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       Jacked, p.42

           Tina Reber

  Her eyes narrowed. “What?”

  I pointed at the dark bottle sitting in a silver bucket. “Did you order this?”

  Erin’s mouth popped open. “No. I… I didn’t order anything.” She scanned the cart. “Where did it come from?”

  “Doesn’t matter. I don’t want it.”

  “There’s no charge,” the guy said.

  Erin slipped past me, drifting her hand down my back in her wake. “Thank you for the offer but we’re fine. Please take it back.”

  The guy stammered. “But it’s paid for.”

  I wanted to toss him and the bottle out into the hall, but Erin blocked me.

  “Then please feel free to enjoy it.” She gave the cart a tentative push toward the door. “Just remove it, okay?”

  “That’s a hundred and forty dollar bottle. Are you sure?”

  Erin was watching me out of the corner of her eye. “We’re sure.”

  If he thought he was getting a tip, he had another thing coming.

  She shut the door behind him, leaning on it for a second. “Are you okay?”

  “This day is testing my patience.”

  “I can see that. Well, as your doctor, I’m prescribing a hot shower and some dinner.”

  My mind blanked, stalling all over visions of wet doctor and things my cock could do to her. Hands, too. My hands definitely wanted in on the action. My tongue felt thick, demanding to participate. She was fantastic with diversions. “If you think it would help.”

  She crossed her arms. “I do.”

  Her stance was propping her boobs up nicely. The entire package leached the anger from my bones. “Well, you are a professional.”

  “I didn’t order the wine.”

  I know. I’m an asshole. “I know.”

  “You thought I did.”

  She had me there.

  “I wouldn’t do something like that to you, Adam. Not now; not ever.”

  I could easily see she was telling the truth.

  “It hurts that you’d think that of me.”

  I’m a very big asshole. Dad always told us to man up when we were wrong. “I’m sorry.”

  “I would never disrespect you like that. Never.” She huffed. “Promise me that this is the last time you’ll doubt me on that.”

  Her knocking my ass in line was sort of a turn on. “I promise.”

  Erin nodded, still holding her ground. Her focus shifted to the mess of papers she left on the corner of the bed. Just when I was sure she’d want to talk about that fucking contract, she motioned toward the bathroom. “Time for an attitude adjustment. How about a hot shower and then we go find a place to eat?”

  I crossed the distance and squared off with her. “Is that your final order, Doc?”

  She put up her best front. “Your swagger isn’t going to save you on this one.”

  “My swagger?”

  Her chin jutted out, and for a second I could see her taking the same stance reprimanding our children one day. The boy would be a spitting image of me, no doubt earning her starch on a daily basis. A daughter would be just as much of a hard-ass, but she’d have me wrapped around her finger just like her mom.

  “I’m not used to people doubting me.”

  I pulled her in, breaking her feeble wall with effortless ease. “I’m not used to people giving a shit.”

  Her hands slid up my arms. “Well, I do. Very much.”

  Her words were like a shock to the heart, but for some reason they didn’t scare the hell out of me. The only thing I was concerned about was making that crinkle of pity disappear from her face.

  “Very much?” I didn’t need to ask, but I did anyway. The way she was staring me down, drilling her meaning into me with just a look, left zero doubt.

  “Yes,” she said.

  “Then let me apologize.” One lift up and her feet left the ground, my tongue was much better with words than I was. A few more steps and I had her flat on her back on our hotel bed, showing her instead of talking myself into another corner.

  The entire world ceased to exist whenever I was between her legs. She was a safe haven, a place I could weather any storm. After Nikki, I was convinced love was for saps. It was the last thing I wanted and sure as hell didn’t need it clogging up my life. I was sorely wrong.

  Erin moaned in my mouth. “I like the way you apologize.”

  My hand squeezed harder, blocking out the ping of another incoming text. I wondered if her hard nipple would taste as good as it felt. “Protect, serve, admit when I’m wrong. All in a day’s work.”

