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       Jacked, p.13

           Tina Reber
 

  “Babe, you haven’t lived until you’ve had salsa on an omelet. Here,” I handed the small soup cup over to her, “give it a shot.”

  I was glad to see she was willing to try something new and even more relieved that she didn’t get all righteous on me when I called her “babe.” It had slipped out before I could stop myself.

  One mouthful and she started grinning. “Oh, that’s good.”

  I crammed a big bite into my mouth, nodding in agreement. “Told ya. Have some more.”

  She rubbed another spoonful over her food. “I think this is my new favorite thing.”

  “You think that’s good, wait until I show you the proper way to eat French fries.”

  A lock of hair fell across her face. I wanted to touch it.

  “Gravy on top?” she asked.

  I set my fork down. “Aw. Who told you?”

  “Are you kidding? I’ve known about gravy fries since I was old enough to speak the words. You know who has the best gravy fries?”

  “Al’s Tavern,” we both said in unison.

  “You’ve been to Al’s?” I asked, completely shocked she knew about my favorite hole-in-the-wall pub.

  She smiled that wholesome naughty girl grin again. God, I wanted to climb over the table and kiss her. Could life be this poetic? Something so benign and simple felt like a lifeline, gluing a piece of me back together. If she only knew…

  “Yep. Many times, although it’s been a while since I was there. Sarah and I used to go there all the time.”

  “Sarah?”

  “The pregnant nurse that took your info.”

  “Oh. Yeah, I remember. The one who conveniently pointed out that we both live in the same town.”

  I saw her cringe a little.

  “Yeah, your friend’s not as subtle as she’d like to think.” I shrugged. “I didn’t mind. She gave up some very useful information.”

  I watched the blush stain Erin’s cheeks. I wondered where else I might get to see her body flush with heat. The tightness in my muscles returned as well as part of my single-minded erection. “Don’t be embarrassed. I’m not. I may even buy your pregnant tattletale some flowers for being so helpful.”

  “Seriously?”

  I winked at her. That shy flush hit her again. “Yep. And I’m willing to bet she’d give up your phone number for a chocolate donut and a smile.”

  Erin’s shoulders slumped, playing right along. “You’d bribe an eight-month pregnant woman with a donut to get my phone number?”

  I didn’t want to give away that I already had her cell number, her former addresses from when she lived in Baltimore and attended Johns Hopkins University, and that she had no priors and only ever had one speeding ticket in her life. The fact that she had no other aliases also brightened my shitty night.

  Trade secret—all cops hooking up with new women ran their girl’s information. That’s because you never knew which hot babe was also a walking restraining order in disguise. It was a relief to find one without any priors.

  Besides, I was sure the moment I left the hospital they had all of my medical records from the last four times I visited the ER up on their screen. Hell, there were even video clips from the show of the guys and me on the Internet. I wasn’t feeling guilty in the least, but something about her whole vibe told me she hadn’t cyber-stalked me yet.

  “Yes, I most certainly would bribe a pregnant woman to give up your phone number, but only as a last resort.”

  I watched her take another bite, scrutinizing me. “Please don’t torture my pregnant friend. Chocolate donuts make people do stupid things.”

  I set my coffee cup down. “Afraid she might tell me too much? I bet if I brought her a dozen she’d tell me all of your little secrets.”

  “I don’t have secrets.”

  “Yeah right. All women have secrets.”

  I saw her spine stiffen. She liked the challenge. Good.

  “And men don’t?”

  “I didn’t say that.” I shoved a piece of toast in my mouth.

  “If I ask nicely, would you tell me your secrets? I promise to be open-minded.”

  Damn, she’s good at this. I wonder how open-minded she’d be if we discussed my sexual depravities.

  “Oh, no. I’m not falling for it. You want me to give up information? Not without a swap. One for one.”

  I wasn’t sure if I’d like this game but I did sort of ask for it.

  “Okay. Ladies first?”

  As if I had a choice. I swept my hand for her to start, hoping like hell this didn’t get out of hand.

  “Ever been married?”

