So much for creative titles this time around!
It was clear Tabi wanted nothing to do with the man on her front porch, so when Bucky tried to put his arms around Tabi’s waist, Trig had had enough. He left the cover of his hiding place in the trees, moving swiftly and silently toward the stairs.
Suddenly, before he could reach them, Tabi spun around, and Bucky yelped. Trig paused, blinking in surprise. Bucky was doubled over with his arm twisted to the side. His body motion followed the angle of his bent wrist, which was being manipulated by Tabi.
When had she learned aikido?
“I’ve had a really long day,” she warned. “Don’t add to it!”
Tabi couldn’t see Bucky’s face from her position, but Trig could. The man was furious.
“Good night, Bucky.”
As she said this, she released him without doing further damage. Bad move, Trig thought. As if in concurrence, Bucky’s face contorted into an ugly snarl. He twisted and stood, his hands already curled into fists. Trig landed on the top step, catching Bucky’s fist in his palm. Bucky whirled to face him.
“The lady asked you to go.” Trig’s voice was low and even.
Bucky yanked out of Trig’s grasp and took a step back, his hands still clenched. “Who the fuck are you?”
Tabi’s brows shot up in surprise at Trig’s sudden appearance. A second later she registered Trig’s hand and Bucky’s fist and processed what had been just about to happen. She paled.
“Bucky, Trig. Trig, Bucky.” She’d recovered her composure enough to remember her southern manners, though her voice was a half-octave higher than it should have been. “Trig is the one who saved us earlier today. I’m Morna, by the way. Didn’t get a chance to introduce myself to you earlier.” She was speaking a mile a minute.
“Hi, Morna,” Trig said softly, with only a slight stress on her name. It was enough, though, that when they exchanged glances, he knew that she knew that he was asking her a million questions. Her soft hazels flashed him a quick plea before she glanced at Bucky, shifted, and looked away. It was obvious she was uncomfortable, though whether it was because of him or Bucky or the both of them, he was unsure.
“You from around here?” Bucky demanded. He folded his arms across his chest and stepped forward. Threatening.
“Nope,” Trig said, not backing up. He met Bucky’s glare with a smile he didn’t feel in his eyes. “Just passing through.”
“Just passing through town? Because Morna’s house, here, is a long way from town.” Bucky unfolded his arms and dropped his fists to his sides.
“Thought I’d check up on her. She had a rough day.” Trig casually slid one foot back. An untrained person might have thought Trig was backing up; in reality, he was dropping into a stabilizing stance, preparing for counter-measures.
“A hero who makes house calls. Very chivalrous of you,” Bucky drawled in a tone that held a mocking edge. “Well, she’s fine. I’m grateful to you for saving her. But I’ve got it from here.” He unclenched his fists, stepped to the side, and dropped an arm around Tabi’s shoulder, the equivalent of marking his territory.
Before his fingers could tighten on her, Tabi crouched down to flick invisible dirt off her red toenails. When she stood she was three feet away from Bucky. She glared at the ground, and her jaw was tight, as though trying to decide whether to give more weight to anger or embarrassment. Trig wondered what the history was between the two of them and remembered her comment reminding Bucky about a restraining order.
Bucky flared his nostrils in fury at her, his hands balling into fists again. Trig shifted so that he was between them. Bucky took a step forward, biceps tensed, and glared at Trig. Trig was six-two. Bucky must be six-four.
“You’ve had a long day, too, from what I’ve heard,” Bucky said. “You must be anxious to get back to… wherever you’re from.”
“You know, you both have a good point,” Tabi inserted from behind Trig. “I’ve had a big day, Trig’s had a big day, and… well, you’ve probably bought another company or something, Bucky…, so everyone’s had a big day. We’re all tired. And it’s late, so why doesn’t everyone just….”
She trailed off, as neither man moved. Trig wasn’t going anywhere while this yahoo was bothering her. And even then he wouldn’t leave. Not until he’d talked to her. Alone. He stared straight at Bucky with all the grand dispassion of his years of training and practice. You might have an inch on me, you might have a few pounds on me. But I am in complete control of every muscle in my body, and you don’t stand a chance. Walk away. Now.
Bucky returned Trig’s gaze with one of his own. It held the attitude of a spoiled rich kid who always got his way: starting out affronted, then becoming irritated until—with a modicum of effort, Trig noted—the stare deteriorated to boredom, as if he were looking at absolutely the most useless thing on the planet. Unfortunately for Bucky, Trig was immune to the snob-game.
As they remained in the visual testosterone-pissing contest, Tabi shifted into Trig’s peripheral line of sight. Her agitation was evident because of her increased rate of breathing and the way she worked her fists open and closed, something she’d always done when she was highly stressed.
“Bucky,” Trig nodded. Time for you to leave. Now.
“Trig,” Bucky returned, with no intention of leaving. Immediately after he’d spoken, however, there was the slightest hint of a raised brow over his eye, a flash behind his irises. The dawn of comprehension. Something had happened in Bucky’s head. Something had clicked deep inside his pompous brain. Then the look was gone. He straightened up and turned back toward Tabi.
“I don’t want to upset you, Morna. You’ve been through enough. I’ll check on you again later.” He turned toward Trig and nodded with the faintest hint of a smirk and a sneer. “Trig.” The way he said Trig’s name was loaded with meaning, but Trig had no clue what it meant other than an uneasy feeling—which, he knew, might have been an intended psychological effect and the only point of the strange inflection.