Rain slashed against the windscreen Of Jacobs car wit fierce intensity. Aware of the dangers inherent in the dark winters night, he kept the speed of his powerful car well under control, watching out for reckless pedestrians. It was late, almost midnight, and Jacob had taken a detour on his way back from a long shift at work. The streets were practically abandoned, as the people he passed all seemed to be indoors, watching the storm outside.
After the day hed had, all he wanted was a hot bath.Grace looked like she could do with both. The poor baby was standing outside in the icy rain, waiting for a bus, her face pinched with cold. She could probably do with a hot man in bed as well but…
The name caught him off guard. When had he stopped calling her Grace? She hadn been that when they worked together, had she? And she certainly wasn now… She was so different than any time hed met her before.
And now Jacob thought about it, it had been months since hed seen or heard from Grace. Maybe she no longer remembered him.
Or maybe she still loved him.
He couldn believe how much hope this idea brought him. A sudden wave of warmth rose up from somewhere deep within, causing Jacob to blush fiercely. He didn know what was happening between him and Grace; he just knew that he hoped whatever the reason behind their break apart might have meant something. It could even mean that she still cared for him after all these years, which would make all of this worth it.
If Grace did still love him then maybe it wouldn be too late to start over and try again.
He saw her standing in the pouring rain under a barely glowing streetlight, shivering.
He screeched to a stop and then backed up, thanking God for the lack of traffic. As soon as he reached her, he leaned across and threw open the passenger door. ”Get the hell in! ” The weather obliged, but Grace didn .
The sodden woman outside made a face, as if debating whether to take his less than warm offer.
The rain continued to pour down heavily over her, hard and certainly painful, even through the thick wool of her pantsuit. ”The bus is supposed to come any m-m-m-minute. ”
Her chattering teeth enraged Jacob. For a second, he thought he saw fear in those big eyes of hers but it had to have been a trick of the light. Hed never met a woman less afraid of him than this bedraggled creature. ”Get in here right now, Grace!. ”
She hesitated. ”You don have to shout. I hear you fine. ”
”Well, itll save me having to yell at your stupid ass. ” The temperature inside his car began to rise immediately but Jacob paid no mind to that. He grabbed Grace around the waist and half lifted, half dragged her into his car.Her trembling hands immediately went to the warm air circulating from the ventilation shafts.
He turned up the heat before pulling away from the curb to make a right turn instead of going left.He slowed his car, taking the chance to send a glare Graces way. ”What the hell were you doing catching a bus at this time of night? ” His voice was a lacerating whip. How dare she put herself in such a vulnerable position?
Grace didn answer him; she stared straight ahead, unblinking. She looked small sitting there in the seat beside him. Her clothes clung to her like wet laundry on a washing line; her hair stuck to her cheeks and forehead where it lay flat against her neck.
”None of your b-b-business. ” The sound of chattering teeth destroyed her attempt at a haughty dismissal.
”Grace, ”he warned, in a tone that he only used when his temper was on the thinnest edge, as she very well knew.
e not my boss anymore, so don Grace me. ” His passengers unrepentant stubbornness was a living being in the air around them.
Jacob was used to being obeyed, especially by pretty young women. Everyone loved the man who could get them onto the silver screen, though he remembered vividly that Grace harbored no such ambition.
”My ride wanted more than I did. I left. ” Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her huddling into the seat. The small sign of vulnerability tore at him. All of his protective instincts awoke fully armed.
”Did he hurt you? ” His hands had turned into claws on the steering wheel.
A pause. ”No. ”
”Don Grace me! ” she cried again, but her voice broke at the end – another uncharacteristic sign of weakness.
”I thought I could trust him.
My contract ended yesterday, but they invited me to the party anyway. When it began to break up, one of the project directors offered a few of us a ride home. I didn realize that I was going to be the last one left in the car until it was too late. ” She was babbling, betraying her fear even as she tried to convince him of the lightness of the matter.
”Id never have gone with him otherwise. I thought Id get dropped off first because the others live farther out, but apparently, theyd all decided to get off in the city and go dancing. He didn tell me that. I still thought it would be okay until … well, as soon as the others left, he started talking about … s-spending the night with me. ”
Jacob became quietly murderous at the evidence of this mans predetermination to get her alone. ”Did he hurt you? ” he repeated, knowing that shed told him the truth about why shed accepted the ride. Hed long ago learned of her wariness around most men.
She mumbled something under her breath.
”Did. He. Hurt. You? ” Jacob repeated each word with force, enunciating each syllable as clearly as possible.
”He ripped my shirtsleeve when I was leaving the car. And hes got my purse. No big deal, ” she muttered.
”Name? ” Grace had always touched the deepest, most primitive part of him. Tonight, that part was beyond furious.
”Jacob, I… ” She sounded hesitant.
”Name? ” The night outside wasn as dark as his thoughts about the man whod dared to assault her.
He gave her an imminently reasonable answer. ”How else are you going to get your purse back? ”
e, um … not going to mess him up are you? ”
”What do you think I am – some sort of mobster? ”
”Ill just pick up your purse. No problem, ” he lied. This creep was going to have major problems.
”Promise you won hurt him first. ”
”Because I don want you in trouble. ”
The relief he felt at her response should have shocked him. ”Tell me his name. ”
”Promise first or I won say. ” She folded her arms.
”I promise not to touch him, ” he gritted out.
The silence between them stretched. Finally, she relented.
”Michael Miller. Michael Miller. ”
Jacob sighed with relief. That would give him enough information to go on. The guy was nothing but a scumbag.
He nodded, absurdly pleased that his word was good enough for her. ”Are you warm yet? ” He was beginning to overheat, but shed been soaking. She needed to get out of those wet clothes but he wasn going to make that insane suggestion. Being alone with a naked Grace was not the best of ideas.