Gerry whipped off his sunglasses. “Yes, ma’am.”
“I may need your help down there, too.”
“Whatever you need, Cara. I’ll be glad to help.”
Of course he would , thought Nick. Gerry smelled money. Big money. He’d better not take advantage of Cara. She had enough to deal with without a crooked lawyer trying to take her to the cleaners, too.
Nick and Cara boarded the boat and started for home. As they passed through the mouth of the harbor, he was aware of her standing beside him. “Do you want to take control?”
“Of the boat? No, thanks.”
“How did your meeting with Gerry go?”
“He said I may have to pay Lance off to get rid of him, unless we can prove he planned this from the start.”
Nick threaded the boat between a fishing boat and a tug pushing a barge in the other direction. “Okay, so let’s prove it.”
“You’d help me with this?”
“Sure. Hey, I’m always up for a good fight.”
She sighed. “I don’t know how to fight.”
He put his arm around her waist. “Maybe Cara Andrews doesn’t, but I’ll bet Maxine Donatelli does.”
“If there was such a person.”
“There is,” he said softly. “She’s inside you, Cara.”
She stood quietly for a few minutes, lost in thought. “I’ll have to go meet with the trustees next week, I suppose. Will you come with me, Nick? Please?”
With his bank account nearly empty, Nick didn’t see how he could go anywhere but back to work. He dropped his arm and she backed up a step. “I have to work, Cara. I have bills to pay.”
“Then work for me, Nick. Just until I get this thing with Lance settled.”
He shook his head. He couldn’t take money for helping a friend.
“I need your help, Nick. I need someone on my side, and there’s nobody else in this world I trust as much as you.”
He glanced at the worried look on her face and knew he couldn’t let her go to California by herself. What if her husband showed up? What if he hurt her, or drugged her again, or kidnapped her and took her to that sanitarium? She’d die in a place like that.
His house came into view and he eased back on the throttle. “Are you afraid to go back alone?”
“Terrified. What if you’re right? What if someone in the house is working for Lance? What if he’s convinced my household staff to help him?”
Who knew what she’d walk into down there. She needed someone to watch out for her. A friend. Someone who didn’t give a shit about her money. She needed him .
Nick eased the boat up to the dock and Cara jumped off with the line to tie up.
After they secured the boat, he said, “I guess I can wait another week or so to find a job.” So his house payment would be late. So what? He’d blame it on the earthquake.
He watched her walk up to the house. Her limp was gone and her right arm moved freely. He knew her shoulder was still sore, but she had, for the most part, recovered. Now she had another ordeal to get through, and this one could be worse than the last. She wouldn’t have to go through it alone.
The friend she trusted would be there.
Cara walked through the door of Nick’s house. This little house felt more like home than home, but it wasn’t the house. It was the man who owned it. This man she’d only known a few days had turned into her best friend. He believed in her like no one else. Did he have any idea how much that meant to her?
She reached out for a hug and stepped into his arms, soaking up his affection. His big hands held her gently, giving her the comfort she hadn’t had since she was thirteen. With her head resting on his shoulder, she sighed and relaxed. No place in the world felt as safe and comfortable as Nick’s arms.
She gave him a light kiss on the lips and pulled away. He held her hand and gazed into her eyes with such intensity she thought he’d kiss her again, but he didn’t. Just as well. If he gave her a real kiss, she’d probably never let go.
While Cara made a salad,
Nancy Freedman, Benedict Freedman