“Bryant!” Faith shouts. My body goes still; then, I jerk into action. I drop my bottle to the ground. I rip the door open and race to her room.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, hanging off the side of her doorway when I reach her.
Her face is pale, her eyes snapping to mine as soon as I enter the room. She’s standing on top of the bed—more like cowering, really. Her finger points to the floor on the far side of the bed.
“There… there’s a…” She’s near-on shaking her bottom lip trembling.
“There’s a spider under the bed,” she says, shaking her head from side to side, her hands covering her face. “And it had babies!”
I freeze, unable to comprehend what I’m seeing.
“Faith, how on earth can you still be scared of bugs?”
“You don’t know what bugs are until you’ve lived in Australia, especially spiders.”
“You’re a biologist,” I say, remembering how she hated to be put in a ‘specific scientific box.’
“Zoologist actually. Which is a lot different than those bug people who study things like—you know—big-ass spiders, Bryant Cook.”
“Are you full-naming me, Faith Baker?”
“You bet your ass I am, and I’ll keep doing it till you remove said spider and all its spider babies from my room.” She’s shriek-shouting by the end of her demand, and it’s cute as hell.
I lean against the doorframe and cross my arms over my chest. “So no future as an arachnologist?”
“Bry…” she hisses. “I’m begging you.”
“Say please then.”
“Please. It’s usually followed by a thank you when the person completes the task you’ve asked them to do. It’s Manners 101. I know Mrs. Baker taught you all about that.”
“He brings my mom into it,” she mutters dryly, looking to the ceiling as if seeking answers—or a weapon to throw at me. Her eyes plead with mine. “Please, Bryant. Torture me with anything else but not bugs.”
I sigh, fighting—and failing—to stop a small triumphant grin making its home on my face.
“Smug much?” she mutters as I round the bed and drop to my hands and knees. “What are you doing?”
I crane my neck to look up at her from the floor. “I’m trying out a new yoga position. What the hell do you think I’m doing? I’m looking for the spider mama and her babies.”
I sit up on my calves and look at her, dumbfounded. She’s always had a fear of spiders, but this is bordering on ridiculous. I arch a brow. “Got a spare hazmat suit lying around?”
“No need to get snippy.”
My lips twitch. “Never been called snippy before.”
“Never thought I’d need to say the word,” she retorts with a half-smile.
“What exactly does being snippy entail?”
She puts her hands on her hips and narrows her eyes. “Are we really standing here arguing about your behavior?”
“Well if you’d stop, then I could get on with ridding your room of all the creepy crawlies you hate.”
Her face falls. “You think there’s more than this?”
Ah, shit. This is not good. “No. I mean—”
“I can’t… I mean…” Her eyes fill with tears, and I feel like the biggest asshole on the planet.
I stand and open my arms, holding my breath as she looks at my hands then back to my face a few times before slowly moving forward and letting me comfort her. When she bends down and lays her head on my shoulder, a warm feeling settles in my heart.
“You probably think I’m a big baby,” she mumbles against my T-shirt. I smile, rubbing her back and cupping her head, keeping her close, enjoying this far more than I thought I would so soon. I swear this woman has superpowers when it comes to me.
“Can we fumigate the house?” she asks, her soft voice full of hope.
Without answering her, I tighten my arms around her waist and pull her off the bed. “Hold on, babycakes.”
She lets out a squeak as I carry her across the room. Her legs circle around my hips, and her arms strangle me as they tighten around my neck.
Once we’re in the hallway, I gently lower her to the ground, her fingers gripping my shoulders as she tips her wide eyes up to mine. Where I expect to find a spark of anger, there’s soft heat that I’m not prepared to see. She’s still standing close, her chest brushing mine. Her tongue darts out and traces along her bottom lip, and I can’t tear my gaze away.
“Thank you,” she whispers.
“Can’t have you being scared of your own room.”