Home > The Watcher (Men of Hidden Justice #4)

The Watcher (Men of Hidden Justice #4)
Author: Melanie Moreland

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

Damien

 

 

I sipped my whiskey, letting the rich flavor roll down my throat. Outside, the sky was dreary and overcast, matching my mood. The bar was mostly empty, the weather keeping people inside. I ran a hand through my hair, catching my reflection in the mirror behind the bar. My mouth was turned down in a frown, the creases in my forehead deep. I blew out a long breath and rolled my shoulders, relaxing my tight muscles. I was feeling off. Tense yet bored. Restless yet tired. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I wasn’t myself. I had escaped my too-quiet condo to be around people. Yet I had no desire to mingle with anyone here.

It was a conundrum.

I tapped the bar, and Taylor, the bartender, topped up my glass.

“Dinner?”

“Shepherd’s pie on tonight?” I asked hopefully.

“You know it. I’ll put in the order. You want to move to a table?”

I glanced behind me and nodded. There was a comfortable booth available, and I could relax and eat dinner.

“Yeah.”

“Mum’s got sticky toffee pudding up tonight for later.”

“With custard?”

He nodded with a grin.

“Make sure to save me one.”

I liked this bar. Family-run, home cooking, it was like an English pub in style and décor. I had been coming here for years. The food was delicious, the whiskey selection top-notch, and the staff friendly but not intrusive. The front half was a long bar, the heavy wood dark with age. There were a few scattered tables, a pool table, and a space for darts. The back half was tables and booths. Often on a Friday or Saturday, the place was full, people eating and drinking everywhere, music playing, and someone always looking for a fellow dart player or to start a game of cards. Today, it was quiet, with only a dozen patrons scattered around the place.

I stood, reaching over for my glass, when the door to the bar burst open. A woman stumbled in, breathing hard, her eyes wild. Our gazes locked, the fear in her eyes driving me forward. I was at her side in a moment, gripping her elbow. Her hair was long, the rain causing the color to darken. It hung down her back in a damp wave of espresso. Her eyes were an unusual gray-green color, rimmed in a dark green. Long lashes framed them. They were stunning. And terrified.

Before I could speak or ask what was wrong, she flung her arms around me.

“I’m so sorry I’m late!” she exclaimed loudly.

I blinked at her words.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered against my neck. “Please play along.”

Then she crashed her mouth to mine.

 

 

It took me about three seconds to catch up, all the ennui and lethargy leaving my body, everything in me strumming with alertness and need. Of their own volition, my arms wrapped around her, hauling her close to my chest. She was soft and curvy, fitting against me perfectly. One hand crept up, fisting her hair, holding her close. Desire filled me as I held her, and I flicked my tongue against her mouth, slipping inside and groaning as her taste exploded on my tongue. Cinnamon and spice, sweet and tangy—all things good and rich filled my senses.

Until she pulled back, our gazes locking.

I felt my mouth curve into a wide smile. “You’re forgiven.”

I stepped back and closed the door, one arm still wrapped around her. I felt the shiver race through her body at the chill from outside, but it was the constant tremble of her limbs that told me how frightened she was. The fear in her gaze did something to me.

“I’ve got you,” I murmured.

I glanced over to Taylor, who was watching us with curious eyes.

“Make it dinner for two,” I called over. “My girlfriend is late but will join me. Add a glass of red to the order.”

Then I headed away from the door toward the back and stopped at a booth, indicating she should sit.

For a moment, she hesitated, then slid in. I glanced behind her, noticing a solitary figure outside. Obviously male, his dark gray hood was pulled low over his head, obscuring his face. He was tall and his frame lean. I tilted my head, noting the fisted hands and tense set of his shoulders. I could feel his hate and anger from the other side of the glass. I stepped toward him, and he turned and hurried away.

“Is he still there?” she asked, the anxiety in her voice evident.

“He’s gone now. Were you being followed?” I asked, sliding in across from her.

“Y-yes.”

I had a lot of other questions, but I remained silent, knowing I had to tread carefully.

Taylor slid my whiskey and a glass of wine on the table and walked away. I pushed the glass toward her. “Have a sip.”

She shook her head.

“Of course, I’m sorry,” I replied, shaking my head. She was scared and being followed—she wasn’t going to accept a glass of wine from a stranger. I picked it up and took a drink.

“It’s perfectly safe,” I assured her.

Her hand trembled, and she took a long sip from the glass, letting out a sigh.

“I’ll pay for my wine and leave. I’m sorry.” She met my gaze, the beauty of her eyes startling me again. Set under delicate eyebrows, they were wide and lovely. Even scared, they were beautiful.

“I ordered you dinner. You can eat and relax. You’ll be safe.”

She frowned, her brow furrowing. “Why would you do that?” she asked.

I shrugged, leaning my arm across the back of the booth. “Because I can,” I replied. “Obviously, you’re in trouble and you need help. I can offer that help to you. But first, you need to warm up, relax, and eat, then you can tell me what happened.”

She blinked. “Why?” she repeated.

I smiled. “Because you chose me to help you. You kissed me.” I couldn’t help winking at her. “Not that kissing you was a chore.”

“Really,” she replied, edging toward the end of the booth. “I’ll be fine.”

I put my hand out to stop her. “Don’t go.”

She looked down where my hand rested on her sleeve. “I don’t want to cause you trouble.”

I shook my head. “Trouble and I are old friends.”

Taylor arrived with dinner, the shepherd’s pie bubbling in the casserole dishes, the steam wafting in the air bringing the delicious aroma to my nose. The mixed salads and warm loaves of bread rounded out the tray. I looked at her after he left, the food sitting on the table.

“You wouldn’t make me eat alone now, would you?”

She hesitated.

“Please,” I said simply.

Her shoulders slumped. “Okay. Just dinner, though. Then I’ll leave you in peace.”

I leaned closer. “You might want to rethink that, pretty lady. Of all the men you chose to kiss, I was the right pick. I can help you.”

Her eyes widened, but she said nothing.

I held out my hand. “Damien DeSalvo.”

She let me wrap my fingers around hers. “Raven Bailey.”

Raven. The name suited her.

“A pleasure. Now eat up. You have a story to tell, and I want to hear it.”

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

Damien

 

 

The shepherd’s pie was delicious. The salad crisp. My unexpected dinner companion had little appetite, though. Every time the door opened, she tensed. Each time a new voice rang out, she jumped. Finally, I slid my hand across the table, covering hers that held her fork like a weapon.

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