"This is it," Chloe said the next afternoon when they pulled into the driveway of the vet clinic where Sophie Cameron had worked. The hem of the gauzy skirt she wore caught on the shift, hiking it up to mid-thigh. "Darn it," she said and yanked it off, but not before she noticed Gavin had riveted his attention on the incident and then looked quickly away. Was he, just maybe, a little bit interested? Gavin was hard to read. Was he naturally aloof or was it just that very proper British breeding? He was so serious--did he have a sense of humor at all? She sighed and then squealed. "Ohmygod! Look!" She pointed to the grass. "Scorch marks!"
She followed Gavin as he moved closer to inspect them and then bumped into him, her breast pressing against a steel-like bicep when he stopped suddenly. He jerked away so suddenly she almost fell forward, but he caught her elbow.
"You need to be careful," he said and released her.
Her arm tingled from his touch, a sure sign that pheromones hung in the air, but he seemed oblivious. Chloe sighed. She was going to have to do some heavy research on English upbringing.
Gavin knelt, his long fingers brushing the burnt grass and closed his eyes, inhaling deeply, almost like an animal taking in a scent. Before she could comment, he stood. "These would be the dragon's marks that the news talked about?"
"I guess so." Chloe peered closer. "They don't look like what was left on the street where poor Jake died."
"Jake was not killed on the street," Gavin said tersely. "He was left there."
She felt her eyes round. "But why would someone leave Jake out in public view?"
"A person probably would not. Dragons, on the other hand, are proud of their kills, rather like a cat bringing home a dead rat."
Chloe choked up. "Jake was not a rat!"
Gavin's voice softened. "I am sorry. I did not mean to imply that. I meant that dragons have terribly inflated egos. They do not like to stay hidden."
She stared at him. "How do you know that?"
"I am somewhat of an ancient history buff."
"You sound like there are dozens of them roaming around."
Gavin looked down at the scorch marks. "There is at least one. I suspect we have not seen the last of him either." He turned and gestured. "Shall we go inside?"
A college-aged, young lady looked up from the desk as they entered and then her eyes widened and she flashed a dazzling smile at Gavin. "I'm Janie, the receptionist," she said without even noticing Chloe. "How can I help you?"
Chloe resisted the urge to step up and wave at the girl to get her attention, but how could she blame the kid when she had--more or less--the same reaction to Gavin? He was wearing a simple, white t-shirt that clung to all his hard ridges and his inky hair was wonderfully tousled from the wind. He could have stepped out of an advertisement for Abercrombie and Fitch. Chloe almost sighed along with little Janie.
Gavin smiled and introduced himself, showing his badge. The girl practically hyperventilated. "I'll be glad to answer all your questions!"
Chloe's attention was diverted as another woman entered the waiting area. This one could have stepped off the cover of an old bodice-ripper with a spaghetti-strap tank that dipped scandalously low. Long, burnished copper hair flowed down her back and flawless ivory skin was enhanced by exotically slanted green eyes. She even moved with feline grace as she fastened that gaze on Gavin's face and advanced.
The effect was not lost on Gavin either for he was staring back at her, his eyes both penetrating and bold. Chloe could practically feel him alert, much like a wolf scenting prey--only she wasn't really sure if it wasn't the other way around. Was this the kind of woman he desired?
"Hello. I'm Morgan," she said and extended a soft, pale hand.
With fluid grace, his eyes not leaving hers, Gavin bent over and kissed her hand. Janie looked annoyed and Chloe felt a sudden sister-like bond with the girl. Poor thing...
"I couldn't help overhearing," Morgan said in breathy-sounding voice. "I have been working public relations for the clinic since these...incidents...began happening. Perhaps you should direct your questions to me?"
"Of course," Gavin responded quickly. "Would you give me your account of what happened? I understand that the veterinarian and a friend of hers disappeared--"
"Michael was more than a friend," Janie interrupted.
Gavin turned his attention to her. "Were they lovers?"
"Yes," Janie said.
"No," Morgan said and gave Janie an annoyed look. "You don't know that."
Janie lifted her chin stubbornly. "Well, Michael was really protective of Sophie. I heard him tell her once that he wouldn't let anything bad happen to her. Ever," she added for emphasis.
Chloe tuned Morgan out as she started relating what had happened in that seductive-sounding voice. What was it with these protective men? Gavin had said his friend, Lucas, would protect Sara with his life and--if Janie weren't exaggerating too much--it sounded like Michael felt the same way about the vet. Chloe had never met anyone like that--men didn't go around in shining armor acting like chivalrous knights these days. Not that she expected them to--this was the 21st century and women could take care of themselves. Of course, that was one reason she wanted to write romance novels. Those heroes would protect their ladies--it just didn't happen in real life. Even with men she'd had great, super-sex with, no one had ever offered to take care of her. Not that it mattered. Her mother had done just fine.
"And so," Morgan was concluding, "I want to help in any way I can."
Gavin nodded. "I may be calling on you then."
Her lips curled, revealing small, even white teeth. "I'll look forward to it."
So--Morgan was the kind of woman Gavin was interested in? She should have known. A soft, seductive, sultry sexpot. Everything that Chloe knew she wasn't.
"Are you ready to leave?" Gavin asked politely, "or do you have any questions for Morgan?"
Oh, she had questions all right, but none that she was going to ask. "No," she said in as neutral a voice as she could muster. Her eyes stinging, she blinked rapidly so they wouldn't water and turned to walk out--and bumped straight into a bench, toppling it over and sprawling across the floor.
"Are you hurt?" Janie cried as she jumped up.
Chloe felt Gavin's hands on her waist, lifting her up and setting her on her feet like a small child. Morgan watched her with an amused look on her face.
Could she be any more mortified?