Colters woman, p.21
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       Colters Woman, p.21
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         Part #1 of Colters Legacy series by Maya Banks
Page 21


  “I hurt now,” she said wryly.

  Adam reached down with a washcloth and gently began to clean the cut on her hip.

  She turned troubled eyes on him. “You think it was him, don’t you?”

  He didn’t pretend to misunderstand. “Yeah, baby, I do. ”

  She sank lower in the tub, her shoulders hunched in defeat. “He could have killed Ryan and Ethan. ”

  “He could have killed you,” Adam growled.

  “I couldn’t stand for anything to happen to one of you,” she said.

  “And we couldn’t stand for anything to happen to you. Now come on, I’ll dry you off and put you to bed. ”

  He lifted her from the tub and wrapped a big fluffy towel around her. When they left the bathroom, Ryan caught Holly in his arms and hugged her tightly.

  “You scared me,” Ryan said gruffly.

  Holly stretched on tiptoe and curled her arms around Ryan’s neck. She felt incredibly safe in his arms, like nothing could touch her.

  “Make love to me,” she whispered.

  “I don’t want to hurt you,” Ryan said against her ear.

  “You’ll be gentle,” she said with absolute conviction. She knew of anyone, these men would never hurt her. “I need you. ”

  “Come to bed,” he said, tugging her forward.

  She went willingly and allowed him to remove the towel that covered her body. He pulled back the covers and gestured for her to get in. She nearly groaned aloud as the soft linens enveloped her.

  She glanced up to see Adam and Ethan standing beside Ryan. Ryan shrugged out of his shirt and climbed in beside her. Adam walked around to the other side of the bed and sank down behind her. Ethan sprawled across the end of the bed, propping himself up on his elbow.

  They weren’t going to make love to her. Even as a teeny bit of disappointment tugged at her, fatigue settled in. She burrowed against Ryan’s hard chest and sighed in contentment as his strong arms curled around her.

  Warm lips sent a shiver up her body as Adam gently kissed her bruised leg.

  “Go to sleep, baby,” he murmured. “We’ll be right here. ”

  She closed her eyes, reveling in their warmth and strength. She couldn’t allow herself to think about what could have happened today. As much as she feared the decision to stay with the brothers, she knew she couldn’t live without them.

  But what if her staying was what brought them harm?

  Chapter Twenty

  “We could have lost her today,” Adam said. Anger still surged hotly through his system. He wanted to kill someone. With his bare hands.

  He turned to stare at his brothers. “We can’t stay here. We can’t protect her here in the city. It’s too open. ”

  “I agree,” Ryan said in a steely voice. “We should get back home. ”

  The three brothers paced the living room of the suite like caged predators. Holly slept a few feet away in the bedroom, the door ajar so they could hear if she wakened.

  “The question is, what are we going to do about her husband?” Ethan said.

  “We protect Holly and wait for Cal to do his job,” Adam said.

  Ryan scrubbed through his hair impatiently. “Something has to be done. We can’t sit around with our thumbs up our asses. You and I both know this isn’t over. ”

  “I’m well aware of that,” Adam said, trying to curtail his irritation. He knew Ryan was as worried as he was. “We go home and keep our guard up. He’s at a disadvantage on our turf. No one knows those mountains better than we do. When we’re out here in the open, we’re little better than sitting ducks. ”

  Ethan nodded in agreement. “I saw something in Holly’s eyes I didn’t like tonight. More than fear. It was the knowledge that something she did could have harmed us. I don’t want her thinking that way. ”

  “She didn’t do anything,” Ryan snarled.

  Ethan held his hands up. “I didn’t say she did, Ryan. Back off. I just know what she’s thinking, and I don’t like it. She thinks she’s the reason for all of this. ”

  “Enough,” Adam said. “The important thing is we get Holly back to the cabin and make damn sure one of us is with her at all times. We don’t want to do anything that could complicate a divorce. As soon as it’s final, then we can figure out the best way to deal with the asshole. ”

  A sound from Holly’s room called a halt to the conversation.

