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Haven


By Jewel Donovan


Copyright 2017 Jewel Donovan


Smashwords Edition


All Rights Reserved


Thank you for downloading this ebook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favorite authorized retailer. Thank you for your support.




Table of Contents

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

EPILOGUE

AUTHOR’S NOTE




Chapter One


Will Stone hit the brakes on his black pickup as a deer ran out across the road ahead. Years of experience with driving on icy roads allowed him to maintain control as the vehicle skidded a little before coming to a stop.

The grey compact car coming the other way wasn’t so lucky. The driver must have panicked and swerved to avoid hitting the deer. The car’s wheels locked up as it went into a skid, sliding on the ice-covered road, brakes squealing, until it went off the road into the ditch, coming to a hard stop against a utility pole.

Will cursed and pulled his truck over as far to the side of the road as he dared, threw the vehicle into park, and turned on his four-way flashers. He knew that this road was a dead spot for cell service, so he didn’t even bother to check for a signal as he got out and ran as fast as was possible on the ice towards the other vehicle. The car hadn’t been going too fast when it had hit the pole, and he mentally crossed his fingers that the other driver wasn’t badly hurt. The deer had escaped injury, darting away and running through the field that bordered the side of the road.

The radiator was steaming, the bumper crumpled. The airbags had deployed, and he could see someone slumped against the one on the driver’s side. It was a woman dressed in a dark blue coat with a green knit ski hat pulled over shoulder-length dark brown hair.

Will climbed down into the ditch as quickly as he dared and tapped on the window. “Hey! Ma’am, are you alright?”

She was still for a few moments, making him worry she might have lost consciousness, before she sat back, looking stunned. She blinked a few times, shook her head slightly, then looked through the window at him with wide blue eyes.

“You okay?” he asked, tugging at the door handle. It remained shut. The door must be locked.

She shrank back a bit when she saw him before lowering the window a few scant inches. “Did—did I hit the deer?” she asked, her voice hesitant.

Will felt his eyebrows rise. The woman had just been in an accident. While she didn’t appear to be hurt, she had to be feeling shaken, and her car was likely no longer driveable, yet she was worried about the deer? “No, it ran off.”

She let out a breath of relief. “Good,” she said.

“You sure you’re okay?” he asked. “You hit a pole.”

“Oh god,” she exclaimed, as if just realizing what had happened to her vehicle. “Is my car okay?”

Will glanced over at the hissing radiator and crumpled front end and shook his head regretfully. “I think it’s toast.”

“Oh no.” She bit her lip, looking on the verge of tears.

“Hey, as long as you’re okay, right? Nothing seems to be broken? You didn’t hit your head on anything?”

“Does the airbag count?” she asked, pressing a hand to her temple, then said, “No, nothing feels like it’s broken.”

She turned off the ignition, then pulled out a cell phone before Will said, “Don’t bother. There’s no service out here.”

She didn’t respond as she tapped in a passcode and checked for herself. She waved the phone around at different angles for a few moments before muttering, “Damn it,” under her breath.

Told ya, Will thought, but instead only said, “Need a ride back to town? You can call for a tow from there.” When she looked undecided, he added, “This road isn’t used much and it might be a while before someone else comes by.”

She nibbled on her lower lip for a moment, considering. “Maybe you could call in a tow for me when you get there?” she asked, most likely wanting to avoid getting into a stranger’s vehicle.

“I wouldn’t feel right leaving you out here alone. It’s going to be dark soon, and it’s too cold. The temperature is already well below freezing, and it’s supposed to drop another ten degrees tonight.” As if to prove his point, a blast of icy-cold late November wind blew across them, making them both shiver. “You could freeze to death out here.” When she still looked reluctant, he cracked what he hoped was a reassuring smile. “I swear I’m not an axe murderer,” he said. “I’m Will, by the way. Will Stone.”

“I’m Am—” she cut herself off before finishing, “Lily.”

“Lily…” he trailed off, waiting for her to supply her last name.

“Just Lily.”

She seemed awfully suspicious. He wondered where she was from. Probably a bigger city. People tended to be a lot less trusting in bigger cities than where he was from, which had a population of about five thousand people. “Okay, just Lily, it’s only about a ten-minute drive to Haven,” he said, referring to his hometown. “You passed the turnoff a couple of minutes ago.”

