Before he could ponder that another second, she grabbed hold of his wing and pulled herself upright to stand on the edge of the fountain.
He worried about her falling in for a moment, then she draped herself over his back. “Mmm, you’re warm.”
So was she. He closed his eyes, soaking in the contact.
She let out a long, sad sigh and propped herself on her elbows. “What am I going to do if this guy doesn’t leave me alone? What’s Nick going to think if he finds out I’ve got some crazy troll stalker after me?”
She moaned and slid back down to sit next to him on the pool’s ledge. Her hand stayed on his back foot, where her fingers absent-mindedly tested the points of his talons. “Jasper probably wonders what happened to me.”
Another sigh. “I better go home. And sober up.”
Who was Jasper? A roommate? Or maybe she did have a boyfriend. Nick was so confused.
And, surprisingly, a little jealous that she might have another man in her life, one who knew her better and got to spend more time with her, even if he was just a roommate.
Nick wanted to shake his head, but didn’t. It was just his instinct to protect her that was driving these feelings. That’s all it was.
There was no way he was falling for a fae.
Even if she was beautiful. And kind of adorably handsy when she’d been drinking.
Hell. He was falling for her.
The real surprise was that he was pretty much okay with that.
Now he just had to figure out where she stood. And to assess the threat of this stalker. Once Nick did that, he could make that problem go away, and his bond to her would be satisfied. After that, whatever happened between them would have nothing to do with obligation and everything to do with fate.
His shift at the fountain over, Nick now sat across from Sheriff Merrow.
Merrow set his coffee down. He’d offered some to Nick, but Nick had declined. After he left the station, he was going home to get a few hours of sleep. “Heard you took over the night shift at the fountain.”
Nick nodded. “I did.”
“How’s that going?”
“Only two nights in, but so far so good. It’s also kind of why I’m here.”
Nick nodded. “I—”
“I’ve got donuts!” Birdie Caruthers strolled in with a bright pink box in one hand, a sheaf of white paper napkins in the other. “Hank, you want a cruller? I know you like them.”
“Birdie, I’m occupied.” Hank lifted his chin at Nick.
“Nick Hardwin! How are you, dear?” Birdie flipped the lid back and stuck the box under his nose. “Donut?”
Seeing as how he hadn’t eaten since before his shift, he nodded. “I’d love one.”
She slapped a napkin on the edge of Hank’s desk. “Have at it.”
He took a chocolate glazed.
“Oh, come on,” she said. “Take two. Or three. A big strapping man like you can’t live on one tiny little donut.”
He took one more, another chocolate glazed.
“There you go.” Then she clucked her tongue and glared at her nephew. “And of course Hank didn’t even offer you coffee.”
“No, he did,” Nick said. “But I turned it down. Just got off the night shift, so I need to be able to sleep when I get home.”
She tutted again and waved her hand. “I’ll make you a decaf. Be right back.”
She was gone before Nick could respond. He took a large bite out of one of his donuts to keep from laughing at the sheriff’s aunt. Birdie was her own woman, that was for sure.
Hank sent a withering look after her. “Sorry about that.” He redirected his attention to Nick. “If I could control her, I would, but I can’t. What were you about to say?”
Nick swallowed the bite of donut. “The reason I came in. Willa Iscove, the jeweler?”
“I know her. She made Ivy’s ring.”
“She mentioned that. She came by the fountain while I was on duty and made a wish. Sort of.” Nick explained the whole thing, what had happened both nights and how she’d talked about having a stalker. Birdie came in with his coffee and set it beside his donuts and left just as Nick was concluding. “Anyway, I thought you should know what’s going on.”
Hank nodded, giving Nick a chance to finish his donut and test Birdie’s decaf. “Has he threatened her?”
“Not that I know of. I really don’t know the fine details. I tried to get more out of her at lunch the other day, but she didn’t say anything, and I got the sense that whatever happened had already blown over. Now, I don’t think it has.”
Merrow’s fingers strummed the desk top. “I can’t act based on the information you’ve given me. I mean, I can make sure her shop gets some extra coverage on the regular patrols, but this stalker hasn’t done anything that’s actionable.”
Nick sat back. “I was afraid of that. I don’t like leaving her potentially vulnerable.”
“Neither do I.” Hank lifted his hand. “Willa’s a rare creature.”
“Not all fae are born being able to work with both metal and stone the way she can. Her talents are something special.”
“How did you get to know so much about the fae?”
“Because after the Ellinghams made their deal with her, they made sure I knew she was to be protected. Apparently, fae like her, with the kind of skills she’s got, they’re rarely seen in the human world. The fae Powers That Be keep those like her close and put them to work designing stuff for their royalty and mages.”