Prime Target (Target #1)

By: Marquita Valentine



“I’ll take her home with me,” I immediately say, uncaring that even something as small as a cat can complicate my life.

“I’ll stop by later with some supplies for you,” Mrs. Tatum says.

Without further ado, I hurry back to my shop and await Everly’s return.

*

Naturally, Everly loves my cat. Naturally, the cat hates Everly and hisses as soon as the woman attempts to hold her.

“Perhaps I should put her in the back?” I whisk the cat away, placing her in a nearly empty storeroom. There’s some cat food in a bowl, a small dish of water, a litter box, and a blanket—all courtesy of Mrs. Tatum. But the damned cat bolts out of the room before I can shut the door and disappears into my shop.

When I return, Everly is digging through her box. She stops when she sees me. “Does it bother you?”

“That the cat doesn’t like you? Not particularly.”

Everly tilts her head to one side. “The cat will come around, but I was speaking about the robbery.” Her gaze flicks to my shoulder and lower still to my thigh, as if she can still see the bullet holes. “I don’t know if I could ever come back here if it had happened to me.”

“Yet, here you are,” I say dryly, and she blushes a little.

She hefts the box and takes it to her usual spot, sitting down and curling her legs up beside her. “I won’t have an order for next week.”

A sort of panic sets in, my heart beating in staccato at the thought of her not making her weekly visit. Though we haven’t made much progress—okay, I haven’t made much progress—in our conversations, I can’t help but wonder how lonely my store would be without her in it. Actually, I do know. Six days a week, I know how it feels. It’s fucking miserable.

I’m fucking miserable.

“Why is that?”

“Out-of-town guest.”

Male or female? It hadn’t occurred to me that Everly could be in a relationship with anyone, because every Wednesday at precisely four o’clock, Everly Andrews is mine.

The bell on the door rings and once again, Everly’s eyes widen, but this time, it’s in pure terror. “Roman…someone’s here. Maybe you should call the cops,” she says, her voice shaky. Reaching into her purse, she pulls out pepper spray and a cell phone. “Here.”

Pepper spray versus a gun? Jesus.

Quickly, I check the monitor, taking note of the face before striding to her.

Carefully, I kneel beside the chair. Her scent washes over me, lightly floral and completely feminine. “You are perfectly safe. We’re perfectly safe. The man who just walked in is an old friend of mine.” Actually, he is more than a friend. Growing up, he was my mentor—a man who taught me far more than my own father. I trust him with my life.

Everly exhales, her body trembling. I take her hand in mine, reveling in the contact. She’s just as soft as I remember, her skin just as satiny and delicate. “Let’s put away the pepper spray, shall we, before it goes off on its own.”

She rewards me with a tremulous smile. I allow my thumb to pass over a knuckle, and her breath hitches. She leans forward slightly, mahogany waves spilling over her shoulders. Our eyes meet, and I’m helpless in this moment. The last time she was this close to me, I’d been shot.

Now, I’m perfectly healthy and perfectly willing to take her to my bed. Because of her, I haven’t been with anyone in months. Months. The thought of using another as a replacement for her leaves my mouth as dry as ashes in a dead hearth.

“Your friend,” she says, her lips inches from mine. Plump and pink.

Lickable.

I want to devour her, starting with that mouth.

“He’s browsing.”

She covers my hand with hers, but not to pull it away. Instead, she squeezes, and my dick gets hard. I close my eyes. This is no way to react to her still-present fear, but my body knows who’s touching it.

“Have lunch with me on Friday.”

My eyes pop open. “Pardon?”

“Lunch. You and me, we’ll eat and talk about books and non-shooting things. We won’t mention bullets or hospitals or nightmares of seeing a friend covered in blood,” she says, her smile quivering at the corners.

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