My Silver Fox Protector by Lauren Cole



I felt myself being lifted,and I inhaled the warm scent of Mason as he pulled me into his chest. In his arms, I knew I was finally safe. Not only was he a family friend, he was an ex-Navy SEAL, for Christ's sake, nothing was getting past him.

With that realization, and my head still pounding, I found my eyes fluttering shut in exhaustion. As he carried me, I relished in the way his body heat seeped into me, warming me. He deposited me in the passenger seat of his Jeep and buckled me in. The soft hum of the car lulled me to sleep, and I awoke briefly to the sensation of being carried again before I slipped back under.

When I finally awoke, it was glaringly bright outside; the daylight filtered through the cracks in the blinds in white hot beams contrasting against the dark room. I groaned and pushed myself up to my elbows. My head was no longer pounding, but I felt so incredibly groggy and sore. Likely the aftermath of whatever drugs I had been injected with, though I had taken a few hits to the face, so it could be related to that as well.

I looked around the room. I didn’t recognize it. I guessed I was in Mason’s guest room, and it certainly looked like the guest room of a middle-aged bachelor. There was a simple dresser and a nightstand with a small lamp. The bed had a thin comforter, and it was gray. I smiled to myself, thinking how funny that was.

On the nightstand sat an aspirin and a glass of water. I took the aspirin and quickly downed the entire glass of water, suddenly realizing how thirsty I was.

I sat there for a moment fully waking up and absentmindedly raked my hair away from my face, gasping when my fingers met the blunt ends of my hair so much faster than I expected.

I stumbled out of bed and towards the ensuite bathroom. I flicked on the light and gaped at my reflection in horror. This was the first time I was seeing myself since the attack. I gingerly pressed a finger to my eye and winced. My lip was busted up, and there was dark bruising forming all over my arms and face. I stared down at my tank top, at the smeared blood on it, before grazing my hand up to the knick on my neck. And then there was my beautiful hair, that was hacked off, and it now hung unevenly around my shoulders, rather than well down my back, as it had just twenty-four hours prior.

I heard a soft knock on the door. “Yes?” I called out suddenly, flushing at the realization that Mason was at the door.

“Can I come in?” Mason cracked the door, calling through it.

“Sure.” I felt my heart rate skyrocket as soon as Mason rounded the corner into the bathroom. His jaw flexed as his eyes roamed over me in concern. “You should see the other guy.” I joked.

Mason came to stand in front of me, and I stilled when he took my chin in his hand. He was inspecting my face, but he was standing mere inches from me. The heat was radiating off him. “I have some arnica cream that may help with the bruising.” He patted the counter, and I looked at him with uncertainty. “Up.” He commanded.

I rolled my lips over my teeth and felt a surge pulse through me at his command. I complied with his demand and pushed myself up onto the counter. He reached into the bottom drawer I had been standing in front of and pulled out a tube of arnica cream, and began applying it with surprising gentleness to my bruises.

I involuntarily sucked a sharp breath in and winced as he went over a particularly tender spot.

“I’m sorry.” He ground out, his eyes glaring.

My eyes roamed over his face while he loomed in front of me, delicately applying the cream. He was so focused on applying the arnica cream, and he was so close I could feel the heat of his breath. His lips looked incredibly pillowy and soft, and so terribly inviting. We were close enough to kiss. As he focused on applying the cream, I was free to let my eyes roam all over him. The veins on his forearms bulged as he maneuvered around to the other side of my face. I tried to steady my breathing and distract myself.

“I’ll need my things.” It came out as a whisper, and I immediately regretted speaking.

Mason continued, his voice husky, “I’ve already brought them over.”

“How’d you get in?”

“The backdoor was busted up, so I let myself in.”

“Oh, right.” I let out a small laugh. “I guess I should have someone come fix the door, so raccoons don’t take up residence while I’m gone.”

“I’ve already booked someone.”

“Oh, thanks.” I fidgeted, not knowing what else to say. While I had known Mason most of my life, he was my dad’s friend. We hadn’t had much one-on-one interaction, just the two of us. Now his presence was dominating my space, and I couldn’t think clearly.

