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Tom turns when I tap his shoulder and his eyes register surprise, but he smiles. “Hey, Mason.”
I shake his hand. “How’s it going, Caldwell?”
“Good. Just stopping in for a drink after court.”
“Yeah, me too.”
Over Tom’s shoulder, I spot Kennedy. Those thick-lashed turquoise eyes narrow for a moment—like she’s preparing to tear me a new one—but then she snorts to herself and shakes her head. A sign that just maybe, she’s prepared to throw in the towel on giving me a hard time. At least for the time being.
I step through the group, nodding to a few familiar faces, until I’m standing in front of her. So close she has to look up to keep eye contact. One corner of her mouth quirks. “You realize stalking is a crime?”
“Stalking?” I scoff. “Someone has a pretty high opinion of herself. I come here all the time.”
“You come here? To this bar?”
“Yeah.” I shrug. “Don’t be paranoid.”
She stretches up, her breath tickling my ear. “It’s not paranoia if it’s true. Look around.”
I do. And that’s when I realize why she doesn’t believe me. Because the place is filled with police officers—some in uniform, some plain-clothed with their guns and badges still visible. It’s a cop bar. Cops and prosecutors flock together—because they’re generally on the same side.
You know who’s not on their side? Criminal defense attorneys.
Kennedy’s eyebrows lift. “Care to rephrase your statement?”
“Nope. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
She chuckles.
“Hey, Brent. I haven’t seen you in forever!”
Michelle Lawson—a delectable brunette prosecutor I dated briefly a few years back—wiggles up to my side and kisses me hello on the cheek. She’s a nice girl, we had a few good times—and I mean that exactly like you think I do—and then it ran its course. No hard feelings.
“Hey, Michelle. How are you?”
“Same old, same old. You look good, Brent.”
“Thanks.” I wink. “You too.”
An unhappy shadow falls over Kennedy’s face as she watches our exchange.
“What are you drinking?” I ask her, after Michelle moves on.
Kennedy’s tongue peeks out, wetting her plump bottom lip. “Pinot grigio.” She puts her hand on my bicep—deliberately—almost possessively. And she leans in so close I can smell the sweet wine on her breath. “Get me another, please?”
I don’t really know what’s going on here. I’m not sure how we got from her calling me a dumbass in court an hour ago, to her flirting with me now. But hell if I’m going to question it—I get the lady her drink.
• • •
We spend the next half hour talking, teasing, laughing—about absolutely nothing that matters. Sometimes with the people around us, but mostly each other. Kennedy looks me up and down. Boldly. Seductively. She touches my arm, my chest. She leans in close and speaks softly into my ear.
I’m hard as a rock the entire fucking time—but I’m not complaining.
I just want to know what her game is. Why the sudden change in attitude? I plan to ask her as soon as we’re alone, but she beats me to the punch.
“You want to get out of here?” she asks, with one hand on her hip, the other rubbing up and down my chest. Driving me insane.
“You took the words right out of my mouth.”
Her smile is slow, secretive. “Then maybe you’ll have to put something in mine—to make it an even trade.”
Did she just really say that? Holy shit, if this is a dream—put me in a goddamn coma.
My heart pounds a little harder. “Sounds like a plan.”
She hooks her thumb behind her. “I’m just going to hit the ladies room first.”
As she turns I down the rest of my beer, wishing it was something stronger. I have to play this just right. I have lots of questions, there’s so many things I want to know—and so many positions I want to screw her in.
A mug crashes off a table in the back, drawing my head in that direction. Toward two big, drunk, numbnuts talking shit and shoving each other, ready to brawl. There’s a narrow hallway to the bathroom, and Kennedy doesn’t have a lot of room to make it past them.
I know exactly what’s going to happen—and there’s no fucking way I’m going to let it.
A second later I have my arm around Kennedy’s waist, lifting and turning her, putting her safely behind me. Then I shove the back of the dickhead who would’ve collided with her.
“You want to beat the shit out of someone, do it outside,” I growl.
The jerk-off forgets about the original guy he wanted to pound on and turns on me. “Who the fuck are you?”
I get in his face, my voice low and lethal. “You almost knocked into my girl. If you had, you’d be in a world of fucking hurt right now. So I’m the guy who’s telling you to stop being an asshole. If that’s gonna be a problem, I can step outside too.”
He stares at my face—probably trying to figure out if I’m serious. I have a few inches on him, my jaw is rigid, and my eyes are hard—I’m totally fucking serious. After a moment, he senses that and backs down.
“I don’t have a problem with you.” He shrugs, swaying unsteadily.