Colters woman, p.9
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       Colters Woman, p.9

         Part #1 of Colters Legacy series by Maya Banks
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Page 9


  And there was the fact that she had no desire to leave. She was tired of running, tired of living in fear, but could she trust that she would be safe here? What if she brought Mason to their doorstep?

  Her conversation with Ethan the day before wavered in her mind. The truth was, she could see herself falling in love with them too. Maybe she wasn’t yet. Maybe she was on her way much like Ethan had said.

  She sighed. She should be happy. Instead, she was filled with dread.

  She shook her head, not wanting to get mired down in the muck of her reality. Reaching for the soap, she lathered her body and quickly rinsed. When she was done, she stepped from the water and wrapped a towel around her.

  She went in search of her clothes, unsure of where Ryan and Ethan had put them after their shopping trip yesterday. Her stomach clenched. Had it only been yesterday that she had seen Mason in town?

  Sweat broke out on her brow as sudden realization hit her. He was but a few miles away.

  She sank onto the bed, her breath coming in painful wheezes. It was a full-scale panic attack.

  “Holly? What’s wrong?”

  She looked up to see Ethan standing in the doorway, a look of concern marring his face.

  He hurried over and knelt in front of her. He gently pried her hands apart and curled his fingers around hers.

  “What is it, doll?”

  “Mason’s here,” she croaked. “He’ll find me. ”

  He cupped her chin in his hand and forced her to look at him. “Get dressed and come into the living room. We’ll tell you what we’ve come up with. ”

  She stared at him, daring to hope that maybe they could keep her safe and that she wouldn’t be the cause of their death.

  He stood and kissed the top of her head. “Your clothes are in the top drawer. ”

  He walked out, leaving her alone to dress.

  She rummaged through the drawer and pulled out a shirt and a pair of jeans. To her surprise, she found a package of white cotton underwear and two bras in her size. Ryan must have picked them up at the western store when he was choosing her boots.

  She hurriedly dressed and headed for the living room. She paused at the doorway enjoying the sight of the three men. Ryan was sprawled on the couch, beer in hand. Ethan sat at the computer, aimlessly clicking the mouse. Adam stood by the fire, his stance one of impatience.

  Adam looked up and saw her, his eyes smoldering much like the flames in the hearth.

  Her confidence deserted her. She had the insane urge to turn tail and run back into the bedroom where it was safe. She took one step back, crossing her arms protectively over her chest.

  Adam frowned but didn’t move. Ryan looked up from the couch and waggled one finger at her from around his beer bottle.

  Ethan rose and crossed the room, holding out his hand to her.

  “Come on over. We’ve got a lot to discuss,” he said as he pulled her further into the living room.

  She eased down onto the couch, inches from Ryan’s outstretched feet. She sensed this was the point of no return. They wanted her to stay, and she would have to decide whether to listen to her heart or do everything in her power to keep them from harm.

  The weight of the decision pressed down on her like a sandbag.

  “It’s time to talk,” Adam said. He shoved his hands into his pockets and propped the heel of one boot on the hearth behind him.

  She glanced at Ethan and Ryan, gauging their reaction. Ethan looked attentive. Ryan’s eyes were guarded. No emotion shone on his face.

  “We’ve talked to Cal Davis, a lawyer friend of ours in Denver. He can file the necessary papers for your divorce,” Adam said.

  Her heart sped up, thumping painfully in her chest. She opened her mouth to speak, but her mouth went dry.

  To her surprise, Ryan swung around, planting his feet on the floor. He reached over and tucked her hand in his. The gesture comforted her.

  She glanced at him, trying to get a read on his thoughts. Did he still think she didn’t want to be free of her husband? After everything that had happened last night?

  He stared back at her, not budging in the least. He was stubborn. Well, so was she. She glared defiantly at him, daring him to voice his doubts.

  A reluctant smile tugged at his lips.