  Easy. “No. My turn.”

  “Wait.”

  “One for one, Doc. Didn’t give specifics on the amount of details.”

  And there went her enthusiasm and out came a pout. “Fine.”

  “Oh, the four letter death word,” I teased, waving my fork at her. “I know what that word means in women speak, by the way. Rule Number One: you use that word on me, I get to call you on it.”

  And back came a bit of her perkiness with a smile wicked enough to destroy me. “We have rules now?”

  I pushed one of my empty plates away and kicked back, enjoying the fun of riling her up. “Rules. Words to live by. Whatever you want to call it. I like rules. Keeps things clear.”

  Then came the sass with the ornery grin. “Fine.”

  God, she was hot.

  “Fine,” I volleyed. “My turn.” I knew she’d never been married, so I didn’t intend to waste my question. I had every intention to find out if she liked to be tied up during sex, so I tossed her an easy one. “What’s the craziest thing you did in college?”

  That made her lips pucker. Damn, even her little pout was cute. “Not fair.”

  “Hah! It’s very fair. And by that reaction you definitely have to answer it now.”

  I wondered how long she’d take to think of an answer and how much of it would be the truth. Her eyes glanced up, to the right. I relaxed and waited.

  “Okay, back in my sophomore year a friend of mine and I went to a frat party and somehow, after way too much beer, I got entered into the wet T-shirt contest.”

  I felt my eyes bulge and my throat tighten simultaneously at her honest recounting. Why the hell couldn’t I have known her then? “For real?” This innocent-looking creature had a wild side. I knew it.

  Erin nodded sheepishly. “Yep. And you want to know the best part of it? I won it, too.”

  Of course I had to look at her boobs now, wondering what soaking wet cotton would look like plastered against the lovely pair. Hard, pink nipples begging to be warmed with my tongue. The left one, and then the right, sucking and tugging on them with my teeth until they’re red and swollen, and she’s moaning in my arms. And just like that, my hard-on came back with a vengeance. Damn, is she doing this to me on purpose?

  I tugged at crotch of my jeans quickly, removing the denim seam that was impaling my dick.

  Yeah, she knew exactly what she was doing to me.

  “There may or may not have been a stripper pole involved as well, though I can’t say. Was that crazy enough for you?”

  I was so dumbstruck; all I could do was nod.

  “My turn again,” she said, way too enthusiastically.

  “Wait. Is that something you might repeat anytime soon? Just curious.”

  Oh that sly, shy grin. This girl is going to wreck me.

  “Why? Are you going to tell me you have one installed in your house or something?”

  I swallowed hard just picturing that. Don’t think about the word “hard” now, Adam. “No, but I’m thinking about buying one today if you’re game, that’s for damn sure.”

  “Well, you’ll have to hold that thought since it’s my turn again.”

  I waved for her to continue, fearing I was at risk for spilling my guts to her now.

  “Since you obviously are a righteous man of the law, ever do anything that was illegal? And… if so, what was it?


  Look at her. She thinks she’s got me. First rule of interrogation, sweetheart, trust no one and definitely never confess to anything illegal. I knew enough to know she was just trying to get to know me. There was nothing in my brief investigation on her to lead me to think otherwise as she had no record of criminal history. Well, she doesn’t need to know all of my dirty secrets in one sitting. I took a few moments to think of a good story, something that would appease her curiosity.

  “Okay, when I was seventeen, senior year of high school, I took the girl I was dating out to the lake that was a couple of miles from my parents’ house. I spread out a nice blanket, had the radio playing, couple bottles of wine my brother Michael got for me, trying to show her what a class act I was. Well, it worked and there we were in all our glory goin’ at it hot and heavy.” I wiped my mouth just thinking about it. “I was quite preoccupied when the cops showed up.”

  Erin laughed. “What did you do?”

  Why am I telling her this shit? Fuck it. Let her get a bit hot and bothered, too. “What could I do? We were totally busted. Chief cuffed me, butt-ass naked, tossed me in the back of the squad car, and remanded me over to my parents. Dragged me right to the front door of my house and threatened to shoot me. Guess he was pretty pissed that I was caught defiling his daughter or something—”

  Erin covered her mouth. “Oh, no you didn’t!”

