THE LONE WOLF'S LADY Part 3
Jaina's tears burned like acid on Rand's skin, but he wasn't about to complain. His experience when it came to comforting a woman was almost nonexistent, but even he knew to hold her close until she cried herself out. Hell, if he'd come that close to dying in an explosion, he might be sobbing a bit himself.
When the torrent slowed to a trickle, he eased back just far enough to be able to look her in the face. She swiped at her cheeks with her palms to clear away the tears. All she succeeded in doing was leaving a wet sheen across her pretty face.
"Hold on a second."
He ducked into the bathroom and came back with a handful of tissues. Instead of giving them to her, he used the side of his forefinger to tilt her chin up to give him better access as he gently wiped her face dry. Then, to lighten the moment, he gave her a quick kiss on the tip of her nose.
She managed a shaky smile as she nodded. "Yeah, sorry about that."
"No need to apologize. You've had a rough night of it."
"Pretty much. Once again, I'm sorry for dumping all of this on you with no warning."
As she spoke, she took another step back from him, visibly pulling herself together. If he had to guess, she was embarrassed over her meltdown. That was to be expected considering she was in law enforcement, but he hated even the small distance she'd put between them. He restrained himself from closing the gap again, knowing she needed to regain some control over her volatile emotions right now.
She brushed her hair back from her face. "If I can crash on your couch tonight, I promise to be gone at first light."
Like hell that was going to happen. There was no way he was going to let her out of his sight until they ended the threat to her life once and for all. Even then he wasn't sure he'd find the strength to let her walk back out of his life without a fight. That would have to be a discussion for another day. Right now, he needed to convince her to give him another chance to protect her. He'd messed up the last time and needed to atone for his mistake.
He shook his head. "You take the bed, and I'll sleep on the couch. Come morning, we'll sit down, figure out what we know and what we don't, and then go from there. If it's okay with you, I'll call Ian and tell him that we might need him, too."
She didn't immediately agree to the plan, but that didn't surprise him. Her careful consideration of all the facts and any course of action was the reason Jaina had one of the best conviction records in her department. He'd give her all the time she needed as long as it meant she agreed to stay right where she was, at least for the night.
Finally, she slowly nodded. "Fine, I'll stay. You can read your brother in on what's happened, but I also need to let Ambrose know, too. I'm sure by now he's already heard about my car exploding. They'll know soon enough that I wasn't inside when the bomb went off, but I don't want him going crazy trying to find me."
Rand had no problem with telling the head chancellor what was going on. As she'd said earlier, if they couldn't trust the man who'd earned his well-deserved reputation for honesty and enforcing the laws the Coalition fairly across the board.
"I would have suggested we call him, too." Then he hardened his expression before adding, "But not your boss."
She started to protest, but he held up his hand to cut off her protest. "I mean it, Jaina. He might have your trust, but I don't know him well enough to give him mine, not when it comes to your safety. You said yourself that the only two people besides yourself that knew what you'd found in those files were Ambrose and Steve. For now, the fewer people who know where you are, the better."
At least she didn't argue. "Fine, but we should contact your brother and Ambrose now before it gets any later."
"I'll call Ian first. While I do that, sit down before you fall down."
When she was settled on the sofa, he took the spot next to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her in close. With his free hand, he rang Ian's number. His brother answered on the fifth ring and sounded seriously pissed about being disturbed.
"Rand, this better be important. This is the first night in a week that I've made it home at a decent hour. My mate and I have plans for the evening, and they don't involve you."
Yeah, Rand felt real bad about that. It didn't stop him for plowing ahead. "Someone tried to kill Jaina again tonight. They blew her car all to hell and back."
He had to hold his phone away from his ear until Ian ran out of breath and curse words. Even Jaina was smiling at the man's verbal creativity. When he finally paused to catch his breath, Rand rejoined the conversation. He gave Ian a quick recap of the evening's events.
"She's staying with me for now. My next call is to Ambrose, but I've already told her that we wouldn't be notifying her boss. She trusts Steve, but I want to keep a lid on her whereabouts as much as possible."
Ian sounded a little calmer when he spoke again. "Good idea. Go ahead and give Ambrose a call and fill him in. I'll also call Dad and let him know you have a guest. I'll have to tell him that it's related to the case that got you shot. Hopefully, he won't come sniffing around, but I'm making no promises."
Rand growled, his wolf not happy. The last thing he needed was to drag the pack leader into Jaina's business, but Ian was right. There would be hell to pay if the Alpha found out they were keeping secrets from him, especially if there was any possibility that whoever was hunting Jaina tracked her to the estate that the wolves were sworn to protect.
"Fine, let him know. With luck the call will go to voice mail, because the Pack is out for a run tonight."
"Either way I'll make sure he knows we've got it handled. Other than that, it sounds like you've got things under control for now. Get some sleep, and we'll meet in the morning to figure out where to go from here."
"Anytime. Besides, it's nice having you back in the game."
He winced as he hung up, wishing Ian had kept that last comment to himself. It was too much to hope that Jaina hadn't heard and understood what it meant. Her hand settled on his thigh. "It wasn't your fault, Rand. Remember-you took a bullet meant for me. You saved my life."
"Barely. And we let a killer into the same room with the person we were supposed to be protecting."
"He hid his tracks too well. Ambrose blames himself, too, but all any of us can do is our best. Everyone makes mistakes."
"But when we do, people can die."
She leaned in closer and kissed his cheek. "But I didn't. So let it go, and let's move on. Do you want to call Ambrose or do you want me to?"
"I'll call him."
The chancellor answered immediately. "Rand, I have a lot going on. Make it quick."
Rand couldn't help but smile at the brusque response. The man could be charming when he wanted to, but evidently that wasn't the case right now. "Would it improve your mood to know Jaina is sitting on my couch?"
There was no mistaking the relief in Ambrose's voice when he asked, "Is she okay?"
"Yeah, she wasn't near the car when the bomb went off. She took a bus to the airport and picked up a rental to drive straight here."
"Smart thinking on her part." There was a long silence before Ambrose spoke again. "Is she close enough to hear what I'm saying?"
That had Jaina sitting up straighter and frowning big time. She was only one fourth vampire, but that still gave her superior hearing. There was no way she'd let him put enough distance between the two of them to make sure she couldn't eavesdrop on the rest of the conversation. "Yeah, why?"
Another silence, then Ambrose sighed. "She's going to find out anyway, but I wish there was an easy way to tell her this next part. It's bad, and I'm really sorry."
Now Rand wasn't sure he wanted to hear it either. "What happened?"
"Her vehicle wasn't the only one bombed tonight, but Steve wasn't as lucky as she was. Before you ask, we've already verified it was him in the car. His wife, too."
It was Rand's turn to curse. For her part, Jaina had tears streaming down her face. This time, though, she didn't look shattered. She looked furious.
"Ian plans to meet with us in the morning. We'll check in with you for an update before we do anything."
"We should have more information by then. Meanwhile, stay hunkered down there on the estate. You both should be safe enough for now. My people and I will put an end to this once and for all."
That was all well and good, but Rand wasn't going to sit on the sidelines for this one. "I want in on whatever you do, Ambrose. They came after my woman. For that, they die."
"So it's like that, is it?"
Rand was done lying to himself about his feelings for Jaina. "Yeah, it is."
There was a hint of laughter in the chancellor's voice when he asked, "Does she know that?"
Rand swallowed hard as he locked gazes with Jaina. "Well, she does now."
Then he hung up and waited for the fireworks to start.