There’s something about prosecuting attorney Elle McCoy that Deputy Gabe Dawson just can’t get enough of. Even with Gabe’s family legacy in law enforcement and promising career, Elle’s smart, sassy rejection of all his charm makes Gabe want her even more.
But Gabe’s confidence is shaken when he’s shot on the steps of the courthouse, protecting Elle from a terrorist intent on revenge. Worse, Elle isn’t out of danger yet. But as they race to counter the terrorist’s next move, Gabe determines to prove to Elle—and himself—that he’s a man worthy of her.
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Gabe started awake, throwing off the covers and bolting to his feet. Pain shot up and down his leg as soon as he made contact with the floor, making him groan through clenched teeth and follow it up with a juicy curse.
“I’ll just come back later.”
His gaze shot up to see Elle standing inside the doorway, gorgeous eyes wide, her peaches-and-cream skin flushed an alluring shade of pink that deepened as he gaped at her. When she dropped her gaze, turning first left, then right, as if forgetting where the door was, he suddenly realized his bare ass was hanging out of the back of his hospital gown giving her quite an eyeful.
“No, that’s okay,” he said in a rush. “Come on in.”
He straightened quickly, wincing with the sudden movement, belatedly realizing his wound apparently hadn’t affected other areas of his anatomy and he was sporting some serious morning wood, which was pitching one helluva tent beneath the thin cotton gown.
He cursed again and dropped down on the bed, throwing the blanket over his lower body in one quick motion and trying unsuccessfully to suppress another groan. He squeezed his eyes shut for a second until the wave of agony passed. When he opened them again, he was surprised to see Elle standing before him, her gaze searching his face.
“Are you okay?” she asked, her hand coming up to cup his jaw. The gentle warmth of her palm sent a chill through him, making him shudder. Her hand immediately dropped away at the response, mistakenly thinking her touch was unwanted when, in fact, he desperately he craved it. “I’ll get the nurse.”
When she reached for the call button hanging near the head of the bed, he gently grasped her wrist and drew her hand away. “Leave it. I’m fine.”
She swallowed and dropped her gaze briefly to their hands, looking like she wanted to bolt and rid herself of his touch. He almost released her, saddened that she found the contact so unwanted. But then he felt her pulse quicken beneath his fingertips.
So maybe it wasn’t revulsion she was feeling after all…
When her gaze drifted back up to his, he decided to test his new theory and let his thumb slowly smooth over her skin. “How are you?” he asked softly.
She gave him a tremulous smile and, God help him, he damned near dragged her into his arms and kissed her. But he managed to restrain himself as she said, “Shaken up a bit. But no lasting harm.”
He narrowed his eyes at that, not believing her for a second. “You sure about that, honey?”
“I’ll be okay,” she assured him, nodding a little, her lips pressed together as if she was trying to convince herself of the truth of her words. “It’s just…” She sighed. “I almost died yesterday.”
There it was. The truth they both needed to face. Elle was no fool. Hell, she was brilliant as far as he was concerned. She must’ve known as certainly as he did how close they’d both come to losing their lives the previous day. So there was no denying her words, no use trying to convince her she was mistaken.
“Yeah,” he said, still caressing her pulse point. “You sleep at all last night?”
She shook her head, her eyes beginning to glisten with unshed tears. “No. All I could see when I closed my eyes was—” Her words broke off when her voice hitched with emotion.
He slipped his hand into the thick waves of hair at the base of her neck and pulled her toward him. Every inch of him—especially those hidden under the blanket—longed to kiss her, but at the last moment, he pressed his lips to her forehead in a lingering kiss.
He didn’t know what to say to make her feel better. It wasn’t like that time when Todd Jenkins had broken up with her a week before the homecoming dance and Gabe had hinted to Chris that maybe he should ask her. Or the time her biggest rival was made editor of the school yearbook and he’d broken into her locker before school to leave her flowers (anonymously, of course). Or the time he’d given Aaron Maguire a fat lip when that asshole had gotten a little grabby with Elle in spite of her saying no loud and clear. Or the time he’d driven two hours to the college she was attending to fix her car on the sly because her aunt Charlotte had mentioned that it wasn’t running and Elle refused to ask for the money to fix it.
He’d been secretly looking out for Elle for as long as he had known her, never letting on that he was the one, never asking for anything in return. Knowing she was safe and happy was enough. But he was at a loss on how to comfort her this time, when they were very literally face to face.
He’d never known how to deal with a woman when she was upset. He supposed he got that from his father, who wasn’t exactly the most nurturing guy. Normally, Gabe bailed when things got serious enough with a woman that she was actually sharing emotions. Okay, to be honest, he usually bailed way before that. But seeing Elle looking lost and afraid brought out a protective urge in him that he’d never really experienced with anyone else—not to this extent, anyway.
He could lie and say she’d be fine in a few days. But the truth was, it might be something that haunted her far longer. God knew he had plenty of nightmares—some of them walked and talked and dropped by for a visit in his hospital room in the middle of the night.
Elle’s hand came up to rest lightly on his chest, and he felt her breath quicken as tension began to build in the air between them. “Thank you for saving my life,” she whispered. She pulled back enough that their faces were just inches apart. And for a moment, he thought she might actually kiss him. The look in her eyes told him she was considering it, which shocked the hell out of him…