  “Well, Holly,” he said lazily. “What’s it going to be? Asshole husband or take a chance on three men who’ll do everything they can to take care of you?”

  “It’s not that simple,” she said angrily.

  Ryan tipped a finger under her chin and stared directly into her eyes. “Yes. It is. ”

  She stood up, wrapping her arms around her waist. “I—I care a lot about you. All of you,” she said, sweeping an arm out to encompass all three men. “Don’t you see? I couldn’t bear it if something happened to any of you because of me. ”

  “Baby, listen to me,” Adam said, turning her to face him. “If you believe nothing else of us, believe this. We will not let that bastard get to you. ”

  “It’s not me I’m worried about!”

  She wanted to scream in frustration. Why couldn’t they understand?

  “We told you we’d take care of you,” Ryan said calmly. “If something happened to us, we couldn’t take care of you. Therefore, by making you the promise that we’ll protect you, you can be damned sure no pencil-necked bastard is going to touch us. ”

  “You do have a way with words,” Ethan said.

  The absolute conviction in Ryan’s voice made her pause.

  “The question is, do you have that kind of faith in us?” Ryan said, raising his brow questioningly at her.

  He’d turned it back on her. If she persisted with her protests, she would be demonstrating a lack of faith in them. Damn it. What was she supposed to do?

  Adam caught her waist and pulled her against his chest. “Answer one question. If there was no Mason. If you weren’t married. Would you stay?”

  She nodded before she thought better of her response.

  “Then it’s settled,” Adam said, satisfaction glimmering in his eyes. “We’ll tell Cal to proceed with the divorce action, and we’ll come up with a plan to make sure the bastard doesn’t come within a square mile of you. ”

  She opened her mouth to protest but he shushed her with his finger.

  “Trust us, baby. ”

  She sighed. The thing was, she did trust them. It was insane. She’d only known them a few days, and yet she trusted them more than she’d ever trusted another living soul.

  “Okay,” she said quietly.

  Adam bent his head and kissed her hungrily. His hand shoved into her hair and kneaded the back of her neck as his tongue delved into her mouth.

  When he pulled away, she was breathless.

  “Well, I must say, this is a surprise,” a feminine voice drawled.

  Holly whirled around to see a tall redhead in a cowboy hat and wearing a badge.

  Adam swore. “Damn it, Lacey, don’t you know how to knock?

  Chapter Eight

  Ryan grasped Holly’s wrist and shoved her behind him. His face darkened into a thundercloud, and Adam stepped forward in an effort to defuse a potentially explosive situation. He knew Ryan didn’t like Lacey at all, and if she posed a threat to Holly, Adam wasn’t sure what Ryan would do.

  “What the hell are you doing here, and what do you want?” Adam demanded.

  Lacey raised a brow in surprise at his vehemence.

  “The question is what is she doing here?” Lacey said with a nod in Holly’s direction. “Unless I’m mistaken, she bears an uncanny resemblance to the woman on a missing person’s report lying on my desk. ”

  Fuck, fuck, fuck. Why did Lacey have to show up now of all times?

  “Her husband claims she was abducted,” Lacey continued. “What does the lady have to say about that?”

  “I wasn’t kidnapped,” Holly said hotly.

  Ryan shoved her back
behind him and glared harder at Lacey.

  “As you can see, she’s perfectly fine,” Ryan said icily. “I’m sure your services are required elsewhere. They aren’t here. ”

  Lacey flinched. “You never did like me. ” She shook her head. “But that’s not the point. The point is I have a worried husband searching for his missing wife. Now if she’s here of her own free will, that’s her business, but I need her to come to the station with me and give me a statement. Away from any undue influence,” she said looking pointedly at the three brothers.

  “Over my dead body,” Adam growled.

  “She’s not going anywhere near her bastard husband,” Ethan spoke up.

  Lacey sighed and moved her hand to rest on her hip, mere inches from her gun. “You guys aren’t going to make this easy I see. ”

  “I’ll go,” Holly said softly, moving in front of Ryan.

