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       Jacked, p.12

           Tina Reber

  I tossed my truck keys onto the table near the overflow of sugar packets and ketchup, resolving that there wasn’t shit I could do about it now. It was what it was—a monumental screw up on my part and definitely one I wouldn’t be repeating.

  I took my ball cap off and ran my good hand over my head while Kathy brought me my usual cup of decaf. She gave me a motherly pat on the shoulder, her seven a.m. hurried smile, and a mutter that she’d be right back.

  Man, what a fucking night. The kids running from the car they boosted really pissed me off. Amateurs—both of them—smashing out the back passenger window with a brick. It was crude but effective and gained them access quickly to take their little marijuana-filled joyride.

  The one I chased was fast though; I’ll give him that. But not fast enough. I still got him, the little delinquent. I gazed at my bandaged-up hand, noting what it had cost me, but it was worth it.

  Or was it? Fuck.

  I knew going back to the station when I left the hospital would be a mistake, but I wanted to get the paperwork over and done with. Hearing that I’d be on desk duty for a few days was infuriating but at least it would allow me some uninterrupted time to dig deeper into the Mancuso auto theft ring. I was willing to bet the farm that Mancuso’s boys were the ones behind the diversion with the false call on the Doc’s car and the high-end thefts, but I’d yet to confirm my gut instinct. I knew I needed to check up on a few of my confidential informants and find out what the word on the street was, but tracking some of them down was like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

  My CIs walked a fine line between good and evil, leaning heavily on the evil side, but those were their choices in life—not mine.

  I checked my watch, noting that my sexy doctor was running ten minutes late. Part of me was already resigning to the fact that I’d probably be eating alone again this morning, which was also starting to aggravate me for some reason.

  I glanced toward the entrance one more time, spotting another one of my mistakes—the diner’s newest waitress, Kara, who was scowling at me since I’d purposely sat in Kathy’s section again and not hers. My father always used to tell us to never shit where we ate, and for the longest time I didn’t know what the hell that meant—until now. Kara was twenty-something, cute, had been working the morning shift at the diner for almost a year, but unfortunately had zero goals in life. After dealing with Nikki’s lack of ambition for so long, it became a character trait I was unwilling to compromise on going forward.

  Even though it had been a few weeks since we hooked up that one time, I knew Kara’s flirty smiles and glances were meant to entice me again, but that was a scene I had no desire to repeat. If I ever did decide to get serious again with someone, I sure as hell would strive a lot higher than some girl willing to give me a blowjob in my truck behind the diner where she works.

  I did my best to ignore her but I knew what her longing looks meant. She’d been trying for weeks to make something more out of our superficial chats and meaningless encounter, find some comfortable acceptance that I didn’t just use her when in reality, I did.

  It was all I was capable of.

  The stitches in my hand started to throb in time with my slight headache. The suits from the network would not be happy with another forced absence from the show due to this new injury, especially since they wanted to make me their show pony, but to hell with them. They’d just have to deal with a bunch of close-ups and commentaries outa me like last time when I got stabbed.

  I took a sip of the ice water that Kathy brought to me. Hah. Who knew a trip to the ER in the middle of the night might get me laid.


  No, no.

  Fuck no.

  No, that gorgeous doctor wouldn’t be just a lay. No. She’d be more, much, much more than a hit and run. That had long-term relationship written all over it.


  And she even had the guts to take me on and call me on my shit when we’d pulled her over. Ballsy little thing. That alone did me in. She didn’t hesitate jacking Ritchie up either.

  When she bent over into that cabinet, I wanted to take her right then and there. Tight body, perfectly rounded heart-shaped ass, ample breasts that would fill my hands perfectly—made my mouth water again just thinking about them. I wanted to lay her across the fucking hospital bed and peel those light blue scrubs off her, see what kind of panties she had on under there while making those tits of hers ache with pleasure.

  God, she was beautiful. Smart and independent, too. Wouldn’t even let me pick her up from work, insisting she’d catch a ride to meet me here.

