“You have got to get some sleep.”
I looked up, forcing a half smile at the surprise visitor lounging against the doorframe.
“Watching that safe is not going to bring your spellbook back, Lily,” Ranger X said, sliding into the storeroom like a whiff of smoke. Despite his large frame, he moved like the wind, bringing with him the crisp, pleasant scent of the outdoors mixed with something else, something sharper. Peppermint, maybe. “Can I help you?”
“No,” I sighed, letting my hands fall to the table and my head slump onto them. “I know your Rangers are looking for it, but…The Magic of Mixology is my future.”
“It’s not so bad.” Ranger X clunked something on the table next to me, and a quick peek through my folded arms told me it was a bottle of wine. “They say the true Mixologist rarely needs to look up spells. It comes from—”
“In here, I know,” I said, thumbing toward my chest. I had gone over this a thousand times in my own head. “But ‘in here’ is a little confused right now since I didn’t even know I was a witch until a few weeks ago.”
Instead of responding with words, his hands carefully, cautiously came to rest on my shoulders. He let his fingers linger on my bare skin, waiting for an argument. I gave him none.
With painstaking precision, he began to rub my shoulders, the skin exposed around my simple, spaghetti-strapped sundress. I groaned, a happy groan—the sound of stress audibly slipping from my muscles—before collapsing onto my arms once more, dipping my head onto a pillow of my own limbs.
“You are wound tighter than a spring,” he said, kneading each individual knot with care before moving on to the next. “Not healthy, Lily.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” I mumbled, trapped somewhere between a state of bliss and shock. Ranger X had never touched me like this, and even if I’d wanted him to stop, I couldn’t have spoken the words. There was a magic in his touch, a tenderness that had nothing to do with spells or potions. “You don’t have to be here, you know. It’s late.”
“I was heading home and saw your light on, so I decided to stop.”
“You just happened to be patrolling The Isle with a bottle of wine?”
His pause was fleeting, his fingers tensing on my shoulders until he sensed the joke, and laughed. “You’d be surprised at some of my terrible ideas.”
For some reason, the awkwardness of his response made me snort with laughter, and I straightened up, even though letting his hands slip from my shoulders was a sin. “I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all.”
I shook my head, finally taking a moment to tear my eyes from the empty safe where my spellbook once lived. This time I focused, taking a hard look at the man who flipped my stomach in somersaults. X must have come straight from the office because he was wearing a suit—and that man could wear a suit.
Unfortunately, he was missing a few pieces. Somewhere along the way, he must have lost a tie, along with a few buttons from the top of his white shirt, leaving it open a bit lower than it should be, his tan skin exposed. The black mop of hair on his head was ruffled, and if I wasn’t mistaken, there was a tiny twig poking out of his messy locks.
“Had some business to take care of before I came here,” he said with an apologetic shrug. “Sorry about my appearance.”
I swallowed in lieu of a response. To me, he looked perfect. The scar over his eye decorated his expression, making him appear both tough and vulnerable.
I raised a hand to his cheek where a small scratch gleamed red. “You’re hurt. Let me get you a bandage.”
Ranger X wrinkled his nose like someone had unleashed foul egg odor. “For this scratch? No.” He gave a devilish wink. “Think this is bad? You should see the other guy.”
My eyes widened with a mixture of disbelief and horror. “What did you do?”
“Nothing. Nothing bad, I promise.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Are you lying to me?”
“No?” He pursed his lips, his eyes searching for a way out of my interrogation. “Want some wine?”
I gave him a slow roll of my eyes that showed I knew he was changing the conversation. However, I didn’t have the strength to argue with him. “Only if you’ll join me for a glass. I’m already depressed enough without drinking alone.”
That got a smile out of him, and from somewhere in his suit he pulled a bottle opener and went to work on the wine.
“You didn’t plan this at all,” I teased as he handed me a glass. I took a long sip of the deep, red wine, the rich taste warm and comforting. Between the backrub and the wine, I’d be counting sheep in no time. “What do you think about this?”