go with you as a bodyguard. We’ll have a patrol car meet you there
and stay out front to discourage unwanted guests.”
Wetherby concurred, “In broad daylight you
should be reasonably safe.”
Juliet thanked all of them, getting to her feet
and looking expectantly at Jake. Without meeting her eyes, he nodded at the
others and rose to his feet, moving protectively in front of Juliet as they
left the restaurant. His started to take her hand once more, then jerked away
as if the touch had scorched his hand. Juliet glanced up at him, but he
continued scanning the restaurant without looking in her direction.
She knew his reputation from Aaron’s stories.
Women came and went like a revolving door. But this morning before they’d been
interrupted he’d been so sweet and romantic, she’d begun to think maybe he felt
something for her. She’d gone into last night with her eyes open, but if she
stopped lying to herself she could admit she’d hoped making love would, well,
make him fall in love. Apparently, that hadn’t happened. At all.
The Trouble with Love
Jake remained silent throughout the drive to
Juliet’s house. She waited, dreading what would come out of his mouth when he
finally deigned to speak to her again. Picking at her nail polish, the little
she still had left, she darted occasional glances at him trying to determine
his mood. Should she go ahead and say something? Or would he resent that?
When they pulled up to the curb, all thoughts of
Jake vanished. Her house looked like a war zone, or at least what she imagined
a war zone might look like. Just like dealing with gang members and getting
shot, she’d never imagined sifting through the wreckage of a burnt home.
Luckily, Jake had had the presence of mind to arrange for emergency services to
secure the property against looters once the fire fighters had finished.
Stepping closer, Juliet took in the charred
remains of her couch and a pile of ash that used to be her beautifully carved
coffee table. The windows that hadn’t been shot were now solid black. Her comfy
chair appeared to have withstood the flames somehow, but the fire fighters had
destroyed it with their water and foam. Soot stained the walls. The smell of
smoke permeated the air. Following the scorch marks, she glanced into the
kitchen. The room had become a gray and black wasteland. Her appliances still
stood, except for the microwave, but several of the cabinet doors had burned or
broken. The heat had caused her refrigerator door to melt into waves. Ash and
foam residue encrusted the walls.
“You’ll need to get a crew in to check for
Juliet nodded, trying not to cry. “I guess
there’s no point in getting anything from my closet. All my clothes would
“Even more importantly, you shouldn’t use those
stairs until they’ve been checked out.”
“Jake, what should I do? Not just about the
house, but…” She waved her arm as if to encompass everything.
Jake opened his arms to hug her. The moment he
did, she buried her face against his shirt and held on as though her life
depended on it.
“It’ll be all right.” He rubbed her back and
held her tighter. “You’re going to get through this.”
Juliet could feel him rest his cheek on her head
as he gently rocked her. She pulled back just enough to look up into his face.
“What about witness protection? I’d have to leave… everyone.”
He stroked her cheek, wiping away a tear.
“You’ll be back in a year. Maybe less.”
Without thinking, she turned her head to kiss
his palm. He sucked in a sharp breath, his fingers tightening in her hair for a
second before he released her.
“You’re in the FBI, though. You could contact
me, at least, couldn’t you?”
Jake shook his head, looking inexplicably
guilty. “I’m not supposed to. It would be safer for you if you cut all ties.”
“But what about for the next week, until the