“Am I being cynical, or does it seem like that guy is going out of his way to downplay what happened?”
Eden Bristow glanced at the man who’d saved her life twice in the span of five minutes. Travis Dempsey was as perceptive as he was hunky and courageous. “That guy is my future brother-in-law, but yeah, you’re right. I can’t believe he told the cops those guys were only after their wallets.”
Eden and Travis had introduced themselves after getting up and dusting off their clothes. It was a good thing they’d taken the time to do it then because by the time they got back to the Bluefin Bar and Grill, the restaurant where her sister was having her rehearsal dinner, was surrounded by cops. To say it had turned into a zoo was an understatement. It had taken Eden ten minutes to get inside so she could retrieve her purse and Department of Homeland Security badge.
She and Travis had finished giving their statements to the local cops and were now leaning against the hood of a police cruiser listening to Brandon Haywood, her future brother-in-law, and Tim Ainsley, his best man, give their statements to the cops—again. She didn’t blame the police for asking them to go over it a second time. It was a little tough to buy.
According to Brandon—whom Eden met for the first time two days ago when she came down from D.C. for the wedding—five men had approached him and Tim while they were outside getting some air. The men had demanded their wallets and when they didn’t comply fast enough, they beat up Brandon and Tim.
Eden didn’t know Brandon well enough to say for a fact he was lying—and she knew Tim even less—but she agreed with Travis. Her sister’s future husband seemed to be working unusually hard to convince the cops the mugging hadn’t been a big deal. He even said the gunfire had all been a big misunderstanding.
Travis snorted. “Does Virginia require any form of drug testing before getting married? If not, maybe your sister should pay for one before it’s too late.”
Eden couldn’t help but crack up a little at that. She hadn’t known Travis for very long, but she already liked him. Besides the snarky wit, sinful good looks, mesmerizing dark eyes, a body that wouldn’t quit, and the absolutely yummy scent coming off him, there was also his willingness to throw himself between her and a hail of bullets. She was a shifter, which meant she likely would have survived getting shot as long as she didn’t take a direct hit to the head or heart, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t appreciate a bit of chivalry now and then.
But more impressive than any of that other stuff was knowing Travis had seen her shift—complete with claws and fangs—and hadn’t freaked. In fact, he’d acted like it wasn’t a big deal at all. That kind of reaction—or lack of one—was rare. Even the agents on the four-member personal security team she was part of back in Washington at the DCO—one a former US Marshal from the WITSEC program, and the other two former Secret Service who used to protect the president—had freaked out the first time they’d seen her in action, and they’d known what to expect. It made her wonder if Travis had stumbled across a shifter before tonight. Then again, maybe he was simply one of those guys who didn’t rattle easily. She knew for a fact his heart rate hadn’t sped up at all, even when those guys were shooting at them.
“So, you work for the Department of Homeland Security, huh?” he asked casually.
Travis must have seen her flash her badge to the cops when she’d given her statement. “I’m just a paper pusher up in Washington, but, yeah, I’m with the DHS.”
She hated lying to Travis, especially since he’d saved her life, but it wasn’t like she could tell him she was an agent with the Department of Covert Operations, an organization that didn’t officially exist. Nor could she tell him this nonexistent organization employed genetic mutations like her to conduct certain top-secret missions no one could ever know about. Not even her family knew what she really did for a living.
Travis slanted her a look. “Paper pusher. Right.”
Eden should have known he wouldn’t buy it, not after what he’d seen in the alley. She held her breath, waiting for Travis to press her on the subject, but he didn’t.
Over by the restaurant, Brandon finished up with the cops then walked over to where her sister was standing. Emily threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly before stepping back so his mom could do the same. Brandon’s father, as well as her and Emily’s parents, were more reserved but no less concerned.
“That your sister?” Travis asked.
“Yeah, that’s Emily,” Eden said. “And that’s my mom and dad standing on either side of her.”
Travis nodded thoughtfully. “Your parents don’t seem to share your suspicions about Brandon.”
“That’s because they didn’t see him get beat up,” she muttered. “Not that it would matter anyway. My dad thinks Brandon walks on water because he’s in the Navy. Dad’s retired Navy. Sometimes, I think he secretly wishes both Emily and I had continued the family tradition and gone to Annapolis,” she added when Travis gave her a confused look. “I guess he figured he’d have to settle for one of us marrying into the Navy.”
Travis considered that for a moment. “Navy to the core, huh?”
She sighed. “That’s my dad.”
“What about your mom? What does she think of Brandon?”
Eden shrugged. “I think Mom is a little worried about Emily marrying a man who’s going to be gone on float more than he’s home, but she just wants Emily to be happy. That’s the most important thing. And the possibility of grandkids in the near future, of course. She’s itching to get her hands on some grandkids ASAP.”
Travis chuckled. “Sounds like my mother. She’s on my sister and me all the time to settle down, get married, and have kids—not necessarily in that order. What about you? Your mother pressuring you to have children?”
Eden smiled. She couldn’t believe she was having this conversation with a guy she’d just met, but Travis was easy to talk to. “She tries. But I have to let you in on a little secret—the idea of having children scares the life out of me. I can barely take care of myself, much less a kid. The thought of being completely responsible for another little human being makes me want to run away as fast as I can.”
His mouth quirked. “I’m guessing that would be pretty damn quick. I’ve never seen a woman run so fast in bare feet and a dress.”
She flashed him a smile. “You should get a look at how fast I am out of it.”
His chocolate-brown eyes darkened to a sexy smolder. “Now, that’s something I’d like to see.”
“What, me running without a dress on?” She wasn’t sure why he’d be impressed. Maybe he had a thing for Olympic sprinters. “It’s not that big a deal.”
That sensuous mouth of his twitched again. “I don’t know. The idea of seeing you without anything on—running or otherwise—seems like a big deal to me.”
Eden thought she might have blushed, but she wasn’t sure. She’d meant running in a T-shirt and shorts instead of a dress. He, on the other hand, clearly meant seeing her run around completely naked. She didn’t hold it against him. She’d walked right into that one.
“Travis Dempsey, are you flirting with me?” she asked.
“Trying to,” he said. “Unless you considered that last comment rude, sexist, or inappropriate, in which case, I’m not flirting at all.”
She laughed and shook her head. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone like you before in my life.”
A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, drawing her attention there and making her wonder what it’d be like to kiss him.
“Funny you should mention that, since I’m absolutely, positively sure I’ve never met anyone like you in my life before, either,” he said. “Speaking of which, any chance you might explain some of the things I saw out there tonight?”
Well, there it was.
She’d been wondering when he was going to ask. He might not have headed for the hills after seeing her inner animal come out, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t curious. The question was, did she follow the DCO rules and deny all, or did she go with her instincts and trust a guy she’d known for less than an hour?
Eden knew the answer without even having to think about it.
“I can.” She glanced at the cops, then her parents. “But I’d rather not get into it here.”
He nodded. “Okay. How about over dinner tomorrow night, then?”
Eden smiled. She hadn’t gone out with a guy this attractive in a long time, if ever. Working in the DCO sort of put a damper on her social life.
“Dinner sounds great.”