Lily appeared to wrestle with the decision before reluctantly saying, “I guess. Thanks.” She opened the car door and climbed out, revealing that she wasn’t properly dressed for an Alberta winter. Her navy-blue peacoat was too thin for this wind. While she had a ski hat on, her hands were bare, and she was wearing a pair of well-worn jeans and ankle boots that looked more fashionable than practical. They all but disappeared into the snowdrift. She pressed her lips together in a grimace, and Will guessed that her footwear had probably filled with snow the second she’d stepped out of the car. She obviously wasn’t from around here, or she’d know how to dress for this weather. He doubted she had thermals on underneath those clothes.

Shit. What the hell was he doing thinking about her undergarments? This is what came from going without sex for over six months.

And now what the hell was he doing thinking about sex? If Lily could read his thoughts she’d probably run screaming down the road. It was clear she didn’t want to spend any more time in his company than she had to, much less get any more intimately acquainted. He felt his face heat, hoping she wouldn’t notice, or that if she did, she’d think his cheeks were just red from the cold and wind. He had to stop thinking like that. She was clearly afraid he was a creep. Better to not act like one, even if it was just in his own mind.

She reached back in to grab a stuffed duffle bag, and that was when Will saw that her car was packed full of suitcases and boxes.

“Going on a trip somewhere?” he asked.

She looked at him sharply, then quickly slid her glance away. “Something like that.” As she slung the handle of the bag over her shoulder, it banged against her side and she winced.

“You sure you’re okay?” Will asked. “Maybe I should take you to the hospital first. Get everything checked out.”

“No!” she exclaimed abruptly, before her voice softened and she added, “I mean, no thanks. I’m fine.”

“You sure? I don’t want you passing out on me.”

“I’m sure I’ll be fine. It’s just a fender bender.”

It was a bit more serious than a fender bender, but Will refrained from saying so as Lily locked the car and began to climb out of the ditch.

Her impractical boots slipped on the snow-covered ice, and Will reached out a hand to catch her. “Careful,” he cautioned.

She jerked away from his touch, which only made her slip again.

The woman was as jumpy as a mouse in a snake’s cage. “Hey, I’m not going to hurt you,” he said. “I just don’t want you to fall.”

“Sorry,” she said quickly. This time she let him take her arm to help her back onto the road, but he could feel that she was shaking. From the cold, or because he was touching her? He released her as soon as they were out of the ditch. His truck was sitting where he’d left it, still running, the driver’s side door open. He led her around to the passenger side, opened the door, and took her duffle bag, tossing it up onto the bench seat before saying, “You might need a boost to get in.” He didn’t think she’d want him touching her again, but she was a small woman, maybe a few inches over five feet, and his truck was high. How many times had his sister Abby complained that she practically needed mountain climbing gear to get into the vehicle?

Once again, Lily looked reluctant before she accepted his help. Though he only touched her for a few seconds to help her in, he felt a prickle of awareness in his hands even with his gloves on. It had been too long since he’d touched a woman, he thought. This woman obviously had no interest in being touched by anyone. Or at least not by him. He knew some people found him intimidating given that he was six feet tall and muscular from years of manual labor.

He had no business feeling a spark of attraction for her. He was just helping a stranded motorist get back to town. Just a good guy doing someone a favor. He’d have done it for anyone.

Yeah, but you wouldn’t be feeling the beginnings of a hard-on if she weren’t so darn attractive.

Next time he made a delivery trip to Edmonton he was going to stay overnight, hit up a bar, and put an end to his current sexual drought. Then next time he found a pretty young woman stranded on the side of the road, he wouldn’t think inappropriate thoughts about her.

Crap. This was going to be a long drive back to Haven. Even if it was only going to take ten minutes.


***


Lily winced as the truck door slammed shut, the loud noise making her jump as he closed it and headed around to the driver’s side of the vehicle. What more could go wrong today? she wondered as she fastened her seat belt. She’d known that leaving in the middle of winter probably wasn’t a good idea, especially when she’d been taking the Coquihalla mountain pass from British Columbia, but she’d felt she’d had no choice. She’d had to leave. She’d been planning to leave next spring, but things had gotten much worse in the last few days, and Lily had been afraid that if she didn’t leave now, she might never get out of there alive.

