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“Stop calling me Sweet Pea,” I snapped because I was again freaking out and I was trying to hide it.

His smile got bigger. “There it is,” he whispered, “and I like it.”

“Step away,” I demanded, pushing at his waist where my hands were but he didn’t move.

“There it is again.”

I clamped my mouth shut and glared at him.

He emitted another short, amused, deep, manly chuckle.

Then his lips hit mine and he murmured, “Hot.”

And me being me, in other words my mother’s daughter and a screaming loser, felt that one word murmured against my lips give me a tickle, a sweet one in a very private place.

Shit!

I pulled my head back the half an inch his face and the wall afforded me and I called, “Hello? Break-in? Sister in serious shit? Parents downstairs? The middle of the night? I’ve got deadlines, loads of work to do, a house that’s unsafe and I need to go to sleep so I can wake up tomorrow with the energy to get my life under control. Now can you please step away?”

He didn’t step away but his hands slid from my jaws to curl around my neck and his face moved back an inch.

“Sure, babe, but you need to know you’re not stayin’ here tonight. Got boys on the way to board up that window and you’re comin’ with me.”

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I stared up at him, shocked at this news, and, because I was a loser, titillated at the prospect of going with him wherever that would be. A major component of my daydreams the last year and a half centered around where he lived and spent his time and the idea of finally discovering the truth behind that, damn and blast, I had to admit was a discovery I really wanted to make.

Then I got smart and stated, “Dad will take care of my window tomorrow and I’m staying with him and Meredith tonight, that’s why they’re here.”

He completely ignored me.

“You’re comin’ with me.”

Seriously! This guy!

“No, I’m not.”

“Yeah, Gwen, you are.”

“I don’t know you other than knowing you and what I’m learning I do not like. I had a break-in tonight and it freaked me out in a serious way. It scared the hell out of me. I know my Dad and Meredith. I want to be with them tonight. I want to be someplace I know with people I know where I feel safe. I want to go home.”

He studied me again then his thumb did another sweep, this time against my neck and, being a loser, it felt nice.

“I can see you need that so I’ll let you do it,” he said softly.

“Well, thanks,” I replied not softly.

He grinned.

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I glared.

He kept grinning as I kept glaring then he murmured, “Yeah, totally f**kin’ missed out.”

Then his head dropped and since I had no place to go, I couldn’t avoid his lips brushing mine lightly in a way that made them tingle.

His head came up and he whispered, “Be smart, baby, my boys’ll secure your house and you can come home tomorrow. Yeah?”

Then his thumb swept my neck again, I liked it again but before I could answer, he let me go and he was gone.

I stood with my back against the wall, staring in the space he’d been in, wondering how he could vanish into thin air right before my eyes and then I realized I was breathing heavily.

Then I shook it off, telling myself I didn’t actually care it was fascinating he could evaporate. Telling myself the fact that he had “boys”, he flew Black Hawks, he had a “base”, part of what he did was security and his nickname was Hawk was not fascinating either.

And also telling myself he could do what he wanted, I was going to do what I wanted and he couldn’t make me do what he wanted.

Ef that!

Then I set about packing a bag to go home with Dad and Meredith.

When I was in my bathroom getting my stuff, I grabbed my lotion and bath gel and stopped dead.

It hadn’t registered with me until then, when I stood in my bathroom and stared at the plastic bottles in my hands.

My scent, the one I always used, was sweet pea.

Chapter Five

Hot-o-Meter

There was one good thing about getting your house broken into in the middle of the night because your sister was an idiot and having to phone your parents and then go spend the night with them: when they had to get up early to go to work and you didn’t so you could avoid the talk the next morning where they would want to know all about your idiot sister; how she put you in danger; how you put yourself in danger; why you didn’t tell them right off the bat; and why you’ve been keeping your perfect Army man boyfriend to yourself.

So, sleeping in, I avoided talking to Dad and Meredith.

However, when I went to the kitchen for coffee, on the counter I found a note from Dad which said:

G –

Tonight, dinner. 6:00 sharp. Be there.

Your window probably won’t be fixed for a week so pack a bag.

Don’t disappear or I’m calling Cam and sending Leo after you.

Love you, Dad.

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They say men are attracted to women who are like their mothers and women are attracted to men who are like their fathers. This must be true considering I’m attracted to hot, uber-macho, bossy guys.

I also had a note from Meredith which said:

Morning honey,

There are fresh bagels in the fridge, Einstein’s. Whipped cream cheese, your favorite.

See you tonight!

Hugs, Meredith

PS: I cannot tell you how happy I am for you after meeting Hawk! He’s so cute! And he’s sweet! And he’s smitten! YAY!

Cute? Sweet? Smitten? With underlines? And… yay?

Obviously my Dad wasn’t attracted to women like me. Good to know.

After coffee, a bagel and note reading, I had taken more than my usual going-to-sit-at-a-computer-all-day care with my appearance because I kept running into hot guys. Usually, I worked in yoga pants, camisoles or babydoll tees and lightweight hoodies. If it was summer, I might switch it up with shorts.

That morning I’d used Meredith’s makeup and curling iron (why she needed a curling iron with curly hair, I did not know but she had everything that had anything to do with being a girl, one of the many reasons why I loved her) and I curled my long hair into a mass of curls and waves with a heavy fall of hair at the front. I also put on makeup, something I never did unless I was going out. The rest, I couldn’t help because I’d packed in the middle of the night after a break-in, meeting a new hot guy and another bizarre and annoying (but, unfortunately, hot) confrontation with Hawk. So it was just jeans, a light blue tee from Thrifty Stick (a cool boarder shop on Broadway, I didn’t board but, like I mentioned, I could shop anywhere), with a black skull and crossbones above my br**sts that had a red “T” and “S” on and red bands around the neckline and sleeves, black belt, boots and thin, hooded, cardie sweater.

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