Safe In His Arms - Vicki Lewis Thompson

VickiLewis Thompson - Perfect Man #3 - Safe In His Arms


One minute Valerie Wolitzky was drinking margaritas with her two pals, Astrid Lindberg and Melanie Shaw, in their favorite Dallas watering hole, Golden Spurs and Stetsons. The next minute an alarm shrieked, and Val leaped from her seat, knocking over her chair and her drink. She had to get out. Now.

Panic buzzed in her ears as she charged the front door. She had to beat the mob of people. If she didn’t, she’d be trapped . . . just like before.

Wham! She hit a solid wall of muscle and staggered back. A cowboy blocked her way. She shoved him hard. “Let me out!”

He grabbed her shoulders. “Hold on, there, ma’am. What’s the problem?”

Was he an idiot? With adrenaline-fueled strength, she pushed him aside and barreled through the door, almost knocking down a second man who was right behind him. But she got out the door.

Safe! She was safe! Shaking, she leaned over and braced her hands on her knees as she gulped for air. The warm breeze of a summer night touched her wet cheeks. She swiped at them as she slowly straightened. She needed to sit down, but there was nowhere to—

“Val!” Astrid’s shout penetrated the buzzing in her ears, and she turned. Her two friends burst through the door of the bar and rushed toward her.

Relief that they were okay was followed by hot shame. She hadn’t thought of them, hadn’t even tried to save them. She’d only thought of herself.

“Omigod, Val.” Melanie, brown hair flying, reached her first and hugged her. “It’s okay. Some smoking oil set off the smoke detector in the kitchen. It’s okay. It’s okay.”

Filled with gratitude for her friend’s safety, Val hugged her back without paying much attention to what she was saying.

Astrid joined the huddle and rubbed Val’s back. “Easy, girlfriend. Take it easy. Everything’s fine.”

Gradually Valerie’s heartbeat slowed, and the grip of fear eased. She took a quivering breath and wondered why she wasn’t hearing sirens. She stepped out of Melanie’s embrace and looked around. “Where are the fire trucks?”

“There’s no fire.” Astrid continued to stroke her back. “Just a little smoke.”

“Did they evacuate the building?”

“No, sweetie.” Melanie gazed at her with compassion. “They shut off the alarm right away and came out of the kitchen to explain the problem.”

Valerie’s heart started pounding again. Dear God. “I was . . . the only one who ran out?”

Both Melanie and Astrid nodded.

“Well, except us,” Melanie added. “We took off after you.”

“Oh, no.” Val covered her face as embarrassment flooded through her, scorching her cheeks. She’d overreacted. Caused a scene. Involved her friends in her craziness. Slowly she lowered her hands and stared at them in misery. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered.

“Don’t worry about it.” Astrid squeezed her arm. “But Val, it’s time to get serious about—”

“Ma’am? Are you all right?” The cowboy Valerie had smacked into when she fled now walked over to her, trailed by the other guy, who wore a business suit. They both looked worried.

Val thought of the old cliché and wished the sidewalk really would open up and swallow her. “Yes, thank you.” She wished the words didn’t sound so wobbly and uncertain.

“You don’t look all right.” The cowboy kept coming. He had a purposeful John Wayne stride, and he towered over the other man. “You’re shaking like a newborn foal. What happened in there?”

Melanie put a protective arm around Val’s shoulder. “Thanks for your concern, but she’ll be fine.”

He paused and tipped his Stetson back with his thumb. “I’m sure she will. I just . . . was it the smoke alarm that spooked you? I heard it go off right before I got to the door.”

He seemed like a nice guy who only wanted to help. Val couldn’t fault him for that, especially after she’d tried to knock him down in her full-out panic mode. He must have seen the terror in her eyes. “I’m afraid I overreacted.” She cleared her throat and summoned her lawyer’s voice. “I apologize for plowing into you and yelling. That was rude.”

“No worries.” He glanced at Astrid and Melanie, standing on either side of her. “I’m glad your friends are here.” He hesitated before bringing his attention back to Val.

His eyes were gray. Not a gloomy, dark sort of gray, but light, almost silver. They shone with kindness. “Listen, I don’t know you at all, and I’m probably butting in where I have no business, but I understand a little something