Authors: Casey L. Bond
Tags: #NA contemporary romance serial
Sure enough he stepped out, locked the door behind him, and then turned to find me waiting near his truck. An infectious smile spread from his mouth to mine. “You ready, B?”
“I can’t wait!” Bouncing on the balls of my feet, I waited for him to unlock it and jumped inside, buckling up.
I asked him about his day, which he said sucked. “First day back from vacation always sucks,” he explained.
“You worked at the condos for your entire vacation, so it’s not like you had much of a break.”
He glanced over at me. “I enjoyed hanging out with you.”
I couldn’t fight the smile. “I like you too, C.”
That made him laugh out loud; the deep timbre echoing through the hollow truck cab, filling my heart up.
He had been quiet for about a mile when he finally looked over at me. “You putting on a show Friday, huh?”
“Wanda,” I grumbled. Rubbing my sweaty palms down my pants, I waited for them to dry and then pushed my hair out of my face. The wind was nice, but it made me eat my tresses—what little of them were left. “Yeah. You coming?”
He smirked. “I’ll be on duty, but yeah. I have to keep the peace. The last time Wanda had a big show, I got called out to help. Remember?”
I shook my head. “I most certainly do not.”
Colt snorted. “That’s a night
never forget.” He winked at me and kept driving, completely unaffected; unaware that my entire body started to hum like a tuning fork.
Harm had everything ready. The background check came back pristine, except for my misdemeanor, but only felons were banned from purchasing firearms, so Pinky was mine! Colt promised Harm that he would show me how to use it properly and teach me gun safety and how to care for it, so Harm let us go without his usual instructions. We hurried to the dirt road that led to the hillside where the target was ready and waiting for us.
Colt attached a new human-shaped target on top of the holey one so we could tell where I shot. I hoped I would improve. It took hours yesterday just to shoot the square, let alone the guy in the middle.
“We’re going to shoot from here for a bit and then I want to move you closer to the target.”
Colt’s eyes softened. “Not all bad guys will be fifty yards away, B.”
I swallowed, a shiver running down my spine. “Okay. Yeah, of course not.”
Feet spread apart. Steady.
Repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. An hour later and I was still hitting the square, but not the man. Colt was getting aggravated, or maybe my frustration was leaking into him. “You have to try harder,” he ground out.
“I know! I’m trying. It’s not like I’ve been shooting for years like you. I’ve been shooting for two days!”
He huffed and told me to put the safety on, and then to lay the gun down on the hood of the truck for a minute. Jogging to the target, Colt placed a fresh one on top and jogged back to me. “Get Pinky and come with me. We’re moving closer.”
“How close?” I followed his instructions.
Fifteen feet? That was too close. My hands began to shake. I looked at the target, just a white piece of paper with a dark outline of a man and a tiny white heart over where the person’s heart would be. It hit me. I was training to kill a man. I was training to kill
Why couldn’t the police help me? Why wouldn’t someone help me?
Colt glanced over at me when I stepped up to him. “You okay?” His brows knitted together.
I nodded. “Yeah.”
Colt’s warm hand found my lower back. “It’s just like it was back there. But from this distance, you’ll probably be a much better shot.”
“Asshole,” I muttered, elbowing him in the ribs.
“Hey, I’m the asshole helping you. Remember that, B.”
His smile was ornery. “Same thing. Now show me whatcha got.”
Oh, I would show him what I had. Friday night.
Returning to the condo was the worst choice ever. Morgan lay in wait on the front steps. She jumped up when she saw us and waved her hands wildly. Then she ran down the steps and smiled. “Colt! Do you think I could borrow your police hat for a while? I want to photograph Brooklyn with it.”
His eyebrows raised. “I…you can’t get paint on it,” he warned.
She crossed her heart. “We won’t. I promise.”
When he went inside to retrieve his hat, I all but yelled, “What are you
? He could get in trouble for this! What if someone sees the Swift Rapids logo or something?”
Morgan smiled and tsked me. “That’s what Photoshop is for, Brook. I’ll make sure to change the logo or blur it. Besides, you’ll be even angrier with me in a minute.”
Colt came out of his place then, his hat tucked beneath his arm. “Need anything else?”
Morgan grinned. “Now that you mention it…how about your cruiser?”
He threw back his head and laughed, his eyes stilling on my mouth, which gaped open at my alleged bestie. “My cruiser?”
“I don’t know,” he replied warily, shifting his weight. “You’d have to make sure no one knows it’s mine.”
She grinned, looking between me and Colt. “You two are so much alike. I promise to cover it in Photoshop.”
Colt nodded. “Done. But I want to watch…to protect the department and my reputation, of course.”
I slapped him and Morgan giggled. “Of course.”
“Are you serious? I can
do this in front of him.”
Morgan waved me off. “You’re a professional! Besides, you can wear the robe until we actually shoot, at which time you’ll have his hat in front of your girls.”
She wanted me topless, in a pair of dark blue leather panties, sitting in the driver’s seat of his cruiser, wearing his hat. “You can cover your chest, I promise.”
It would be different if I didn’t have an audience, but when I peeked out of my window, Colt was sitting on the tailgate of his old truck, talking to Willy. Damn it.
“Can’t we do this another time?”
“No. But I guess you can wear the matching bra,” she grumbled, holding it up with one finger.
“Thanks, kid!” I snatched it out of her hand before she could change her mind.
