Of Blood and Bone (Page 27)

Of Blood and Bone (The Minaldi Legacy #1)(27)
Author: Courtney Cole

I turn to Luca. “Thank you for expediting that process.”

He shrugs.  “It was nothing.  You didn’t deserve to wait out here in the dark.  Come.  I’ll walk you home.”

Marianne looks at me.  “I’ll see you tomorrow, bella,” she says.  “Lock your doors and just use common sense, alright?”

I nod.  It’s clear that she doesn’t think Annica Rossi drowned.  I don’t either.

I watch her retreat toward her restaurant before I look back at Luca.

“You don’t need to walk me home,” I tell him.  “It’s unnecessary.”

“Perhaps,” he answers.  “But I want to.  It would make me feel more comfortable.  You’ve had a rough evening.  It’s the least I can do.”

“Okay,” I reply. “Thank you.”

He touches my elbow lightly as I get up from the driftwood.  His touch is electric and I can still feel the imprint of his fingers long after he removes them from my skin.  For some reason, I ache to lean back into it, into his warmth.  I decide it must be the emotional toll that this evening has taken on me.

Luca walks me to my scooter and then he pushes it as we walk.  It doesn’t take us very long to reach my cottage and we don’t talk very much along the way. The night has been sobering, the events of it thoroughly quenching my good mood.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” I ask as Luca delivers me to my door.  He looks at me.  I can feel him examining me, studying my motives.  His gaze practically burns my skin and I struggle to not fidget beneath it as I wait for his decision.

Finally, he asks, “Do you have Scotch?”

I have to laugh as I shake my head.  “Um, no.  I don’t. But I have wine.”

“That will do,” he answers.  He waits while I unlock the door and he tells Grendel to stay on the porch. The dog immediately sits and watches the perimeter with alert eyes.

Luca sits on my patio as I dig around for a corkscrew.  I finally locate one, open the wine and bring it along with two glasses to the small table on the patio.

“Where were you the other night?” I ask him.  “You said you wanted a report and then you weren’t there.”

He stares back at me calmly.  “I had a matter to attend to.  I apologize for not seeing you.  Evangeline, are you all right?” he asks me as I pour him a glass of wine.

I notice that my fingers are shaking, sloshing the blood red liquid onto the sides of the glass.  This is probably why he asked. I grip the crystal glass tighter.

I nod. “I’m fine. I just hadn’t been expecting to find a murder victim today.”

Luca looks grim. “I’m sure.  But it is possible that she wasn’t murdered.  She could have simply gone into water that she shouldn’t have.”

I stare at him, at the way his mouth is pressed into a line.

“You don’t believe that,” I observe.

“No,” he admits.  “But I didn’t want to alarm you.”

“I’m already alarmed,” I tell him.  “I’m trying not to be, but I’m here alone in a tiny cottage not even half of mile from this latest victim.  I would be a fool if I wasn’t afraid.”

“You’re not a fool,” Luca answers.  “It’s clear that you’re anything but that.”

His dark eyes are so dark that they are almost black as he stares at me.  The sky above us is just as black and with his dark hair, he seems to melt into it.  He smells like some exotic blend of masculine spices.  I want to lean forward ever so slightly and inhale his neck. And then I am startled by my own impulse.  It is so unlike me.

“No, I’m not,” I answer.  But my thoughts conflict with that notion.

I don’t know if it is the emotion of the evening, but I find that all I want him to do is lean forward and kiss me, to wrap his strong arms around me and hold me there, against the safety of his chest.  But of course he doesn’t, so I take a slow sip of my wine.  He watches me.

“Are you going to be alright?” he asks. “You’re still shaking.  Do you need a jacket?”

“I’m not cold,” I tell him, although the breeze is slightly chilly.  “I’m just rattled.  But yes, I will be fine.”

His wine glass is empty so I fill it up and then top mine off, as well.  My hand is still shaking and I sigh.

“Maybe I’m not fine,” I admit.  “I’ve never seen anything like that before. And even though my brain knows that I’m safe as long as my doors and windows are locked, my body apparently doesn’t believe it.”

Luca smiles sympathetically.  “That’s completely normal,” he answers.  “I don’t know anyone in their right mind who wouldn’t be upset.  Honestly, I’d wonder about you if you weren’t.”

“You aren’t upset,” I point out.  He smiles again and I can see that he is tired.

“I wasn’t the one who found her,” he answers.  “It’s easy for me to remain calm.  And although I’m calm, I am upset by the situation.  It’s unnerving.  In fact, I have an idea.  Why don’t I stay here tonight?   That might put you at ease and you can get some rest.  I’ll sleep on the couch.”

I glance at his face and find that it is a serious offer, but I automatically reject the idea.

“No, no.  I could never impose on you in such a way.  I’m sure you have a king-sized luxurious bed waiting for you at Chessarae.  I’d never put you on my couch.  Or even in my tiny little bed.  But thank you very much for offering.  It’s very gentlemanly of you.”

He stares at me again, his gaze as black as night. The moonlight brushes softly against the chiseled features of his face and I inhale sharply at the expression I find there.

“Oh, make no mistake,” he tells me softly.  “I’m not that much of a gentleman, much to my mother’s dismay.”

My breath hitches in my throat and I stare at him, into his stormy gaze before he laughs.

“Evangeline, truly.  I want to stay.  It will make me feel better. I won’t sleep well knowing that you are frightened and alone.  In fact, if you’d like, we could both return to Chessarae and you could sleep there.  In your own room, of course,” he adds.