The Saint(2)By: Tiffany Reisz
She wandered downstairs and considered eating. Instead of feeding herself, she fed the fire. As the wood crackled and burned, lightning split the sky outside the kitchen window. Thunder rumbled close behind. Nora stood at the window and watched the night rip itself open. Bursts of thunder rattled the forest again and again. Between rumbles, Nora heard a different sound. Louder. Clearer. Closer.
Footsteps on stone.
A knock on the door.
Nora froze. No one should be out here. No one but her. The owner had promised her privacy. This cottage was the lone house for miles, he’d said. He owned all the land around it. She would be safe. She would be alone.
The cottage door had no lock. Whoever stood outside could walk in at any moment. For two weeks now the only emotions she’d felt were sorrow and grief. Now she felt something else—fear.
But Søren had trained her too well—Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” And such a night was fit for neither angel nor demon, saint or sinner.
She threw open the door. A man, not an angel, stood on the opposite side of the threshold.
Rain drenched his dark hair and beaded on his leather jacket.
“What the hell are you doing here?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest, self-conscious about the low cut of her nightgown. She should have thrown on a robe.
“Begging for sanctuary. Should I do it again? Sanctuary?”
“Did you follow me?” she asked. She’d flown into Marseille last night and had dinner with him. She never dreamed he’d chase her all the way to Germany.
“I would have come sooner, but I took a wrong turn at Hansel and Gretel’s. A girl in a red cloak gave me directions, and now I’m here, Snow White.”
“You found your way here, Huntsman. You can find your way back,” she said. “I can’t give you sanctuary.”
“You know what will happen if I let you in.”
“Exactly what we both want to happen.”
“It can’t happen—you and me. And you don’t need me to tell you why.”
The smile faded from his face.
“You need me,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter. I have to do this alone.”
“You don’t have to do it alone.” He took an almost imperceptible step forward. The toes of his rain-soaked buff-colored boots touched but did not cross the threshold. “You do too much alone.”
“I can’t let you in,” she said, and felt that fist in her throat again.
“Would he want you to face this alone?”
“No,” she said. “He wouldn’t.”
“Let me in.”
“That sounded like an order. I told you what I am. You know I give the orders.”
She could already feel her resolve crumbling. Twenty-five years old, tall, deeply tanned, dark hair with the slightest wave to it that demanded a woman’s fingers run through it again and again, clear celadon eyes—an inheritance from his Persian mother—and a face that someone should sculpt so it would endure even after both of them turned to dust and ashes … How could she turn him away? How could anyone?
“Then order me to come inside,” he said.
She closed her eyes and held the door to steady herself. This was wrong. She knew it. She’d sworn before she’d even seen him that she wouldn’t do this, not ever, not with him. But then she’d met him. And now, after all that had happened and the grief that threatened to overwhelm her, could anyone blame her for taking her comfort with him? One man would blame her. But was that enough to stop her?
“Order me in,” he said again, and Nora opened her eyes. “Please.”
She could never resist a beautiful man begging.
“Come in, Nico,” she said to Kingsley’s son. “That’s an order.”
SHE SHUT THE DOOR BEHIND NICO AND PULLED HIM to the fireplace. She helped him out of his jacket and boots. Battered and mud crusted, his shoes looked nothing like Kingsley’s spit-shined riding boots. These were work boots, steel tipped and utilitarian.
“Do I want to know how you found me?” she asked as she brushed the mud off Nico’s boots and set them to dry by the fireplace.
“I followed your trail of bread crumbs.”
“You might have accidentally left your bag open at the restaurant and I might have accidentally seen the address on your rental confirmation.”
“Leaving my bag open was an accident,” she said.
“Finding the address might not have been.” He pulled off his socks and ran his hands through his hair, shaking the rain out of it.