Kept, p.8
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       Kept, p.8
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         Part #3 of The Enforcers series by Maya Banks

  of pure joy beamed from her bruised face just before she leaned forward and wrapped her arms around his neck.

  “Thank you,” she whispered, her lips brushing his neck with every word. As she tightened her arms around him, her breasts pressed against his chest and Silas felt his dick start to harden.

  Silas cursed his body as he pushed down the need to tighten his fist in her hair and drag her mouth to his. This was not what she needed or wanted, and he was a bastard for reacting this way to her gratitude. He stiffened, then gently but firmly pushed her back onto her side of the bed.

  “You’re welcome, Hayley,” he said, struggling for control, hating the hurt look on her face. “You should rest now, as the doctor ordered.”

  Without awaiting her response, he turned and all but fled from the room and the temptation of those sweet, luscious lips on his own.

  15

  Two days later, Hayley curled up on the couch and watched Silas work at a computer. She had no idea exactly what he was doing, but this had been their routine since Silas had agreed she could finally get out of bed and move around some. She’d suggested she would be fine in her own apartment, but Silas wasn’t hearing that. He’d insisted she stay, and she hadn’t fought too hard to change his mind. After his rejection, she was sure he’d want her gone, but she’d been wrong. To be honest, if only with herself, she was enjoying her time with him. Though he could be gruff and bossy, it was sweet in a way. And she couldn’t deny that her desire for him grew every hour she was in his presence. Staying might not have been the smartest thing she’d ever done, but she was willing to take a chance and see where this—whatever this was—led.

  “Are you sure you feel up to going back to school tomorrow?” he asked gruffly, continuing a conversation they’d been having. “I think you need to wait at least a couple more days. Stay here until you are more healed.”

  The very real concern in his voice, as well as how protective and caring he’d been of her since her attack, sent soothing warmth through her entire body. She would love nothing more than to remain here with Silas another few days, but her fingers were itching to play her new violin and she didn’t want to fall behind in her classes. The academy was extremely competitive, and too many missed days could very well mean the loss of her scholarship.

  “I can’t afford to fall that far behind. Besides, I’m sure I’ve long since overstayed my welcome.” She wrinkled her nose and sent him a rueful glance. “I can’t imagine you’ve enjoyed your babysitting stint.”

  Silas spun in his desk chair and shot her a reprimanding stare.

  “You are not an inconvenience, princess. You’re welcome to stay here as long as you want. In fact, I prefer it. It gives me peace of mind to know where you are at all times and that you’re safe and protected. However, I do need to mention that I will be leaving tonight and I’ll be out of town for a couple days. I’ve asked some of my brothers to look out for you until I get back, and now that you’ve decided to return to classes, they’ll be driving you to and from school.” He held up a hand as she opened her mouth to argue. “Your safety is not open to debate, princess. You were attacked. And when I’m unable to be here to protect you myself, my brothers will be. I won’t leave you with anyone else.”

  Was it completely ridiculous that she promptly melted all over every time he called her princess? And then some of her euphoria dissipated as she processed the words after he called her princess and before being so adamant that she remain in his apartment. He wouldn’t be there, so of course she wouldn’t be a bother to him.

  She had to quit reading more into the situation than what was there. Silas was a decent man and a caring individual. He would have intervened if it had been anyone. He’d made it crystal clear that he didn’t return her attraction when she’d attempted to kiss him.

  She sighed and then conceded, knowing she wouldn’t ever win an argument with him.

  “Where are you going?” she asked lightly, hoping her hurt and disappointment didn’t show on her face or in her voice.

  “Business trip,” he said shortly, before returning his attention to the computer.

  She wasn’t offended by his dismissal. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Silas was an extremely private person. Careful too. Maybe too careful? His behavior resembled that of someone with deep paranoia, what with all the locks and his rigid schedule. But then his paranoia was what had saved her ass, so at the moment, she was grateful for his OCD tendencies.

  Her gaze went back to Silas when his phone chimed.

  “Evangeline,” he answered, with warmth that until now she’d only heard directed at her. “How are you feeling?” Some time passed in silence as this Evangeline apparently answered his question. “Yeah, our date is still on. See you soon, sweetheart.”

  It felt like a punch in the gut. Date? Even if he hadn’t mentioned their date, it would have been evident that Silas had feelings for whoever Evangeline was. His entire body language had changed the instant he’d answered his phone. He’d spoken to her with warmth and affection, and he’d smiled as they conversed. Silas rarely smiled at anyone, at least not in the time she’d known him. But then evidently she knew nothing about him at all. No wonder he’d gone so rigid when she’d practically thrown herself at him.