  I shrugged, holding back some. “Gave me a citation for public indecency and underage drinking, which was still cutting me a break because I was pretty wasted. I ended up having to do community service clearing all of the storm gutters for the entire summer.”

  “And that’s when you decided to go into law enforcement?”

  I nodded and scratched the scar above my left eyebrow I’d gotten as a result. “Actually it was a few days after that when Casper Cullis pulled a gun on me.”

  “Casper Cullis?”

  “Her douche-bag boyfriend.”

  “Someone named their kid Casper? Isn’t he the friendly ghost?”

  I had to laugh at her, though the memory was far from funny. “No. We got into a fight, and then he pointed a gun at my head.”

  “He pointed a gun… at your head. Oh my God. What did you do?”

  Images skittered through. “I knocked his hand away and broke his nose. And that’s when I decided to be a police officer.”

  I watched her stab a piece of her omelet and followed it just so I could see her tongue again. It was a far better image than the one lingering from my story. “I believe it’s my turn again.”

  She waved her fork. “Go for it.”

  At this point I fully intended to. “You look worried.” I smiled, trying to ease her tension.

  Erin laughed uncomfortably. “I’m not, really.”

  “Well don’t be. I am curious though. Why the ER? I mean, you could probably set up shop in some cozy practice seeing head colds and skinned knees, no? But trauma? I don’t know.”

  “Don’t look at me like that, please,” she said, admonishing my gaze.

  “Like what?”

  “Like I’m crazy. Are you questioning my sanity, Detective?”

  “Maybe. A little. I mean, I’ve seen some gruesome shit in my lifetime, but I can’t imagine doing what you do every day to fix them. Doesn’t it give you nightmares?”

  Her stalled response gave her away. “Not really.”

  Years of training had me reading her body language, and watching her twist her napkin, refusing to look me in the eye fully told me she was lying to one of us.

  “Sometimes, but every day I’m presented with a whole host of new problems to solve. The mechanics of the human body just utterly fascinates me. I love the challenge.”

  Her human body fascinated me. Watching her light up talking about it was like a gift.

  She glanced around the restaurant and I wondered if she finally noticed the stares we were getting. Some people were just blatantly gawking.

  She definitely noticed it. “I know it’s a difficult field but it’s my stepping stone.”

  “Oh? Where you stepping to, Doc?”

  I could see the passion return in her eyes. “I’m trying for a fellowship in Toxicology.”

  I wasn’t expecting that. “Toxicology? You mean, like poison and drugs and stuff?”

  She nodded.

  Great. A hot woman who’ll know how to poison me when I piss her off. “Why?”

  “Why?”

  “Yeah, why? That’s not something everyone aspires to be when then grow up.”

  I note her hesitance and the frown of sadness. “It’s personal. I, ah, lost someone once and I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again—to anyone.”

  “Understandable. You want to talk about it?”

  She shook her head adamantly. “Maybe, one day, with you. Do you mind if that day isn’t today?”

  Damn. Someone hurt her. I wanted names, dates, details—NOW. But I couldn’t. I knew she was holding something back, something painful by the looks of it, but I couldn’t push her. There was nothing in her records that said she’d had trouble in the past. “Yeah. That’s fine. If you don’t want to talk about it now, I understand. As long as you don’t have a collection of ex-boyfriends in a mass grave or something in your backyard.”

  Her lips twisted. “Not funny. By the way, how’s your back? I may need help digging a new garden.”

  I knew she was joking, but I’d be more than willing to bury any fucker who’d come sniffing around her. “Back’s just fine but my hand is out of commission for a few days though. You may have to hold off your plans for a week or two.”

  And just like that she reached across the table, taking my hand in hers to inspect it, tucking in some piece of the wrapping that we both knew was just fine. “Your fingers have good color. It’s not too tight, is it?”