Of all the rotten luck. She’d made it through the terrifying drive of the mountain pass just before they’d shut down the highway due to poor road conditions and reduced visibility from blowing snow, only to be taken off the road by a stray deer. The accident had left her so shaken she’d almost slipped up and given her rescuer her real name. A name she had left behind her in BC. From now on, she was determined to think of herself as Lily Smith, the name on her fake driver’s license. Amanda Sullivan was dead. Gone. Along with the long blond hair that she’d hacked off and dyed a dark brown. It would be just her luck to have come this far only to screw up and give her real name.

She would bet Will was suspicious already, the way she’d reacted to his suggestion that he take her to a hospital. While she had a fake driver’s license, she had nothing else. No health-care card, no insurance. To say nothing of not wanting to leave any documentation behind that could be followed. It wasn’t like she had enough money to pay out of pocket for x-rays or whatever other tests they’d want to run at the hospital. She didn’t have much cash on her, just the bit she’d managed to save over the last few months and what her best friend Jane had been able to spare. She hadn’t wanted to take her friend’s money, insisting that Jane had done enough with helping her to get a used car that couldn’t be easily traced, to procuring her a fake ID. But her friend had insisted, and Lily had known she hadn’t had much choice. She needed money for gas and food if she was going to get away. She’d pretty much planned to drive to the biggest city her money would take her and then try to find a job from there that would be willing to pay her in cash.

What if her car was damaged enough to be a write-off? She didn’t have the money to replace it. Or for much in the way of repairs, even if it was salvageable. She could perhaps take a bus out of town, but then she’d have to leave a lot of her stuff behind. Not to mention the fact that she’d planned to sleep in her car until she could afford a place to live.

Her eyes stung with unshed tears and she furiously blinked them back. Crying would solve nothing. She’d learned that a long time ago. It was bad enough that she’d had to accept a ride from a stranger. And not just any stranger, but a guy who looked big enough and strong enough to knock her into next week without even breaking a sweat. Why couldn’t she have been found by a nice couple or some sweet little old lady? Not by a guy with a slightly crooked grin that made her feel a tingle she hadn’t felt in a long time. She ruthlessly squelched it. The last thing she needed right now was to get tangled up with a man. Any man, but especially not one who looked like he outweighed her by a hundred pounds.

The truck rocked a bit as he climbed in. She tried not to jump when he slammed that door shut, too.

He fastened his seat belt, then cranked the heat. “It’ll warm up in here pretty quick. If you stick your hands in front of the vent, they should thaw out by the time we get into town.”

So he’d noticed that she didn’t have any gloves on. Just what she needed, to be rescued by someone observant. If anyone came asking questions, she could be in trouble. And asking him not to tell anyone anything about her would only make him suspicious. “Thanks,” she said quietly, holding her cold fingers up to the hot air blowing out of the vent. They stung as the circulation returned to them.

“So, where are you headed?” he asked, as he got the truck moving.

“Just passing through,” she said quickly.

“Not from around here, are you?”

She shot a glance at him. “What makes you say that?”

“Well, you’re not dressed for this weather for one thing, and your car has BC plates.”

Damnit. What was this guy, a detective? Just her luck, he’d probably turn out to be a cop. “Anyone ever tell you that you ask a lot of questions?”

He glanced over at her and flashed a wry smile before turning his gaze back to the road. “Hazards of living in a smaller town. We tend to be a bit nosy. Sorry.”

She nodded, then pointedly turned her gaze out the window, hoping to avoid more conversation.

“I’ll take you to the coffee shop on Main Street and I can call Paul from there,” he said.

“Paul?”

“The guy who runs the best garage in town. He’s a pal of mine. He’s the one I’d trust to not try to cheat you.”

“I can call him myself, thanks.”

“Do you even know what range road we’re on to tell him where your car is?”

Well damn, the man had a point. She’d had no GPS and had been following the highway signs. She must have taken a wrong turn off the main road and had been wondering where she was just before the deer had run out in front of her.

