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       Jacked, p.40

           Tina Reber
“Where is your patient now?”

  I glanced over Adam’s shoulder quickly to assure our conversation was still private. “He’s in surgery. The way the two slugs expanded and slowed upon entry, I’m guessing they were nine millimeter hollow points. Neither shot was a through-and-through.” I ran a hand over my side. “One bullet deflected off a rib.”

  His eyebrows rose right before the wolfish grin of pride spread across his face. That was all followed up with a very distinct glimmer of lust.

  “Quit looking at me like that.” I crossed my arms to let him know I was serious.

  Adam stalked closer and seized my upper arms. “I want to do you on this table right now.”

  “Why? Because I know what a bullet slug looks like?”

  He raked his teeth over his bottom lip, nodding at me.

  My palms landed on the wall of his chest. “Focus!”

  “Oh, I’m very focused.”


  His grip moved to my hips, one hand sliding to cup my ass. “Okay, I’ll give you a pass, this time, but you better be pulling into my driveway by eight or I’ll put an APB out on your ass.”

  “On my ass?”

  He grinned and squeezed. “For starters. Besides, you don’t want to miss breakfast.”

  “I don’t?”

  His eyes narrowed on my mouth. “No. You don’t. I need you to butter my toast.”

  He was so freaking cute. And a wiseass. “I’ll butter your toast, anytime.”

  “I was having a shitty night,” he growled. “Until now.”

  “Ditto. Shitty?”

  Adam downplayed it. “More like frustrating. I haven’t been able to get a hold of one of my informants. Oh, and I did a background check on your sister’s boyfriend. He had one prior for drunk and disorderly, but that’s it.”

  “That’s it?”

  He drew back and nodded.

  “I thought there’d be more.”

  Adam moved a lock of my hair. “I’ll keep an eye on it. You have enough on your plate dealing with punks with gunshot wounds.”

  “It’s a daily occurrence.”

  “Well then, when I get home I need to know you’ll be naked in my kitchen or I might just lose my mind. You’ve got to give me something to look forward to.”

  I felt the conference table press into my legs. “Will you be naked too?”

  Adam nodded, his features all set with his determined smolder. “Most definitely.”

  “Good. Then I have something to look forward to.”

  “Sounds like a plan,” he whispered on my lips, and then he pulled away just as quickly, studying me with the keen, discerning eye of a seasoned detective. “Something else is wrong, though. I’ll ask one more time. Do I need to be concerned about your ex?”

  My want was instantly doused. “No. Oh, God, no. That’s… it’s been over a long time.”

  Adam slid his teeth over his bottom lip, measuring my reply. “Good, though it didn’t look over for him.”

  “Well it’s over for me and that’s all that matters.”

  His eyes settled on my mouth. “You say it’s true, then I trust you.”

  I raised my chin. “It is.”

  Adam wasted no time closing the distance. Tasting his mouth was both hypnotic and addictive, as though his essence was made of pure sweetness combined with the flavor of recently chewed spearmint gum. His tongue caressed mine, swirling as if the two had known each other their whole lives. For a moment, I completely forgot I was at work or that I broke down earlier over my neurotic fears. A random page over the central communications system was a bitter reminder to simmer down. I released my grip on the back of his neck and pressed his chest, just enough to sober us both before we got too carried away.

  “Fuck me,” he muttered low. “Your mouth drives me crazy.” He had the greatest smile; gleaming white teeth with that total affect of a hungry predator masked behind the charm of an innocent boy. “I can’t wait to be inside you.” His grip tightened on my hair with just enough meaning to kiss me softly once more. “But,” he drawled, “back to the shooter.”

  “Yes, back to um…”

  Adam brushed his thumb over my jaw. “If it was Carter Mancuso, then your patient was supposed to end up dead. You talk to any other officers, besides the one you told me about?”

  I touched my tingling lips and then shoved my hands into my lab coat pockets to keep myself from grabbing him again. “No. Just that Detective Holihan.”

  “I need to go find him before he fucks up my investigation.”

  I pulled out the paper in my pocket. “He gave me his contact info.”