  I flexed, enjoying the soft, almost sensual brush of her fingertips creeping under the edge of the bandage. All at once, I was very aware of my dick again. “Nah. It’s perfect. Just glad I wasn’t riding the bike.” I let my fingers close up around hers, testing the waters.

  She looked out the window, eyeing the parking lot, while doing a great job ignoring that I was holding her hand. “Bicycle?”

  My gaze stayed locked on her. “Motorcycle.” Her little butt wiggled, I suppose thinking about it. “You ever been on the back of a bike?”

  Innocently, she shook her head.

  “I can fix that, you know.”

  And just like that, playful Erin was back. “I bet you can.”

  This girl was dangerous to my health. But this hand—this hand I was holding—had a healing touch.

  “Whose turn is it?” I asked.

  “Yours,” she breathed, pulling her hand back. “I just spent mine asking about your—um—bike.”

  For some reason I felt a bit disappointed. “That was hardly a question.”

  “No. It’s your turn. I don’t cheat.”

  I wondered if she meant something more by that, figuring that statement could cover a lot of areas. Regardless, it was good to know. I watched her struggle for a few seconds trying to open the ketchup bottle. I held out my hand.

  “Would you?” she asked, handing it over. “My home fries—oh, wait, your hand.”

  I popped the top. “Here you go.”

  She met my reach. “Thanks.”

  “It’s your turn, Doc.”

  She took a moment. “You mentioned you have brothers?”

  Relief hit me that it was an easy one. “Yep. Three of them.”

  That seemed to surprise her. “Your poor mother.”

  “Hah! Yeah, she got a lot of gray hairs from us.”

  “You the oldest? Youngest?”

  “I’m number two.” She had me hooked deep and I was dying to know. “Seriously, are you dating anyone now?”

  “No.” That truth was instant and directed right into my eyes. “I wouldn’t be sitting here with you if I was.”

  “That’s good to know.
” I had to hide my smile. “Ditto by the way. In case you’re wondering.”

  “I was,” she answered honestly. “I find that hard to believe, but thank you for being so forthcoming.”

  Visions of me being forthcoming with my tongue in her mouth were dominating all other thoughts of reason. And yet, was she serious? “Why is that hard to believe?”

  Her cheeks pinked again. “I would presume it’s sort of obvious,” she muttered.

  Now I was completely confused. Did she know about the show? “What is?”

  She waved her fork up and down at me, as if she was going head to toe with it. Does she think I fuck everything that walks?

  I was searching for the words to let her know how way off base she was when a wall of blue uniform caught my attention.

  Fuck. Not now. Not fucking now.

  Last thing I needed was to deal with Ron Castoll, asshole cop from my old unit with a chip the size of Montana on his shoulder.

  “Morning Trent. What happened to you? Cut yourself on a beer bottle?” Castoll snickered, adjusting the utility belt holding up his fat gut.

  I wondered if this arrogant prick remembered that I possessed the skills and knowledge to kill him a hundred different ways with just my bare hands.

  Surprised the fucker hasn’t tasered his own nuts yet. Dipshit.

  Didn’t take him long to eye up Erin. Stitches or not, I wanted to punch him in the head just for looking at her, knowing what sort of dirty shit was already flowing through that pea-sized brain of his.

  I noticed the squad car sitting out in the parking lot.

  “Come for your donut fix, Castoll, or are you just here to creep out the customers?”

  Bastard smirked. “Nope. Just doing my normal patrol. Wanted to make sure some lowlife wasn’t in here causing trouble.” He nodded at my bandaged hand. “I see the grapevine wasn’t lying. Surprised they actually let you out in the field these days, Trent. Aren’t you just for show now?”

  It took everything within me to keep my hands from crushing his windpipe. “Well, you know how it is, Castoll. Someone’s got to catch the bad guys while you’re busy writing out all them parking tickets.”

  Erin couldn’t hold back her laugh. One chuckle slipped out of her.

  Castoll glared at her. “I didn’t know your shrink saw you outside of her office. Be careful, honey. You may think he’s charming but this one will screw anything with open legs—”

 
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