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       Jacked, p.49

           Tina Reber
 

  “Hallway sex?” He stumped me with that one. I hadn’t fucked Erin at the top of the steps yet, but I could move that location up on the to-do list if it was recommended.

  “Listen, there are three different types of sex in a marriage. There’s exciting sex, necessary sex, and hallway sex. Exciting sex is the kind of sex you’re having right now, when you first hook up and can’t wait to get at each other. Necessary sex comes along after you’ve been married a few years and your woman sees it as more of chore than anything. And hallway sex is after you’ve been married so damn long, you pass each other in the hallway and say ‘fuck you!’”

  I cracked up laughing.

  “There’s actually a fourth kind of sex,” he continued, “but we don’t like to talk about it. That’s courtroom sex—where your wife and her lawyer fuck you in public. Ain’t no man want to get anywhere near that kind of sex.”

  My gut started to hurt. “You’re too much.”

  “That’s what she said.” He grinned broadly at me.

  I hopped up and gave him a pat on the arm. “Any lawyer tries to fuck me, I’m capping his ass.”

  “Damn straight. Trick is not letting it get there by picking the right one.”

  I stopped. “You don’t think she’s the right one?”

  “Didn’t say that. She’s as right for you as they come. Shit between you and Nikki was toxic. I think Erin keeps you balanced. Just don’t let yourself get off course.”

  I adjusted my utility belt, forcing myself to focus. Someone out there was threatening to ruin everything I held sacred.

  Someone had fired twelve shots into Erin’s house.

  She didn’t know about the two rounds I’d found embedded in her bedroom wall yesterday, but thankfully she didn’t argue when I said I was driving her to work tonight.

  Somebody had been watching her house, watching her, and there was no telling how long it had been going on.

  The anger seethed inside me, begging for an outlet; someone was stalking the woman I love.

  Worry also compounded on top of that, knowing the fucker was still at large.

  I climbed into the passenger seat of our rig, fighting the remorse. Nikki was psychotic to a certain degree and extremely vindictive, but I’d never thought she’d go this far.

  IT WAS ALMOST two in the morning when dispatch relayed the call that alarms were going off at another dealership.

  When Marcus heard the name and location, one look between us made him punch the gas pedal. Control gave me the callback number as I’d been requested by name by the caller.

  We were about a mile away from Novak Ford when I turned on the two jackasses in our back seat. “You cannot film any of this. I see you even touch your equipment and I will arrest you both for obstruction of justice.”

  Ritchie held up his hands. Scott was too busy fucking with his phone to acknowledge me.

  “Scott, you copy?”

  Fucker twitched when I yelled. “Yeah, yeah.”

  I didn’t have time to figure out what his problem was. Other units were already on scene when we rolled up. After checking in with them I assumed tactical command. This was my show now. Erin’s dad, Steve, was standing near his car with an officer while others cleared the scene.

  “Steve.” I shook his hand and gave him a manly hug though it was clear he was stressed. I’d seen him just yesterday when he moved his daughter into my house, and was getting familiar with seeing his scowl.

  At least he was cool about it, though Erin’s house getting shot at was not making me his favorite person at the moment.

  “Thanks for coming, Adam. Guess it was just a matter of time, huh?”

  I pat his shoulder, hating we were meeting like this, and completely pissed this bullshit was now touching those I’d consider family. This shit had to stop, like yesterday. “Hang tight a sec.”

  As I’d suspected, the maintenance area of the dealership had been breached. The door locks had been snapped with what looked like a crowbar wedge.

  It was going to be a long night.

  ERIN’S FATHER RUBBED his forehead. “Well, it looks like they just got the five new deliveries that were in for premaintenance inspection.”

  It was eating me alive that I hadn’t been able to stop them before they struck again. Saying I was sorry didn’t alleviate my guilt.

  “This isn’t your fault, Adam,” Steve said.

  Yeah, it kinda was. “I’ll check in with you later. I have to go pick up Erin.”