  Adam glanced at it, his brows furrowing. “I don’t know this guy.”

  “So who is Carter Mancuso?”

  He leveled his eyes on me, no trace of humor or playfulness left in them. “Salvador Mancuso’s son.”

  “Shit.” A shiver ran the length of my spine. “There were three.”

  Adam retrieved his cell from his pocket. “Three?”

  I nodded. “Three victims, er, patients. One expired in transport. We lost the second one soon after he arrived. They were all from the same shooting. Am I allowed to tell you all of this?”

  “Call it purging.” Adam blew out a breath. “This kid—anyone else hear what he told you?”

  My mind reeled. For some reason, Randy’s pathetic pouty face kept ghosting through, clouding things. “I’m not sure. Maybe? Several of my team tried to free me when the patient grabbed me.”

  “He grabbed you?”

  I nodded, startled by his strong reaction. “Just my scrub top.”

  He tugged my arm, straightening it. “Fucker hurt you?”

  “No.” I withdrew my arm from his intense scrutiny. “I’m fine.”

  Adam frowned. “You’re sure?”

  “Yes. Completely unharmed. But you’ll have to ask that Detective Holihan if anyone else heard what the kid said. I think he questioned the rest of my trauma team. I honestly don’t know.”

  “Okay, I’ll ask him.” Adam thumbed the card with the detective’s name and number on it, frowning when his phone chimed. “What the…?” Confusion rippled his face. “It’s my mom.”

  I could relate to his concern, considering it was almost one thirty in the morning. Within moments he turned white as a sheet.

  “What?” he breathed out, trying to keep his voice from faltering. “Oh God.” He covered his eyes. His mother was crying so hard, I could hear her echoing out of his cell.

  I pulled out a chair, needing him to sit down before he fell. Adam was tall and solid but the bits I was picking out of his side of the conversation were enough to buckle his knees.

  Someone had been seriously hurt.


  Jason? Oh, his youngest brother.

  He alive? Yes, he’s alive. Oh, thank God.

  My heart squeezed so hard, hearing him comfort his mom as best he could. She was nearly hysterical; he kept repeating “Mom” and “slow down,” encouraging her to calm and breathe.

  I pulled out the chair next to him and put my hands on his knees. Seeing his eyes turn watery, his anguish twisting his normally stoic features, I wanted to cry for him.

  “My brother stepped on an I.E.D.,” he said after he ended his call, his voice choked on the last word.

  “He’s alive?”

  Adam nodded, rubbing the heel of his hand over his eyes, trying not to show me his tears. “His C.O. just called my parents. He’s being air lifted to a hospital in Germany. It’s not… they said he’s in bad shape.”

  “Oh my God, Adam.” I was in his arms within the next breath, holding him just as tightly. His fingers clenched into my skin. He buried his face into my neck.

  I knew his pain intimately.

  God, how I knew.

  It was crushing and cruel and utterly devastating.

  But his heartache was my heartache.

  And my heartache was his.

  His shoulders shook beneath my hands.

/>   A tear trickled down my neck, and then another.

  My own eyes swam in their unshed pain. Knowing this solid, formidable man had been reduced to tears was killing me.

  I held him tighter, hoping my arms would be strong enough to hold him together.

  Love wasn’t about sex. It wasn’t skin smacking and orgasms and superficial shit. And maybe it wasn’t about fears unfounded either.

  It was a private moment in an empty conference room when you were gutted and completely vulnerable, only to find strength willed to you through another beating heart.

  ADAM PICKED THE business card up off the conference table after taking a series of steadying breaths. He swiped his face several times, trying to hide the evidence. “I need to find this Holihan guy, talk to him before they blow a tri-state investigation.”


  “None of my leads are telling me that there was a hit put out, so somebody fucked up. I’ve got to figure this out. None of the Mancuso family has ever been convicted of murder, but nothing surprises me anymore.”

  He was numb, wooden, and growing distant quickly.

  “Hey.” I drifted my fingers over his cheek, combing them from the shadow of his sideburn back through his hair. His face was still damp. “It’s okay.”

  He sniffed and tapped my thigh. “Hop up.”




