With shaky hands, she took the present and fumbled with the wrapper. Sometimes there was no arguing with him. But this gift just didn’t seem like Jared. In the past he’d given her practical things—a cell phone, a laptop during her college years, and a membership to Triple A after she’d landed the job at the Lakeside Hotel.
She blinked, then lifted the top of the box. A sparkling emerald attached to a silver chain graced her teary eyes. “Oh, my. It’s beautiful.”
“It’s your birthstone.”
She lifted her gaze to meet his. He smiled like a big kid who’d just done something amazing, then scowled. “You’re crying?”
“You shouldn’t have done this.” She placed her trembling hand on his chest. “It’s too much.”
“Don’t you like it?” He shoved his hands in his pockets and retreated as if wounded.
“I love it, but…” She saw the disappointment in his eyes. Jared never did anything unless he wanted to, this she knew for certain. “Thank you.” She pulled the necklace out of the box. “Would you help me put it on?”
His smile returned. “I know it’s not my usual, but everything is different now.”
She turned and closed her eyes as she lifted her hair. Water welled in her eyes. Different. He was right. Things were different and everything was about to change.
“There.” He patted her shoulder, then backed away.
She turned and did her best to smile as if all was perfect. He stared at her for a long moment. It wasn’t a sexual glance, or even a friendly gaze. He just stared. It was as if he was meeting her for the first time.
“Well, I’d better fix this door. I’ve got to get back to the station and do some paperwork.”
“Tonight?” Her stupid tears must have frightened him away. She really needed to learn how to behave like a grown woman, or she’d never get the kind of goodbye she really wanted.
“I want to make sure that this dead rose thing doesn’t fall through the cracks.” He raised his thumb to her chin. “Sometimes threats like this get put on the bottom of the pile.” He pressed his mouth against hers, but pulled away before the kiss even began. “I’ll stop by in the morning and we can talk then.” He turned and headed toward the door. “I’ve got one of those latches hotels use in the shed. I’ll go get it, and my tools.”
She swallowed her frustration. She knew him well enough to know tonight wouldn’t be the night. “I think you’re overreacting. If it’s George, he can’t do anything from behind bars.”
“Did the dead rose scare you? Be honest.”
“Of course it scared me.”
“Then I’m not overreacting. But I’m more concerned that some sicko has decided to stalk you.”
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