  I could sense Marcus was ready to roll. He’d taken Dumb and Dumber back to Headquarters hours ago, dumping them off of our watch. Both of them had been squirrely—Scott especially. Guess if they weren’t busy making my life fucking miserable, they were bored.

  Steve glanced at Marcus and then back at me. “Adam? A word?”

  “I’ll be waiting outside,” Marcus mumbled, eyeing me.

  Steven closed his office door. I knew what was coming next.

  “I love her,” I preempted.

  “I know you do. But one day you’ll be a father too, then you’ll know where I’m coming from. Cars, inventory—that can be replaced. My girls…,” he drilled me with his most serious look, “can’t. I need to know what happened here, what happened at her house, that it’s going to stop.”

  “I can’t make any guarantees, but I’m trying my best.”

  He put his hands on his hips. “She came home to her mother and me in tears, didn’t hear from you for weeks, and then overnight she’s moving in with you? I know she’s a grown woman, but I’m still her father.”

  I raised a hand. “I called her—every day. I left messages—every day. Apologized every time. I never quit trying.”

  “I can see how you are with her.” He looked me up and down. “I haven’t seen anything yet to make me think you aren’t a good man.”

  “Thank you, sir.”

  “I just need to know she’s safe.”

  I rested my hand on my weapon, knowing I would not hesitate using it to protect her. “No offense, but she’s safer with me than she is with you and your wife.”

  His gaze fell to my gun. “I don’t like that she’s in danger in the first place.”

  And you think I do? I held my tongue. “Believe me; I’m using all my resources to find out who did it. And this here, tonight, is second to keeping Erin safe and breathing easy. I have security at the hospital keeping extra eyes on things. I’m going to escort her to and from work as much as possible. Beyond sleeping with a loaded gun, I’m doing my best. We have a lot of good people working on both cases.”

  Steve sighed and nodded at me.

  “And one day, once all of this is settled, I plan on asking you and Christine for your blessing. Until then, I’m going to guard your daughter with my life and find out who the hell stole from you. You good with that?”

  It was relieving to see him smile. He reached out and shook my hand. “I’m good with that.”

  “Good. Now maybe you can tell me how to break all of this to your daughter.”

  Steven laughed. “You’re on your own there.”

  “Leaving my ass hanging in the wind already?”

  His grin widened. “Yep. And if you don’t get going soon, you’ll have more than this to contend with. At least I won’t make you deal with her mother on top of it.”

  Now was as good of a time as any. “While we’re being real, I want you to know that I know what happened to her when she was sixteen.”

  Steven paled. “She… she told you?”

  “Reluctantly, but yeah. I got it out of her.”

  Steven glanced around his office, muttering. “She had no knowledge of what that woman was doing, Adam. No one did.”

  I nodded. “I know. I read the court transcripts and reviewed the case file. There are no records of her being detained as a suspect.”

  “Good. That’s good. Then you know she was alone with that little girl when she died.” He sat behind his desk. “I guess I don’t need to tell you how trau
matized she was. She, well, she withdrew on us, hiding in her room, refused to see her friends—what ones she had left. We had to put her in counseling. We changed her school.” He choked up, trying to hold back his tears. “She had nightmares for years. Would wake up in the middle of the night crying. Her mother and I felt helpless.”

  I knew she’d left some details out—things she’d feel embarrassed about. “She thinks she’s going to turn into the same if she gets pregnant.”

  Steven let out a small scoff. “That’s ridiculous. Erin’s always been the caretaker in the family. Even after it happened, she didn’t want her mother or me to worry. She would downplay it, make up excuses.”

  “I pointed that out to her, but it’s going to take some work convincing her. I could use your support here, knowing that I know what went down. Need to know you and I are on the same team.”

  “Yeah, of course.” Stephen stood, joining me near his office door. He reached out, wanting to shake my hand. He pulled me into a hug and gave me a few firm pats on the back. “When that time comes and you’re ready, there’s no need to ask.”

