She didn’t remember much after that. The Ranger had found them on the beach and there had been a myriad of police, paramedic and press crawling around the beach in a matter of hours.
The celebrity element of Jon couldn’t be kept under wraps for long. Whether it was a leak by the police or a paramedic with an overzealous tongue, the press was all over the scene like it was the next
Distantly she knew that the paramedics were trying to stabilize her, get her ready for the trip to the hospital. All she could focus on was Jon. Where was he? Her heart rate stuttered and spiked and the ambulance seemed to close in on her.
“Miss, please you have to calm down.”
She drew in a shuddering breath. “I need-“ she sucked in another thick, cold gulp of air. “Where-“ The machines she was hooked to beeped and shrieked. “I need-“
“Miss, you have to relax. Your body’s in shock and we need to get you stable.”
“I can’t! I need-“ and her breath let out in a whoosh as Jon came around the side of the ambulance. Instantly her body shook with both relief and the unrelenting cold she couldn’t seem to control.
She reached for him, and flinched at the pulse of light as cameras caught them. She pulled back, tucking her fingers in between her thighs to keep them warm. “You’re okay,” she said unevenly.
“Yes, I’m fine. I’m heading into the ER with you.” He flashed a smile at the paramedic. “Mind if I catch a ride with you guys?”
“That’s fine,” the young man said. “Alright Miss we’re going to get you into the bus alright?”
She nodded as the gurney she’s been strapped to popped up to slide neatly into the ambulance. Every scrape, bruise and laceration seemed to hum to life as she was locked in.
Jon stepped up with the help of the tech and sat beside her. “How are you feeling?”
Suddenly unable to look at him, she faced the other side of the cab. “Just fine,” she said softly.
Jon leaned forward, hooking a finger along her chin to turn her back to him. “
She closed her eyes. She could feel his eyes on her and couldn’t stop the slow trickle of tears from falling into her hair, gathering at her temple. “I killed a person,” she whispered.
“Hey, look at me.”
She just kept her eyes closed and saw Lucas’ eyes flat and dead. She’d taken a life. Violently. Not just taken it, she’d left no room for error. She’d buried a knife into Lucas’ neck and watched him drown. How could he look at her after that?
Her eyelids flashed open at the command in his tone. There was no censure in his gaze, only the soft light of thankfulness and something else. Something she had no business seeing in those amazing eyes. She lifted her hand to his bristly cheek drawing the warmth of his skin into hers.
He cupped her hand and pressed it harder into his cheek. “None of this is your fault.”
She coughed, slipping her hand away from his face and the warmth she felt there. She held her stomach as she coughed again and again, her body trying to reject the last of the lake water that had saturated her lungs.
He looked up at the paramedic. “Anything you can do for her?”
The medic nodded and hooked up an IV to her.
The world started to go black and she reached for him, finding the solid grip of his hand before she let herself float away.
ONE WEEK LATER
Between the knife and the manic scrubbing she was lucky she didn’t have to have reconstructive surgery to make them look like hands again. She traced a line down her palm. She could feel the itch of the healing skin broken by the blade of Lucas’ knife. He’d managed to give her one more scar to add to the collection.
She pushed that thought away and tucked the last of her belongings in her bag. Not that it was her stuff anyway. It was Jon who’d taken care of her, bought her clothes so that she had something to wear out of the hospital.
She turned and her breath stopped. He stood in the doorway, his arm still pinned to his chest in a tight sling. A button down khaki shirt hung over faded blue jeans in a wrinkled state that told her he still hadn’t gone home. “Hi,” she said softly.
“Hey,” Jon said with the same thoughtful smile she saw every day. “Time to spring you from this joint, huh?”
“Have you given any thought to where you’ll go?”
She shook her head. She couldn’t seem to make herself go back to her old life. Even with Lucas dead and her name cleared, it seemed wrong. The police had cleared her of any wrong doing. It had been ruled self defense without much fight on her end.
She’d had to explain her history to strangers, drag them into her private hell until she was so numb it just didn’t seem to matter anymore. All that mattered was that she was free. She could start over anywhere.
“With the press, I thought it would be a good idea to keep that new identity you made for yourself. I can get you anywhere you want to go. You can start over.”
She blinked out of her thoughts and looked at him. Had he been reading her mind? “I don’t know, Jon.”
He slid his hand down her arm and gently caught her by the fingertips. “Let me help you.”
She backed up, loosening his hold. “I don’t need your help. I can finally do this on my own.”
“Call it a loan then.”
She stopped and turned back to him. “Why?”
His blue eyes swirled with emotion. Concern and what might have beens lingered before he glanced down at her bandaged hands and he took one again, gently folding both of his over hers. “It’s not right, and the timing sucks on a level I can’t even explain, but there’s something between us.”
She tried to pull back. Her heart rate accelerated until every muscle and bone in her body quivered to flee.
“I’m not asking anything from you,
“Of course I am. Lucas is dead.”
“Where do you want to go?” His eyes were earnest now. His lips in a thin line as he looked at her. Really looked at her, as if he could see everything inside of her.
