Get a Clue(6)By: Jill Shalvis
“Don’t panic, don’t panic,” Breanne whispered to herself. She’d flown down the stairs and across the hardwood floor at the base of the curved staircase, thankful for the lighting, stingy as it was, because she wasn’t happy in the dark. That went back to the days of too many brothers, and too many times they’d happily tortured her. Once she’d even been locked in a closet and left there by accident.
But she was a grown-up now. “You’re tough,” she said out loud. “You’re impenetrable.” She wondered where Scary But Gorgeous Naked Guy was.
Coming after her.
At the thought, she tripped over her own two feet and went sprawling face-first across the shiny floor.
That’s when the lights went out.
Then, from up above somewhere, she heard footsteps.
For years her brother Danny had been telling her she needed an exercise regime, some sort of weight training to give some tone to her body, and she’d always shuddered at the thought because she and exercise mixed like oil and water.
Now she wished she’d paid attention. Kickboxing, taebo, karate . . . Hell, anything aggressive would have been nice.
In the complete dark, she pushed herself up off the floor, breathing like a lunatic, probably looking like a deer caught in the headlights. Only there were no headlights, nothing but an inky blackness that had her stomach falling to her toes.
Stuck in a house with a naked guy.
She was a self-proclaimed city girl, she reminded herself. Feisty and independent, not easily cowed or intimidated. Give her a scary downtown alley with a drunk leaning against the wall, or an obnoxious construction worker blocking her path any day. Anything but the big, open, scary, dark space where the unknown waited just out of sight. Bears, spiders, coyotes . . .
Oh, and a gorgeous naked guy with a low, sexy voice in her shower.
Maybe people found gorgeous naked men in their showers all the time out here. Maybe it was a way to greet the newcomers. Maybe . . . maybe she was delusional because her day had gone so badly.
She slipped her hand in her pocket and gripped the comforting weight of her cell phone. Normally she’d have mace there as well, but who’d have thought she’d be needing any on her faux honeymoon?
Pulling out the phone, the digital display lit up, providing a tiny, welcome bit of light. No bars, though, which meant no reception. She actually shook the thing, as if that would help. She’d heard about this, of course, and she’d seen the “Can you hear me now?” commercials, but having grown up in a city where people walked around with their cell phones permanently attached to their ears, where there were no mysterious pockets of low reception, she’d never had this problem.
Hell of a day to experience it now.
She should never have gotten out of bed, should never have donned that lacy white wedding dress she’d loved, never gone to the church to marry a man simply because it had seemed like a fun, exciting thing to do, and because her mother had suggested this was her last chance to get it right.
And she sure as hell wished she would stop falling for “I love you” when what a guy really meant was “Do me, and also my laundry, while you’re at it.”
She shivered again. Or maybe that was still. Her clothes, still wet and extremely cold against her skin, had stuck to her, probably steaming because despite her bone-deep chill, she’d also begun to sweat in sheer terror.
And then she heard it, a sound from behind her in the dark.
Just a slight scrape on the floor, which could have been a rat, a mere creak in the wood, or . . .
Ballsy or not, this experience was quickly growing beyond her. She stumbled forward and fell into the front door. Grasping the handle, she wrenched it open.
Icy wind and snow greeted her, blasting her in the face, sliding down her collar. To add insult to injury, the horizon was pure black—no city lights, no stars, nothing but a velvety darkness. Still, propelled by fear, she took a step forward.
And sank up to her thigh.
Once when she’d been little, her grandma had given her one of those snow globes of San Francisco. Shake it up and it snowed down over the city.
In fact, it did snow in the city. Once in a blue moon. During those times the wind would slip in from the shore, chopping and dicing at any exposed skin. But in those rare events she simply stayed indoors. There was lots to do inside: hang out with friends, seduce a boyfriend, drink something warm . . .