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An Eye for an Eye(10)


Without wasting any more time, Zach followed the hostess to an open table that he indicated was his preference. He zeroed in on Katie immediately, and the minute her eyes met his and he knew she was aware of his presence, his temperature escalated and he savored the immediate effect she had on his groin. An unbearable sense of urgency encompassed his being; it was taking entirely too damn long to accomplish his goal. Her beauty was almost mesmerizing, and as she strolled toward his table with unconscious grace and placed a menu in front of him, Zach was seized with a need so hot and fierce that he had to grip his hands together to keep from reaching out for her.

Her eyes lifted to his. "What are you doing here?"

Zach leaned back in his chair and studied the fragility of her bone structure. "Went downtown to a round-table meeting on alternative fuels. Thought since I'm in Fort Worth, why not come see you?"

Her hand visibly shook as she placed a glass of water on the table. "You came here just to see me?"

"No. I came to Fort Worth because I had a meeting."

A fine line came between her brows. "But you came in this restaurant because of me?"

He held her eyes for an abbreviated moment before giving up on his excuse of a coincidence and going with the truth. "Yes."

She cleared her throat as her gaze darted around the busy restaurant. "So, Hannah told you where I work?"


"I don't really have time to talk--"

"I'll take the strip, medium-rare, a fully loaded baked potato and a glass of iced-tea," he said without picking up the menu. "You can fix me up with that, right?"

"We have t-bones, but no strips."

"That'll work. Now, did that just buy me sixty seconds of conversation?"

She took her pad out and scribbled what he assumed to be his order down on it. "Sixty seconds. Why would you come in here just to see me?"

"Because I wanted to make sure you're all right."

"Why wouldn't I be?"

He shrugged, trying not to give too much away, but at the same time, needing her to at least develop a mild understanding that something existed between them. "I worry about you, sweetheart. Is there anyone else who worries about you?"

A subtle tension gripped her shoulders and the fine-line between her eyebrows deepened. "What is that supposed to mean?" She took an almost invisible breath of air. "Are you asking me if I have a boyfriend?"

"No." Liar. "Do you?"

"I don't have time for that."

Her short, abrasive answer calmed him down a bit. So that was one thing he didn't have to worry about for a while. "You can see why I worry about you. Hannah says you study too hard, and every spare minute is taken up with this menial job."

"Menial?" The word was laced with sarcasm. "I'm guessing you do want to eat this afternoon, and not find your food dumped on your lap?"

He raised one eyebrow even as he enjoyed seeing the color that had come back into her face even if it did come with a strong streak of belligerence. "Have you been eating properly, Katie?"

"Zach . . . this is not your business. I'm not your business." Her tone turned, sounding more confused than angry to him, and that was good.

"You remember that kiss in the middle of the night at the Bar M a few months back?" Zach tried to temper his voice, hell, he didn't want the entire restaurant to overhear what they were discussing. He just wanted to give her a visual of how it had been. Why the hell should she get to push it from her mind when the memory fucked with him on an almost daily basis?

Her fingers held a slight tremor as she wiped her palms down across her apron in what looked like agitation. She remained silent.

"I can see you remember. You clung to me; you whispered my name, comforting yourself. Maybe you don't think you're any of my business, but I tend to disagree."


"I'm not here to cause you any angst, Katie. I wanted to see for myself that you're okay. Maybe you're not ready yet. That's fine. I'll wait a bit longer."

Her face became pale and as her eyes clung to his, the panic he saw reflected there almost floored him. But when the dark green orbs filled with tears and a level of distress filled her features that he couldn't explain, guilt overcame him.

She began shaking her head, back and forth, slowly, denying what he was telling her. A single tear slipped down her face and he had to stifle a growl that rose up in his throat and almost spilled over. Was he the one putting that look of distress on her features? Who the hell else could it be? Son-of-a-fucking-bitch.

He didn't want anyone to cause her trouble or pain, and here he was, evidently the one who was hurting her. He didn't quite understand it, but he knew one thing. She hadn't had that panicked look on her face and she damn sure hadn't been crying before he walked into the restaurant.

