Fiance by Friday(7)

By: Catherine Bybee


“What the hell are you doing? Trying to get yourself killed?”

Unable to form any words, she stood there shaking.

Neil moved toward her, his foot crushing the remainder of the coffee cup on the ground. He glanced down and swore under his breath.

He kicked his car door shut and lifted her in his arms before she found her voice.

“Put me down.”

He marched across the street, ignoring her request.

He plowed through the front door of her home like a linebacker who took down three-hundred-pound men.

“Put me down, Neil.”

Storming through the house, he placed her on the kitchen counter and brought her aching leg over to the sink. He turned on the water, nearly ripping the faucet from the sink. With a gentleness she hadn’t expected, he removed her soaked slipper and splashed cool water over her leg.

“What’s all the noise?” Karen shrugged into a robe as she walked into the room. “Neil?” she asked, obviously surprised to see him there.

Gwen winced as Neil brushed over the glass lodged in the cut on her leg. “I-I dropped a coffee cup.”

Karen moved from one side of Neil to the other, attempting to get a look at Gwen’s leg.

“Ouch!” Gwen squealed.

“Hold still.” Neil’s large fingers passed over the embedded glass again, working it free.

“That hurts.”

Neil huffed and continued probing her skin.

Karen moved away. “I think you’ll live,” she said as she found a cup and filled it with coffee. “What are you doing here anyway?”

Gwen met Neil’s hazel eyes, which changed color with his mood. As usual, Neil didn’t offer an explanation for his appearance. He focused on her leg again. The cut was superficial but the hot coffee left an angry shade of red in its wake.

“Always nice talking to you, Neil,” Karen said with a laugh. “Gwen?”

“I…” She cleared her throat. “I left the back door open. Neil was checking on us.”

Karen sipped her coffee. “Oh.” With her comment, Karen left the room huddled over her cup of coffee.

After turning off the water, Neil cradled Gwen’s calf in his big hand and gently blotted her skin dry with a paper towel.

“You’ll need medicated cream on this,” he told her.

“We have some upstairs.”

He stopped touching her injury but kept his hand on her ankle. Without looking at her face, he said, “Don’t sneak up on me.”

Gwen would swear his voice trembled, but that would show some sign of weakness, and Neil was never weak.

“You don’t have to tell me twice. Lesson learned.” She wouldn’t soon forget the hard expression on his face as he drew his gun.

He hesitated when he let her go and turned toward the back door. He closed and locked it with a loud click.

Without any other words, he left the room and the house through the front door, leaving Gwen to stare after him.



Neil waited until he was around the corner from her home to stop on a side street.

He gripped the wheel until his knuckles were white. His heart hadn’t stopped racing since her knock on the car door. The absolute look of horror and fear that raced over Gwen’s face when he turned his gun on her would live with him forever. His finger had been poised over the trigger. One squeeze and he would have…He shook his head, banished the thought.

How the fuck had he fallen asleep? Not seen her approach?

He was getting soft and when that happened people got hurt. Killed.

If something happened to Gwen on his watch…and it was always his watch…he’d never be able to live with it.

With one press of a button, he had one of his men, the ones he called on when he needed backup, on the phone. “I’m going dark for a couple of hours,” he told Dillon when he answered the phone. “I need your eyes on Tarzana and Malibu.”

“You got it, Boss.”

Neil hung up and turned off the video feeds. He needed to regroup. The only way to achieve that was hard, physical work.

He ran on the treadmill for a solid hour instead of his usual thirty minutes. He doubled his repetitions with his weights, added twenty more pounds, and pushed his muscles past their limits. After a shower, he stretched out naked on his bed…the one he seldom slept in…and closed his eyes.

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