RHYME WOKE UP REJUVENATED, AND looking forward to her first date of the day. She couldn’t wait to get through this first stage and eliminate the killer, and start on the real process of finding a mate. Her first date was with Myles Dunkin, and they were going to make breakfast together. She had to admit there were few things sexier than a man that could cook, and the easy-going atmosphere was the perfect way for her to slip into asking questions about motive, and whether or not her date had killed Jackson.
The very thought made her shiver. If she was half as smart as Chloe gave her credit for, she’d send them all packing, and go find her mate on her own. She’d already established there was nothing specific stating she had to choose one of the ten men her father suggested in order to fulfill the stipulation in the will. Each of the Manchester siblings just needed to mate and marry within one year of their father’s death to receive the inheritance. They all agreed to give it a try. And ever since they started this process, death and destruction plagued their family.
But Tobias put everyone under house arrest so she’d be a fool not to take advantage of the situation, and give the men a chance to win her heart. They all knew what was at stake, and they were committed to making this happen. It left her with far better odds than going out and searching for someone on the street to marry.
It still didn’t settle her mind about the possibility that one of their nine guests was a killer. According to the files Tobias had given her, Myles, Jackson, and his brother, Matt, served in the military together, and there was a connection that suggested Jackson could’ve done more to save Matt, who died in the line of duty. Losing a brother, and believing someone could have saved them, was a strong motive. Rhyme couldn’t imagine losing River or even Rayne. Despite their volatile relationship history, Rayne she was her sister, and blood was thicker than water. Their father taught them family was always first. Did Myles feel the same way? It was a possibility, and with the truth serum in play, she had every opportunity over the next hour or two to find out.
Rhyme didn’t know what to expect when she entered the kitchen, but it wasn’t the delicious sight that greeted her eyes. The man was jaw-dropping sexy in his jeans and t-shirt that stretched tight over his chest and biceps. He was already cooking some fresh biscuits, and frying some spicy venison sausage. Her mouth watered, but she wasn’t sure if it was the smell of the food or the sight of the man standing before her. Either way, she was looking forward to finding out.
She stepped into the room with purpose, and wiped the smudge of flour from his tan cheek. “You started without me.” A small pout puckered her lips.
“I did.” He licked his own lips, and grinned. “I was hoping to get more time with you so I figured I’d get everything set up, and that way we could enjoy each other’s company longer.”
They were still standing inches from each other, neither one wanting to be the first to sever the connection between their eyes. “I didn’t know you cooked so proficiently.”
“My mother taught my brother and I to cook when we were very young. She said it would impress the ladies.” He chuckled shyly, looking down to his feet, and ran a hand over the nape of his neck.
Rhyme was sure if he looked up, he’d be sporting a light blush. “It does.”
“Oh?” That got him to grace her with his gaze again. His calloused hand caressed her cheek. “I’m glad you like.” His eyes landed on her lips, and he licked his own. The intensity was hotter than the stove behind them.
She liked Myles. He was tough, but there was a gentle side to him that piqued her interest. It also helped that his touch created sparks under her skin. Sexy, check. Able to defend his family, check. Cooks, check. Physical attraction, check. He hit so many of the items on her “want in a man” list. She knew he was a killer. She wasn’t naïve to believe that he never had to kill someone during war time, but she needed to know if he could kill in cold blood.
“I do.” Rhyme found herself enjoying the awkward silence that stretched between them. The way he looked at her made her confidence soar. Loaded with new-found emotions and esteem she asked, “Are you going to kiss me?”
“I’d like to,” he answered truthfully.
She didn’t wait for him to make the move. Emboldened by the intense heat that was circulating around them, she wrapped her hands around his neck and kissed him. The heat ignited into a fire as he took the invitation and deepened the kiss. He wrapped his strong arms around her waist, and picked her up to make the contact easier. Their height difference was more noticeable because she wasn’t wearing heels on this date. Rhyme had always liked taller, larger men. They made her feel safer, more secure, and that was definitely something she looked for in a husband.
A moan escaped as the kiss deepened, and drew her into the magical intensity that was growing between them. An electrical current passed between them everywhere his fingers touched her skin deepening the intimate connection of their first kiss.
“Well, looks like I’m late to the party.” River’s voice was like a pail of ice cold water dousing the flames that were flickering around them. Getting caught by your older brother making out was just as bad as being caught by your parents.
Rhyme covered her lips, and the smile that played on them, as Myles turned around to stir the sausage that, from the smell of it, was on the verge of scorching.
“I hope you all like biscuits and gravy.” Myles tossed a look to River.
River nodded. “Sounds like a hearty meal.”
“What can I do to help?” Rhyme asked, taking a steadying breath.
“Why don’t you put the biscuits on the pan and we’ll get them in the oven.”