  She didn’t seem bothered that I worked night shift, either. Hell, she said she worked the same hours. That was a major bonus. Major. But they all say that at first before things come up to make my hours an issue. I so didn’t need a repeat of Nikki, making me feel like shit for leaving her alone at night. There’s only so much of that I could take. It’s not like the bad guys commit their crimes at convenient hours. If a woman couldn’t respect what I stood for and believed in, then I guess they weren’t worth standing by.

  Huh. Doctor Erin Novak. Who’d ever think I’d hook up with a doctor?

  That long honey-colored, dirty-blonde hair tied at the nape of her neck—just begging for a hand to grasp onto it—was such a turn-on. I knew it made me a totally sick fucking bastard to think it, but the whole time she was stitching me up I couldn’t stop fantasizing about holding onto it while guiding her mouth up and down on me.

  I felt my balls tighten. It had been too long to remember what feeling real with a woman felt like. Even though I’d gotten laid since ending it with Nikki, it wasn’t worth the time it took. But I knew going in that the girl was going to be nothing more than a few hours of fun, even though the generic sex didn’t feed my needs.

  Only a special kind of woman could satisfy that.

  Ever since that fucking episode aired with me with my shirt off, things had been getting out of hand. All I had to do was pick any local club in Philly; girls started recognizing me, and it was like shooting fish in a barrel. But now this shit with these obsessive psycho fans, all the fan mail, bras, pictures, telephone numbers, girls coming to my damn house… Did these women actually think I’d relocate to Austin or bum-fuck Tuscaloosa for companionship? Grab one off my fucking front lawn? Yeah, like that would ever happen. The only thing their behaviors were doing was confirming my opinion that the world is full up of crazy people.

  But Doctor Erin Novak didn’t seem to have a clue who I was. She didn’t have cable TV, either, which was another huge bonus, although I was surprised she didn’t pick up anything from the newspapers, since our “Prowler Pack” was all over the local news as if we were the next best thing since those Jersey Shore douche bags.

  I watched my waitress saunter over. Even in her early sixties, her hips still had the small diner sway that would garner more in tips. “You want some more decaf, Adam?”

  I blocked her pour with my bandaged hand. “No thanks, Kathy.” I bit back the throb that immediately shot into my wrist. It was as if my hand had a freaking pulse of its own.

  Like a disapproving mother, she frowned at me. “What happened to you?”

  I stared at the gauze, thinking how this night could have turned out much worse. I was slipping. Getting sloppy. But I wasn’t about to explain myself so I shrugged it off. “Got cut.”

  She stood there waiting on the rest of the story but I wasn’t in the mood for sharing.

  Kathy tisked and then finally resigned to the idea that she wasn’t going to get any more out of me. She tossed her chin. “Is it going to be on this Sunday?”

  I scratched my forehead. How the hell would I know what scenes they edit and what gets prime time viewing? Considering I got hurt and Dumb and Dumber were ordered to follow me into the ER, all signs pointed to it being aired eventually. “I don’t know. Doubt it.”

  “You want your usual?”

  “Yeah, but not yet. I’m waiting on someone.”<
br />
  One very thin penciled-on eyebrow lifted. Why women shaved them off only to draw them back on was another one of those female mysteries I’d never care to understand.

  “Should I be jealous?” she asked a little too seriously. As if I’d ever date a sixty-year-old at this point in my life.

  “Should your husband be?” I tossed back at her.

  “Touché. I’m glad you finally came in. I thought after… Well Kara’s been moping around here for weeks.”

  Shit. Don’t, just don’t. I held up my hand. I was not in the mood for a lecture. “It was a mistake.”

  “I’m worried about her.” Kathy sighed, leaning her hip on the back of the booth. “She doesn’t seem to know that.”

  If I could kick myself, I would have. “A mistake that I won’t be repeating.”

  “I’ll talk to her,” she said. “My grandson wants to know if you were serious about the offer to do that weight training with him.”