  She giggled when I slid her shirt up.

  I was moving her bra out of my way when Erin startled underneath me, peering over my shoulder in the direction of the noise.

  Renewed frustration made me borderline homicidal. “Somebody has a death wish.”

  I glared at the door, willing the interruption to go away. It didn’t take long for that second knock to sound.

  Erin combed her fingers through my hair, groaning when I lifted off her. “You have my permission to shoot them.”

  I pulled my shirt down over my aching cock, feeling it deflate after looking through the peephole. Fuck. How was I going to explain this one to Erin?

  The pain in my ass knocked again.

  “You going to answer it?” she murmured, straightening her shirt.

  “Do I have to?”

  Erin frowned and rolled up off the bed, curious.

  I gripped the doorknob, stopping Erin in her tracks.

  Melissa Werner’s instant sultry smile made my stomach roil. She eyed me up and down as if I were a feast or something. I should have just closed the door.

  “You going to invite me in?” she purred.

  I blocked the doorway. “I didn’t look at the contract yet.”

  She focused on my hair for some reason, then down to my crotch. “You look a bit frustrated. Anything I can do to help?”

  My grip on the doorframe tightened. “No. I’m good.”

  She wet her lip. “A man of few words. Did you get my gift?”


  She tried to look past me. “I ordered a bottle of wine for us. Thought we could have a drink, discuss things. Whatever concerns you may have. I hate that you left my office so angry.”

  “I don’t respond well to strong-armed tactics. And I sent the bottle back.”

  “You what?”

  I hated having to explain myself. “I’m a little busy right now.”

  Erin put her hand on my ass. How other guys could juggle more than one woman at a time was beyond me. It’d be more of a pain in the ass than it was worth.

  “You’re busy,” Melissa repeated, as if she didn’t believe me. “Too busy to have a drink and go to dinner with me? I know a great place. The food is fantastic.”

  Erin’s hand shifted just enough to be a reminder that she was standing right behind me.

  I opened the door wide enough for Melissa to see in. It was time to shut down her unwanted attention.

  EVERY WOMAN WANTS to believe that the man she’s with only has eyes for her. That old adage is almost akin to flipping a coin in the air and hoping you guessed correctly. My mom had a saying that she repeated often: “You can find trash on every street corner. Try to find gold instead. You’re gold. Never forget that and never settle for anything less.”

  Not only was Adam handsome, he was extremely cute, too. Killer dimples when he smiled. That boyish charm he exuded without even trying. All of that mixed in with a fantastic body and formidable badass vibe made him very desirable. And so far, though he may have stumbled along the way, he’d treated me like gold.

  It was only natural that I wanted to classify him the same.

  Apparently the woman on the other side of the door thought so, too. I could hear it in her delivery, the way she drew out each of her words to give them a flirtatious undertone all meant to entice him.

  I had no idea what was really waiting on the other side of that door, but I was more than
ready to confront it. New York, meet Philly. We hit just as hard and probably with less finesse.

  Adam shocked me by opening the door wider, letting me size up what I could only assume was the competition. I felt my inner claws coming out, ready to scratch out the shocked eyes attached to the raven-haired model staring back at me.

  “You’re kidding,” the woman murmured.

  I didn’t think Adam would bring me with him to New York to humiliate me, though the thought did cross my mind seeing he was right in the middle of being caught unexpectedly. Why else would I be staring down a very attractive woman who knew which door to knock on?

  At least Adam didn’t seem too worried about this showdown. No, he was definitely unruffled.

  “Erin, this is Melissa Werner. She owns the production company that oversees our show.”

  I saw her switch tactics, donning one of the many masks women wear when we don’t want to appear beaten by the game. In an instant I had to decide what kind of woman I wanted to be. I’d allowed women just like this one to defeat me before, to take what was mine right out of my hands and leave me in the dust, feeling victimized, crushed, and lonely.

