Shattered (Anderson Special Ops #4) by Melody Anne

    Smoke looked triumphant, and Amira wanted to hit the man. That thought stunned her as she was never prone to violence. She abhorred brute force in all its forms. She tried to change the subject.

    “We were just talking about your honeymoon,” Amira reminded the woman. “Don’t you want to tell me more about it?”

    Her deflection didn’t work. Mrs. Clemens was set on something else now. “Oh no, Dr. Amira, I want to hear about your date, not my honeymoon that happened so long ago.”

    “I want to take her dancing,” Smoke said. “My beautiful mother, who raised me all by herself, insisted I learn how to dance, so she’d practice with me every single week. She was exhausted because she worked three jobs from the time I was born, but she still gave me every minute of her spare time. I still love to dance, and it always reminds me of my mom, and all she sacrificed for me while I was growing up.”

    “Oh, Smoke, that’s beautiful,” Mrs. Clemens said. She turned back to Amira. “Tell me you’re going to go dancing with this young man.” It wasn’t a question, it was a demand. There was such hope and joy in Mrs. Clemens eyes at the thought of them doing just that, that Amira couldn’t deny the woman anything.

    “Of course, I’ll go dancing with him,” Amira said with a false smile on her lips. She wondered if Smoke was telling the truth about his mother teaching him to dance. It truly was beautiful.

    “You will?” Smoke asked, his eyes sparkling as a beaming smile rested on his full lips.

    “Yes, of course,” Amira said. She was locked in because once Amira gave her word on something she wouldn’t go back on it. And even though Mrs. Clemens had dementia, Amira was sure the woman would remember this conversation and ask all about their first date. Dang it, how did she get into this position?

    “Then let’s do it tomorrow,” Smoke said, taking the opportunity to lock their date in.

    “I can’t tomorrow,” she told him. “But I’m free Friday.” She wanted to hate the idea of going out with him, but she felt a stirring of excitement low in her belly. The thought of being held in Smoke’s arms while sultry music played in the background wasn’t at all unappealing.

    “Then Friday it is,” Smoke said. He gave his full attention back to Mrs. Clemens. “I’m going to have to send you flowers since you just played Cupid,” he told the woman as he gently squeezed her fingers that were still resting in his palm.

    “Oh, I do love flowers,” Mrs. Clemens said. “My Henry would give me a beautiful bouquet every month.”

    “It sounds like your Henry was a wise man,” Smoke said.

    “He was my knight in shining armor,” Mrs. Clemens said as a tear fell from her eye.

    “I’m sure only God himself could’ve taken him away from your side. You are beautiful, vibrant, and have a pureness in your eyes very few people possess. I have no doubt he’s waiting with open arms for you to finish your journey in life.”

    Tears filled Amira’s eyes at Smoke’s words. Did he mean what he was saying? Was there more to this man she’d instantly judged than she’d expected? Was he too dangerous to date? She feared the answer was yes to all of those questions. Smoke was the kind of man a woman didn’t forget. She feared he was a true heartbreaker.

    “I’ve never had someone put it to me like that before, Smoke. Thank you,” Mrs. Clemens said. “My Harry always did tell me he had to go first so he could get our home ready.” A tear fell down her cheek.

    “A good man goes above and beyond for the woman he loves,” Smoke said. He was fully focused on Mrs. Clemens, but Amira felt a pang in her heart at his words. It was silly to feel that. They didn’t know each other enough to even like one another. Love wasn’t even close to the floor where the two of them were concerned.

    “I agree,” Mrs. Clemens said. “But it goes both ways. I took care of my Harry just as he took care of me. I think there are two tragedies in life.” She paused long enough that Smoke spoke again.

    “What are those, Mrs. Clemens?” His voice truly was like warm velvet on a cold bed.