Numbers Page 39

’’Looks like. I think I\ll just take side streets to be sure.’’

’’You just don\ want to go to the motel so you\ e taking your sweet time.’’

He chuckled. ’’Probably. You know Mom is going to fake tears when you tell her you\ e not ready to go home.’’

’’I know.’’

’’Are you going to cave?’’

’’No.’’

’’You\ve never been that great at standing up to her. That\s why you\ e the one who lives so close to her.’’

’’I\ve gotten better at it, and I\m motivated. You completely ignored what I said when I mentioned Mourn and me becoming mates. Don\ think I didn\ notice that.’’

’’Are you considering it?’’ Tension sounded in his voice.

’’Yes. It\s all I think about. I wish you would give him a chance. He\s amazing.’’

’’You love him, don\ you?’’

She didn\ hesitate. ’’I do. I saw fear in his eyes when we were saying goodbye, as if he was afraid I wouldn\ come back. I want to go back, and I don\ think I want to stay at your place anymore. I\d like to live with him.’’

’’You\ve only known him for a few days.’’

’’How long did you spend with Becky before you knew she was the one?’’

He didn\ answer.

She turned her head to stare at his grim expression. ’’Answer me, and be honest.’’

’’I knew after our first date when I woke up with her in my arms.’’

’’She slept with you on the first date? I\m shocked,’’ Dana teased.

’’We hit it off. What can I say? I woke up and my first impulse was not to get the hell out of there like all the other one-night stands I\d had. I wanted to stay and cook her breakfast. Hell, I wanted to go home and grab a bag so I could sleep with her every night.’’

’’That must have been some out-of-this-world se*. I don\ want details.’’

He chuckled. ’’Actually, it wasn\ all that great, but we had the best time. She made me laugh and I just fell hard. I wasn\ even ready to settle down, but she changed everything for me.’’

’’I feel that way about Mourn. Only the se* is out of this world.’’

’’I didn\ need to know that.’’

’’Just saying.’’ She glanced in the rearview mirrors again, still not seeing headlights. ’’I think we\ e good.’’

’’Me too. I just worry about you, Dana. You and Tommy were real social butterflies. You can\ go to parties or the theater with Mourn.’’

’’That was all Tommy. I never enjoyed that crap.’’

’’Really?’’

’’Yeah. We fought about it often.’’

’’I didn\ know that.’’

’’There was a lot you didn\ know. I\ve never felt this way before. Ever. Not even with Tommy. This morning it was tough to leave Mourn\s house. I thought about calling you and asking you to just bring my stuff to me. I wanted to stay.’’

’’Why didn\ you?’’

She decided to be honest. ’’I knew you\d argue with me again, and try to talk me out of it. He\s not used to family drama. I guess I\m afraid he\s going to decide I\m not worth the trouble.’’

’’He wouldn\ care about that shit if he loves you. Hell, Becky puts up with Mom because she loves me.’’

’’Mom is across the country and you only lived near her for a few months. You work at Homeland so he can\ avoid it if you decide to be an asshole. You bothered him while he was at work.’’

’’I told you I did that because I\m worried about you.’’

’’Get over it, and start focusing on what\s going to make me happy instead. Like it or not, that\s Mourn.’’

’’I\ll try to cut him some slack, okay?’’

’’You will?’’

He nodded. ’’Yes.’’

’’Thank you.’’ She saw the motel sign ahead. ’’Is that it?’’

’’Yes. Stick close to me. I wasn\ joking about that place being a dive. Keep the cap and glasses on. Don\ talk to anyone. I have a feeling a lot of the protestors stay here. It\s cheap and close to Homeland. I registered Mom under a false name, and made her promise to avoid talking to strangers.’’

’’Won\ they recognize the SUV as belonging to Homeland?’’

’’No. This isn\ a task force vehicle. This one is the smaller type they rarely use, and it doesn\ have any NSO markings. It will take them time to run the plates, if someone does, and it\s registered under a false company name. We\ll be good for at least an hour. If shit hits the fan, get behind me. I\m armed.’’

Her mouth dropped open.

He parked far away from the other cars, turned off the engine and unfastened his belt. He sighed. ’’It\s procedure. I have military training and target practice every few weeks. I\d rather be safe than sorry.’’

’’Isn\ that illegal?’’

’’No. The NSO lists me as a task force member, and I have a badge in my wallet to flash if I need to shoot someone. It is better than a permit to carry a concealed weapon. My ass is covered.’’

’’Have you ever had to shoot someone?’’

’’I served a few tours. Of course I have. Let\s go.’’ He climbed out of the driver\s side.

Dana got out and closed the door. Paul activated the alarm and came to her side, hooking his arm with her. She kept her head low. A few guests hung out in the parking lot in several groups. Paul drew her closer and took the stairs up to the second level. It was clear there. He stopped in front of a door and lifted his hand.

’’You ready for this?’’

’’Yes.’’

He knocked and there was movement at the peephole in the door. The light disappeared.

’’Go away or I\ll call 9-1-1!’’

Paul sighed. ’’It\s us, Mom.’’

Within seconds the door opened. Their mother stared at both of them. Paul pushed her gently out of the way, drew Dana inside, and locked the door behind them. He released her arm and removed his glasses, grinning.

’’Hi, Mom.’’ He hugged her.

’’I thought you were both drug dealers. Why are you dressed like that?’’ She glared at them.

Dana removed the cap, allowing her tucked-up hair to fall free, and took off the sunglasses. ’’We wanted to fit in with your neighbors,’’ she joked. Her gaze traveled around the room. ’’Wow. Hello, low-budget p***** set.’’


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