“Dana, where in the hell do you think you’re going?”
“I’m going home.”
“You live eight miles across town,” he pointed out.
“So, go back home if you’re too weak to walk,” I sneered and wished I’d either not forgotten my purse and camera case or that I’d worn footwear more appropriate to an evening hike across the city in winter. My feet in their kidskin ballet flats and nylon tights were freezing. I would have preferred a ride in a warm taxi.
He grabbed my arm again. I spun around on a patch of ice and clutched at him to keep from falling. Sam steadied me and I slapped at his arm.
“It’ll take you four hours to get home if you don’t freeze to death by then or wind up a crime victim,” he pointed out.
I slapped his arm again. That time he released me.
“Look, dickwad—” city living had really downgraded my vocabulary, another reason to move back to a rural village where manners tended toward that famed Midwestern civility “—if you want to escort me, I can’t stop you. But I am not going back there.”
Sam sighed. I started walking again, albeit a little more carefully due to the icy patches on the sidewalk. He fell into step beside me. I pulled up the collar of my wool coat and hunched my shoulders, shoving my hands as deeply as possible in the pockets. Damn, I should have worn gloves. And lined woolen pants with wool socks and boots. And a hat. Oh, hell, I shouldn’t have stormed out of there without my belongings.
He held his silence for the next umpteen blocks, for which I told myself I was grateful. My breath puffed in white clouds as I hurried, despite knowing that a steady pace would have been more prudent to cover the distance. The temperature sank like a stone and I shivered as I walked. Although I clenched my jaw, I couldn’t help the chatter of my teeth. A taxi rolled by, its wheels crunching on dirty snow and ice.
“Dana, you’re freezing,” he declared.
“I know,” I managed without stuttering.
“You’ve got to stop and warm up.”
Casting him a quick glance of intense dislike, I said, “Unless you’ve got a hot bath, a warm bed, a hot meal, and a fresh change of clothes tucked away in your pocket, I’ve got to keep going.”
A few steps more and his hand again clamped around my arm and yanked me to a stop.
“This is getting old,” I grumbled.
He pulled a key from his pocket and smiled at me. “Everything you demanded is right here.”
“What?” Apparently, the cold had turned my brain into icy slush.
“I live three blocks over. You’re coming home with me.”
He grinned at me. I wanted to swat that grin off his face, but shivered too violently for decent aim. Of course, I told myself, his height—fully a foot taller than mine—had nothing to do with it.
“Bath, bed, food, and clothes are just three blocks over. Now keep your word.”