  And sweetheart? Any warmth or pleasure over his use of an endearment with her was gone. She’d thought it had meant something since he hardly seemed like the kind of man to ever use endearments of any kind. All this time, she’d thought maybe she was special to him.

  Shame, mortification and hurt bloomed in her chest. She’d forced him to sleep with her that first night, and though they hadn’t talked about it, Silas had been in that bed every night since. Probably to keep poor, pitiful Hayley from begging again. What must he think of her? No matter his insistence that she remain in his apartment until she was fully healed, she realized now she was being unrealistic and too wrapped up in her own personal fantasy. She needed to return to her own apartment before she did anything to further humiliate herself. And she would. She was too attracted to him to pretend she wasn’t, and never would she become “the other woman.”

  She nonchalantly got to her feet and grabbed her purse, which was sitting on the end table. “I just remembered I have to do laundry today or I won’t have anything to wear to school tomorrow. I need to get back to my apartment, and since you’re leaving, there’s no need for me to remain here. I’d feel much more comfortable in my own place anyway. Have a safe trip, and again, thank you.”

  She flashed a too-bright smile and then walked casually toward the door and had managed to unlock three of the locks when she felt the heat of his body behind her. Her nape prickled in response, and then warm, strong hands slid over both her shoulders. He turned her so she was forced to look at him.

  “Princess? Why are you leaving now?” he asked, and he was so close she could feel the words rumble from his chest.

  He was staring into her eyes, a confused frown on his face, almost as if he could read her every thought—or was at least trying to. If he had any idea just what her thoughts were, he’d probably trip over himself stepping out of her way so she would leave.

  Again she adopted the same fake smile and even put her hand on his arm, squeezing affectionately. “I just told you, silly. I have to do some laundry or I won’t have anything to wear, and believe me, walking into my classes naked isn’t high on my list of priorities.”

  She managed a teasing, lighthearted tone, but she didn’t sound convincing even to her own ears. Judging by Silas’s perplexed and somber expression, he wasn’t buying her act either.

  Praying he would do nothing further to prevent her escape, or worse, continue to interrogate her, she reached for the last of the locks and Silas stepped back to allow her to open the door. She hastily made her way into the hall, trying not to run and look like a bigger fool. She fumbled in her purse for her keys, unlocked the door and only glanced back once with a cheerful wave to see Silas stan
ding in the hallway thoughtfully watching her.

  16

  The next morning, Hayley crawled out of her bed, refusing to acknowledge the pain and stiffness still plaguing her. She shuffled toward the bathroom with a frown because she could positively see Silas’s smug expression that just screamed “I told you so.”

  And maybe she would have stayed in his apartment for another few days, but after hearing his phone conversation with his “sweetheart” and him stating he would be out of town on business, she got the message loud and clear.

  She couldn’t help it if his message depressed the hell out of her.

  “Damn it,” she muttered when she glanced at her watch.

  So much for returning to classes today. After doing her laundry yesterday after fleeing from Silas’s apartment, she’d been exhausted and in a lot of pain. She’d taken pain medication so she could sleep and unfortunately for her, the medicine worked too well. She’d overslept and her first class had already begun.

  With a sigh, she splashed her face with some water and briefly contemplated a shower but couldn’t bring herself to be that motivated. Besides, there was no one here to see her. After pulling on her loosest, most comfortable pair of sweats, she made a face at the possible choices for a shirt. Her gaze drifted over to Silas’s shirt that lay discarded by the bed.

  She’d worn his shirt because it was a button-up and she didn’t have to contort her body to get into it and it was several sizes too large for her. She should have given it back to him, but his shirt was her guilty indulgence.

  With a shrug, she pulled it on and inhaled Silas’s scent. A light shiver ran over her body even as she scolded herself for torturing herself this way.

  When she entered the living room, her earlier assertion of there being no one to see her was proved wrong. She stared, eyes wide, mouth open at the three very large, very intimidating-looking men draped all over her living room furniture.

  Sweat formed on her brow and she couldn’t seem to suck in enough air. She started backing steadily into her bedroom, her gaze never leaving the assembled men. Her chest tightened to the point of pain and her vision went blurry as she heard her own wheezing fill the air.

  One of the men looked up, his brows drawn together as he studied her. Then he motioned to the others and said, “Oh shit.”

  Before she could turn and run and lock herself in her bathroom, a strong hand gripped her shoulder. Instantly panicking, she whirled around but then doubled over as the constriction in her chest became too much.