  He nudged but I refused.

  “I don’t have any rope handy, but we do have four-point restraints for combative patients. Don’t make me use them.” I knew he was suppressing his anger and frustration. His muscles were coiled tightly, straining all the way up to the stretched tendons in his neck. Had he really wanted me off his lap, he could have easily stood and deposited me onto the floor. “Look at me. Just relax a minute.”

  Adam’s lips twisted at my lame threat but he slowly eased beneath me. “My mom’s a mess,” he finally said on an unsteady breath. “No parent wants to bury their kids.”

  “Hey, no. Don’t think like that. We’ll go to Germany. I can book flights right now. You have a current passport? We can use the computer by the lounge.”

  Adam clamped a hand on my thigh let out a deep exhale. “Hold up. Jason’s commander said he’d contact my parents as soon as Jay arrives at the hospital in Germany. Until then, we’re supposed to sit tight.”

  “But—” My mind was already packed and ready to go. I needed to see vitals and CT scans and X-rays.

  “Erin.” His admonishing gaze through red-rimmed eyes left no room for argument.

  “Okay.” I rested my head on his while every fiber of my being was screaming to get on a plane and fix this. I knew talented surgeons, leading neuroscientists. I could gather a team, save Adam and his family from having to endure another second of grief. “I’m so sorry. Did they say what kind of injuries?”

  A sharp wrap on the door startled us both. “Excuse me, Doctor Novak? One of the nurses said I’d find you in here.”

  I slipped off of Adam’s lap; Detective Holihan filled the doorway. I guessed he was in his forties, with wide shoulders and a thick midriff. My guess was that he hadn’t been running down the streets of Philly chasing criminals lately.

  Adam tensed, slipped his hand around my hip, and drew me back. His hand rested on his own sidearm until he held out his hand and introduced himself, unphased by the questioning gaze from the other cop.

  It was then, when Officer Holihan moved from resting on his gun to shaking Adam’s hand, that I realized that no matter the situation, Adam’s actions were always deliberate. He didn’t move me out of the way to discount my presence; he placed his body between me and anything he perceived as a threat, and didn’t relax until the threat was neutralized.

  He put me first.


  Oh my God. I love him. Is he…? Could he be in love me, too?

  I smiled inwardly, slightly baffled, while watching these two intimidating police officers greet each other.

  “Have a few additional questions for you, Doctor Novak,” the detective said, eyeing me around a wall of Adam. “Can we speak somewhere privately?”

  I stepped closer. “Yes, of course.”

  Adam’s quick warning glance stopped me in my tracks, reading his unspoken message as clearly as if he’d said it aloud. “ATTF is conducting a comprehensive investigation into the Mancuso family,” he said. “It’s my case. Any information you can share here is crucial.”

  Detective Holihan appeared confused, obviously trying to determine why I was just sitting on Adam’s lap a few moments ago.

  “Doctor Novak is aware of the case I’m working,” Adam said without further explanation.

  Holihan’s brow rose. “She called you?”

  And I was just sitting on his lap a few minutes ago, too.

  Adam remained composed and stoic. “As I stated, she is aware. That’s it. So where did this shooting occur?”

  “On Chestnut, a few blocks from Washington Square Park. Three were hit. So far Doctor Novak’s patient is the only survivor and the only lead.”

  “You got names on the DBs?” Adam questioned.

  “Yeah,” Detective Holihan said, rubbing a hand over his buzz-cut hair. He flipped open a small spiral bound tablet. “Cody Powell, age twenty-two, died en route, and a Benjamin Deets, age twenty-nine, expired upon arrival.”

  Adam rested his hands on his hips. “Wait, hold up. Did you say Deets? D. E. E. T. S? Benny Deets?”

  Holihan nodded. “Yeah, why? You know him?”

  Adam’s head dipped and swayed while he strung together a few curse words. “Yeah. He’s one of my CIs.” He pegged me with his attention. “Was.”

  I pulled out a chair and sat down; my knees had grown weak.