She stopped, letting her hand stay right where it was, right where she wanted to be. She met his eyes. “A small town by the water. Even after all that Lucas did to me, I need the water to be happy.”
“I found a place in
“Jon, no. That’s way too generous.” Her heart leaped into her throat. Why would he help her like this? What did he want?
“I can see those beautiful blue eyes reading way too much into my ulterior motives. We’ve been through something together. I care about what happens to you. I just want to give you the chance to start over at your own pace. And I don’t want you to worry about giving me anything in return. Knowing you can start over somewhere without Lucas’ memory hanging over your head is enough.”
She stared into his eyes, reading the need and the want there, but also the truth. He wanted to help her. He didn’t pity her. She could feel the other undercurrent between them, the quieter, stifled connection that could have been something.
She nodded. “I’m paying you back.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He held out his arm. “Car’s waiting downstairs.”
She lifted the small duffle and hooked her arm in his. “Already had this planned huh?”
“I’m pretty good at negotiating.”
“And if I’d said no?”
“I’d have thought of something else.”
She laughed. Something told her he had plan b and c in his head already. The man was ready for anything. She signed out and they rode the elevator in silence. A Towne Car sat by the curb when they left the building.
Jon stood next to her as the driver popped the trunk. She stepped forward when she saw her suitcase in the trunk. “How?”
He shrugged, “The police found your car and called me looking for you. I told them I’d take it for you.”
“Enterprising of you,” she said dryly.
“Isn’t it just?”
She tucked the duffle in next to her suitcase and followed him around the car. “So what now?”
He opened the door, waving the driver back into the car. They settled in and he looked at her. “Now you get on a plane and you start over Cameron Blaise.” He picked up a packet off the seat. “You have credit cards and ID here. I used the name you had on the passport and license. You can be whoever you want to be.”
Yours. A tiny whisper in her head startled her. What would it be like to be his? She swallowed back the what-might-have-beens. She wasn’t his. He had a family and responsibilities and she was...She didn’t even know who she was.
They rode in silence, she could sense his need to process all that today meant. His presence next to her felt reassuring and calming in a way she didn’t think she’d ever find again, especially with a man as powerful as Jon was. They pulled around to a small air strip and the car drove right onto the tarmac.
She got out and grabbed her purse before the men in the suits could haul that away with her luggage. Her stomach fluttered as they stood together with his plane humming in the distance. He was an important man after all. She looped the strap over her shoulder. “I will pay you back monetarily. As for the rest…” she trailed off.
“You don’t owe me anything. If anything I owe you.” He tucked a blowing strand of hair behind her ear. He leaned in and pressed a kiss to her temple. “Nothing like a little perspective to get a man back to center.”
She leaned into him, drawing in the scent of leather and soap and the elusive scent that was Jon. She looped her arm around his good shoulder and pressed a kiss to his cheek. And then because she needed to know she moved over.
He jerked a little as their lips made contact. She pulled back, but it was too late. His hand came up to the back of her head and kept her still as he slowly and thoroughly tasted her. The tendrils of attraction hadn’t faded now that the stress of the situation had dissipated. They were strong and longing to build.
Her fingers curled into his jacket as she held on. His smoky flavor was a heady taste of heaven. She forced herself to stop, to pull back. He wasn’t hers. It definitely wasn’t the time.
She lifted her fingertips to his lips, so full and warm. Did he taste her still? Did he want more? She closed her eyes when he gently kissed her fingertips.
“Have a nice life, Cameron Blaise.”
She opened her eyes and saw the sadness there in his face, as well as the resignation. He knew it wasn’t the right time either. She could see it, taste it in the longing of his kiss. She stepped back and hooked her thumb into her pocket. “Thank you.”
She turned and nodded to the stewardess as she climbed the blocky steps into the first class personal plane. She forced herself not to look back. She wasn’t entirely sure she would get on the plane if she did.
She settled herself into her seat and opened her purse. She found her trusty Ipod at the bottom of the mess and slipped the earbuds in and hit shuffle. She looked out the window as Amanda Marshall flooded into her brain as she held up a hand in goodbye.
Jon felt the buzz of his phone as the plane hit the runway and he watched her take off. He dragged his thoughts back to the present. Letting the plane leave with all the what ifs that swirled in his gut. He lifted it to his ear. “Yes?”
“I’m sorry, Sir.”
Jon’s gut clenched for a whole new reason. “Still nothing?”
“They combed the lake. Both the divers from the Lake George Park Rangers and the personal ones you requested came up with the same results. Captain Lucas Banyon hasn’t been found.”
“I want a guard on her twenty-four seven. I don’t care if he never finds her, you make sure someone watches over her.”
Without missing a beat, his head of security asked, “Do you want the subject to know?”
Jon turned back, just as the plane disappeared into the east. “No. Just make sure she’s safe. I want weekly reports to my personal email.”
Jon snapped the phone shut and climbed into the Town Car waiting for him. “Home, please.”