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"She’s not," Kane told her "She’s prettier by a lot"

Naoed

"I think Jack sees a lot of himself in Willow," Naomi said "She’s always been the dreamer Or at least she was Lately she seems to have found herself in more ways than one She loves her new job at the nursery"

He thought about the aruessed that"

"I alorried about Willow because of the kind of ood rescue But I see now she was just filling her tiht sort ofI could have wished for her Thank you"

She stepped back into the house

Kane continued to stand on the porch, looking out on the lush backyard, but not really seeing it Every cell in his body warned hi ht Kane lay on his back as Willow cuddled up next to him

"So did you hate every minute of it?" she asked

He stroked her pale blond hair "It wasn’t so bad"

"The beginning was a nightot better I mentioned htnice Maybe he’s "

The happiness and wonder in her voice let hi where Jack was concerned Kane would still like to take the man out back and break a few bones, but polite society frowned on that Not to mention how Willoould react if she found out he’d hurt her dad Her h to support actual violence

"Dinner was good," she added, then went on about thetake hold of hi love--he still needed her again

Needed When had he ever needed anyone? Needing, like caring and believing and all those other relationship words got you dead

She pushed herself up on one elbow and looked down at hi hair veiled her bare breasts She was an erotic vision What the hell had he done to deserve her?

"I want to say sooing to hold o to sleep You’re not allowed to say anything back I don’t want you to Iyou Okay?"

Dread chased away desire Wariness stiffened his ht He nodded curtly

She drew in a breath, then smiled "I love you I have for a while, but I’m finally ready to say the words I love you"

She lowered herself back onto his shoulder and closed her eyes "Night, Kane"

"Good night"

He turned out the light and lay there in his dark She loved him It didn’t matter whether or not he believed her She believed and that was enough

How had he let this happen?

Darimly He’d let her in and she’d s and expectations and he would never be able to take care of either He didn’t want her love Not now, not ever

He knew she’d ift, but to him they were littlehim in place It was either break free or die He sacrificed hih the options, but he already knehat he was going to choose, and how much it would destroy her when he did

Eleven

Willow fixed coffee the next ot ready for work She was both happy and apprehensive Although she didn’t regret telling his and was proud of herself for being so brave, she couldn’t help the slight quiver of nerves in her belly Kane hadn’t wanted a girlfriend, let alone someone to love him Hoould he react to what she’d said?

She poured coffee into his traveland allowed herself a momentary eye-party as she admired his broad shoulders and narrow hps in his tailored suit

"Morning" He kissed her on theat seven-thirty, so I have to run"

"That’s fine I’ll feed Jasrabbed the lapels of his suit and stared into his eyes "About last night," she began "Are you okay hat I said?"

"You’re always going to lead with your heart, Willoouldn’t change that"

Then he was gone It was only after he’d driven away that she realized he hadn’t answered her question

The shooting range stood in a converted warehouse It was private and exclusive, catering mostly to those with the money to pay for the best Kane scanned his et roo his Glock, he put on ear protection and stepped into the roounfire and see the flash of the shots Ignoring the other shooters, he walked to the end of the aisle and faced his target But instead of seeing the silhouette of aas she bent down to pick up one of the kittens, caught the curve of a hip as she danced in his kitchen to so He felt the soft warh as he pleasured her

He lowered his gun and forced himself to focus He came to the club a couple of times a month to stay sharp He liked his tie But not today Today there was only Willow

He drew in a deep breath and forced her froet and fired six rounds, one after the other

George, the er of the place, walked over "Hey, Kane Haven’t seen you in a while"

"I know Been busy"

George eyed the target at the far end of the roo the target closer, then swore Sure enough, one of the bullets had missed the silhouette coe said "I guess we’ll be seeing et fluttered slightly as Kane returned it to its original position, then he stared down the barrel of his gun and kneas in real danger of losing his edge As that edge was the only thing that had kept him alive, he couldn’t risk that

He didn’t have to ask what had happened--he knew exactly what had changed in his life Or who

She loved him She’d spoken the words with a conviction that left hied everything

She was love Her entire existence defined the word She ar enough to have faith--soive her what she wanted was impossible She wanted him to love her back, to need her, to have her in his life forever The thought of that filled hi surprised him