Natalia awoke feeling better than she’d felt in years. Trent made her feel safe and warm. He had kept his word too. He had not tried anything sexual. he had simply held her all night.
Trent emerged from the bathroom, towel wrapped around his waist. though he wasn’t overly muscular in build, she could tell that he was no stranger to working out or working at some kind of job. He was physically fit, not an ounce of fat on him. It made her love him more, seeing he was not afraid to show off his body.
He looked over at her and smiled. “You’re finally awake?”
She smiled back at him. “My protector wasn’t here to keep me safe.”
He came and sat down next to her on the bed, looking into her eyes. “While I am here, you will always be safe. No one can hurt you anymore. Not here, not now. Not anywhere.”
He bent down and kissed her on the lips. A sudden surge of emotions flooded her. Suddenly, she wanted more. His kiss, though tender, had unintentionally awakened her desires.
He tried to pull away, but she followed. He pulled her to him, gently wrapping his arms around her. His lips remained on hers as he did so. From her lips, he moved to her neck and then nuzzled her. “I love you, Natalia.”
She moaned, arching her back, then settling with his head on her shoulder. “Oh God, Trent,” she breathe, “I-I love you too. I need you.” She pulled him down as she laid back down. “I want more.”
He lifted himself up so he could look into her eyes. She could see the surprise in his expression. “What do you mean?” the uncertainty crept into his voice.
She smiled nervously. “I want to make love.”
He sat back up and looked at her in surprise. “Are you sure?”
She nodded, smiling. “I am. I know you will treat me right and won’t hurt me. You have repeatedly shown me that. Last night, you could have done anything to me. But you didn’t. You respected my wishes.
“And you are so good with Matty. It is almost as if you think of him as your own son. It makes me love you that much more. And you picked me over all the others! Me! Damaged goods!”
He smiled at her. “You aren’t damaged goods. A wounded warrior, yes. But damaged goods, no. You have fought and won your toughest battles, Baby. And they have made you stronger. All you need is someone who’ll help you heal.”
Valeria stared out of her front door. Michael stayed in his studies most days now, riddled with guilt on how he had handled the issue of Natalia’s rape at the hands of Toby French. He knew that it hadn’t been Nattie’s fault, not really, but the idea of her being with Toby in the first place had galled him. Especially after she’d been told by several girls exactly what Tobias was. How could she have been so naive?
Valeria shook her head. They had tried to protect her. They had warned her. Even Frank’s daughters had warned her.
But those warnings had fallen on deaf ears, it seemed. But Nattie had always believed that the right person could change another if they loved them enough. And it had cost her.It had cost her more than she had been willing to give up.
But, then, it had cost them all. But it had cost the French family the most. First, Toby ran off to war to escape justice. then, word arrived of his death. Toffer had done everything to destroy Nattie from that point on and succeeded. Nattie ran.
But Toffer did not last long enough to enjoy his handiwork. A week later, he was found at the bottom of the river, a cinder block tied to his leg. Marissa French had vanished shortly before, after trying to help Natalia. Some said that she had been found in a mangled car in a nearby wooded area. Yet, there had been no such report, nor had there been any body.
Michael had tried to help soothe Nattie’s wounds, but hadn’t known how to do so. She had just gone through something horrible. Something neither he nor Valeria had ever experienced. How could they really be of any help?
Now, she realized that they should have just listened. Not talked.They had approached it all from the wrong angle. Marissa had done what she could as well. But all that Nattie had picked up on was the negative. she thought they had been judging her. She thought she was unwelcome. Unwanted. Hated. Alone.
But those had been planted in her brain by Toffer. That fat, evil little toad had succeeded in destroying one last person before he died a horrible death. But upon his death, the whole city of Des Moines breathed a sigh of relief. No one went looking for his killer. They naturally assumed that it had been an ordered mob hit.
Kendrick Wells had a secret. He’d successfully killed a man. Five years before, he had been a transient. He’d had no hope, no home, nothing to lose. He’d not set out to commit a crime, just to find the man who’d killed his sister. He’d known Allan hadn’t done it. Allan had been at a business meeting in Ft. Lauderdale. Ken knew because he had been at the same meeting, and his sister had been killed at the same time. Besides. Allan was too nice a guy. Too humble and caring to kill someone he professed, truthfully, to love.
When word reached him, Allan crumbled like a great weight had just been applied. Not how a murderer reacts to the death of a victim. Especially if an outside method was used. Ken knew. h had witnessed such people. Hell. It had been his job for twelve years.
Until that day, he had been an elite agent for the FBI. He was even one who knew how to profile different kinds of killers. He knew how to tell sincerity from false fronts. Allan had been sincere. When they met, he had gushed about how he couldn’t wait to marry Sarah. Then the news came and it was almost as if someone had kicked Al’s legs out from under him.
Instantly, Ken knew that Al’d had nothing to do with it. But what of Al’s boss? Or his boss’s kid? He soon found out and, in anger, took Toffer out mob-style.