  I’d been hurt before, been tested more times than I cared to admit, but I still had a choice on how I was going to react.

  I stuck out my hand, waiting while she decided to return the gesture. I found the action to be just as unappealing but I wasn’t going to be rude.

  She eyed me shrewdly. “You look familiar. Have we met before?”

  I dropped her well-manicured hand, her fingers just as cold as the aura that surrounded her. I stopped trying to have pretty nails my first year of med school. “I don’t think so.”

  “I never forget a face.” She stepped inside our room uninvited, scrutinizing our bed.

  Her perusal felt like a violation. “I’m sure we’ve never met.”

  Her simple “hmm” was annoying. “You returned the wine?”

  “I don’t drink,” Adam simply replied.

  This also confounded her until she turned back on me. “I know where I know you from. You’re the doctor they pulled over in the stolen car, aren’t you? That’s how I know you.”

  No. Wrong. “That was my car. It wasn’t stolen.”

  She gaped at Adam. “Wait. You’re dating her now? You don’t waste time.”

  Adam glared back. “My personal life is none of your business.”

  “It is when it turns my show into a media embarrassment with the network,” she snapped.

  His stare turned lethal, a wordless warning that he was one more snide comment away from tossing her out into the hallway.

  “What does that mean? Why would that even be a concern?” I was sure there was something in that contract that I must have missed.

  “The footage they filmed of you,” Adam muttered over to me, his chest rising and falling rapidly.

  “I’m not a criminal.” Renewed panic rolled through me. “I didn’t do anything wrong. You can’t show it, can you? I told them no. I didn’t give my consent.”

  “You said ‘no’?” Adam asked.

  I nodded. “I thought it was for the local news. They shoved that paper at me so fast and said I had to sign it but I refused.”

  He set his hands on his hips. “You didn’t sign anything?”

  “No. Why would I? I shouldn’t have even worked on those injured people but I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing. I didn’t know if the news could show it anyway.”

  His head snapped over to Melissa. “And you knew this the whole time, didn’t you? Didn’t you?”

  Melissa shrugged as though she didn’t have a care in the world.

  “Unbelievable,” Adam growled.

  “We can air any footage we want, with adjustments, of course. Surprisingly most people want their fifteen minutes of fame. But for those who do not consent, we can simply blur out their faces.”

  I wanted to do worse to hers. “You do that and I’ll sue you.”

  Melissa shifted on her pointy stilettos. “You can try, but it will be after the fact. Well, this conversation is going nowhere fast.” She shoved her purse under her armpit. “The deal still stands. The network expects our formal marketing and rebranding by next week. I’ll expect to hear from you soon, Adam.”

  “Deal? You call having the rights to withhold compensation if he gets hurt doing his job a deal?”

  “Erin,” Adam censured.

  Reining in my anger was difficult.

  “You uphold my demand and I’ll consider it,” he said, “but I want it in writing.”

  This entire exchange baffled me. “What demand?”

  Adam frowned, quickly dismissing my question.

  “You care for her that much?”

  “Yes.” His reply was instant, without pause or doubt or contemplation.

  “Wow.” She sighed, nodding at me for some reason. “Wow. Okay. You have my word.”

  “Wait. What are you agreeing to, Adam?”

  His lips smashed into a hard line while his subtle head shake said he wasn’t going to answer.

  “Adam?” I wanted an answer and I wanted it now.

  Melissa glanced at me, tisking as if I were stupid and she was inconvenienced. “He doesn’t want your footage aired.”

  “So you’re what? Blackmailing him to get him to do what you want? Capitalizing on the misfortunes of others?” It felt like a blow to the chest. “You’re unbelievable. Someone almost died that night.”

  She glowered at me. “I’m offering to make him a star.”

  Adam was a police officer. Privately he was as low key as low key could get. No, this didn’t add up. “Is that what you want?”

  “No,” he said emphatically.

  “So you’re doing this to what, protect me?”

  Adam ignored me. “I want it in writing. Then I’ll sign.”