  There were no other words necessary.

  I was still smiling when I climbed back into our rig and texted Erin to tell her I was running late. Fortunately for me, Marcus liked to drive fast.

  I WAITED UNTIL Erin and I were home to break the news to her about the robbery at her dad’s business. I had thought about dropping her off and going to the gym for a few hours to burn off the hostility, but that seemed like a move a coward would make.

  Having her hear about it from someone else while I evaded and avoided would only create another disaster and prove her point that we shouldn’t have jumped into this so quickly.

  After all, it was my doing that she was here, living with me now. Most of her stuff was boxed up and locked in a storage unit; her clothes and personal items were stacked in boxes and garbage bags in the spare room upstairs. And from the looks of it, she was walking around on eggshells, trying not to disrupt my life or my routine.

  I knew for a fact she was reading my mood, asking where she could stow her dirty clothes as though it was a precursory step to defusing a bomb.

  It wasn’t lost on me that I was the one ticking.

  “Are you going to tell me what has you tangled in knots or do I have to go and get your bag of rope?” She opened one of my drawers and pulled out a T-shirt. “And yes, I’m wearing your clothes. It’s a girl thing. Helps me feel like I belong to you and that you actually want me here.”

  “I don’t care if you wear my clothes.” Seeing her in nothing but a pair of cute panties, pulling one of my shirts over her head did stuff to my chest. “It’s hot, actually.”

  Her chin rose. “Good. If there’s nothing else, I’ll be down in the kitchen looking for something to eat. I used my dinner break to work on a man who lost a battle with a jammed nail gun and I’m starving. I’ll try not to eat too much of your stuff. I’ll grocery shop later so I have my own food.”

  “Erin…”

  “This was your idea, Adam, not mine. I do not want a relationship with someone who forces me to spill my demons and then clams up conveniently because he’s in charge of making the rules. You asked me to live with you but here we are, day two and you’re already avoiding me.”

  “I’m not avoiding you.”

  “Yeah. Okay.”

  “I’m not.”

  “You barely said ten words to me the whole way here. And now…” The hurt in her eyes was killing me. “Did you change your mind? Just tell me. Do you want me to go?”

  Why was she even thinking that? “No. I don’t want you to go.”

  “If you don’t want to live with me or whatever please just say so.” She pulled a pair of jeans out of a suitcase and started to put them on. Her stuff was here but she was far from settled in. I didn’t even want to think about how easy it would be for her to just carry her belongings back out of my house.

  “I want you here, Erin. I’ll make some room for your clothes. Is that what you want?”

  “Don’t go out of your way. I’ll manage.”

  Damn it! “Why are you being like this?”

  She glared at me. “Why haven’t I met your parents or anyone in your family?”

  She wants to meet my parents? “I don’t know.”

  “Are you ashamed of me?”

  “What? No.”

  “Maybe this was all too fast. We shouldn’t have… Trying to live together like this.”

  “Erin, listen.” I hooked her arm, halting her mumbling retreat. I had no other choice. I held her, firm but gentle, needing her to understand. “Babe, your dad’s dealership was hit last night.”

  Her mouth fell open. “What?”

  “Thieves made off with five cars.” She could see I wasn’t messing around. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell you, ’cause I don’t want you upset and worried.”

  “Is he okay?” She tried to tear out of my hold. “I have to call him.”

  I held her fast. “Your dad is fine. Pissed off, but fine. No one was hurt.”

  “Oh, thank God.”

  I pulled her closer, ignoring everything including the new text message chimes going off in my pocket. “I told him I’d talk to you. But first, I want you to quit thinking I don’t want you here. No more of that, Doc. I love you. You’re my girlfriend. We’re living together. What’s mine is yours, okay? Okay?”

  “Okay. I copy.”

  That’s my girl.

