Once You're Mine(6)

By: Barbara Freethy

"I was. I'd like to know what happened."

"The investigators will figure it out. I'm sure they'll want to talk to you."

"I want to talk to them."

He nodded. "Your brother said you were thinking of moving back here. I didn't realize that had already happened."

"Three weeks ago."

"Just in time for Scott's wedding?"

"It was good timing," she agreed.

"I'm sure your family is happy to have you home."

"Yes. I think so."

"I'm going to need that back," he said, tipping his head toward the ID. "I have to turn it over to the investigator."

"Sure." She handed him the ID, feeling oddly reluctant to part with it.

"Do you want me to call someone to come and get you, Tori?"

She suddenly realized she was still holding onto his arm with her other hand. "Sorry." She immediately let go, feeling a little dizzy when she did so.

He frowned. "You should go to the hospital. Did you hit your head?"

"No, I'm fine. The paramedics checked me out."

"At least let me call Scott."

"I don't need you to call anyone. I'm okay."

"You don't look okay."

"Well, I don't almost get blown up every day." She tucked her hair behind her ear, the gesture knocking a chunk of plaster loose. "Thanks for trying to save him—whoever he was."

"That's my job. I'm just sorry we didn't get to him in time."

His lips drew into a tense, angry line, another familiar Dylan expression. He'd never been a guy comfortable with failure, especially when that failure meant someone else got hurt. He'd always been a natural-born protector. He'd also always been extremely good-looking.

She didn't know how Dylan could be more attractive now than he had been in high school, but he was. He had a square face, with strong male bones, brown hair and light-blue eyes that seemed able to look into her soul.

She felt a shiver run down her spine for a very different reason.

Dylan had always been her brother's friend, the four-year age difference making him way too old for her when they were teenagers, but she'd secretly had a little crush on him way back when. Not that he'd ever seen her as anything but a pest.

"Dylan," another firefighter called, motioning him forward.

"I have to go, Tori."

"Of course."

"Take care of yourself. Maybe next time think before you follow someone into an abandoned building."

She didn't particularly care for the scolding reminder, but he was right, and as he left, she drew in a breath, trying to calm her racing heart. It was a difficult task, considering how close she'd come to death, and all because she'd followed a curious impulse.

She glanced at the building, which was charred and smoking, large open spaces where the walls had once been. The fire was out now. The man she'd followed into the building was dead—a man who kind of looked like her dad. She didn't know what to make of that, but she needed to know what had happened, how the fire had started, who Neil Hawkins was. But she wasn't going to have any answers until the investigators had a chance to do their work. She would have to wait.

Frowning, she turned and walked away. She'd never been good at waiting…

* * *

When Tori entered the newsroom of the Bay Area Examiner twenty minutes later, she was met with a shocked and worried expression from the editor-in-chief, Stacey Kinsley, a tall redhead in her early fifties, who had thirty years of news experience behind her and was rarely rattled by anything.

With Stacey was the assignment editor, Jeff Crocker, a thirty-nine-year-old blond-haired man with piercing brown eyes and a cynical edge that Stacey said had sharpened since his wife had left him a year earlier.

"What on earth happened to you?" Stacey asked. "You text me you're in a fire and will be back later? And then you don't answer any texts or your phone? What the hell was that about?"

"Sorry, I was a little shaken up. I wasn't thinking straight."

"I thought you were dead," Stacey said.

"You look like shit, Tori," Jeff said, his gaze narrowing on her face. "Was it the hotel fire about a mile from here?"


"What were you doing there?" he asked. "I thought the building was condemned."