Hold Me

Page 25


She got to City Hall and took the stairs up to the main door. There were signs in the entrance hall pointing her toward the auditorium. She walked in only to find that she was the first one there...except for Kipling.
He stood by the stage, studying his notes. Overhead lights seemed to cast some kind of glow about him. Destiny knew all the tricks lighting could play and told herself not to be impressed. Which she wasn’t. It was just that she couldn’t seem to catch her breath.
Damn him, she thought, nearly stomping her foot. And the kiss. And the hormones. And her body for betraying her. She knew better. She’d seen it, lived it, had felt the pain of watching her parents being swept away by yet another “one true love.” She’d been cast aside, ignored and forgotten. Even now she was dealing with the consequences of her father’s fling sixteen years ago in the form of a teenage daughter he seemed to have forgotten he had. She wasn’t going to give in. She was going to stand strong.
She squared her shoulders, sucked in a breath and stalked up to Kipling.
“Let me be clear,” she said by way of greeting. “I will not be your plaything.”
He looked up at her and grinned. “Why not? I’m happy to be yours.”
Destiny felt her mouth drop open. He had not just said that. Who talked like that? But before she could start expressing her opinion in a volume designed to get his attention, two old ladies walked into the auditorium. She recognized one of them as Eddie Carberry.
Destiny lowered her voice. “This isn’t over,” she promised.
His smile never wavered. “I was hoping you’d say that.”
“I meant this conversation. Not the whole...” She clenched her teeth together. “Never mind. I’ll deal with you later.”
“Looking forward to it.”
That man, she thought, turning away from him. He was so annoying. He hadn’t been annoying before.
She told herself to ignore him and the strange sensations rushing through her body. This was business. She was here to do a job. Kipling was simply an obstruction she had to get over. Or through. Or something.
More people arrived and found seats. Miles showed up, and Destiny moved to sit next to him. Despite his good looks, she didn’t have to worry about being attracted to him.
“What has your panties in a twist?” he asked as she settled beside him.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You look angry. It’s kind of sexy.”
She rolled her eyes. “You’d find drywall sexy.”
“Only if it was girl drywall.” He pointed to the stage. “Shouldn’t you be up there?”
As the time for the meeting approached, she saw Kipling was walking toward the stairs on the side and knew she should join him. After all, she was going to be speaking to the group.
The room was nearly full, she thought as she reluctantly got up and followed him to the small podium on the stage. There were a couple of chairs behind it. He turned to her. A smile tugged at his mouth. She felt everyone in the room watching them.
“Don’t even think about it,” she said in a low voice.
He chuckled. “I was going to ask if you wanted to speak first, or if you wanted me to go first.”
Like she believed that. The man was trouble. Grandma Nell would have adored him.
“You tell them about the program,” she said. “I’ll talk about the technical stuff, then we can take questions together.”
Kipling nodded and approached the podium. He flipped on the microphone.
“Thanks for coming tonight, everyone. I appreciate the show of support from the community. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Kipling Gilmore, and I’m in charge of the town’s search and rescue program.”
“You mean you’re our head HERO,” Eddie yelled from her seat in the audience. The older lady next to her clapped.
Kipling nodded. “That would be me. Help Emergency Rescue Operations is going to save lives. But we’re a small organization, just getting started, and we’ll need help. Volunteers. Tonight’s meeting is to explain how the program is going to work and how you can get involved.”
Destiny only half listened as Kipling went through the details of the program. She knew the particulars better than most. When it was her turn, she would explain how the software would make finding those who were lost just a little easier.
She liked her job. She liked knowing that when she moved on, she’d left things better than when she arrived. She liked the people she met and the sense of belonging, however temporary. She’d met a lot of nice people and more than one attractive man. But no one had rattled her as much as Kipling. She was going to have to figure out why he got to her, then find a way for it to stop.
When Kipling was done, Destiny took the podium and talked about the STORMS software and how it would help with HERO, then together they took questions. She tried not to notice how close they stood to each other as they shifted to use the microphone in turn.
Eddie Carberry raised her hand. “Gladys and I want to volunteer. Are you going to tell us we’re too old?”
Destiny smiled at Kipling. “I’ll let you take that one.”
Several people in the audience laughed.
“Thanks,” he said, moving forward and clearing his throat. “We appreciate everyone who wants to volunteer. There are going to be opportunities for every level of fitness.”
Eddie scrunched up her face. “You’re going to stick us in the office, aren’t you? We want to be out in the field.”