Dillon stepped from the house and saw Claire silhouetted in the porch light, her gaze unguarded against a backdrop of stars. He closed the door gently and watched for a moment, the curve of her mouth, the way her lips shaped to the rim of the mug in her gloved hands. The craving returned. It annoyed him. The time and place were wrong. The woman was wrong. He figured it best to keep his distance, yet he found himself looking forward to spending time with her tomorrow. Another annoyance.
He couldn't get to the cookhouse without being seen, so he stepped closer and said, "Beautiful night."
She flinched, sloshing the contents of her mug onto her parka. "Jeez, how long have you been standing there?"
"Not long." Dillon handed her the towel he'd intended to use to shave, and leaned against the rail next to her. "Where were you just now?"
She wiped at the damp spot on her parka. "Thinking about my dad."
You're not welcome in this house.
Dillon shoved the memory back into its dark space. "Is he the Stanfield, Wood or..." The last name escaped him.
"Keller," Claire said. "Dad's the Stanfield."
"What does that make you?"
She gave a soft laugh. "A long way from being a partner."
"Is that what you want? To be a law partner some day?"
Her whiskey eyes fixed on him.
Dillon felt like he'd downed a double shot. Heat flushed through him.
"You say law partner like it's something you picked up on the bottom of your boot in the dog yard."
He opened his mouth to deny the accusation, though it was closer to the truth than not, but she didn't wait.
"Don't bother. I've heard the jokes comparing lawyers to dentists. Nobody likes them until they need one. When was the last time you saw a dentist?"
"It's been awhile."
She thrust the towel back at him. "Is your opinion of lawyers based on popular stereotyping, or do you have a criminal history I should have known about before inviting you into my friends' home?"
Dillon's thoughts were thrown sideways by her unexpected cross examination. He took a second to catch up before answering. "Wrong on both counts."
"But you don't deny having a thing against lawyers."
A thing? He swallowed his coarse response, knowing it would bring more questions he had no intention of answering. "You told me not to bother."
"I did," she admitted.
"Am I on trial?"
His question deflated her, beginning with her shoulders. "No, of course not." She puffed a long breath that sent a vapor cloud skyward. "Like I said, I'm not good at soft and vulnerable."
"You warned me."
"Still, it's no excuse to go on the attack. I apologize."
Dillon felt a tug at his conscience. He had his reasons for not wanting to talk about his past, but those reasons didn't involve this woman. "You're looking out for your friends. I respect that." Then because he didn't want her to think he was an ungrateful asshole, he said, "They're good people. I shouldn't have embarrassed you in front of them earlier."
"Yes, well, I left myself open for it. I'll be more careful in the future."
He'd bet on it. "Janey doesn't miss a beat."
The comment brought a smile. "I warned you about that too."
"I'll watch my step."
"I have the feeling you always do. Were you ever a cop?"
Dillon stilled. "What makes you ask?"
"The way you enter a room. The way you size people up. I have a feeling you don't miss much. I've worked with my share of police in criminal defense."
"I fit the profile."
She caught the sarcasm in his voice and her mouth tipped. "I'm doing it again. Sorry." She slid to her feet and stood facing him.
She had more to say; he saw it in her eyes. He willed her to drop it, tried not to let the scars her questions picked at show. Her scrutiny left him feeling exposed. Then her expression relaxed and he felt downright naked.
"I'm going inside," she said, "before I embarrass myself more than I already have. Breakfast is at seven. We feed the dogs at eight. I'd like to leave for the Warrens' as soon after that as possible."
"You don't have to go with me tomorrow."
She gave a snort that made him smile. "And stick around here so Janey can hound me about missed opportunities? No thanks."
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