  Adam’s chest clenched at the blatant fear in her eyes.

  “No, baby. You’re not going. ”

  She turned troubled eyes on him. “I won’t cause you any trouble. I’ll go. ”

  “Fuck that,” Ryan said. “Lacey can take your damn statement here. ”

  “Look, I don’t know what the hell is going on here, but I need to hear Mrs. Bardwell’s version. One that isn’t colored by three huge-ass men glowering over her shoulder. She’ll need to come with me. Don’t make me force the issue, Adam. You know I don’t want to have to do that. ”

  “What the fuck is your problem, Lacey?” Ethan interjected, surprising Adam with the anger in his voice.

  “I’m doing my job,” she said in an even voice. “You lied to me when I asked if you’d seen her. I have a very important man raising all sorts of hell in my town looking for his missing wife. His new wife I might add. Now I find her here. She looks frightened out of her mind, so you’ll have to excuse me if I want to hear from her own mouth what the hell is going on. ”

  “It’s not us she’s frightened of,” Ryan pointed out.

  “Fine, then she can come with me and explain,” Lacey said.

  Holly sucked in her breath, trying valiantly not to panic. She couldn’t allow the brothers to get into trouble because they were protecting her. And it was time she stood up for herself. Adam had said his friend could handle her divorce. She would have to go with this Lacey person and explain as much as she dared. Otherwise all hell might break loose.

  She moved toward the tall woman, determined not to be intimidated. Ryan caught at her arm and tried to drag her back.

  She turned to him, trying to keep the fear from her eyes. “I have to do this,” she said.

  “We’ll go with you,” Ryan said.

  She shook her head. “No, you can’t. This is something I have to do. ”

  Uncertainty flashed in Ryan’s eyes, and for a brief moment, she could swear she saw fear. Then his expression hardened into an impenetrable mask.

  “I’ll come back,” she said softly.

  “I don’t like it,” Ethan broke in.

  “Her husband goes nowhere near her,” Adam bit out. “You hear me, Lacey? You get your damn statement, but you keep that bastard away from her. I’m charging you with her safety. ”

  Holly shivered at the hardness in his voice. Lacey blanched but nodded.

  Hand on her holster, Lacey dipped her head toward the door. “After you, ma’am. ”

  Holly turned to look at the three brothers, a sudden surge of uncertainty gripping her. She didn’t want to leave the safe haven she’d found here.

  Before she could follow Lacey, Adam stepped forward and hauled her against him. His lips found hers, pressing hungrily against her as if infusing his strength into her.

  Lacey cleared her throat by the door, and Holly turned to leave. She stepped into the cold and shivered. She hadn’t thought to get her coat.

  She trekked to the Jeep Cherokee, her boots crunching in the snow. Lacey gestured toward the passenger seat before stalking around to the driver’s side.

  Holly slid into the warm interior, grateful Lacey had left the engine running. She glanced out the window as Lacey backed out of the drive, a knot swelling in her throat as they drifted further away from the cabin.

  * * *

  “We can’t just let her go!” Ethan said.

  Ryan stood where Holly had left him, staring broodingly at the door.

  Adam scrubbed a hand through his hair and wondered what the hell they had done. “I don’t trust that bastard as far as I could throw him. I vote we ride into town and keep an eye on things. If she needs us, we’ll be a lot more use than if we sit here on our fucking hands. ”

  Ethan nodded his agreement.

  Adam looked at Ryan who still hadn’t moved. “You coming, bro?”

  “She left,” he said in a strained voice. “How do we know she’ll want to come back?”

  Even as the statement angered Adam, he knew Ryan was voicing his fears.

  “She left to protect us,” Ethan snarled. “It’s our job to protect her. ”

  “Let’s go, we’re wasting time,” Adam said. He had no desire to mediate a fight between his younger siblings.

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