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      Mari opened her eyes when she felt the truck come to a stop. The sun would be rising before too long. She was beyond grateful she didn’t have to worry about going to work.

“Are you awake over there?” Tyler asked as he unbuckled his seatbelt and reached for hers.

“Barely,” she murmured with a smile of contentment.

“Hang tight. I’ll come around and get you.”

“You don’t have to,” she protested, but he was already getting out of the truck.

She blinked up at him sleepily when he opened her door and stuck his head in.

“Wake up, party girl. We have our own private party to get to.”

He took her mouth in a slow kiss that assaulted her senses. When he pulled back a moment later, she blinked far more slowly. He leaned back and looked beyond the truck.

“Hey, man. It’s late. Mari’s not working tomorrow. Why don’t you head over to Raoul and Allie’s for the night?”

Mari’s eyes widened and she swung her legs out of the truck.


“What?” he asked with a glance. “We could use some privacy.”

She shoved him back to give herself some space to get out of the truck. “That is so inappropriate!”

Tyler sighed and kept her boxed in against the truck. “Sweetheart, I haven’t had time alone with you since your dad left. We could use it.”

“Well, maybe we should’ve had that conversation before you tried to kick my guest out on your own.”

Tyler’s eyes narrowed and he turned his head as Reese approached.

“You know, you haven’t said why you’re even still here,” he said to Reese. “You’re not close to Raoul and Allie. You’re definitely not close to Mari. Why are you still here when her dad is gone?”

“Can we not do this right now?” Mari protested.

Besides, Tyler knew why Reese was still there. Then again, he wasn’t supposed to. The whole mess made her head hurt and she wasn’t in the mood to sort through it all after a long night of drinking and dancing.

“No, I think that’s a question that deserves an answer.”

“You’re not in a position to demand answers,” Reese said simply. “Come on, Mari. Let’s get you inside.”

Tyler caught Mari’s arm before she could leave his side. “Answer my question.”

Reese focused on Tyler’s hand around Mari’s arm and she could almost feel him losing his hold on his easy demeanor.

“Answer the question, Reese. Why are you here? It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Let her go.”

Tyler didn’t let go and Mari knew if she didn’t intervene it was going to become a much larger issue. She gently pulled her arm free.

“Seriously. I’m not doing this tonight. You can question Reese another time.”

“You should want to know those answers too, Mari. Something about this doesn’t feel right.”

“The only thing I want to know tonight is how soon I can fall asleep when my head hits the pillow.”

Reese stepped between her and Tyler the moment she passed him. She held onto the railing as she climbed the few steps to the front door.

“Mari,” Reese called warningly when she would have opened the door.

She sighed. He didn’t explain. Just the way he said her name was enough to get his point across. Reese always wanted to look through the house before she went inside. She still wasn’t used to it and he scolded her every time she forgot. She folded her arms across her chest and leaned against the side of the house.

“Why isn’t she allowed to go in the house?” Tyler challenged.

“You need to head home,” Reese told Tyler simply.

“You need to tell me why you’re still here and why my girl isn’t allowed in her own house without you.”

Reese stared at him.

“Tyler, just go please,” Mari asked. “You’re ruining a really good night.”

He held Reese’s gaze a moment longer then looked past him to Mari. “Go on inside, sweetheart. Reese and I are just going to talk a little longer.”

Reese turned on his heel and jogged up the steps to open the door for Mari. “Right inside,” he told her softly even though she could see the anger building in his eyes.

She accepted the dictate wordlessly, standing just inside the house as Reese stood in the doorway and turned back to Tyler who’d followed.

“I’ve asked you to leave. Mari has also asked you to leave. You want to do that. Now. The next request will come from the sheriff.”

“What are you hiding, Reese?”

“Mari, call the sheriff.”

Mari groaned and grabbed Reese’s shoulder to look over his arm where he had the entrance blocked. “Tyler, for goodness sake, just GO.”

Tyler rubbed a hand over his head. “I’m asking questions you know make sense, Mari. The fact that he’s not willing to answer should tell you something, but I’ll leave it alone for tonight.”

“Thank you.”

Reese remained in the doorway, watching until Tyler got back in his truck and pulled out of the yard. Only then did he step inside and close the door. Mari stayed in her spot at the door while he did his customary walkthrough of the house.

When he returned from the bedroom, he checked out the window once more.

“He’s gone,” she confirmed quietly.

He turned back to her with hard eyes.

“Does he make a habit of grabbing you like that? Using his body to prevent you from doing things?”

Mari waved his questions away as she toed off her shoes. “He’s not abusive. He just gets jealous.”

“What happens when he gets jealous, Marielle?”

The way he said her given name teased at something in her.

“Reese, get off it. There’s no issue here. He just doesn’t like you.”

“Why is that?”

“You’re a man I haven’t known since I was four and you’re staying at my place. That’s all it takes for him. Add in he’s asking questions anyone would ask based on what he knows and you’re not answering. Of course he doesn’t like you.”

She stretched her arms above her head as she walked toward her bedroom. “You are going to have to come up with something, by the way. Because he’s not going to let it go. But that’s your problem, not mine. I’m not getting in the middle of it again,” she warned over her shoulder.

“I didn’t ask you to this time,” he reminded her quietly.

She stopped at the door. “He wouldn’t have left without me saying something. What would you have done then?”

“I would have called the sheriff like I said. You asked him to leave and he stayed for a confrontation. I don’t like that aggression.”

“You’re here to protect me from anyone who might use me against Blake, not my boyfriend.”

“I’m here to protect you from threats.”

“Tyler isn’t a threat.”

He said nothing. She threw her hands up in annoyance. “You can’t just not say anything.”

“Go to sleep.”

“Do not start trouble with Tyler,” she said firmly.

“You should be giving Tyler a warning. Not me.”

Her brow wrinkled. He wasn’t entirely wrong.

“Men,” she muttered in annoyance and headed for bed. She would sort them both out later.

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