Josie kept watch as the willows’ auras went from an iridescent green creepily reminiscent of spoiled ham to a more sedate greenish blue. Breathing a sigh of relief, she sagged against Walker, letting him take some of her weight. He responded by tightening his arm around her and snuggling her close. His energy was a pleasant pressure against hers -- not intrusive, just a steady, comfortable weight.
“It’s done,” she said, turning in his arms so that she rested her cheek against his shoulder as she looked at him. She fit perfectly against him, neither too tall nor too short for comfort. The musky, spicy scent surrounded her: the comfort of homemade ginger cookies mixed with the wildness of a big predator. “The willows are sleeping.”
“Good,” he murmured.
There was a breathless instant where they gazed at each other; then their lips met in a brief, sweet kiss.
Josie pulled back a bit, smiling at him before pressing her lips against his once again. It was surprisingly intimate for a chaste kiss.
“Mm.” Walker’s soft sound of pleasure tickled her lips.
She giggled, licking the itch away, and accidentally brushing his lower lip with her tongue. Josie froze, then leaned into him as he deepened the kiss. In a moment, the contact went from sweet exploration to sizzling passion.
Walker tasted of spice and wildness, and was warm and solid against her. He held her loosely against his body, stroking her back in a gentle caress.
Josie looped her arms around his neck, holding tight, shivering as her palms pressed against the silken strands of his hair. For a moment, Walker’s hair seemed to move beneath her hands.
Josie felt Walker sigh against her just before they separated. “Hello Brenda,” he said.
“Walker. Josie,” Brenda said, a smile playing around her mouth. Her aura rippled around her in an amused wash of lavender satin.
“Hey, Brenda,” Josie said. She could feel a flush against her cheeks, but wasn’t sure if it was embarrassment or passion. Having her aunt’s best friend catch her in a lip-lock was worse than being caught by her mother. Josie knew her parents had sex, but Brenda had always been as sexless as a spinster librarian.
“I hate to interrupt, but we’ve got a twixtie beetle infestation over at the Voltares place.” The half-elf wore dark jeans and a pale green polo shirt. The green was a good color for the older woman, bringing out the green threads in her graying brown hair.
“Phooey.” He released Josie, and stepped back. “Can we switch dinner to tomorrow night?”
“Sure,” Josie said, disappointed but a bit relieved. That kiss had been amazing, and a little frightening in its intensity. She wanted some time to think about her incendiary attraction to the marshal. This interruption was annoying, but probably for the best.
“Can I call you?”
She quickly fished a business card from her purse, handing it to him.
Walker tugged one of his own from his wallet. As he handed it to her, he grinned. “Exchanging business cards -- the courtship dance of the modern couple.”
“It could be worse,” Josie said, laughing. “At least this way no one has to catch any horses for a courting price.”
“True.” He offered his arm. “May I walk you back to your car?”
“Of course,” she said, linking her arm through his. She probably should have declined; it was still light outside, after all. But she was still shaken by the close call they’d had with the willows. If the trees had awakened completely while school was in session, they could have lost children. Bright copper hair against verdant grass
… She pushed the memory away. The school had seen enough death for a dozen lifetimes. So had she.
“I’m parked on the other side of the playground,” Brenda said, pointing to her dark green SUV.
Josie started. She’d completely forgotten about the other woman’s presence.
“I’ll meet you there,” Walker said.
“Okay.” Brenda grinned at Josie. “Tell Sofa I said ‘hi’ and that I have news for her.” She winked as she said the last.
“Brenda, you are a bad elf,” Josie said, with a smile as forced as the joke.
A slow smile made Brenda’s average face gorgeous. “Josie, sweetie, you have no idea.”
The walk back to the Mini was silent as Josie pushed the ugly memories back into their cage. The false smile on her face became real as she remembered the warm press of Walker’s lips on hers.
Josie’s brain skittered back and forth between “what if?” and “what a kiss!” When they reached Mirabelle, she unlocked the door, but hesitated before climbing inside.
“Thanks,” she said. “If you hadn’t come down tonight, things could have gotten ugly.” Been there, done that, had the therapy bills to prove it
,” he said. “You’re the one who found the imps.” He leaned forward, brushing a kiss across her lips. Stepping quickly away, he said, “Stupid twixties.”
Josie licked her lips to capture his taste. “Have fun tonight.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” he said, backing away and nearly tripping over Mokey. “Damn it, dog.”
The poodle woofed
up at him, pale pink amusement edging his aura.
“I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess he didn’t just say ‘sorry boss,’” Josie said. The poodle gave her a doggy grin.
“No, probably not.” Walker strode forward, wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her again. “Tomorrow,” he repeated, turning to jog toward Brenda’s car.
“Tomorrow,” Josie murmured, getting into her car.