Abby cringed at the sound of gunfire. Her nice, safe existence in Boston hadn’t prepared her for this type of life. Neither had any readings of all those feminists. Listening to speeches about women’s suffrage didn’t quite equate with learning self-protection against guns and killers.
She looked around the small kitchen for a weapon, but running footsteps caught her attention. At first she thought it might be Max returning, but the noise came from the roof. She held her breath, her gaze following the sound as it traveled the length of the Pullman car. Suddenly it stopped, but a thud followed by breaking glass galvanized her into action.
Abby tucked herself into the corner between the cabinet and the wall. She prayed the white of her robe wouldn’t show in the dark. The voices were in the corridor directly outside the doorway, and she only hoped they found what they wanted and left without discovering her.
A gun blast resounded in the small space, and Abby screamed, squeezing her eyes tightly shut. It took a few seconds for her to realize she hadn’t been shot.
She heard gruff swearing and several thuds, then a hand touched her arm. Her eyes flew open as she swung the skillet again, realizing too late it was Max standing in front of her. Luckily, his reflexes were quick, and he grabbed her wrist in one hand, gently prying the skillet from her clutched fingers.
“Are you hurt?” He gathered her in his arms. She shuddered, the fear leaving her body when his warmth surrounded her.
Muffled voices came from the corridor, and she stiffened.
“It’s all right,” he soothed. She tried to see around him, but he tucked her face into his neck. “Don’t look. The men will take them out of here.” She felt him nod, giving silent directions to some train employees who had followed him into the Pullman.
Max continued to hold her close, rubbing her back and murmuring soft words into her hair. She understood little of what he said. She raised her hand to his chest, the steady rise and fall of his breathing and the beat of his heart reassuring.
Gradually, her own breathing returned to normal, but she didn’t want to leave the safe cocoon of his arms. She opened one eye to see brown skin and the pulse point at his throat. She kissed it.
She nipped his skin and kissed it again, loving the way his muscles corded tightly beneath her lips. She kissed a trail up his neck, standing on tiptoes to nibble on his earlobe.
“Max?” She breathed his name in his ear and his arms tightened around her. “Thank you.”
“I thought—” He started then stopped and cleared his throat. “Jesus, I thought he was going to shoot you.” Now he began kissing her, his lips hot on her temple. She turned her head and found his mouth, giving herself over to his care.
“Excuse me, Mr. Grant.” A man’s voice cut through the sensuous fog surrounding her. Max groaned before he released her, turning around and shielding her with his body.
“This one has a lump on his noggin but isn’t dead. What should we do with him?”
“Put him with the others. I think Brinkenhoff plans to drop the whole lot of them off in Carson with Constable Parks. Maybe he can get them to talk.”
Abby had been standing quietly with her head resting against Max’s back, content not to look at the two men who had tried to accost her. At the mention of the name Parks, however, she tugged on his shirtsleeve.
He continued giving instructions to the men and didn’t answer her. Instead, he drew her hand around his waist and pinned it against his belly. He entwined their fingers and caressed the back of her hand with his thumb, all the while talking to those men as though nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
Abby found his attitude unnatural. His touch was having an extraordinary effect on her insides. Her breathing had quickened and her heart thumped.
The men left, taking the two robbers with them. Only then did Max turn back to her.
“You did very well tonight. You didn’t lose your head and you managed to disable one of the robbers.” The intensity of his gaze made her forget what she had been about to tell him.
“Kate Nye-Starr does say whatever you endeavor to do, make it done well.”
“I see. Then that makes at least two things you do well.”
“Two? What’s the other?”
“This.” Max’s mouth came down on hers, hot and bold and searching. His tongue traced her lips, tantalizing her senses until she opened for him.
He turned and leaned against the cabinet, bringing her with him. She stepped between his outstretched legs, wiggling closer. He groaned. He may have acted unaffected earlier, but there was a definite connection between them. The way he kissed told her he cared. She didn’t think a body could pretend something like that.
The train jolted into motion, breaking the moment. Max lifted his lips from hers and rested his chin on her head.
“We can’t keep doing this, you know.” He made the statement, but his voice lacked conviction.
“Why? I’m an independent woman, and I enjoy kissing you.” She tilted her head upward, making him move his own. She found his eyes glittering with humor.
“You enjoy kissing me? That almost makes me feel like you’re taking advantage of me.”
She stepped away. “I would never ill-use you, Max. You saved my life.”
“That’s my job.”
“What about the kisses?”
Max grinned wolfishly. “That’s my pleasure.”