  “I’ll go,” Ryan said. Before Adam or Ethan could respond, Ryan strode across the room.

  “He loves her,” Ethan said quietly.

  Adam nodded, satisfaction filling his chest. Getting close to Ryan was as hard as peeling a pit bull off your ass, but once Ryan allowed someone in, he embraced them wholeheartedly. And he was fiercely protective of those he loved.

  “He’ll watch over her well,” Adam said.

  “We all will,” Ethan corrected.

  Adam checked his watch. Two A. M. But he wasn’t going to sleep much tonight. If it weren’t for the fact Holly needed to rest, he’d head them all out now and get out of town. Back to their cabin.

  “Why don’t you get some rest?” Ethan offered. “I’m wide-awake. I’ll hang out here and make sure everything stays quiet. ”

  Adam expelled his breath in a long whoosh. “All right. I doubt I’ll sleep, but I’ll kick back for a few hours. We’ll drive home in the morning. ”

  Adam shuffled into the bedroom. He glanced over to see Ryan wrapped around Holly, their legs entwined. Ryan’s hand rested possessively on Holly’s hip, his fingers splayed out over the curve of her ass.

  Ryan opened his eyes and stared at Adam from an angle. Adam lifted his brow in silent question. Ryan nodded, signaling all was well with Holly. Adam shucked his boots and jeans and quietly crawled into bed on the other side of Holly.

  She stirred restlessly beside him, scooting her backside into his stomach. He kissed her bare shoulder then nuzzled his face around her hair before relaxing onto the pillow.

  But when he closed his eyes, all he saw was the car hitting Holly. Over and over. His heart raced and a knot grew in his throat. How close they’d come to losing her.

  He’d been lax, they all had, but it wouldn’t happen again. He’d sworn to protect Holly from the moment she’d appeared in their lives. And already he’d failed her.

  * * *

  Holly eased out of the bed, wincing as her leg bore the full brunt of her weight. She contorted her body, looking down at the dark purple bruise and the tender gash that slanted diagonally from her hip.

  Warped amusement burbled up. Her first thought had been she felt like she’d been hit by a car. At least now she had good reference for the old cliché.

  She stretched and rotated her shoulder. She felt old and decrepit, as stove up as a ninety-year-old woman. But at least she was alive. No thanks to Mason.

  She limped toward the bathroom, wondering where the guys were. The digital clock on the bedside table told her it was early. She carefully dressed, brushed her teeth then ran a brush through her hair. She still looked like hell, but at least she felt marginally better.

  A noise at the door caused her to look up. Ryan stood in the doorway to the bathroom, staring intently at her.

  “I thought I heard you. How are you feeling?” he asked.

  She smiled. “Stiff and sore, but considering the circumstances, it could be a lot worse, so I’m grateful. ”

  Warring emotions swirled in Ryan’s eyes. Anger, concern, and what looked like fear. She put down her brush and walked silently into his arms. She wrapped herself around him, hugging him tightly.

  “I’m okay, Ryan. Really. ”

  Strong arms nearly squeezed the life out of her. Against her cheek, his heart thudded in his chest.

  “I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to you,” he said hoarsely.

  She leaned back, tilting her head up to look at him. “But nothing did,” she said lightly.

bsp; He cupped her cheek in his hand then leaned in to kiss her.

  “I love you,” he murmured against her lips.

  She opened her mouth to respond, but the words stuck in her throat. Instead, she kissed him back, allowing their tongues to mingle and swirl.

  He pulled away then rested his forehead on hers, their noses and mouths barely an inch away. “I haven’t felt that kind of fear since I left Iraq,” he admitted.

  She reached up and tangled her hand in his hair, smoothing it over his ears. She bumped and rubbed her nose to his playfully. Then she kissed his lips. “Let’s put it behind us and go home,” she said.

