Resisting Her

By: Kendall Ryan

Chapter 4

Cole pulled into his underground parking garage just as the storm lit up the sky. An angry crack of lightning pierced the night, followed by a low rumble of thunder. It had been steadily raining his entire drive home, but the storm seemed to double its force within a matter of seconds, sheets of water pouring from the sky.

He was maneuvering into his assigned parking space when the call came in. His phone had been eerily silent all weekend, not even Marissa had been in touch. And at this late hour on Sunday, he didn’t know who it could be. Fishing the phone from his center console, he noted the Dallas area code, but didn’t recognize the number.

He couldn’t understand her at first, her voice was high with tension, and barely above a whisper, but he soon realized it was Savannah. And she was asking him to come back. He pulled a u-turn and gunned the engine before her words even registered.

Keeping her on the line as he drove, he wanted to bombard her with questions, to find out if something had happened, but he resisted. Even as all that flashed through his mind, he’d found himself calming her, saying he would be right there, and flooring the gas pedal to get back to her. After ending the call, he slammed a fist against the dash. Damn, he shouldn’t have left her at that place. But what choice did he have?

He thumbed the steering wheel, waiting for the light to change. He had to get her out of that house; probably check her into a hotel for the night. That would be the right thing to do, yet he knew with absolute certainty what he really wanted to do. He wanted to bring her home with him, where he could have her under the same roof and ensure she was safe.

When Cole arrived, he pressed the buzzer at the front door for the after-hours entrance. He was greeted by an older man, the night guard, he presumed.

“Where’s Savannah?” He stormed past the man, following the sounds of soft sobs toward the back of the house. Entering an office, he found an older woman seated behind a desk, and Savannah crumpled in a ball on the chair across from her. “Savannah,” his voice rasped.

She looked up and Cole nearly staggered a step back. Christ. It looked like someone had used her face as a punching bag. Her swollen and busted lip was encrusted with blood and her left eye was already darkening with a bruise. When she met his eyes she let out a soft sigh, seemingly comforted by his presence.

“Shh. I’m here.” He weaved his fingers under her hair to cradle the back of her neck. Then he turned his attention to the woman behind the desk. “What the hell happened here?”

“Have a seat, Mr.….?”

“Cole Fletcher.” He took the chair next to Savannah.

She crawled into his lap, burying her face in his neck as little sobs racked her chest. His arms, working of their own accord, wound themselves around Savannah and shifted her to a more comfortable position on his lap.

Once Savannah was settled, his training kicked in and he began firing questions at the facility coordinator. She explained they’d briefly lost power in the storm, and when they went upstairs to check and make sure everyone was secure, they found Savannah unconscious on the bathroom floor, where she’d apparently fainted and smacked her head on the porcelain sink on her way down. His fingers automatically threaded into her hair, smoothing the bump he found on the back of her head.

The coordinator seemed unconcerned, like she’d dealt with these situations too many times. But he hadn’t, and neither had Savannah. Vacant eyes stared at the wall across from him. He was worried that shock was beginning to set in. He soothed a hand up and down her back, not quite sure what to do to comfort her.

The woman behind the desk looked over the top of her glasses, mouth twisted into a disapproving frown. Cole could tell the woman was wondering exactly what kind of relationship he shared with Savannah.

His tone and questions were professional, yet Savannah’s body currently wrapped around his said it was something else entirely. He chose not to identify himself as an agent, and let the woman think what she wanted.

Once in situated in his lap, Savannah’s breathing returned to normal, and the steady thump of her heartbeat against his chest told him she was recovering. She was alright. Thank fucking God. He didn’t understand why his presence calmed her – not like he had a lot to offer – but he wasn’t about to question it. Not when she was so fragile.

The woman held up a hand. “Listen, I know this isn’t the Ritz, but if she wants to stay here, she can. If she wants to leave, fine. It’s up to her.”

Savannah lifted her head from his chest and met Cole’s eyes. “Can you take me away from here?”

She couldn’t understand what she was asking for. Of course Cole wanted to take her far away from this place, from the first time he’d laid eyes on the rundown house. But protocol and not crossing professional boundaries stirred in the back of his head. He resisted the urge to smooth the tangled strands of hair from her face, but kept his arms locked around her middle. Savannah’s bloodied lip, swollen face, and the exhaustion he could read on her features told him now might not be the time to argue. “Okay. We can go.”

Tomorrow they’d figure everything out.

He lifted Savannah from the chair and held her like he had at the compound. And just as strong as before, the need to protect her flared up inside of him.

Carrying her out into the night, Cole opened the passenger door and helped her inside. He reached across her to buckle her seat belt. When his hands brushed her ribs, she startled, sucking in a shaky breath. He should probably check her over for injuries, assuming that she’d likely sustained some bumps and bruises, but his first priority was getting her out of here.

She was silent on the drive to his condo, not even asking where they were going. She implicitly trusted him. The feeling was heady.

He kept the radio low, he left Savannah to her thoughts, looking out the window as he drove. He snuck glances her way, wondering what she could possibly be thinking about. The awkward silence dug into his brain like a dripping faucet.

“This your first time in the city?” he asked.

Savannah kept her eyes on the passing buildings. “We didn’t leave the compound much.”

Of course. Stupid question. He tried again. “Does your head hurt? How about your ribs?”

She ran her fingers through her matted hair, checking the bump. “I think it’s okay now.”

At least she’d stopped crying. Nothing made him panic more than a woman crying.

When he parked in his assigned parking space and turned off the engine, a hushed silence fell over them in the confined space. His heart rate ramped up in sudden awareness of her. The light, feminine scent that clung to her skin, her petite frame, and the overwhelming desire to protect her— he couldn’t deny the possessive ache that raced through his system.

“Why did you pass out, Savannah?”

She swallowed heavily. “That place scared me. There were too many people…too many strange men…”

He nodded. It wasn’t lost on him that he was a strange man to her, yet here she was alone with him too. “This is where I live,” he said finally.

Her eyes widened. “You brought me home with you?”

“Is that okay?”

She studied him, her expression weary and unsure and squirmed in her seat.

“I’m sorry; I didn’t know where else to take you. Come inside, and if you decide not to stay, I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.”

Seemingly satisfied, she climbed from the car.

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