“Right. Thanks. After you call him, you can just drop me off at the coffee shop, and I can take it from there,” she said, hoping he’d take the hint and leave her alone after that.

“No problem, I was planning to stop there anyways. I’ll even buy you a cup of coffee.”

Sheesh, he was persistent. “You don’t have to do that,” she said quickly. “I already owe you enough as it is.”

“You don’t owe me anything. Just being friendly.”

Yeah, guys often seemed friendly. At first. Right up until they had you trapped. Then they accused you of cheating on them for being ten minutes late getting home from work and backhanded you to the floor. “I’ll buy my own coffee, thanks,” she said, her voice clipped.

“It’s just a cup of coffee, Lily. I really don’t mind.”

She felt like protesting some more, but realized she might appear weird or shrewish if she continued. And he was right. It was just a cup of coffee. It wasn’t like he’d asked her for a blow job.

Holy crap! Why the hell had she just thought that? He hadn’t made a single sexual innuendo towards her. Why had her mind gone there? Maybe because she’d felt a spark of attraction for him since the moment he’d knocked on her car window, asking if she was okay. And she’d felt a tingle when he’d touched her, even through the fabric of his gloves and her clothing, a tingle that wasn’t just fear. She could still feel where his hands had been on her when he’d helped boost her up into the truck. Lily felt her face heat and ducked her chin down, hoping to hide her furious blush behind her hair. The last thing she needed was for him to guess that she’d had a moment’s thought of giving him a blow job. So far he’d seemed friendly, but she would be daft to forget that she was in his vehicle and at his mercy. He could drive her off to some remote area if he wished and do whatever he wanted with her. While she had pepper spray in her pocket, it wasn’t enough to make her feel safe.

Lily pulled her hands away from the vent and tucked them into her pockets so he wouldn’t see them shaking. And closed her hand around the can of pepper spray like it was a talisman. “Okay. Coffee sounds good.”

She was saved from trying to make more small talk by their arrival into town. The sign proclaimed the town’s name as Haven, claiming it was the friendliest town in Alberta. Though it was the last week of November, the place was already decorated for the holidays, with wreaths hanging off lampposts and trees twinkling with colored lights. Lily had to admit it looked pretty. Will pulled into the parking lot of a diner. Lily was getting out of the truck almost before he had turned the engine off. It was a bit of a jump down, and she let out a grunt as she landed harder than she’d expected, having not accounted for the added weight of her duffle bag.

“Hey, you okay? I’d have helped you down,” she heard Will protest from behind her.

Yeah, she’d just bet he would have. The guy was way too helpful for her comfort level. She wasn’t going to let him put his hands on her again if she had any say in the matter. She wasn’t sure what she was more afraid of, the fact that they looked like strong hands that could snap her arm with little effort, or the fact that she didn’t want to feel any of those disconcerting tingles again. “I’m fine,” she assured him before shutting the truck door and hurrying towards the diner, more than ready to put some distance between them.

Bells tinkled as she opened the door to the diner. The place was decorated for Christmas on the inside as well. On the sound system, someone was singing about rocking around the Christmas tree. A middle-aged woman wearing a festive apron and carrying a coffee pot said, “Sit anywhere you like, honey, I’ll be right with you.”

Lily slid into an empty booth, placing her duffle bag between her and the wall to ensure that no one could grab it easily. A few moments later Will took the seat opposite, already talking on his cell phone, telling the person on the other end where to find her car. “Her name’s Lily, you can call her back at—” he looked at her, brows raised, waiting for her number.

Right. Lily pulled out her phone and tapped in her passcode. She’d had to leave her old one behind and had bought an untraceable pay-as-you-go phone to replace it. She’d only had it for a day and didn’t have the number memorized yet. She pulled up the necessary information and read it out to Will, who relayed it, asked a few more questions, then ended the call.

“Paul says they’ll be able to get to your car in about half an hour, but they probably won’t be able to give you an estimate on repairs until tomorrow afternoon.”

Lily bit her lip. It wouldn’t matter how much repairs cost, a couple hundred dollars or a couple thousand. She wouldn’t have enough cash to cover it, and she had no credit cards. It looked like she was stuck here for the time being. She’d have to find a job to pay for repairs. She hadn’t put nearly enough distance between herself and Vancouver to feel even remotely safe, and especially not in a smaller town. It was much harder to disappear in a place where people knew the mechanics by name. Why couldn’t she have at least made it to Edmonton?

