Kerry held her breath and whipped around to face him.
“No way!” She placed her hands firmly on her hips and glared up at him defiantly.
“Inferno Securities has the highest reputation. We’ve provided personal security for kings and queens. I’m sure I can handle a princess like you.” Dante delivered a wicked grin and remained stone still, unwilling to retreat. He smiled as her deep brown eyes flashed angrily back at him. He might be there to protect her, but little did she know, she was the one who would be saving him.