“Get shot at, apparently,” he returns dryly.
“No’ anymore,” Colin tells us, giving me another wink, I think now just because he knows it annoys me.
Cherie sighs, watching Colin. “Has anyone given you a tour yet?”
He shakes his head. “You offerin’?”
She hauls the decanter back to the alcohol cart and heads back over to the wing chairs. “Might as well. You’re not going to survive this job, and I don’t know how much time we have until Mateo kills you; let’s squeeze in all the flirting we can.”
Unbothered by the inevitability of his own mortality, Colin says, “Oh, come on, now. I can’t imagine a lass looks like you wants for male attention.”
Cherie raises her dark eyebrows. “You know how guys hesitate to pursue girls who have scary older brothers?” She gestures to Adrian and Mateo. “I have these guys.”
Colin raises an eyebrow at that, but he doesn’t look any less interested. “You’re a Morelli?”
She nods. “Technically. And Vince is my actual scary older brother, and he went to my high school. So yeah, no one’s coming near me. I’m going to die a virgin, old and alone.”
“No, I wouldn’t let that happen,” he tells her, smirking.
Adrian speaks up. “Okay, McGregor. Rein it in.”
Cherie shakes her head, smiling as Colin stands. “You’re so dead, Irish. So dead.”
Colin shakes his head. “I’m no’ scared of them. I’m pretty bad meself,” he tells her, smiling when a dreamy sigh slips out of her.
“Let’s go. Keep talking. You make words sound like music.”
Adrian waits until they’re out the door, then he jumps up, abandoning his drink on the table, and heads after them. “I’m gonna go keep an eye on that.”
Once Adrian is gone, Mateo laughs, dropping into the wing chair he just vacated.
I push out of mine, despite the discomfort, so I can go sit in his lap. “I hope you find a badass lady guard soon, ’cause this one isn’t going to last.”
Mateo grins, but it’s his evil, plotting grin. “Actually, you’re gonna have to get used to him. I think I’ll keep Colin on indefinitely.”
My eyebrows rise in surprise. “Even though he’s flirting with Cherie?”
“Because he’s flirting with Cherie. Adrian’s always been very protective of her. He’s not going to leave when this is all over if he’s still worried about her. He knows I’m not overly protective of her. Colin is exactly what I needed.”
I shake my head, a little astounded that in Mateo’s mind, a hot Irish mercenary pursuing his ten-years-younger cousin is a good thing. “I love the way your brain works,” I tell him, using his tie to pull him closer, and placing a kiss on his forehead.
He grins again, but this time with warmth, instead of maniacal pleasure. “And I love the way your brain works. Most people find my problem-solving methods morally questionable.”
I roll my eyes mockingly in solidarity. “Fools.”
His eyes sparkle, and he caresses my face, pulling me in for a gentle kiss. “In everyone else’s book, I’m a villain. You look at me like I’m a hero.”
My heart fills up, and baby hormones tempt me to tears, but I manage to keep myself together as I lean against him, resting my head on his shoulder. “You are my hero.”
Adrian suddenly pops back in, an unhappy Cherie and a cheerful Colin right on his trail. Holding up his phone, he looks at Mateo. “I have to leave.”
“Maybe. I got a lead on some information, I need to go check it out. Someone needs to watch these two,” he states, indicating the pair behind him.
“I’m not seven,” Cherie complains.
“An’ I’m a gentleman,” Colin assures us, but I’m pretty sure no one believes him.
Adrian briefly glares at Colin, then tells Cherie, “You will always be seven.”
She narrows her eyes at him, crossing her arms over her chest. “Morelli womanhood is the absolute worst. This is probably why Francesca ran away.”
I grimace, because damn.
Once it’s out, even Cherie apparently realizes that was harsh. “Ugh. Anyway, before I put my foot any further into my mouth, I’m taking Irish on a tour of the house; you can always go over the footage later if you don’t trust me.”
“Let’s no’ talk about puttin’ anything in yer mouth for another month,” Colin suggests lowly, causing Cherie to nearly die from stifled laughter.
Adrian gets his scary homicidal teddy bear look and slowly turns to give Colin a glare I’m certain is going to cause him to evaporate in a puff of gray dust.
“Okay,” Mateo says, holding up a hand to preempt any violence. “We’ll chaperone.”
I lean in to stage whisper, “Adrian’s going to murder this guy.”
Instead of seeming amused, Mateo actually looks vaguely concerned. “I’m going to have to tell him he’s not allowed.”
“I hope you have a back-up plan,” I murmur before easing off his lap.
Flashing me a secret smile, he says, “Always.”