And now she had no place to sleep. With the temperatures as low as they were, sleeping in her car wouldn’t have been comfortable, but she’d figured if she ran the engine every few hours to warm up, she’d manage.

She’d planned this escape for months. She thought she’d prepared for every contingency. Who would have guessed she’d be derailed by a deer?

The waitress came over and asked, “You need menus?”

“Just two coffees, Joleen, thanks,” Will answered, stripping off his gloves before pulling off his knit hat to reveal hair that was some color between blond and brown.

Lily added cream and sugar to her coffee before wrapping her hands around the mug, absorbing the welcome warmth.

“So, is there somewhere I can take you?” Will asked after Joleen walked off. “You got a place to stay?”

“I—I don’t know,” Lily replied, once more feeling the bite of tears. Stupid, useless tears. She forced them back and took a sip of coffee so she could hide behind the mug. “Is there a motel in town? Something inexpensive?” she asked hopefully, although she doubted it. The place looked like a tourist trap. There probably wasn’t anything from a major chain in it. And no matter what, it was money she could ill afford to spend. And would any place around here accept cash without a credit card for a deposit?

Will was silent for a few moments before saying, “I just had a thought. Looks like you’ll be stuck here while you’re waiting for your car to be fixed. Are you interested in a job?”

“A job? You know someone who’s hiring?” Please let it be for some sweet harmless little old lady, she thought. She needed to get away from him and his intimidating size and smiles that made her stomach do funny things. Or maybe that stomach thing was because she hadn’t eaten since that gas station bagel four hours ago. She hoped.

“Can you cook?”

Lily stifled a laugh. Could she cook? She’d wanted to be a chef since she was a little girl, maybe open her own café or run a catering business. And she’d spent the last six years working at Jane’s Diner as a cook. And at another restaurant before that. “I can cook.”

“Clean?”

“Yes.” She felt her hopes rise for the first time since she’d lost control of her car on that icy road.

“I’m looking for a housekeeper.”

Lily felt her stomach sink. She’d been hoping he was asking on behalf of someone else, not himself. No such luck.

“Job includes room and board and pays three hundred dollars a week. I can pay you in cash.” He lifted his coffee and downed nearly half of it all at once.

A job and a place to stay? That would mean that she could pay off her car repairs even faster without housing costs to eat into her wages. She knew she should jump at the chance. It was like a gift—except it came with him attached. An altogether too-attractive man who made her nervous in more ways than one. Was this even a legit offer, or had he made it up to get her to go home with him? Maybe he just wanted to get her alone. Although she supposed he could have done that earlier, when she was in his truck. “I don’t know…”

“My last housekeeper left a week ago, and there’s only so long my younger sister and I can live on grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup out of a can.”

“Your sister?” Maybe this could work if they had a chaperone, even a pint-sized one. “Is childcare involved?”

He gave a bark of laughter. “Don’t let Abby hear you say that. She’s seventeen going on thirty.”

“I see.” Lily took another sip of coffee to give herself time to think. “So it’s just the two of you?”

“It’s been just the two of us for the last ten years, since our parents died.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said reflexively.

“It was a long time ago.”

Still, that meant he must have been taking care of his sister since she was seven, all on his own. That couldn’t have been easy. He must have been very young when his folks died. He didn’t look like he could be more than thirty, if that. He probably was close to her age of twenty seven.

This guy had to be too good to be true. He rescued stranded motorists, offered much-needed jobs to them, and now she found out he’d been orphaned and had raised his kid sister all by himself.

“You’re sure it’s not a problem that I’m not planning to stay long term?”

“It’s fine. I’m sure I can find someone else by the time you want to leave.”

She should stop protesting before he changed his mind. It wasn’t like she had any other options.

“We can give it a try for a week. If you hate it, you can move on to something else. What do you say?” he asked.

She stared at him silently. “Why are you being so nice to me?” she blurted out before she thought better of it.

He looked surprised. “Why not?”