  Fire ignited in his eyes. “Home sounds damn good to me. Adam and Ethan have already packed. ”

  “Let me get the rest of my things then,” she said.

  “You go on out and let the others know you’re okay. I’ll finish packing for you,” he offered.

  She smiled and ran her hand over his cheek once more. He caught her hand and kissed each fingertip before allowing her to pull it away.

  She left the bathroom smiling. Not even the pain and stiffness in her hip could overshadow the happiness she felt. When she entered the living area of the suite, Adam and Ethan both looked up from where they sat.

  Ethan stood and met her halfway, enfolding her into his arms. “How are you feeling today?”

  “I’m okay, just a little sore. ”

  He urged her over to where Adam sat, and she curled onto the couch between them.

  “Sorry to cut our trip short, baby, but I think it’s best if we head home this morning,” Adam said, regret creasing his brow.

  “I’m ready to go home,” she said firmly.

  He smiled. “I’m glad. Glad you think of it as home. ”

  Ryan trudged out of the bedroom, suitcase and carry-on bag in hand. “Everything’s out of the bedroom,” he announced.

  Adam turned back to Holly. “I thought we could get something to eat on the way. I’d like to get out of town as soon as possible. ”

  “That’s fine,” she said. “I’m ready when you all are. ”

  She eased up from the couch. Ethan stood beside her and wrapped an arm around her waist.

  “Ryan and I’ll go down with the luggage and warm up the Land Rover. Give us a few minutes then meet us out front. I’ll pull around to the entrance,” Adam said.

  Ethan nodded, and Adam and Ryan collected the bags and walked out.

  “You sure you’re feeling okay today, doll?” Ethan asked.

  She nodded. “I’m sore, but the more I move, the better I feel. ”

  He kissed her forehead. “I’m sorry we didn’t look out better. It should have never happened. ”

  She scowled at him. “It’s not your fault. Any of yours. ” She sighed and leaned further into his embrace. “I just hope it’s over soon. ”

  “It will be, doll. It will be. ”

  Chapter Twenty-One

  They arrived in Clyde by noon and Adam pulled into the small parking lot of the sheriff’s office. Holly looked less than thrilled when she realized where they’d stopped.

  “We need to tell Lacey what’s going on so she can be on the lookout for Mason,” he explained. “If she sees him, she can let us know. Added protection. ”

  “But will she?” Holly asked softly, turning her wide eyes on him. “Tell us, I mean?”

  The question hung between them, hovering in the air.

  “I don’t see why we need to involve her,” Ryan spoke up.

  Adam ignored Ryan. “Do you trust me, baby?”

  “You know I do,” Holly said. “It’s her I don’t trust. ”

  “Then know I’d never do anything to endanger you. ”

  Holly stared back at him for a long moment then nodded.

  Satisfaction rolled and flexed inside him. He reached over and squeezed her hand. “Come on, this won’t take but a second. ”

  Holly sucked in a deep breath and opened her door to get out. Personally, she’d rather pluck her fingernails off one by one than have to deal with the jealous redhead.

  The four trekked into the small building and Lacey looked up from where she sat behind her desk. She lifted a brow in question as Adam strode across the floor toward her.

  Holly hung back, and Ryan slipped his arm around her neck, letting his hand dangle loosely over her shoulder.

  Lacey stood, her eyes warily glancing over Adam and beyond to where Holly, Ryan and Ethan stood.

  “Adam,” she said nodding in his direction. “What can I do for you?”

  “We’ve got a problem, Lacey. We could use your help. ”

  “What kind of problem?”

  “Mason Bardwell,” Adam said harshly. “We have reason to believe he’s trying to kill Holly. ”

  Lacey leaned back against her desk and folded her arms across her chest. “You sure about that, Adam?”

  “I’m sure. Now can we expect help from you?”

  She swept her gaze up and down Holly before her eyes darted back to Adam. “Yeah, whatever I can do. You know that. ”

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