  “I’m meeting him in a little while to continue my investigation. While I’m doing that, rearrange the closet. Put your shit in there. Unpack and settle in. I’m going to find out who did this, I promise you, but you’ve got to give me time.”

  She nodded at me but her body was still rigid.

  “I can’t risk you feeling unsafe with me, Erin. And yeah, I’m worried this will just be another wedge between us.”

  She attempted to step back. Tried, but failed.

  “Sweetheart, you’ve got to give me that chance.” I put her hand on my heart, holding it there. “That’s yours. This house is your home. I will protect you with my life. But you’ve got to let me try.”

  “Someone tried to kill me, Adam. And now my dad…” The fear choked off her words.

  “I have not stopped trying to figure out who attempted to hurt you. Do you for one second think I’ve forgotten or that I know the danger still exists out there? Your dad… well I can’t say for certain if it was personal as we’ve had numerous dealerships hit. Not just here but all over Jersey. But I can’t do my job, I can’t stop this while worrying that the woman I love is going to leave me.”

  I searched her eyes, her face, hoping to see her fear and distrust diminish. “I lost you once, Erin, and it nearly killed me. I’d rather take a bullet than watch you slip away.”

  “I just want to be normal. To be happily oblivious.”

  “I swear I’ll do everything in my power to give you that. Give me your trust and understanding and let me bury these fuckers. I’m working with the feds to get Jamal Clemons moved into protective custody until Carter Mancuso gets indicted. I don’t want you testifying unless there are no other options. We have units processing the scene at your dad’s lot. I have surveillance tapes and forensics to review. But I’m going to put them all away.”

  “Then what?”

  She’d lost me.

  “You put them away and they come after you for retribution. Where does it end?”

  “It doesn’t work that way. I’m not the only investigator on this. And a District Attorney will put them away, not me.”

  The worry plaguing her was tangible. “Then you’re safe?”

  “Then we’re safe. I can’t change that you worked on Jamal when he came through your emergency room. This shit touched you too, babe. But I promise, I swear it will be over soon.”

  Erin nodded, filling me with relief when she rested her head on my chest. “I need puppies and rainbows, Cop.”

 
I kissed her head. “I’ll get you a puppy, Doc. Rainbows only come after the rain.”

  She tilted her chin up and reached to kiss me. I needed that more than she knew.

  “I’ll call my mom, make arrangements,” I said on her mouth. “They know I’m seeing you. My mom is over the damn moon and will probably drive you nuts. It’s just been hard to get over there with our schedules.”

  I needed to stop thinking about my parents while Erin was tucking her fingertips underneath the elastic band of my underwear.

  “We still have one more problem.”

  She sagged in my arms and groaned.

  “I got the hospital bill for my stitches. Seems my emergency physician charged me six hundred bucks.”

  Erin snorted. “Told you I was expensive. Wait until you see the ER bill.”

  “I’m not sure I got six hundred dollars worth of service out of you.”

  Erin’s lips wrinkled. “Feed me, let me call my dad, and we’ll see if we can work out a payment plan.”

  MARCUS PULLED UP a chair next to me, eyeing my monitor. “What’s this now?”

  “Surveillance video from Novak Ford. One guy breached the door, and then watch as five more come out of the shadows.”

  Marcus leaned closer. “They were aware of the cameras. None of them looked up. Didn’t even bother to take ’em out.”

  “Yeah. Can’t see any of their faces. Looks like all were wearing ski masks.”

  Marcus sighed. “Five new cars in, five drivers and one muscle to get them out.”

  “Yep.” I pushed all the background checks on the dealership employees over to him. “Just like the other thefts. I checked the delivery schedules. Only five new cars were delivered to Novak, so somebody knew what inventory was coming in.”

  Marcus glanced over the printout. “They could easily put a crew together in an hour.”

  “And figure out when they’d go through pre-inspection service. Haven’t ID’d anyone, but one guy has a bit of a limp.” I played the recording again. “See, this one here. He’s dragging his left leg. We got any suspects that fit?”

 
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