The man who had carried her through the snow was unarguably strong -- she was no lightweight. Daniel Murphy was also uncouth, uncultured, a broken-nosed Southie thug. Once he crossed the shop's threshold, she expected him to drop her. To simply let her fall like a sack of potatoes from his muscled arms.

But no. He gently placed the ripped remains of her stocking feet on the floor. As they were attached to her at the ankle, she went along with those bloodied feet.

He looked at her strangely. As if he anticipated her pulling a nutty any second. Or perhaps remove a fairy wand from her sleeve and zap him one.

Nevertheless, he continued to stand close.

Brave man.

Slowly, no quick moves to upset her -- so he did think she was crazy! -- he removed the support of his arm from around her shoulders.

"Let me help you off with your wet things," he said.

No harm there. She unbuttoned, he lifted, and the knockoff coat went sailing over the back of a chair, compliments of his careless throw. The European designer label was a fake, but even if it were the real deal, clothing wouldn't impress Daniel Murphy. Bill, yes. But not this street tough.

Her bodyguard-by-association placed two hands on her shawl-covered shoulders, and pressed her down into the chair. "Let's see that sprain."

She attempted to mollify the stubborn set of his chin. "My ankle is fine."

And it was fine. Once again, she had lied. Not to garner his sympathy. The sprain served as a smoke screen to get his mind off what had happened and to get her away from the law enforcement officials descending upon the scene of the accident they'd just left.

"I'm checking out the foot anyway. Lose the pantyhose. See?" He turned his head. "I'm looking away"


"Now we're talking." He returned his gaze to her.