I still used the robe. I mean, Willy was out there. Sure, they’d seen me in a bikini, but that was before I spent much time with either one of them. Swallowing, I straightened my spine and followed Morgan out into the evening. “It’s too dark, isn’t it?”
“Not for what I have planned.”
Morgan grinned over her shoulder. “The car’s lights, silly!”
“Oh, hell. Seriously?”
She was serious. Morgan had officially lost it. Colt had already pulled his cruiser around so the background was a wooded area across from the complex. Sin took his hat, opened the door of the cruiser, and positioned said hat upon my head.
Squinting, she looked at me. Holding up one finger, she ran to get something. “You need gloss!”
She was back with clear lip gloss before I could internally complain anymore, swiping the sticky goop onto my lips. “Press,” she instructed.
I mashed my lips together, spreading the gloss, and apparently she approved. She gently eased Colt’s hat onto my head, careful to avoid the waves along the longer side of my hair. “You look amazing,” she whispered. “And he can’t keep his eyes off you.”
“Willy?” I asked cheekily.
She grinned. “Nope.”
Butterflies fluttered their wings in my stomach, and it hit me that this was the first time I’d ever felt that sensation. Sure, I’d read about it in hundreds of different smut novels, but never felt them take flight until now. Taking a deep, steadying breath, I continued to avoid eye contact with Colt, the butterfly whisperer.
“I love these shoes,” she admitted, eyeballing the dark blue, patent leather pumps I wore. I’d created a monster.
“Me too. You can borrow them sometime.” These happened to be one of the only pairs I took with me from my apartment. A second epiphany. I didn’t think of my apartment as home. Vegas wasn’t home anymore.
Illinois, where the people I loved pretty much disowned me, wasn’t home either. To them, I was a black mark on a pristine image. Just like I was to Peter and to my family, I was an embarrassment. It stung with Daddy and Mama, but I expected no less when I told them that farm life wasn’t the life I wanted for myself. I could see them pushing me away because they couldn’t imagine the appeal that Vegas might have. They didn’t believe I was only dancing and singing, and not stripping and selling my body and soul. But what I didn’t expect was the reaction from my baby sister, Grace.
The day I met Sin, I was coming back from a trip to see her and my folks. Grace was in college and I wanted to hang out and find out about what her adventure was all about. But she shut me out, too. They were all polite, but you could always tell when you weren’t welcome somewhere. And I wasn’t welcome there anymore. I wasn’t welcome in their lives.
The hurt still stung, though not as sharply as it did then.
Morgan asked Colt to turn his cruiser’s lights on, and as he flipped the switches and the red and white began to flash, I took a deep breath and removed my short, white robe. I flung it over to Willy, who caught it with an ornery grin. But it wasn’t me he was grinning at. I followed his eyes where they led straight to Colt, who stood ramrod straight in front of me. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed, taking in my outfit.
I grinned and let Morgan position me in the driver’s seat. Then she took out the midnight blue paint and began to place streaks here and there. These weren’t cute like the fake yellow egg on my nose. These were intense, bold stripes. “I want you to look fierce, Brook.”
If it got that kind of reaction out of Colt, so did I. Hardening my features, I tried to be fearless.
It wasn’t as hard as you would have thought. I imagined what it would be like to march over to Colt, pull his face down to mine, and kiss him with a passion he’d never seen before. With that kiss, I’d erase the bitch who broke his heart and make Peter a distant memory. He would press me tightly to him, like he never wanted to let go, and I’d rake my fingernails down his back. We would fight and meld and cling to one another at the same time; his leg sliding between mine and pinning me to his car.
Willy cleared his throat, and Morgan groaned when I looked away from the camera.
Colt was quiet, looking all pissed off, just like he did the morning of the Fake Egg shoot—that was what I called it, anyway. That was the morning I thought he was just grumpy and in a bad mood. But tonight he wasn’t grumpy. He was turned on. He was turned on then too, but I didn’t know him well enough to recognize it.
Once she got all the shots she needed, Morgan pulled me up from the seat so I wouldn’t get paint on anything. She took Colt’s hat and gave it back to him, and then handed me some baby wipes to remove the dark blue streaks coating my skin. The cold wipes, combined with the night air that was losing its warmth and humidity, made my skin pebble and me shiver. Colt moved his car back to the empty spot in front of his house, but left the pickup where it sat in the grass. Although I scrubbed my skin until it was raw and pink to get that blue paint off, there were still specks of it left behind.
Something soft and warm fell over my shoulders and I turned to find Colt standing there, where he draped my robe back over me. “Thanks,” I muttered, tying the sash.
“No problem. Willy and I are going to do some work, so…yeah. See you tomorrow evening, B.”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“You ready?” he asked. It was what a friend would ask, but seemed like so much more. God, I hoped it was more.
“Yeah. I think I am.”
He nodded resolutely and waved for Willy to follow him. Willy hopped down from the tailgate and stopped to give me a pat on the back. “You looked beautiful, Brooklyn.”
I laughed, looking up at the blackening sky. Tears filled my eyes for some reason. Suddenly overwhelmed, it seemed like I was standing at a cliff where something dangerous was approaching behind me and the only way out was to jump, which scared me to death—maybe even more than whatever beast was after me.
Willy hugged me. “It’ll be okay. He’s coming around.”
How did he know? And why was this happening now? Why here? Why