“I—I don’t know.” Except in her experience people tended not to go out of their way to help others. Apart from Jane, no one else had bothered. People had pretended not to notice her makeup covering a bruise, her long sleeves even when it was hot out, or the fact that she “walked into doorknobs” or “fell down the stairs” or was “sick” a lot. And before that, her mom had taken off when she was eleven. Her dad had drowned his sorrows in the bottle, then taken his anger out on her. She hadn’t had much kindness in her life, and most of the time, what seemed like kindness at first came at a price later.

“That’s what we tend to do around here. If you stay here long enough, you’ll find that out.”

She wasn’t planning to stick around that long, but she refrained from saying so.

“Like I said before, I’m not an axe murderer. Joleen will vouch for me. Won’t you, Joleen?” he said, raising his voice a little.

“Won’t I what?” Joleen asked as she came over to their table.

“Tell Lily here that I’m not an axe murderer.”

Joleen laughed. “Very funny, Will. Everyone in town knows you wouldn’t hurt a fly. He’s not an axe murderer, honey,” she added to Lily. “Refill?”

Lily shook her head no, while Will had Joleen add more coffee to his mug.

“So Lily’s planning to be your housekeeper?”

It seemed that the job was legit, not a ruse to get her into his house. If the waitress already knew about it, then he’d probably been asking around town for someone to fill the position.

“She hasn’t said yes. Yet,” Will grinned. “Maybe you can convince her.”

“Will’s a great guy,” Joleen said. “If I was you, I’d take the job.”

It wasn’t like Lily had any other options. If he turned out to be a creep, well, she’d just have to find a way to deal with it. And hopefully the fact that he had a sister living with him would act as a buffer. “Okay. I guess I’m your new housekeeper.”

“Great.” He gave her another smile that made her stomach flip.

Oh boy, she was in trouble here.




Chapter Two


“Who’s this?” A young lady asked as soon as they stepped into Will’s home, a two-level rancher on the edge of town. This must be his sister Abby. While the girl’s hair color was a few shades darker than his, a deep rich brown, and her jaw narrower, they had the same cheekbones and chocolate-brown eyes. Anyone would guess from just a glance that they were related.

Except where Will was all smiles and easy, open friendliness, his sister had her arms folded, her expression guarded and a touch hostile. Not even a hint of a smile to be seen.

“Our new housekeeper,” Will answered. “Her name’s Lily. Lily, this is Abby.”

“Hi,” Lily said, her voice hesitant. Was this why they were currently without a housekeeper? Had Abby’s cold attitude driven the last one off?

Abby didn’t respond to the greeting. “I told you we don’t need a new housekeeper,” she said to Will, pointedly ignoring Lily.

“Yes, we do. You’re too busy with your midterms and college applications.”

Her lower lip thrust out in a pout. “I said I could handle it.”

“You shouldn’t have to,” Will responded. “And anyway, the decision’s been made.”

Lily shifted from foot to foot, feeling awkward standing there while they had a family argument, but not knowing what else to do. It wasn’t like she knew which room was going to be hers so she could escape while Will and Abby had it out. She looked around, taking in the slightly cluttered home, and pretended she didn’t hear them.

Abby glanced over at Lily, giving her a once-over before looking back at Will and asking, “Where’d you find this one? Wandering along the side of the road?”

“Abigail!” Will exclaimed. “That was rude.”

The girl’s face flushed with a mixture of anger and embarrassment. Her gaze dropped to her feet. “Sorry,” she mumbled, not sounding at all apologetic.

Lily found herself studying her feet as well. Abby couldn’t know how close to the mark she’d been. Will had found her on the side of the road, after all, even if she hadn’t been actually wandering along it at the time.

“Lily’s only going to be here for a short time. We can try to get along for a little while, can’t we?”

“I suppose.”

“Good,” Will said. “I’ll show Lily around, let her get settled, and then she can maybe rustle us up some dinner.”

Abby looked like she wanted to say something else, but instead just turned and stalked away. A few moments later a door closed with a bit more force than necessary.

Will looked chagrined. “Sorry about that. Teenagers, you know?”

“It’s alright,” Lily hurried to reassure him. “Seventeen can be a difficult age.” How well she knew that. When she’d been seventeen she’d been counting down the days to her eighteenth birthday, until she could leave home, all the while trying to juggle a part-time job and keep her grades up. To say nothing of dealing with hormone swings.

