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Fear snapped her into action and she threw her legs over the side of the bed. No sooner had the alarm kicked on than it abruptly kicked off. The barking eased to an occasional snarl. What she heard next frightened her more.
Voices. Lots of voices, and she knew whose they were.
Her entire family was downstairs. All six of them.
And Markus is alone with them.
With her heart racing at what she could only imagine in her worst nightmares was happening downstairs, she snatched up her clothes then opted for the more expeditious option—her robe.
Still tying the robe around her waist, she all but ran from the bedroom. Halfway down the stairs, she froze. Heat scorched her face.
Markus’s expression was grim as he stood in front of the keypad in nothing more than his jeans and a gun tucked into the small of his back. Ghost sat obediently beside him, with only the slightest rumble coming from the back of his throat. Her father, mother, two brothers and sisters stood in front of the open door.
“What’s doing, sis?” her oldest brother, Jimmy, asked in a frosty tone.
Wearing only her robe, it was pretty darned obvious exactly what she and Markus had been doing.
“Merry Christmas, Cassidy,” her younger sister, Kaitlyn, said, flipping back her unruly head of red curls and grinning as she cast an unabashedly appreciative eye at Markus. “Merry Christmas to you, too.”
While she totally understood her sister’s sentiments because, well, Markus was hotter than hell in his bare feet and the top snap of his jeans still undone, it irked to have her sister drooling over her new boyfriend.
She shook her head to clear it. Deciphering what she and Markus were exactly would have to wait. Especially after last night’s conversation. Right now, there were more pressing matters at hand. Like keeping her father and brothers from pounding on Markus all at once.
Cassidy took the rest of the stairs in record time, stepping in front of Markus and Ghost as if they needed protection. He might not know it, but he does. “What are you all doing here?”
Sean, the second oldest sibling of the family, tapped a finger on his watch. “It’s ten o’clock, Cass. On Christmas Day.”
She gasped. Oh my gosh.
Her father pursed his lips as he glared at Markus. “We were worried about you, lass,” he said in the same thick Irish brogue that hadn’t diminished much, even after decades of living in the U.S.
Jimmy crossed his arms. “You’re always the first under the tree. When you didn’t show at nine on the button, we were surprised.”
“When you didn’t show by nine fifteen,” her older sister, Brianna, chimed in, “we got a little worried.”
“By nine thirty,” her mother added in a lilting brogue and coming to wrap an arm around her shoulder and give her a good squeeze, “we decided to come by and check on you. You can blame me for that. I insisted.”
Then and there, she made a New Year’s resolution to collect every single one of her house keys from every single member of her family so this would never, ever happen again. “I’m sorry to have worried all of you, but you could have called or at least texted.”
“Between all of us”—Sean swept his arm to encompass the family—“we probably called ten times.” He pointed to her phone which was right where she’d left it last night. On the kitchen counter.
She smacked a hand to her forehead. “You did call, didn’t you?”
As if sensing there were no words he could say to pacify her family at finding a half-naked man and a snarling dog in her house, Markus wisely remained silent. She couldn’t be sure whether the slight upturn of his lips was a grimace or a smile. Given the awkwardness of the situation, she’d go with grimace.
Her father arched a brow. “Care to introduce us, lass?”