She held tight and stayed where she was. “Wait, you still haven’t told me what you suspect.”
“I don’t know what I suspect, just that things went too smoothly. Experience has taught me that’s not usually the way life works. And maybe this thing is over, but maybe it’s not. Either way, I’m not prepared to back off from protecting you just yet.”
She grinned and leaned into him. “You’re just trying to keep me to yourself.”
He winked at her. “That wouldn’t be such a bad thing, would it?”
“Are you going to destroy the ring tonight?”
“No. It’ll take too much out of me. Tomorrow, first thing. I promise.”
They started walking again. She loved the rough feel of his hand against hers. Being Nick’s girl was pretty great, actually. Then her mind wandered to what he’d said about things going too easily with Martin Burnside.
She trusted Nick’s judgment. What if he was right? What if something else was going on? But what could that be? She shook the thoughts away. She didn’t want to borrow trouble, and she’d done enough thinking and worrying and feeling bad about Martin Burnside.
And after the ring was destroyed, she could finally move forward, finally open herself up to the chance at happiness with Nick. Finally put the stress of all this behind her and enjoy life.
She smiled at the man walking beside her. With a guy like Nick watching over her, how could she not?
Willa finished turning on all the display case lights before sliding past Nick on the way to the office. “I know you made up that bet just so you could take me on a picnic for the Fourth of July.”
The little sundress she had on today looked like it had been made for her. It was the same ocean water blue as her eyes and showed off her beautiful figure. Made him especially proud that he was spending the evening out with her. That this gorgeous creature was with him. He grabbed her hand to keep her beside him a second longer.
“Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.” He kissed her cheek. They were still getting the store open so there were no customers in yet. She smelled of floral shampoo and the detergent he used on his towels.
She smirked. “Clearly, you did. You probably lost on purpose, too.”
“You’ll never know.” He hadn’t. Although he’d also done his best to make it close, but there was no outselling the woman who created the goods.
She traced her fingers down his arm. “I’m going to let you have this one because I’m really looking forward to the picnic.”
The phone rang before he could say anything else.
She picked it up. “Illusions.” She smiled. “Good morning, Sheriff. I see. No, that wasn’t from me. Not working on anything like that either. Just the ring and I’m destroying that this morning. Okay. Thank you.” She hung up.
“Everything all right?”
She nodded. “Yep. Sheriff Merrow said Martin Burnside had another piece of jewelry on him, some kind of cuff bracelet, and wanted to make sure it hadn’t come from me too or been stolen from my apartment. Since that wasn’t the case, he’s releasing Burnside and making sure he’s on his way back to Arkansas.”
“Good.” Nick walked over to her, slipped his arms around her waist and nuzzled the delicate pointed tip of her ear. “Now, about that picnic. I’m looking forward to it, too. For lots of reasons.”
She let out a half sigh, half giggle and pried at his hands without using much real effort. “I am not making out with you in public.”
“It’s the Fourth of July, and I’m a veteran. Making out with me is your patriotic duty.”
She laughed and twisted in his arms to face him. “Is that so?”
“Mm-hmm.” He kissed her again, nudging her against the case of rings and taking his time with her mouth. She tasted of coffee and syrup from the pancakes he’d made them for breakfast. Warm and sweet. Her tongue teased his, and a rough, feral noise escaped his throat.
She leaned into him, her hands coming up to wind in his hair. Her touch sent shivers of pleasure through him, a feeling that had taken some getting used to, but now it just pushed him closer to the edge.
His hands slipped to her taut backside, cupping her and tugging her closer. The heat of her body through the thin cotton sundress was a familiar warmth that took him right to the brink of losing control. He broke the kiss. It was that or take her right there in the store.
Both of them breathed heavily, and the languid look in her eyes only fueled his already wicked thoughts. He nipped at her mouth one more time. “You could just close for the day. We could go back to the house and—”
“I’m only open until six as it is.” She flattened her hands on his chest as she sucked her lower lip under her teeth. “Although the offer is tempting. Very.” Her gaze narrowed. “Too bad you have a picnic to prepare for.”
He sighed and reluctantly let her go. Hard to do when all he could think about was taking her back to bed. “I do.”
She gave him a curious look before heading back toward the office.
“What was that look for?”
She stopped at the small table that held some of the shop’s equipment and turned on the squat high-pressured steam machine and the ultrasonic jewelry cleaner beside it. “I was wondering if you’re going to make the food yourself or pick it up from somewhere.”
“I can cook. A little. Hey, I made breakfast.”