His heart lurched. He put a fist to his chest and rubbed.
Sophia rushed out into the shop while she dialed her phone and put it to her ear. She struggled with the lock on the front door as she put the phone between her cheek and her shoulder. “Melody, if you’re there get out of the apartment. Get out now. Jim is back.”
She started to close the door and when her gaze fell on him, realized he was still there. Her eyes were wide open and clearly terrified.
“You have to go.” She dialed her phone again, her fingers shaking so much she did it three times before he heard the ring tone.
“Sophia. Let me help.”
“Look, I said keep away from me and I meant it.” She cursed and turned her phone off when it went to voicemail. “This is where we part ways, Liam. I don’t want to see you again.”
But he wasn’t going to let it go. There was something not right about this situation. About her. The little niggle at the back of his mind became an all-out itch. “Who is this ‘Jim’?”
She turned hardened eyes to him. The shrewdness in them startled him. “What do you know about Jim? Did he send you?”
“What? No! I heard you mention him in your phone message.”
Her face faltered. “Oh. I… still have to go.”
She jogged down the steps and trotted away from him down the sidewalk. The limo’s engine roared into life and the door opened.
“Not now!” But there was no compulsion to get inside. Instead the limo rolled forward, keeping pace with her. Almost as if it wanted…
“Sophia. Wait. I’ll drive you.”
She turned, sending him a harried look. He gestured to the limo. “It doesn’t seem like you have a car. I’ll take you… wherever you’re going. We’ll go right there. Now.”
She wrapped her hand on the strap of her bag so tightly her knuckles turned white as glanced between the open limo door and him.
“I promise I’m not going to do anything untoward to you. I’m just trying to help.”
She weighed up the sleek lines and pristine condition of the limo. “Well, I guess a man who means to harm me doesn’t drive a car like that.” He knew the moment she capitulated when her mouth firmed into an uneasy line. “Okay. But we go straight there. And then you forget where I live. Okay?”
He was going to do none of those things, but she didn’t know it. At the moment, he was going to say anything he could in order to help her. “Okay.”
She took three quick strides and slid inside. He quickly followed, making sure he closed the door before it closed itself, which would only make her more nervous. “Address?”
She reeled off an address and the limo pulled from the curb. “You have a driver too?”
“You could say that.”
Her gaze slid to the side. “Oh, look. You brought my kitten and I didn’t even notice. Poor thing, I ran out before I could think.” She plucked the kitten off the seat beside him and clutched it to her chest.
“Tell me about Jim,” he said.
Her large blue eyes roamed his face. “You sure get to the point, don’t you?”
It was obvious she was going to be tight-lipped about this Jim. “Tell me about Melody then.”
“Can your driver go any faster?”
He rapped on the darkened glass partition with his knuckle. The limo shot forward. He didn’t take his eyes off her.
She petted the kitten and he let her mull over her words. “I had a cat once. A black one. People think black cats are bad luck, or are for witches, or something equally stupid. He was neglected. Nobody wanted him so I took him in. I cleaned him up. I fed him and I gave him love, and he was the best damn cat I’d ever had.” She blinked back tears.
He had the errant thought she was talking about more than a cat.
He sat next to her, his large frame dwarfing her. She stiffened for a moment and then, when he showed no signs of molesting her or whatever she thought he might do, relaxed bit by bit. He stayed still so she wouldn’t move from where their thighs touched. He liked feeling the heat of her body against his.
“What is it about you?”
“I’m… not from around here.” He tried to tell her who he was, but again his throat locked up and the words dried on his tongue.
Her gaze ran up and down his body, lingering here and there, and damn if he didn’t feel her gaze like it was a real touch. His blood heated and his cock stirred.
Apart from pissing, he thought his body had forgotten about its other use. But here it was, rearing its head—literally—at the very worst time. He was trying to find out what saddened her, not make love to her.
Although that idea had a definite appeal to it.
An appeal he hadn’t quite felt – ever before. Not like this. Not so fully.
“Anyway, the cat was neglected. At first it hid, then it ran away when I went to touch it, then it let me pet it and then it would seek me out and sit on my lap for hours. That was nice. I liked that.” Her eyes pierced him and he felt it all the way to the middle of his chest. “It’s amazing how a bit of tender care can turn something around. Love can cure even the most neglected, lonely thing.”
The image of a black cat running for cover ran though his mind. He’d come to harvest souls and the damn thing had attacked him. The only animal on the planet that could sense him. He’d barely given it a thought. He didn’t harvest the souls of animals. That wasn’t his job, so he’d paid it no further mind at the time.
Now he wished he’d paid more attention, because he was sure that cat was significant. In fact, even the thought of it made the niggling itch in his brain become painful.
They drew up in front of an apartment building and Sophia opened the door before the limo had time to stop. She scrambled out.
“Stay.” He ordered the cat before he ran after her.
He followed her quick footfalls up the stairs. One. Two. Three levels. He felt her concern on the air in her wake, setting his nerves on edge as he followed her.
She bolted down a hallway and he heard her cry out before she pushed open a door and stepped inside an apartment where he found her standing in the middle of a room that looked like a hurricane had gone through it. Nothing was left unturned. Every drawer had been emptied. Pillows cut open and strewn over the floor. A broken potted plant was spilled in a corner. It was a disaster. Even more, this was her apartment. Someone had done this to it. To her.
There was no hesitation as he wrapped her trembling form in his arms and cradled her to his chest. She wrapped her fingers in his jacket, twisting the material between the claws of her fingers while her body shook from head to toe.
“They’ve taken her, Liam. Good God, they’ve taken her.”