  “FROM NOW ON you do not walk to your car without an escort,” Adam declared. He was all business, which had started from the moment that Detective Holihan entered the conference room. Now that we were alone again, Adam was worse. “When you’re ready to leave work, you call me. If I can’t get here I’ll have a unit dispatched or get hospital security to do it. Someone. Just, you’re not going out there alone. And from now on I drive you in and pick you up.”


  “No arguments, all right? Shit just got real, Erin.”

  “Don’t you think you’re being a bit—”

  “A bit what?”

  “I don’t know. Excessive?”

  The angered glint in his eyes said otherwise. I instantly regretted my affront.

  “I’m not risking anything, especially your life. Right now there are only two people who can link a Mancuso to murder and one of them is you. So I don’t give a shit if you think it’s excessive, and I sure as hell ain’t gonna pretend that everything is cool. Shit plays out, you may have to testify, Erin. You know what that means? A target gets painted on your head. And there’s an entire city of lowlifes willing to take someone out for a favor or a… or a fucking crack rock.”

  My mind flashed over the dozens of rap sheets he’d shown me, the crimes all those criminals had committed, the vacant or sometimes smug look on their faces when they were arrested. Gang members came through our ER on a daily basis. Their smack-talk and wannabe gangster attitudes were an everyday occurrence. His anxiety was valid.

  “I still don’t know if we have leaks within the PD, and I can’t shake that Benny was just hitting on you at Al’s Tavern a few weeks ago and now he’s on a slab in the morgue. You think that might have been just a coincidence?”

  No, not really. I didn’t want to think about it.

  “And now…,” he continued. “Now your name is going into a case file on a double homicide. You’ve got to see why I—”

  I halted him. “Okay.”


  I studied the hard lines of his face and his heaving chest. He’d run the gamut of emotional overload; he didn’t need me adding to it. “I got it, babe. We’ll do this your way.”

  “You sure?

  I nodded again. “Yes, positive.”

  “No arguments?”

  “No arguments.”

  He blew out a relieving breath and wiped a hand down his face. “Good. Okay. Thank you.”

  Adam took a step and hugged me tightly. I wrapped my arms around his waist.

  “My brother…” His lips pressed against my hair. “I can’t lose you, Doc.”

  I snuggled into his chest, feeling his body relaxing slightly, though his hands were still trembling. “You won’t.”

  “We can’t be lax. These people are very dangerous.”

  “I know.”

  “I should have never—”

  I squeezed tighter, not wanting to hear anything resembling regret. “Stop. It’s okay.”

  His hand scraped across my back, catching on the threads while we pulled ourselves together. “You called me ‘babe.’”

  My muscles tensed, though his stance didn’t warrant it. “I did.”

  “I like it,” he said.

  There in the warm, familiar dip in his chest, life was perfect. “Good.”

  “I need you to do something else for me.”

  I looked up, waiting to hear his request, enjoying the fine nuances of being needed. “Yeah.”

  Adam placed a soft kiss on my lips. “You’ve gotta take these stitches out of my hand. Now.”

  The lingering tightness in my chest eased. I was in awe of his resilience, mesmerized by his bravery, and completely smitten to the core.

  THE TWO-HOUR DRIVE to Manhattan had helped somewhat to keep my mind from spiraling. So had Erin’s presence and her stories of med-school hijinks, although I had to admit I had a newfound respect for pig cadavers. She had censured herself when we touched upon anything that could lead me to thinking about my brother Jason, but despite her best efforts, my injured baby brother dominated my thoughts.

  I appreciated her for trying.

  I loved her even more for trying to make me laugh, for keeping me grounded, for just being by my side and not giving up on me when my moody shit surfaced.

  Yeah, this wasn’t just filling the loneliness anymore or hiding my bullshit behind my best behavior. Even the sunrays streaming through her hair knew the truth.

  Negotiating the traffic funneling into the Lincoln Tunnel took concentration, giving my mind a chance to ease up, though the nightmares plaguing me were never far away. In the last twenty-four hours, my brother Jason had been transferred to a hospital in Germany and was undergoing yet another surgery. Watching my impenetrable father break down when he updated me on Jay’s condition was unbearable.

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