  “Hayley, breathe, sweetheart. You have to breathe,” one of the men murmured in her ear.

  How the hell did they know her name?

  “Fuck, didn’t Silas warn her about us?”

  “Evidently not. She’s having a panic attack.”

  “Duh. Wouldn’t you in her place? She’s attacked and nearly raped on the streets and then she gets up to find three Neanderthals in her living room?”

  Was this bizarre conversation really happening?

  Hayley glanced up in utter bewilderment just as one of the men cupped her cheek, his expression softening.

  “Sorry for scaring you, honey. We thought Silas had told you that we were keeping an eye on you while he’s out of town.”

  “You’re his brothers?” she croaked out.

  The men nodded.

  She shook her head. “He did say something about y’all, but that was when he thought I’d be staying at his apartment a few more days. I’m fine. Truly. There’s no sense in all of you being inconvenienced this way. I had meant to go back to class this morning but I obviously overslept, which means I won’t be doing anything today except sitting around my apartment and practicing my violin. Tomorrow I’ll be sure to get up and go back to classes.”

  All three men shook their heads.

  “No?” she asked, perplexed by their reaction.

  “Not no to everything,” the one who’d cupped her cheek said. “Just the part about you being here alone at your apartment or you going back to school without us taking you. Just in case you meant that’s how you were going to school tomorrow.”

  “Who are you anyway?” Hayley demanded. “And how did you get into my apartment?”

  “Silas gave us a key. And we’re here to watch over you and get you anything you want or need. My name is Maddox, by the way.”

  He thumbed over his shoulder to the two men standing behind him a short distance.

  “Those two idiots are Thane and Jax. We won’t always be with you. We will be in rotation with another team. But I’ll be sure to introduce you so you never have a repeat of your scare this morning.”

  “I appreciate that,” she muttered. “I’m going to go fix some breakfast.”

  “Already done,” Maddox said with a grin. “You just sit down on the couch while I go fix you a plate. Silas also left your medications with instructions for which ones you’re supposed to take and when.”

  Hayley’s mouth fell open again. God, she sounded like a two-year-old dropped off at the sitter’s place with detailed instructions on when to feed, change and burp her!

  She shot Maddox a disgruntled look. “And how long does this go on, pray tell?”

  He shrugged. “Not my call. Whenever Silas tells us to stand down and not a minute before.”

  She threw up her hands and stomped toward the couch. “I’m so glad I’m an adult capable of making my own decisions.”

  Thane and Jax chuckled, their eyes lighting with merriment.

  “So who draws hot-guy duty tomorrow?” she asked dryly when she was comfortably seated. At least as comfortable as she was capable of being when every muscle in her body was stiff as a board.

  Jax’s eyebrows rose. “Hot-guy duty?”

  She rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. Like y’all don’t know you’re hot.”

  Thane grinned. “No, but feel free to remind us frequently. I never turn down compliments from a beautiful woman.”

  “That ain’t no lie,” Maddox said smugly.

  “Just do us a favor and don’t call us that in front of Silas,” Jax said, discomfort evident on his features.

  At that she lifted one brow. They acted like Silas would be jealous or something. Or maybe they had gotten the wrong impression. For that matter, as private and as closemouthed as Silas was, maybe he didn’t share personal details with the men he worked with. Like already having a girlfriend.

  “Good call,” Maddox said, wincing.

  “Well? So who’s pulling hot-guy duty tomorrow and driving me to school like I’m a kindergartner?”

  “You can’t fault any of us for wanting to make sure you’re safe,” Thane said in reproach. “You were attacked, Hayley. You could have been raped or killed. It’s bad enough those assholes put their hands on you.”

  Hayley looked at Thane and then the others in disbelief. “So y’all just run around Manhattan babysitting women who’ve been attacked? Do you even know how bizarre this whole thing is? I’ve never met you before in my life and you let yourselves into my apartment and then announce to me that you’re spending the day with me and you’re driving me to and from school tomorrow. Am I the only sane one here?”

  Maddox grinned. “Sanity is debatable. And no, we don’t run all over the city protecting women we’ve never met. But you aren’t just any woman.”

  As if that was supposed to make sense to her? She was beginning to think her head had been more injured by her attackers than she initially thought, because things like this just did not happen. Especially not to her.

  Maddox approached the couch holding a plate mounded high with food. It smelled damn good. She eyed it suspiciously and then glanced back up at Maddox.

  “You cooked this?”

  All three men burst into laughter.

