A Place With Briar is now available for preorder! Add it to your To-Read shelf on Goodreads….
Cole paused, tucked one hand under Briar’s knees and scooped her into his arms. “Put your head on my shoulder.”
Briar turned her face into his neck. The touch of her skin against his stirred something warm and hungry in his blood.
Not hungry by Clint’s definition. Cole wanted to guard her, protect her from the seedy reality of the world. Her scent filtered through him just as the fragrance of her flowers penetrated the tepid night air. When she wrapped her arms close around his neck, he realized he had her full trust.
The knowledge was potent.
He mounted the stairs to the third level where he knew her private rooms were. Stepping into the living room lit by a single lamp, the smell of lavender struck him. He toted her past the small kitchen on the right and into the first bedroom. Its pale green drapes were closed tight over the windows. The mauve spread was turned down in invitation.
He set her on the edge and went to his knees to tug off her shoes. “Lay back,” he advised.
She lowered to the pillows, curling onto her side to face him. He pressed the cloth to the back of her head. “How do you feel?”
“Mmm,” she moaned distantly, her eyes closing. “Sleepy.”
“Don’t fall asleep yet. I need you to tell me if you blacked out at all.”
“I don’t think so.”
He stroked a hand over her hair. “Do you have any Advil? Ibuprofen?”
“In the bathroom cupboard.”
He returned with two pills and a glass of water. “Take these.” Relieved to see color filtering back into her cheeks, he said, “You already look better.”
She gazed at him as he ran the cold rag over her cheeks and brow. “Liv’s right. You’re a nice guy.”
He didn’t feel particularly nice. Protective. A bit shaken. But with hunger gnawing at his vital hold on control, nice wasn’t the word for what he felt.
“What you did to Clint…” She trailed off and swallowed hard. “No one’s ever done anything like that for me.”
“Assault is something I don’t tolerate,” he groaned. “No one should.”
“It was only a kiss he wanted. He was drunk and things just…escalated.”
Cole had seen the greed in Clint’s eyes, the way they’d skimmed her torso, the way they lit up when he touched her skin. Fury slunk into Cole and he worked carefully for a moment to contain it. Cole had seen his like too many times to count. The man had wanted more.
“He won’t touch me again. Not after you scared him like that.” Grinning, she added, “It was sort of funny hearing him scream like a girl.”
Relieved to see her smile, he stroked her cheek and watched her eyes flutter closed. Pulling his hand away as if burned, he cleared his throat. “No, he won’t touch you again. Not as long as I’m around.”
The smile melted from her face and the light in her eyes faded. He knew she was thinking about his check-out date. She cleared her throat and changed the subject, careful not to look at him. “Adrian said you used to be a detective.”
“Yeah,” he said, his voice surprisingly rusty.
“You’d make a good cop.”
Cole dropped the rag from her head, set it aside. “I don’t think you have a concussion.”
She sighed in obvious relief. “Good. I don’t think I could’ve handled the hospital tonight.”
“Still, expect to wake up with a rough headache in the morning. Think you can sleep?”
He pulled the spread up and over her, tucking it around her shoulders, and switched off the light. “Good night.”
As he glanced back, Briar looked too pale in the shadows. Too vulnerable.
“I’d feel better if you stayed a bit.”
Enjoy the first excerpt from Briar and Cole’s story (and their first kiss!) here at Roses of Prose….