The Gargoyle Gets His Girl

Page 59

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Nick nodded. “That sounds good. I’ll follow you.”

Jarrel clapped Nick on the shoulder. “Good talk.”

She was dying to know what that was all about, but she waited until her mother had shut the guest room door and they were alone.

Willa gave Nick a look. “How do you like that? Not a word about us sharing a room.”

Nick’s odd expression returned. “Your father just tried to free me from you, telling me no creature should be subject to another’s whims. I explained that the bracelet was to protect me while throwing Kyanna off and how Zane had put one on me first and all that.”

Willa snorted. “My mother had pretty much the same conversation with me, except she accused me of keeping you as a sex slave.”

Nick barked out a laugh, then slapped his hand over his mouth, maybe at how loud the sound was. He shook his head as he dropped his hand. “Your parents are all right.”

She nodded and looked at the door. “They’re not bad, are they? The years have changed them for the better, that’s for sure.”

“I’m glad they’re willing to help.”

She laced her arms around him. “I’m done talking about my parents.”

“Is that so?”

She nodded. “Mm-hmm.”

“You want to talk about your plan for this challenge instead?”

“Nothing to talk about. I’m going to go in there and win it. Whatever it is.”

“Willa, there’s got to be something about it you could tell me. I know you have a plan.”

She loosed her arms from around him and stepped back. “You’re right, I do have a plan. But I can’t tell you what it is. You’re just going to have to trust me.”

“Why can’t you tell me?”

“Because Kyanna could force you to tell her what my plans are and I can’t afford for her to know.”

“How would that happen? I’m not wearing her bracelet anymore.”

She stared at him for a second, then grabbed his wrist with a firm grip. “What was your worst childhood fear?”

His eyes rounded for a second, then he blinked and spit out, “Daddy long legs.”

She let go of him. “That’s why I can’t tell you. Bracelet or not, if Kyanna touches you, she can force you to tell her.”

He rubbed his wrist and cursed softly. “You’re right. I sort of forgot you could do that. Damn it. Don’t tell me anything.”

“So you trust me?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sure you don’t like it, but—”

“I did plenty in the military just because I was ordered to. I’m fine with it.” He grinned and pulled her close again. “I’m also all out of subjects. Anything else we need to talk about?”

“Nope. In fact, I don’t want to talk at all.”

He nodded. “Time for that nap, huh?”

She squinted at him. “That’s not exactly what I had in mind.”

He kissed her, soft and short. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we really should rest. We need to be prepared. We have no idea what tomorrow’s going to bring.”

“Which is exactly why resting is the last thing I want to do.” She knew things could go wrong. And if they did, she didn’t want to have any regrets.

His expression shifted to dead-on serious. “You want me to call your mother back here and tell her you’re trying to use me as a sex slave?”

She laughed. “Okay, fine. I’ll rest. But that might mean I’m not sleepy tonight.”

“I’ll take that risk.” He took her hand and tugged her toward the bed. “Come, let’s crash until it’s time to eat.”

But after dinner, the weight of what was about to happen came tumbling down onto Willa like a house falling in on her. She stood in the middle of the guest room wearing one of her mother’s filmy silk sleeping gowns and stared out the window, her damp hair trailing down her back. The shower had felt amazing, but she hadn’t had the patience to dry her hair properly.

Not with all that lay ahead. Outside, the mountainous horizon still held the dusty purple of twilight. Here and there a few bright stars shone through and the dark shapes of birds flitted across the sky.

Nick came in behind her. She didn’t turn. Didn’t need to. She recognized his presence. It comforted her, but not enough to snap her out of the immobility brought on by her impending future.

His hands rested on her shoulders. The faint scent of soap wafted off him, leftover from the shower he’d taken before her. “You okay?”

“What if I fail?” she whispered. “What if I lose the challenge?”

“That’s not going to happen.”

Her eyes were fixed on one bright, burning star. “They’ll probably kill me. Then, once they figure out you’re not under their control anymore, they’ll try to capture you and take you as a slave. Or kill you in the process. They’ll force Shay into a different kind of slavery. Who knows what will happen to my parents?”

He turned her around and cupped her face in his big, solid hands, tipping it up toward him. “I know you’re scared. I would be, too. But you’re not alone in this. You have me and Shay and your parents.”

“I don’t think my parents or Shay are going to be much help if I lose.”

“Then I’ll do the heavy lifting. I’ll make a contingency plan for getting us out of here on the very rare, very slight chance things don’t go your way tomorrow.”

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