He stepped back and his eyes were dark, his face scowling. I felt heat pool between my legs as his gaze. There was no escaping it. “There are towels in there.” He pointed to the cabinet. “Why don’t you clean up, and I’ll meet you downstairs.” He quickly disappeared and I let out the breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding.

When I got out of the shower, and I had scrubbed the blood and sweat off of me, I found a couple of bags on the bed, filled my clothes, and odds and ends from my bathroom. I blushed as I pulled on a pair of panties, thinking about how Mason had gone through my things, and selected these very underwear for me. I pulled on another pair of jersey shorts, a cami, and threw a giant graphic T-shirt over the top before making my way downstairs.

“Are you hungry?” Mason called out from the kitchen as I hit the bottom step.

I came into the kitchen and leaned on the counter. “Actually, yes.” I instinctively went to reach for my hair to twirl it, one of my nervous ticks, and I grabbed at nothing. I quickly looked down, embarrassed at my mistake, and also because I suddenly felt naked without my security blanket. I tucked my hair behind my ears and smoothed it down in the back, as my neck burned with humiliation.

“You know it’s not a bad look on you.” Mason smiled at me, and I could see he was trying, but his eyes didn’t smile with his mouth. His eyes still looked dark and troubled.

I made a face and softly smiled. The truth was, I hated it, and I hated how I felt without my long hair.

I sat on the bar stool, not quite knowing what to do with myself in Mason’s house. He called and placed a takeout order while I ate him up with my eyes like it was the only meal I was going to eat tonight.

We sat across from one another eating our Chinese takeout, and I couldn’t help but watch Mason’s lips as he tipped a beer bottle against them. Those damn soft pillowy lips again.

The trouble was that I knew exactly what those lips felt like. I had tasted them before, just once, when I was sixteen, and he was thirty-two. He had been my first kiss. And I had committed the feeling to memory. But it left me wanting more.

Well, maybe that’s not exactly how it went. But that’s how I had cataloged it in my mind, anyway.

I had been doing a flip off the diving board at one of his summer BBQ’s, trying unsuccessfully to get his attention and I’d miscalculated and hit my head on the way into the pool.

When I came too, I was lying on the concrete and there was a crowd of people all around. Mason was hovering over me. His lips were on mine, and his hands were on my chest, giving me CPR. After I’d vomited up the bleachy pool water, he’d wrapped me in a beach towel and carried me home.

Of course, my dad had been none the wiser when Mason carried me through the front door. He thought his best friend had just saved his daughter, and that’s exactly what had happened.

Except that for me, it had solidified my obsession with Mason. It was the first time he’d looked at me, like really really looked at me. And the way he had tenderly held my face, and checked my head, and what it felt like to be pressed against him. It was bittersweet. I was hot for Mason Reynolds, but I knew I couldn’t have him.

I knew he wasn’t into immature teenage girls like me. He could have any woman he wanted. After the diving board incident, I continued to see him at one neighborhood BBQ after another that summer, with one gorgeous woman after another, and after weeks of growing moodier and grumpier at my predicament, I had finally vowed to get myself a boyfriend ASAP. I was determined to get over my crush, and fast.

My one and only boyfriend had pissed me off so much that I now had terrorism charges on my record. So that went exactly nowhere fast.

After I’d started working for the agency, I’d been too busy with work to really date. I’d gone on a few dates sure, but nothing I was really serious about. And now here I was, seven years later, and still pining after the same man. And once again he’d cradled me against his chest, and loomed in front of me while he tenderly checked my injuries.

And now, sitting here, across from him, watching his lips on that damn beer bottle, I couldn’t help but wonder what they might feel like pressed against my collarbone, or what his hands would feel like tangled through my hair. I felt my center throb at the thought.

“You alright?” He asked, and I realized his gaze was on me.

Damn it, why’d he have to be so observant? “Yup great.” I lied and quickly threw my takeout container away before practically sprinting up the stairs to hide.

That night, as I laid in bed, I considered asking Mason how much he really knew. If he’d shown up at the agency today, maybe he worked for the agency like me. After debating for a while, I decided otherwise. If I wanted out of the agency, I had to be much more careful moving forward. I couldn’t afford to get caught snooping around again.