I smiled. "I do." Then I whispered it back in his ear and kissed him until we heard Quinn making his way in our direction.
We escaped and managed to sneak off without being seen. Then I called 911 to anonymously report the guy in the basement. He'd have killed me if he could have, but that was no reason to let him die. Jack agreed, not about the "doesn't deserve to die" part, but because the thug's survival helped us. It left someone alive who knew what Cillian had done.
Turned out the cartel angle wasn't a total fake-out. Cillian had teamed up with a small one he'd worked with before. That was how Evelyn suggested we handle this: set the cartel on him.
She was right. I didn't want Jack going after Cillian. Not because he'd have to kill an old friend. Cillian was no longer that. But Jack was more than pissed off. He was downright furious, tapping into a wellspring of rage that ran even deeper than my own. Set him on Cillian, and he wouldn't deliver a quick death, and that's what I didn't want--for Jack to vent that rage and then look back on what he'd done and suffer the guilt of acting on his anger. I knew what that was like.
Evelyn would work it so that everyone would know setting the cartel on Cillian had been Jack's revenge for coming after me. He'd sentenced Cillian to a far worse fate than a bullet to the head, and if that's what he'd do to an old friend, imagine what he'd do to a stranger who tried the same ploy.
Quinn would deal with Contrapasso. They obviously had a leak, likely part of the issue they were still cleaning up from last fall, when we'd exposed rot in their ranks. Someone must have seen a nice opportunity for payback here.
Quinn and I talked. A long talk. I won't say he'd settled his issues with Jack. That won't ever happen. But being with Jack was my choice and Quinn agreed to finally shut up about it.
By Wednesday morning, Jack and I were heading home. Being midweek, the lodge had only a few guests, all on business and not interested in my wilderness guide services. That's normal at this time of year, and at Christmas I'd finally broken down and made it official lodge policy that in the off-season, while I do offer those services, they aren't guaranteed. That frees me for "emergencies" like this one . . . and for time to myself, or with Jack.
I still spent the first couple of hours working, making sure the guests were happy and everything was running smoothly. Then Jack and I escaped to "work on the chalet." Which meant sex in the chalet, where we kept sleeping bags and dreamed of the day when there'd be an actual bed.
It wasn't so much sex as making love. There's always been that--the more raucous fun mingled with the slower, more tender times. Normally it's the first followed--after some rest--by the second. This went straight to the slow and achingly tender, both of us expressing what came so hard in words.
Afterward, we found we had guests, the dogs having snuck in, but staying in the next room. As soon as the noise turned to quiet talk, they were there, getting pats and curling up and snuggling in around our legs.
When we heard the distant voices of wandering guests, we rose to dress.
"Know you don't want to talk about it," Jack said as he pulled on his jeans. "What happened. Mistakes I made. Danger I put you in."
I reached for my shirt. "No, let's talk. Or, rather, let me speechify. I knew exactly what I signed up for, Jack. From the start. All this tells me is that I need to be more careful. Be more suspicious. Always consider the possibility I'm being set up, especially if you aren't around. We also need alternate forms of contact. The only excuse for missing contact should be that we're physically unable, which is a big flashing red-alert. That's where we failed here. When we couldn't make contact, we presumed all was fine."
"So if you insist on apologizing again, fine. Take me to dinner tonight. Other than that . . ." I twisted to face him. "We're building something here, Jack. Literally building something." I waved at the chalet. "For us, not for me. I need to know you're going to stick around. That you won't decide you put me in too much danger and the best you can do for me is to leave, and all that complete and utter bullshit. If you aren't sure, let's stop building for a while. Take some time and work it out."
He nodded. Then he reached for a hammer and a handful of nails, walked to where we'd left off and got back to work.