Banging on the door startled Mari out of her sleep. She blinked rapidly as she threw her covers back and hopped out of bed. Reese strode toward the door from the kitchen, beating her there. He moved the curtain to the side with a finger and then opened the door.
“Where’s Mari?” Tyler demanded as he pushed his way inside.
It was just Tyler. Mari dropped her head back and rubbed her hand over her eyes while she tried to slow her heart rate. He cupped her arms and tugged her into him.
“Leo said he heard something about somebody trying to rob you. Are you okay? Why didn’t you call?”
“It happens sometimes. It wasn’t a big deal. Reese was with me.” The words came out without thought.
Surprisingly, he didn’t turn to look at Reese. Instead, he kept his concerned gaze on her. “Yeah, but it probably shook you up a little. I’m sorry I wasn’t there.” He stroked his thumb over her cheek. “You look like I woke you.”
“It’s okay,” she mumbled. “Just let me get some-”
Reese returned from the kitchen and offered her a mug. Pleasure pulled a sleepy grin from her as she accepted it.
“You’re a king among men,” she breathed before she drank some of the coffee.
“Breakfast will be ready soon.”
“An angel even,” Mari said continuing her praise.
Reese shook his head, but she saw his smile before he retreated to the kitchen again. Tyler caught her elbow and guided her to the couch. She sank down onto the cushion gratefully and inhaled more of her coffee.
“I’m glad you’re okay, sweetheart.” He settled in with one arm draped behind her.
“Really, it wasn’t a big deal and it was late-ish. It wasn’t worth bothering you over.”
“You’re never a bother.” He leaned in closer. “I know Reese is leaving tomorrow. We should take a trip up to Rocanda to get away for a little while, spend the night.”
Mari ducked her head, tucking a curl behind her ear. “Actually…”
Tyler caught her chin and gently turned her toward him. “What’s the matter?”
“I’m staying a little while longer,” Reese answered for her as he rounded the couch to hold out a plate.
Tyler’s jaw tightened as he glanced over at Reese. “That so? Seems like a long time to be away from home.”
Mari bit her lip as she reached over Tyler to take the plate.
“It’s been a nice change of scenery,” Reese answered simply.
“Well, I’m sure you can understand Mari not entertaining you every minute you’re here enjoying the scenery.”
“She knows all the best sights.”
Reese didn’t wait for a response before he walked back to the kitchen. Mari focused on her pancakes until the silence between her and Tyler stretched into discomfort. She peeked at him and found him watching her thoughtfully.
“I wanted the trip to Rocanda to have some one-on-one time before I leave.”
“Leave?” she echoed as her head came up. Had he found something on Blake?
“I need to head home for about a week. Everything’s fine, but the man who raised me needs me to help him take care of a few things.”
Mari smiled as her tension eased. That definitely wasn’t Blake-related. “I get that. You’ve got to be there for family.”
His fingers traced over her shoulder. “I would’ve liked for you to come with me and meet him, but it looks like you’ll have company for a while longer.”
“Yeah.” She didn’t expect it, but relief ran through her at the ready excuse. “Maybe I can go with you next time.”
“Plan on it. And see what you can do about ditching your friend for a night. I want that time with you before I go.”
She nodded wordlessly.
“Mari.” He waited until he had her eyes again. “Do I need to be worried about Reese?”
Her brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”
“I mean him staying here, the two of you spending a lot of time together, him wanting to stay longer.”
Her eyes narrowed in understanding. “I wouldn’t cheat.”
“That’s not what I said. You’re beautiful, Mari. You’re funny and anybody is guaranteed to have a good time with you. It’s easy for a man to get caught up in that. It’s easy to start developing feelings for someone you spend a lot of time with. You wouldn’t cheat, but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry you might be showing me the door when I get back.”
Her frown softened. “It’s not like that with Reese.”
“I’ll take your word for it. Just…don’t let him get comfortable, okay?”
“Stop worrying.” She patted his cheek and turned back to her food. “When do you leave?”
“The day after tomorrow. I figured the sooner I go, the sooner I can get back. Sakina is home now. I’ll miss being away. I’m really going to miss being away from you.”
She smiled as she finished off her plate. “You’ll be back before you know it, but I’ll miss you too.”
He leaned forward to kiss her. “I’ve got to get moving. I’m helping Leo today. I just came by to check on you after what he told me.” He kissed her once more. “Let me know about tomorrow.”
“I will,” she promised.
He smiled and stole another peck. “I’ll call you when I get home.”
She watched as he pushed up from the couch and walked to the door. He hesitated with his hand on the knob, then turned back toward her.
“Maybe the timing’s not right, but what I feel for you…it’s different. I like it and I think this is going to take us somewhere special.”
A soft smile curved her lips. “I like special.
Flashing her a charming grin, he let himself out of the house.