Once You're Mine(9)

By: Barbara Freethy

"I'm not going to screw up your wedding," she assured him. "Don't give any of this another thought."

"You're sure you're all right? Do you need to see a doctor?"

"No. I'm relaxing at home. I'm thinking about binge watching something on television while eating a half gallon of ice cream."

"I believe the ice cream but not the television marathon. You're going to get on your computer and start digging into this man's life."

Her brother knew her too well. "Well, I can't get into trouble on my computer, so take a breath, and go be with your fiancée. I'm not going anywhere tonight. In fact, as soon as you hang up, I'll call Mom and see if I can talk her into sitting with Monica's parents."

"I would appreciate that."

"I just need one thing from you," she said impulsively.

"What's that?"

She hesitated, then went with the idea brewing in her head. "Dylan's phone number."


"I want to follow up with him about the fire. I need to know how it started."


"Look, if I talk to Dylan, I won't have to go digging on my own. Which means I'll probably get into less trouble."

"Why do I bother to argue with you?"

"I have no idea."

"You know, there was a time when I was excited about you moving back home," he said wearily.

"It's not that bad. You're just stressed about too many things right now. Don’t let me be one of them."

"All right. Here's Dylan's number."

She jotted down the number. "Thanks. I'll talk to you later."

"Be careful, Tori. Think before you act. I know that's not your usual style—"

"I do think," she interrupted. "I'm not a little kid."

"In my head you are."

"Good-bye, Scott." She ended the call, then debated who to talk to next. Her mom or Dylan?

There was really no choice to make.

* * *

Dylan didn't recognize the number ringing his phone, but his gut told him it was important to take the call. They'd just gotten back to the firehouse and he'd been about to start making the chili, but instead he headed outside for a little privacy.


"Dylan? It's me, Tori."

Her husky voice made his body tighten. "Tori? Everything all right?"

"Yes. You didn't need to call Scott," she said with annoyance.

"You didn't look so good, and I didn't think you were going to call him yourself."

"I wasn't. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm all grown up now. I can handle myself."

He'd noticed she was all grown up—he'd definitely noticed. In fact, he hadn't stopped thinking about her since he'd seen her, and it hadn't been in a friend-of-her-big-brother kind of way. "I was just concerned about you."

"I'm fine. Do you know what caused the explosion?"

"Not yet, but it's early. We just got back to the station a short time ago. The investigation will take at least a few days, if not weeks."

"I heard a loud bang before I was knocked off my feet. I don't know if that helps."

"Be sure to relay that to the investigator when he calls you."

"Will that be tonight?"

"Probably tomorrow. Why are you so interested in how it started, Tori?"

"Because I was almost killed. I've never been that close to something like that before."

He could hear the edge in her voice and doubted she'd be getting much sleep that night. He knew what it felt like to relive the events of a day over and over again. "You just have to breathe your way through it," he advised.

"I'm trying. What about the victim? Do you know anything more about him?"

"No. I turned the ID over to the investigator, and I'm sure they'll work with the police department to locate any relatives." He paused. "You still thinking he looked like your father?"

"I know it seems crazy, but I need to find out who he was, why he might have been watching me."

Her words reminded him of their initial conversation. "You said you followed him. Why would you do that?"

"I'm writing an article for the Bay Area Examiner on issues with the homeless population and some of the growing violence in various encampments. I've been reaching out to people, hoping to get an interview; I thought he might be someone who wanted to talk to me but then got scared off."