  “Yeah, of course. How’s he doing?”

  “Changing schools seems to have helped tremendously. He’s far away from that old crowd he used to run with. He’s seeing a drug and alcohol counselor every week too. Being away from Todd was the key, though, just like you said. Jerry and I told Crystal she could move back home too but she’s not speaking to us anymore. She’s blaming us for taking her son away and for believing Lucas instead of her. Threatening to come snatch him in the middle of the night. She can screw up her life but she’s not going to take my grandson down with her. No way.”

  “You did the right thing. Crystal’s an adult who’s making bad decisions. And the courts gave you custody, so she doesn’t have a leg to stand on. She tries to take him, that’s a felony.” I snagged a napkin and motioned for her pen. “Here’s my number. Call me if you have any problems. I don’t always answer, so make sure you leave me a message and I’ll get back to ya.”

  She stuffed it into her apron. “You’re an angel, Adam. I can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done.”

  I stood and gave her a hug, ignoring Kara’s blatant staring from across the diner. “Don’t worry. We’ll work something out and get the boy on a better track. You keep believing in him and don’t give up, okay?”

  “Thank you.” She sniffed, squeezing me. “Thank you. I better get back to the kitchen. Holler for me when you’re ready.”

  As I watched her walk away, years of training and lack of trust for humanity had me eyeing the place, taking in every detail—what people were wearing, what they looked like—identifying, describing, and assessing them as potential victims or criminals. Kathy’s grandson was only fourteen and had experienced the ugly side of people far more than any kid should.

  Damn, when did I get so fucking jaded?

  I’m sure Doctor Erin didn’t view the world that way. All she saw were victims.

  As soon as she drifted back into my mind, all I could picture was cuffing her hot, naked body to my headboard and violating her nine ways to Sunday. She’d definitely be fun to play with.

  But the moment she came through the door of the diner I thought my heart was going to leap out of my chest. I caught myself grinning and had to remind myself to take my excitement down a notch.

  Man, her smile is precious. That’s enough to brighten the shittiest of days.

  “Sorry I’m late,” Erin said as she slid into the booth, sitting across from me. “Hope you weren’t waiting long.”

  I probably would have waited all damn day for her. A vision of my grandfather smacking me in the head for not standing before she sat down flashed through my thoughts. Well, it was too late now. “Let me guess. You had an emergency.”

  She smiled. “Good guess. Um, compound fracture of the ulna.”

  “Ulna?” I asked, watching her fuss with her long hair. I was willing to bet her head was filled with all sorts of useful information.

  She patted her forearm and then flicked a finger away from her skin.

  I cringed a little inside. “Bone pierced the skin?”

  “Yep. Guy fell off a roof. He said he was taking down his Christmas lights, but at four in the morning without pants on?”

  “Yeah, that’s highly unlikely.” I’d seen plenty of derelicts in my lifetime so my imagination didn’t have to stretch too far. I could only imagine what gore she’d seen with those soulful eyes. I didn’t want to think about it though, spoiling my other visions of her. Damn, she’s gorgeous. I can’t stop staring at her. Imagining her naked. Strapped down tight to my bed. My mouth on every inch of her. Her feet sliding over the sheets as she helplessly writhes in pleasure. Fuck, I want to have her in ways no one else ever has or ever will.

  This is not good.

  I barely knew her and already she was getting under my skin.

  You got to walk away from this, Adam, my inner voice warned. This is going to be worse than Nikki. Even she didn’t get you going like this. No woman is going to put up with your schedule or the fact that you’re on goddamned television like some poseur wannabe, making it all that much worse. Decaf, some eggs, polite conversation, and get the hell outa here.

  Kathy came back, coffee pot in hand. “Coffee?”

  Erin popped her head up from the menu. “No thank you. May I please have a tall glass of orange juice?”

  “Make that two.” She had the fullest lips with that hint of mischief set to them. My plan to eat and bail was diverted by imagining how sweet her mouth would taste.