Son of a bitch.

He was going to have to leave her alone.

He gritted his teeth. For a while.

He glanced back up at her ashen face. "Go turn in the order, Katie."

Katie rounded the corner of the restaurant kitchen and put her back against the wall, taking several large, ragged breaths. For days, for weeks, for months, she'd put that damn kiss and how it had made her feel out of her mind as she refused to think about it.

But now it all came flooding back.


She'd felt safe.


She'd felt threatened. Not by Zach so much, but by a dark memory she couldn't conquer. A memory that caused nightmares and isolation. A memory that she should have been able to move past already.

She closed her eyes and took several more sustaining breaths.

Why Zachary? What kind of bad karma had him arriving in her life at a time when she least needed somebody like him? Her sexual life was nil. She had zero sex drive. She was asexual. She was the epitome of the word.

And besides, she had a plan.

When she was ready to move on, and she wasn't yet, she'd choose somebody safe. Someone laid-back, someone gentle, someone who was maybe her height and weight who had as little interest in sex as she did. Somebody just this side of gay.

That person wasn't Zachary McIntyre.

No, Zach was as far across the spectrum from gay as one could possibly be. He was a man's man, he was massive in height and his shoulders were so wide it would be a stretch for her to wrap her arms around him. If she'd wanted to. And she didn't.

And he wasn't gentle. He was gruff and rough and intensely masculine with a hint of superiority that at the best of times, used to make her stomach turn to butterflies and at the worst of times, irritated the shit out of her.

So why now? Why should the man of her past dreams, albeit the secret man, come into her life and want to pursue something with her that literally scared the crap out of her? And why had he changed again? Why had his anger seemed to evolve into some sort of . . . possessiveness?

She didn't know why.

But it didn't matter why.

All that mattered was that he stay away from her. If he wouldn't stay away from her . . . she'd have to tell him.

And surely that wouldn't be so horrible? Practically the entire town of Redwood Falls knew anyway. Probably the reason he'd never heard of it was because no one dared breathe the name Turner to him.

Nobody had the guts. Nobody spoke to Zach about anything that had to do with the Turners. Not about his dead wife and who she'd been cheating with. Not about the trial because it had involved a Turner as the key witness. And not a word about the fact that Zach's little sister was involved with Chris Turner's son.

But Katie had a different reason for not telling Zach about her past. It wasn't his business. It was nobody's business.

And she didn't want to think about it, not even a single moment longer than necessary.

Chapter Five

The University of Texas at Arlington

Katie ran up two flights of stairs in the freshmen dorms, pausing in the corridor to catch her breath as she looked for room number 316. Freshmen move-in day had been yesterday, but she had been waiting tables again and hadn't been able to be here when Hannah settled in. She was happy the younger girl was finally here and they could catch up and spend some time together. Katie knew her feelings for Hannah were more big sister than best friend, but the kinship and love between the girls was real and solid.

She found the correct door and gave a quick tap before trying the handle. The door tipped open and Katie eagerly flounced into the room, not waiting for an invitation. What she saw immediately filled her with happiness and horror at the same time.

Josh was standing with his back against the wall, arms folded over his wide chest and one booted ankle crossed over the other as he glared at Hannah. He held himself in a controlled, hostile stance that Katie recognized very well. It screamed of his iron will and complete implacability. His hair was cut short and his expression was set in lines of disapproval. His biceps bulged against his t-shirt sleeves, and although he was only twenty-one, his eyes were already creased with wrinkles.

Being a few months older than Katie, he'd only recently attained his twenty-first birthday, and with it, the badge that declared him a Redwood Falls peace officer. He was off duty now, of course, but the weapon he was required to carry was in a shoulder holster, strapped to his side.

Although the fall semester was only now starting, Katie had stayed on campus all summer and worked while taking a few classes, so she hadn't seen Josh in awhile. Katie let the happiness of seeing him again rush through her. "Josh!" She squealed and threw herself at him.