Author’s Note: So my word count is officially over 25,000. It took me most of the day to get writing on this again. It was my plan to only work on this today, but inspiration was hitting me in full force for the other one, and there was a bunch of sidetracking into edits, too.
So… Now I roll in with a day of only 929 words, and I’m fading fast before ten o’clock. This is not me.
I will probably wake up in the middle of the night or something, but I apparently can’t keep my eyes open.
Shaelynn’s eyes opened, and she sat up a moment later, her body reacting almost faster than her mind. She reached under the bed for her gun, swallowing and trying not to let the adrenaline that had gotten her awake rule everything. Just because she was alone after Nolan specifically requested the snuggly toy and she had spent half the night not asleep because he was using her as that snuggly toy did not mean that anything terrible had happened.
She would have woken if something went wrong. She’d been asleep next to him, and if someone had tried to do anything to him in the night, she would have heard. She would have woken if they came into the apartment—or at least if they’d come into the room.
Nolan’s cats would have reacted to a stranger, wouldn’t they? They seemed to like her, but that didn’t mean they liked everyone. A couple of them had only tolerated her because she was here with him. They didn’t come around when she was by herself.
She put her feet on the floor, wondering if the cat’s were his reason for having this place all carpeted when the office had beautiful hardwood floors. She could have blamed that on Nora’s sense of style, but the sound of people’s shoes would have driven him crazy long ago and he would have had the floors replaced by now if he really didn’t like them.
She lifted the gun in front of her, telling herself she was an over-paranoid idiot as she walked into the next room. She didn’t have to do this. Nolan was fine. He was bound to be in the kitchen making his coffee on the stove, talking to one of his cats.
She studied the front room, glaring at the empty furniture before she turned toward the kitchen. The last few steps she took a bit rushed, ready to find him and end this. She didn’t want to let her training and past get the better of her.
The kitchen was empty, not even cats waited for their owner on the counters or the floor. The stove was off, and the same dishes were in the sink as had been the day before. That feeling she’d woken up with was a hell of a lot worse now.
“I almost thought you were kidding about being my bodyguard.”
She forced herself not to whirl around when she heard Nolan’s voice. “You weren’t there when I woke up.”
“I do have things to do today. People want to kill me. I think I’m a bit concerned with trying to stop them.”
Lowering the gun, she faced him. Her prepared lecture died on her lips, and she told herself not to stare, but it was the first time that she’d seen him without a shirt since he got shot. “Those aren’t worms.”
“Your chest, Nolan. Those are not worms,” she said, gesturing to the scars with the gun before she cursed herself. Making sure the safety was on, she set it down on the table. She should dress and put it away properly, but she needed a minute. Her body was still all keyed up from finding him gone, and seeing those scars had not helped. All she could think about now was how he’d been shot, how close that one bullet must have been to his heart.
“Sure they are,” he said, crossing over to pick up the gun. “That one’s new.”
She shrugged. “One of my fellow cubicle slaves figured on proving his masculinity with a gun. He and a couple other idiots organized a contest over at the local shooting range. We women were invited to be awed, and they all thought it was funny when I said I’d only go if I got a chance to shoot. They said I could try the contest in a very patronizing way.”
“Idiots. I take it this was the prize?”
“Yes. I hate them, but they’d been talked into the right kind of gun,” she said, smiling a little. “How’d you know I won?”
Nolan gave her a look. “Please. Like you weren’t the highest ranked marksman in the cult, second only to Ambrose and only because he wouldn’t accept that he wasn’t the best.”
She reached over, taking the gun back. “Does it bother you that you came in third?”
“No. I never wanted to be good at it.”
She nodded, putting the gun out of his reach. He frowned, but then she put a finger to the scar, and he almost jumped away from her. She caught his arm and continued her exploration of the marks. She didn’t know why he’d chosen worms for them. Worms would have been softer, smoother, less jagged and dangerous. She had been told what had happened, she’d seen him while he recovered, but it hadn’t felt that real until now.
“I think the worms are going to mistake those fingers of yours for food.”
“Stop making jokes. You almost died. This mark here—”
“I am fine. All recovered and better now. I’m sure you can see that. The towel’s nice and long, but it still doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination.”
“You’re still wet,” she told him, shaking herself out of whatever mood that had been. “You should finish drying off.”
He took her hand. “It’s not as bad as it looks. The scars are ugly, but I’m fine. I’m not dead.”
“No, you’re not,” she agreed, meeting his eyes. “And that is how it is going to stay.”