  “Do you know what you want?” I asked, shaking those thoughts out of my head while fighting back another bizarre desire to feed her with my fingers.

  She seemed so peppy and excited by the simple task of picking out her breakfast, even though her lips were wrinkled with indecision. “Everything looks so tempting. I’m starving, actually. I’m thinking western omelet and whole wheat toast. Maybe some home fries too.” Her grin was silly.

  She was tempting. So very tempting. If she knew what I was really hungry for right now she’d surely reach across the table and slap me hard. I glanced back at the menu for the pure distraction of it while my desires and vivid images sort of blurred together.

  I shifted, feeling tight all over. Fortunately I had a spare pair of jeans in my locker, replacing my bloodied cargo pants. Unfortunately, those jeans were constricting all sorts of new blood flow.

  Kathy set our drinks down. “Are you ready?”

  “Yes. For the lady, she’d like the western omelet and whole wheat toast and I’d like the Spanish omelet with whole wheat also. And a large plate of home fries and bacon.” I handed the menus over, catching Kathy’s approving smile while completely dazed by Erin’s. She appeared to be a happy person, which was wonderful because I had enough shit to worry about; I didn’t need to be the sole source of someone’s happiness.

  “I love bacon,” she said.

  I leaned up on the table. “Me too.”

  “How’s the hand feel?”

  I glanced at the meticulous job she did and flexed my fingers. “Feels fine, although I think wrapping it this good on my own might be tough.”

  I watched her lips pucker and brush the edge of her water glass, thinking it was one of the most erotic things I’d seen in a long time.

  “What time do you normally start your shift?”

  “Um, we have ops briefing at eight and then we’re on the streets by eight-thirty. Why?”

  She shrugged. “I’ll be at the hospital at seven. I can re-wrap you, if you want, before you start your shift.”

  Is she giving me an in to see her or is she just being nice? Either way, I was thankful. “You’d be okay to do that?”

  She didn’t even question it. “Sure. You need to keep those stitches covered. While you’re home, you can let them air, but while you’re out there in germ world better to be safe than sorry.”

  She made me laugh with her little animations. “Germ world? That bad, huh?”

  Erin nodded. “Yep. Trust me.”

  I leaned back. “Actually, I’ve been bench
ed. Apparently stitches warrant a few days of desk duty.”

  “Well, you need to heal. How long are you benched?”

  I shrugged, not really knowing. “A week? It’s okay. Gives me time to dig into why someone switched your plate.”

  Erin fidgeted with her napkin. “That’s been bothering me a lot, actually.”

  Thinking about some asswipe creeping around her car at night bothered me a whole hell of a lot, too. “I’m not completely sure, but my guess is that you were used as a diversion.”

  “A diversion?”

  I nodded, reconsidering just how much I should divulge. Last thing I wanted to do was to scare her. “Several expensive cars on the other side of the city disappeared into thin air at the same time we were chasing you.”

  The look of abject horror I received told me she was completely innocent.

  “Don’t let it worry you, though. I talked with hospital security before I left and I got the number for their main office. I’ll inform them that your car was tampered with on hospital property. But the fact they let you ladies walk out into that dark parking lot unescorted, well that’s something they need to fix right away.”

  She frowned at me. “We’ve never had problems before.”

  Didn’t matter if she disapproved or not. “I walked through your lot, Erin; it’s dark, unlit, and unsafe. You ever have any self-defense training?”

  “No,” she admitted.

  “Well then, you should never walk out there alone, especially when it’s dark. I’ll show you some self-defense moves. You should at least know how to escape if someone grabs you.”

  She gave me a measured look.

  “I’m serious.”

  She smirked at me. “I believe you.”

  Didn’t take long for Kathy to return with our food. I could have inhaled mine for how hungry I was. I let the subject of her safety drop and started scooping chunky salsa out over my omelet when I noticed Erin scrutinizing me. “Want some?”

  “Salsa? On an omelet?” She was definitely questioning my sanity.

  “You ever try it?”

  She shook her head.

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