  “Oh, hell no,” Thane wheezed. “We couldn’t boil water. We got takeout on our way here. Hope you don’t mind but we didn’t know how long you would be asleep, so we already ate.”

  “Oh well, then maybe I’ll cook
y’all dinner. It’s the least I can do for messing up your schedule like this.”

  Thane cleared his throat and then shook his head.

  “No?” Hayley asked again in exasperation.

  “Sorry, doll,” Jax said. “Our instructions were to make sure you rest and for you not to go anywhere alone. That means not being on your feet in the kitchen cooking.”

  “Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?” she asked around a mouthful of food. “I may not have gone in to class today, but I do have to go to work tonight. In fact, as soon as I finish eating, I have to call all of my bosses to make sure I even still have a job.”

  The thought disheartened her so much that all she could do was stare glumly down at her plate.

  “Don’t say it,” she said in a thready whisper when she saw Maddox about to protest. “I have to work. It’s bad enough I’ve already missed three days. I’ll never be able to pay my bills, rent or the part of my tuition my scholarship doesn’t cover. They were kind enough to allow me a payment plan for my tuition, but if I miss a payment, they’ll revoke my scholarship and I certainly can’t afford the full tuition on my own.”

  She was nearly in tears as the direness of her situation hit home. For the last few days, she’d stayed at Silas’s and had existed in a dream world. One where she mattered to him more than any other neighbor did. And she hadn’t even considered the possibility of her losing one or more of her jobs. Her bosses weren’t the most understanding people in the world.

  “Don’t cry,” Jax said desperately.

  If she hadn’t been so upset, she’d have found amusement in the panicked looks on the three men’s faces.

  Thane plopped down on the couch next to her and gently put his arm around her shoulders and then squeezed.

  “Silas took care of all that, Hayley. There’s no need for you to be upset. I promise everything is okay.”

  “Worked out what?” Hayley demanded.

  “He spoke to all your bosses and to the school the day after your attack. You were in no shape to go to work or school and Silas knew how important both are to you. The school was more than happy for you to take a few days to heal, and your bosses said to take as long as you needed. They’re even paying you sick time until you go back.”

  “What? They don’t give any employee sick leave. The only leave they give you if you’re sick and can’t go to work is the permanent kind of leave, and that definitely doesn’t come with a paycheck,” Hayley said acidly.

  “Apparently they do,” Jax offered lightly. “They told Silas that you could pick up your paycheck at the end of the week and that you would be paid full wages.”

  She stared at all three men suspiciously but none of them so much as flinched.

  “Which means that today you aren’t going to so much as leave your apartment,” Maddox said smugly. “And if you must return to school tomorrow, fine, but I’m putting my foot down about work. You have to at least take off today and tomorrow and rest as much as possible.”

  “Putting your foot down?” Hayley mouthed. “Who died and made you king of the castle?”

  “Darlin’, if you think any of us is going to face Silas and tell him we didn’t follow his very explicit instructions regarding you, then you’ve lost your mind. Silas is not a man anyone ever wants to piss off,” Thane said cheerfully.

  Hayley threw up her hands. “Whatever. Y’all are just going to have to listen to me practice, then. It’s not like there’s anything else to do.”

  “We’d be honored,” Maddox said. “Silas said you were very good.”

  Hayley flushed. Why couldn’t she be attracted to one of these guys? They were definitely hot with a capital H and they were cute when they flirted. But she felt . . . nothing. A big fat zero—nothing. She bet money they were single, unlike Silas. It figured she’d finally start noticing men the way a woman notices a man like Silas only to discover he’s off the market.

  Her appetite gone, she leaned forward to put her plate down on the coffee table. She sucked in her breath sharply when pain lanced through her abdomen.

  “Whoa there, honey,” Thane said, easing her back onto the couch. “Better take it easy. Those ribs need to do some more healing before you abuse them further. Maybe you should think about taking a nap and practicing your violin later this afternoon? You’ll need to get into bed early tonight if you plan on going back to class tomorrow.”

  Despite the fact that a nap was the very last thing she wanted, she got up with Thane’s help and shuffled like an old woman toward her bedroom. At least she could be alone with her brooding, and she also planned to have a very long conversation with herself about falling for the wrong guy.

  17

  To Hayley’s surprise, Thane, Maddox and Jax not only remained in her living room the rest of the afternoon, but they also spent the night sprawled all over her tiny couch and the floor. But before everyone had said their good nights and Hayley had been ordered to bed to rest, they had encouraged her to play her
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