Rhyme did as she was told, and decided to take advantage of the silence. “So, Myles, that was a wonderful ceremony for Jackson yesterday.”
“It was. It’s heartbreaking to lose a wolf in his prime like that.” He turned to drain the sausage grease.
“Did you know him well?” She placed the pan in the pre-heated oven.
He nodded. “I did. We were in Iraq together.” He started whisking the milk and flour. “He was there when my brother died.”
Rhyme placed a comforting hand on Myles shoulder and watched as he poured the white sauce over the cooked sausage.
“I read that you lost your brother over there. I’m sorry.”
He turned sad, green eyes in her direction. “It was a difficult time.”
Her eyes glanced at the hand she still had on his arm, near the tattoo he got in the military. “I couldn’t imagine losing one of my siblings. That must have been hard.”
“It was. Matthew will always have a place in my heart, and so will Jackson. He helped me through that time. If it weren’t for him, I might have lost it.” He turned off the burner under the thickened gravy.
“So you didn’t believe he had something to do with your brother’s death?” She tried to sound innocent with the question, but the surprise in his response was clear in his voice.
Myles shook his head. “God no! He carried my brother to the EMT unit. He gave me a chance to say goodbye. For that act alone, I owed him my life.”
Rhyme’s heart ached for the pain she saw on his face. She removed the gravy from the burner, and wrapped him in a hug. The poor man was trying so hard to be resilient. He embraced her back. “I’m so sorry.”
They held each other for a moment longer, and then he pulled back. “Which is why we need to find Jackson’s killer.”
Rhyme nodded, and her body relaxed. Myles wasn’t the murderer. She could enjoy the rest of their date. In fact, she was liking the side of him that she got to see this morning. Vulnerable, yet strong. It was adorable. His desire to seek justice for Jackson endeared him to her. He was a hero in his own right, and that made him delectable. “We will,” she promised. “But now, let’s eat. I’m starving.”
He pulled the biscuits out of the oven, and helped her plate the meal. It was hard not to notice how he stood protectively behind her, arms on either side, breath warm on her neck as he directed her with all three plates. This man was yummy.
They sat down, and dug in. The biscuits were light and flaky, the gravy, perfection, and the company was enchanting. He said all the right things, cast the perfect seductive glances, and wove a spell around her heart.
“I had a great time today.” He reached a hand across the table to take hers.
“I did too.” She leaned forward. “When you came to the compound, you sang a song.”
He looked down shyly. She really liked that. He wanted to impress her. It meant he liked her. “Yes, too much, right?”
“No, it was really great. Do you play and sing a lot?”
“I do, mostly in the privacy of my own home, but I wanted to make an impression.”
“You made a great impression.”
“Would you like me to impress you again?”
It was Rhyme’s turn to blush. She would, but the words didn’t come to her lips.
Before she could respond, he started singing the male version of “Cowboy Take Me Away” made popular by the Dixie Chicks. A few bars into the song, he was pulling her into an embrace, and swaying his hips to the beat. The dance lasted while he sang the song. She could imagine what life would be like with this man, and it was good. When he finished singing, he touched his lips to hers, and they exploded into another mind-blowing kiss.
River didn’t interrupt them this time. Myles ended the kiss, and took a step back out of her arms. She missed feeling them around her, but also stepped back. Technically, it was a first date, and it was wonderful.
“Why are you interested in me?” She promised herself she wouldn’t ask that question, not while any of them were on the truth serum, but she couldn’t help it.
“You’re a smart choice for a wife. You come from a good family. You offer stability.”
“Is that it?”
Part of her melted. She knew the idea of a man falling head over heels for her was far-fetched, but a part of her, the little girl that still wanted to believe in fairy tales, wished it was a possibility. His reasons were legitimate for a first date, but the romantic in her wanted more.
“Why are you interested in me?” he asked.
His question surprised her. “You’re handsome, strong, and protective. I know, somehow, I know I’ll be safe with you.”
He took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “You will, Rhyme. I told you I owed Jackson my life. He died before I could repay that debt, but I know he loved you. So that protection extends to you.”
“You don’t have to…”
His lips claimed hers again, and her knees went weak. “I want to protect you, Rhyme. I never expected to have this kind of attraction to you so quickly, but it is there, and I am enjoying it immensely.”
“Okay.” It was all she could say. Her mind was spinning like she’d just spent an hour on the merry-go-round, and she didn’t want to get off the ride.
“Sounds like a good start.”
“It really does,” she agreed.
He squeezed her hand, and then let it go. “Thank you for a wonderful date. Shall I walk you back to your room?”
“No, I’ll take her from here, Myles,” River interjected.
Something dangerous crossed behind Myles green eyes for a moment, but it was gone almost as quickly, replaced with the easy-going grin. “Okay, I look forward to our next date.” He left.
As always thank you for reading and have a wonderful day.