  “No. No, screw that.” I stepped in between them. “You are not going to sign anything.” I pointed at Melissa. “And you are not going to pressure him into this. I don’t care who you are. You even think about airing that footage of me and I will sue you so you fucking fast your head will spin. So whatever it is you hope to accomplish here, your methods leave much to be desired.”

  “I don’t believe this,” she muttered to herself. “Adam, surely you can see the benefits here. The endorsement deals alone will make you a millionaire. How many years would it take you to earn that amount on your salary? Trust me; you want this opportunity.”

  I could see the temptation warring with his values.

  “You have no clue what I want,” he snapped. “None. You don’t know me.”

  She looked indignant. “You really want to be just a cop the rest of your life?”

  I grabbed the contract off the edge of the bed, shoving it at her. “That’s it. Time for you to go. And take this bullshit with you.”

  “You can’t talk to me like that. Besides, I paid for this room,” she countered, unabashed.

  “Well then, I’ll be sure to fuck his brains out on that bed before we leave.”

  Adam snorted.

  Her jaw ticked until a hint of a smile played on her lips. “I like you. It’s a shame; we could have been friends.”

  “After you just insulted my boyfriend? Not in a million years.”

  Melissa righted herself. “Yes, well… boyfriends are temporary.” She eyed Adam up and down one last time while I held the door open. “I’ll be in touch.”

  “Thanks for the warning.” I shoved the door closed.

  Adam rested his hands on his hips and sighed. “Well…”

  I leaned on the door, guarding it. “Now I know what the antichrist looks like.”

  Adam laughed. It was good to see his smile again.

  “I hope I didn’t make things worse.”

  Adam shrugged it off. “I don’t think things could have gotten any worse than they already were.”

  “Were you really going to sign that to protect me?”

  His refusal to answer
was answer enough.

  “Adam.” The magnitude of that knowledge settled hard on my chest. “Now I know why you were so upset earlier.”

  “I don’t want that shit touching you. Any of it.”

  “I appreciate that, but I wish you would have told me.”

  “It was my decision,” he said flatly.

  “Yeah, but if it affects you, it affects us. You know what I mean? This is part of that trust thing. Well, at least it is for me.”

  He crossed his arms. “Stuff like this… you’ll just have to trust that I’ll take care of things.”

  “No, that’s not how this works. I want a partnership with someone, Adam, not you thinking you know what’s best for both of us.”

  He combed his fingers back through his hair, tugging while nodding at the floor. “Yeah, you’re right.”

  I liked the feel of winning. It was warm and cozy and empowering. So was wrapping my arms around his thick shoulders, although it all paled in comparison to the overwhelming love I had for him. “Thank you.”

  “I suppose I should get used to admitting that,” he joked.

  “What? That I’m right?”

  He smirked and rolled his eyes.

  “That’s not why I said it. I’m just relieved that you want to take care of things.”

  His hands slid from my hips to cupping my ass. “Speaking of which… I believe you mentioned something about fucking my brains out?”

  “Oh, you caught that, did you?”

  He nodded. “It was well played, too.”

  “She was a bitch.”

  I found myself being lifted and relocated across the room. The mattress hit the back of my legs.

  “As I said, well played.”

  The billowy comforter caught me like a soft, cottony cloud. Adam pressed some of his weight down on me, pinning me to the spot.

  “I was afraid she might try to take a swing at me.”

  “I’d never let that happen.” He brushed the hair off my cheek. “I didn’t want any of this near you, but I see now that I can’t prevent it.”

  Each piece he gave of himself made me fall hopelessly deeper to the point that the actual word hovered in my throat, desperate to be spoken. “You can’t hide parts just because you think I’m not strong enough to take it.”

  “I know you’re strong enough; believe me.” His fingertip tickled through my hair. “Still doesn’t change things.” I loved his smile. It was devastatingly beautiful and quickly becoming something I feared I couldn’t live without.

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