Jimmy stared at the door to the
bathroom, trying like hell to convince himself he didn’t really want
He hated to see her hurt. Wanted to wrap his arms around her and pull
close, let her take comfort from him.
do know you’re lying to yourself, right?
they’d met, he’d been attracted to Merri. She’d come to visit Mal when
first started working for them. Before Jimmy or his brother and sister
had come to investigate them.
something about her that drew him, some spark that lit when he looked
thought it was because they were kindred spirits. Both geeks with way
brain power to be anything other than outcasts in normal society.
he knew that
spark. He’d been burned by it before. He’d failed Barbara, and Merri,
had a lot in common with Barbara. Maybe—
turned off the shower and now he heard her sobbing.
the bathroom door, he had the urge to break it down, grab her in his
tried to tell
himself it wasn’t because of who she was but what she was—a girl in
pain. He’d held Janey through countless bouts of
tears over scraped knees and hurt feelings.
tears made his gut clench. He had to know what was going on. Needed to
Didn’t want to examine that too closely, but there it was.
opened, he wasn’t quick enough to get out of the way and Merri barreled
straight into him. He wrapped his arms around her before she could get
her slim shoulders shake and her body tremble. But she didn’t move
Instead, she surprised the hell out of him by twining her arms around
and holding on.
felt so damn
soft. So small and fragile. And in so much pain.
do this. He could comfort her but not get involved. It’d be best for
for several minutes. Jimmy smoothed his hands down her back, letting
fingers pet that soft, damp braid, while Merri’s fingers curled into
of his shirt as she continued to sob.
against him, he was glad he’d worn jeans so he couldn’t feel her bare
against his. He didn’t even realize for the first few minutes that she
wearing a bra. Then he quickly forced that thought out of his mind,
concentrating instead on the ferocity of her sobs.
if her heart was breaking and he had no idea how long it took her to
enough to hear him but finally he managed to ask the question.
head, he spoke softly, close to her ear. “What’s going on, Merri? Tell
need someone to talk to and I’m here.”
took a deep,
shuddering breath. For a few seconds, he was pretty sure she wasn’t
answer. Then she turned her head away from his chest so she could speak.
going to be
help his laugh. “Oh, no way, hon. You’re way too smart. Hell, the NSA
let you leave if you wanted to.”
made a rough
sound in the throat and pulled away, though her arms trembled as if she
want to let go. If he was honest, he hadn’t been ready to let her go.
hands in his jeans pockets so he couldn’t reach for her and pull her
as she stared at the floor and took another step back. “I’m glad you
pretty legs. The top of her head didn’t reach his chin, but her legs
go on and on.
sounded like a really good idea right now. Before he embarrassed
why don’t you finish getting dressed then come out into the kitchen and
talk about this. You’ll see. It’s not as bad as you think.”
enough for her to nod then forced himself to back out of the room and
wanted to bang his head against the marble countertop a couple times.
awhile since he’d fallen this hard, this fast, for a woman, but he
mistake it for anything else. And he was old enough to know these
would bite him on the ass if he let them.