Don’t think about hormones! Right now hers were a little too active for comfort. She’d like for them to take a nice long hibernation for the rest of the winter. Or perhaps the rest of her life. Those things caused nothing but trouble.

They shed their outerwear and shoes before Will showed her around. The lower level had a rec room, a laundry room, and a door that he said led to his workshop. Apparently he made a living building furniture. Not a cop, then, she thought. Thank goodness. On the upper level there was a basic kitchen that had a few dirty dishes in the sink and on the counters, a small dining room, a cozy living room, a bathroom, and three bedrooms, hers located at the end of the hall. It was a small room that had a sleigh bed made of caramel colored wood and was made up with a red plaid quilt. A matching dresser and a nightstand with a lamp on it completed the set. Lily wondered if he’d made the furniture.

“There’s a lock on the door,” he said, showing her the slide bolt on the inside, making her breathe a small sigh of relief that she hoped he hadn’t noticed. With a lock on the door, she might sleep a little better tonight.

“No separate bathroom, I’m afraid, you’ll have to share the main one with Abby. I’ve got an ensuite, so at least it isn’t three of us to one bathroom.”

After only public bathrooms and the prospect of having to shower at a gym, even a shared bathroom sounded heavenly. “That’ll be fine.”

“Right, so while you get settled, I’ll head over to the garage and get your stuff.”

“You don’t have to do that,” she protested automatically before he cut her off.

“It’s no problem. Besides, how would you get it here? Plan to carry it across town?” he asked with a laugh.

She gave a small laugh in return. It felt strange, laughing. She hadn’t laughed in a long time. “I guess that wouldn’t be very practical,” she said, dropping her duffle bag on the bed. “Thank you,” she added, feeling like she’d been saying that to him a lot since she’d met him. “I’ll get started on some dinner. Any dietary restrictions?”

“Nope, no one’s allergic to anything, and we’re not into any of those fancy diets. Just basic home cooking is fine. I’ll need your keys,” he added.

Of course. Lily dug them out of her pocket and dropped them into his waiting hand, careful to not let their fingers touch. “Thanks again.”

“Anytime,” he said before walking out.

Lily sat down on the bed. What had she gotten herself into? She was now living with a man when she’d sworn off all men. Not that she was living with him in that sense, but still. She’d planned to stay far away from men from now on. She was through with the lot of them. Yet here she was taking help from one, and now she was living in his house.

His sister didn’t appear to be too keen on the idea, either. Lily hoped Abby wasn’t going to make her life hell.

It’s just for a little while, she reminded herself. Once she had the car repairs paid off and maybe a bit extra for gas and food, she’d be out of here, as far away as she could get. Some big city where she could disappear. Someplace where she’d hopefully never be found. She just hoped Trevor didn’t catch up with her in the meantime. Maybe it was a good thing this was a smaller town. He might not think to look here. And it was named Haven. Maybe a sign?

She snorted, then pressed a hand to her aching ribs. Though she didn’t think they were broken, they were badly bruised from where Trevor had kicked her that last time he’d gotten angry. The last time he’d beaten her, calling her a cheating whore. What a joke that was. She’d never been with anyone but him. They’d been together since she was sixteen and he seventeen. She’d had stars in her eyes when he had asked her out. The captain of the basketball team interested in her, the socially awkward girl with thrift-store clothes and hardly any friends. It had seemed like a dream at first. She’d moved out the day she had turned eighteen to live with him. Her dad had called her a whore, too, as she left. Along with a bunch of other names, before he told her to never come crawling back to him for anything.

Lily gave herself a mental shake. That part of her life was over. It didn’t bear thinking about. She’d better see what she could fix for dinner.


***


The kitchen hadn’t been well stocked, but Lily had found enough to make a ham frittata and cheese biscuits, something she could have on the table in half an hour. She had just pulled a barstool up to the kitchen counter to eat her portion when Will came into the room.

“Aren’t you going to join us, Lily?”

“Well, I hadn’t thought…I mean, you’re my employer. I didn’t want to intrude.” Plus she didn’t think Abby would be thrilled by the idea.


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