She drove him nuts, in the very best of ways.
And now she’d brought him a coffee and he’d kissed the daylights out of her again. But this time she didn’t seem to want to climb him like a tree. She wanted to escape him.
Badly too, given the sudden panic in her eyes.
It should have been his clue to back off. Walk away.
But he found himself unable to do that.
“How about I just get you upstairs with your stuff,” he said, going for as nonthreatening as possible. He bent to put Thor down so he could pick up the box but the dog had other ideas and clung like a monkey. He glanced down. “You sure he’s a dog?”
Some of the stress left Pru at that and she laughed a little. “Yes, but whatever you do, don’t tell him.” She covered Thor’s ears. “I think that he thinks he’s a grizzly.”
Finn met Thor’s wary gaze. The little guy really was the most ridiculous looking thing he’d ever seen. Bedraggled, patchy, mud brown fur, he had one ear up and one ear down, a long nose, a small mouth that lifted only on one side like he was half smiling, half smirking, and the biggest, brownest eyes he’d ever seen. Hell, his ears and eyes alone were bigger than the rest of him, and the rest of him didn’t weigh as much as a pair of boots. “Little Man Syndrome, huh?” he asked the dog sympathetically.
“He just likes to be carried,” Pru said. “He likes to be tall. And he can see better too. Once you pick him up, he won’t let you put him down.”
Finn tested this theory by once again starting to bend over.
Thor growled. Laughing, Finn tightened his grip on the little guy. “Don’t worry, I’ve got ya,” he said and reached to pick up Pru’s box with his other hand.
Holy shit, it weighed a ton.
“What are you doing?” Pru asked, crouching at his side. Her voice was tight again. “I said I’ve got it.”
“Pru, it weighs a ton. How far did you carry this thing?”
“Not far,” she said, tug-o-warring with him. “Let go—”
“You’re as stubborn as Thor, but I’m already here,” he said. “Let me help—”
“No.” She tried to wrench the box from him, her expression more than a little desperate now, which stopped him in his tracks. Whatever it was in the damn box, she didn’t want him to see it, and he immediately backed off—just as she whirled from him. She lost her grip, and the box literally fell apart, the cardboard bottom giving way, the contents hitting the ground.
“Oh no,” she breathed and hit her knees on the ground in front of a few old, beat-up photo albums, a few cheap plastic picture frames, and a glass one, which had shattered into a thousand pieces. “It broke,” she whispered.
There was something in her voice, something as fragile as the now broken glass frame shattered in shards and pieces at their feet, and it made Finn’s chest hurt. Even more so when he saw the picture free of its frame. A little girl standing between two adults, each holding one of her hands.
Pru, he thought, looking into those brown eyes. Pru . . . and her parents?
Her posture said it all as she reached right into the shards of glass for the picture, carefully brushing it clean to hug it against her chest like it meant the entire world to her.
Fuck. “Pru, here, let me—”
“No, it’s fine. I’m fine,” she protested, pushing his hands away when he began to gather up the photo albums. “I told you I’ve got this!”
Thor, soaking up Pru’s anxiety, lifted his head and began to howl.
Pru looked close to tears.
Eddie, a.k.a. Old Guy, came out of the alley, presumably to help, took one look at the mess that Finn had found himself in, and did an about-face.
Finn gently squeezed Thor to him. “Quiet,” he said in a firm voice.
Thor went quiet.
Pru sucked in a breath, looking surprised right out of her impending tears, thank God. “Stop,” he said as she reached into the glass for another picture with absolutely no regard for her own safety. Unable to put Thor down and risk him cutting his paws, he held the dog tight to his chest and reached for Pru’s hand with his free one. Pulling her to her feet, he said, “Let’s get Thor upstairs and then I’ll come back and—”
“I’m not leaving it, any of it.”
“Okay, babe, no worries.” He whipped out his cell phone and called Archer. No way was Sean awake yet, much less up and moving, but Finn knew he could always count on Archer.
Archer answered with his customary wordy greeting. “Talk.”