Every Little Thing

Page 27


“I know it’s you!” I screeched as his fingers bit into my hands.
We struggled as adrenaline aided me in my pissed-off quest to unmask the bastard. I wasn’t thinking. I was just too angry.
He hissed as I clawed at his arm and he released me to pull his elbow back, his fist coming toward me as I stared up at him in horror.
But his fist never met my face.
Suddenly he was no longer straddling me because another body had launched itself at him, throwing him off me.
I scrambled to my feet. “Holy fuck,” I breathed, stunned.
The other body belonged to the man who was currently wrestling Stu. And that man was Vaughn. A very furious Vaughn.
Stu grunted as Vaughn punched him, but then Vaughn grunted when Stu buried his fist in Vaughn’s gut. It was a hard enough hit to wind him, catching him off guard, and off balance. He was quick to his feet though, lunging at Stu, grappling with him. I watched as they fought, Stu deftly avoiding becoming unmasked.
When he landed a punch on Vaughn’s face, I’d had enough.
I jumped on Stu’s back.
And found myself promptly thrown off and at Vaughn.
I felt his strong arms bind around my waist as he pulled me away from an inevitable collision with my desk, and cursed like a sailor at the sight of my attacker sprinting out of the office and out of our grasp.
“Are you okay?” Vaughn’s hands roamed my body for injury.
I jerked away, unnerved by how much I wanted his comfort right then. “I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine, you’re trembling.”
I narrowed my eyes on his jaw, looking for injury. There was a faint redness that I knew was going to look bad in the morning if we didn’t get some ice on it. “I didn’t get hit in the face.”
“Because I was there to stop him. What the hell were you—” His eyes darted behind me and he stiffened.
I glanced over my shoulder and my gut churned.
My guests were crowded outside my office, sleepy, disgruntled, and concerned.
“Everything alright?” one of my return visitors, Mr. Ingles, asked.
“A small mishap,” I said cheerily, walking toward them as if I wasn’t currently wearing a silk camisole and shorts that showed off way too much of my body. As if I wasn’t walking through a scattered mess of files and objects that had crashed to the floor during all the violent tussling. “But it’s quite alright.”
“I’m calling the sheriff,” Vaughn said behind me, and even though I knew it was the right thing to do I squeezed my eyes closed and groaned.
“The sheriff? What happened?”
“Oh dear. Are we safe?”
I listened to my guests voicing their fears, and wished just once that I could let them think what they wanted, let them leave if they wanted! I was shaken, shocked, hurt, and frankly pissed way the fuck off.
The last thing I wanted to do was play the ever-congenial innkeeper.
But I had to.
I opened my eyes and strode in among them. “Please, you are all safe. Nothing like this has ever happened before, but I can assure you that the intruder will not be returning and the inn will be secure. If you’d all like to return to your rooms while I deal with the sheriff—quietly, I promise. Of course I will deduct tonight’s room fee from your bill and dining tomorrow is free all day for all guests. On top of that I will issue you all a fifty percent discount if you choose to return to the inn in the future.”
As I hoped it would, all my discounts and freebies worked their magic and my guests trundled back up to their rooms murmuring to one another about the nuisance but also about Mona’s delicious muffins and crème brûlée.
Wrapping my arms around myself I stared at the entrance to the inn. Both doors were wide open.
“Here.” Vaughn appeared at my side.
I glanced at him, surprised to see he was offering me his leather jacket.
Accepting it, I slipped it over me, and got a giant, delicious whiff of his cologne as I did so. An inappropriate tingle shot through my breasts and I wrapped the too-large jacket shut so he couldn’t see my pebbled nipples. “Thank you,” I whispered, staring at him.
Vaughn stared back, concern in his beautiful eyes.
He’d never looked at me like that before.
I felt compelled to say, “I’m okay.”
The concern melted under anger. “You’re not okay,” he snapped. “Do you have any idea who the intruder was?”
“I’m positive it was Stu Devlin.”
He cursed under his breath, the muscle in his jaw working. And then that anger was directed at me. “Why the hell didn’t you call the police instead of confronting him?”
My lips parted in surprise at his attack. “For your information I was calling the police as I was confronting him. I didn’t think he’d throw me to the ground! I thought it was Stu being an ass. I didn’t think he’d hurt me.” I shivered at the thought.
“Well now he’s a dead man.”
I felt a rush of sudden desire between my legs at the strangely protective vibe I was getting off him. The feeling unsettled me. “How did . . . Why were you here?”
He glanced over at my open double doors. “I sometimes stroll down the boardwalk at night. When I was passing I saw your doors were open. He must have picked the lock.” Vaughn’s eyes narrowed. “I knew something was wrong so I came inside to check, and I heard the struggle coming from your office.”