“You think I hurt her?” Maverick blinked. “What? No.” “Then what the hell do you mean?” Deacon burst out. “I screwed up last night,” Maverick admitted. He had. Anyone could have come in, and Deacon would have had no protection whatsoever. “If you’d have had problems last night, I couldn’t have done jack shit.” He could see Deacon’s face soften, but the last thing he wanted was Deacon feeling sorry for him. Things could have gone badly wrong last night while he was having his own pity party all because he wanted so desperately to follow Deacon upstairs and join him in bed. He’d had the drink to dampen the urge. He’d had the second because he’d had the first. He couldn’t remember how many he drank, but the first one had been one too many. “And it’s not only that.” He tapped his leg in case Deacon still didn’t get it. “I’ll be completely honest, when Shirley offered Jamie this job, she intimated a couple of days babysitting while you calmed down.” Deacon stiffened, and Maverick held up a conciliatory hand. “She was obviously wrong and misjudged you and the threat itself.” He swallowed. “Deacon, there is the real possibility that there is a killer picking off people you know. What if he or she comes for you?” “Maverick, I have no money.” “I’ll pay.” “You try and I’ll leave here and check into a motel,” Deacon threatened. “You’ve just said you’ve got no money,” Maverick pointed out dryly. “The papers would pay for it.” “What?” Maverick exclaimed. “I have three that have offered to advance me the cash for my ‘exclusive’ story.” Deacon finger quoted. “I could be out of here in thirty minutes.” “Absolutely not,” Maverick thundered, wondering how this was going so wrong. “Says who?” Deacon challenged. “Me, for starters.” It was ridiculous. “You can’t go wandering about on your own.” It wasn’t safe, and the thought of Deacon getting hurt made him feel distinctly ill. “If I can’t have you, I don’t want anyone,” Deacon said firmly. “So make up your mind because I will have to go get my things together.” “I’m no good for you,” Maverick tried again. “Can you shoot?” Maverick scowled. Of course he could, but he knew what Deacon was trying to say. “Okay, I’m your protection, but you have to promise me something.” Deacon arched an eyebrow but waited. “You stay here, and I will look after you. If this escalates, I may bring in further help from my contacts who I was going to ask originally when Jamie wanted to start this type of business.” Mav looked at the stubborn set of Deacon’s jaw, the pale face, and the very light dusting of freckles across his nose that were so like Molly’s. The blue eyes were wide open and flashing fury, and Deacon was standing, hands on his hips, and preparing to do battle. And how Maverick stayed still and didn’t gather him in his arms and kiss him senseless was completely beyond him.