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I blinked again.

Then I asked, “What?”

“The case!” she cried. “The case! It’s the kind of case that could make his career. He scores a bust on this we’re talking awards, commendations, book deals. And he asked to be taken off the case because of you.”

Words were filtering into my brain like “Mitch” and “taken off the case” and “because of you”.

So, I repeated, “What?” but I did it in a breathy whisper this time.

“Gwen, I don’t know what you did but whatever you did, he… is… into you. Everyone is talking about it. I’ve been waiting all day to get a break so I could call then you weren’t picking up your cell so I had to wait to get home to my address book because I didn’t remember your stupid home phone number. I cannot believe this. He is fine. He is fine. And he’s nice. And he’s fine. Did I say he was fine?”

“Cam –”

“I mean, the Captain wouldn’t take him off the case but the fact that he asked. Shit, girl. Shit. Shit!” she shrieked.

“Cam –”

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“I love this. I’m talking to Leo the minute his ass walks through the door. We’re setting up a double date.”

“Cam!” I shouted.

“What?” she asked.

“I was broken into last night,” I told her.

“I know all about that, girl,” Cam replied in a “So what?” voice. “Meredith called me this morning and it’s the talk of the Station. I know all about MM too. I know everything.”

Shit, would I ever learn? I should never take my friends home because Meredith wriggled her way into their lives being a good, funny, generous person. Then I never could keep anything secret. I learned that early but did I stop my stupid behavior? No! Meredith still talked to my friend Chelsea from junior high. Chelsea lived on the Costa del Sol in Spain with some English gazillionaire and she and Meredith chatted several times a year and I hadn’t spoken to her in fifteen of them. We didn’t even exchange Christmas cards.

Repeat after me: family here, friends there and never the twain shall meet!

“Cam, things have become complicated,” I told her.

There was silence and then, “No, Gwen, you complicate things. I heard that MM declared his intentions and you contradicted him. Mitch heard it too. Stick to your guns. I know Mitch Lawson; I’ve known him for years. He’s a good cop, a good man and he wants a house with a white picket fence, two point five kids, a dog and a woman who can match his libido, which, rumor has it, runs in the red zone. He’s just never been able to find the one, even though he’s expended a fair amount of effort looking. Girl, you could be his one!”

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“Yeesh, Cam, how do you know so much about him?”

“Did I not say he was fine?” she shot back. “I got Leo but that don’t mean I can’t study fine, and I do.”

This was true. She did. She’d studied fine for so long and with such diligence, she was at a professorial level in fine.

“I can’t think about this, I have to work,” I told her. “I have commandos in my house installing a security system. Hawk crushed Troy like a bug in front of Tracy and the aforementioned commandos. My sister is in some serious shit that is leaking into my life. And Tack declared his intentions this morning and there was an Official Meeting of the Badasses in my yard, the culmination of which I am not privy to but I know that Lawson and Tack retreated and, from your news, I figure it’s to regroup. I also know that I’ve seen Hawk three times by the light of day and one of those times he brought me J’s Noodles for lunch so I’m guessing he thinks he’s the front runner.”

“He brought you J’s Noodles?”

“Yes.”

“How does he know about you and J’s?”

“Cam, I told you yesterday, he knows everything about me! And now, when I say that, I mean he knows everything about me. He told me himself he follows me, or his boys do and report in. It’s insane!”

“Why would he do that?”

“I asked and his answer was, ‘Babe’, which is how he answers a lot of my questions or responds to a lot of my yelling at him.”

“I don’t know, Mitch can be broody but I would suspect he wouldn’t answer a direct question with ‘babe’.”

Good God.

“I can’t think about Mitch, I can’t think about anything,” I told her. “I seriously need to work and all this is messing with my head.”

“Well, you need to think about MM because once I heard that a man named Hawk claimed you as his own last night, I asked some questions about him and found out a lot and the lot I found out means you need to cut him loose.”

Oh boy. That didn’t sound good.

“I don’t want to know about him either. After a year and a half I’m learning fast and the more interaction I have with Hawk, the more the threat that I’ll be the first victim of spontaneous head explosion becomes imminent.”

“You don’t like him?”

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“I don’t have time to explain the complexity of everything I feel about Hawk right now. I have three hours to do ten hours of work and then I have to be at my parents’ house. They know Ginger’s in trouble and they may have disowned her but she’s their daughter and she’s my sister and they’re going to worry. I know that because, it sucks and I want to wash it away, but I’m worried. I have to gear up for facing that. I’m taking this all one step at a time.”

There was more silence then, “You don’t sound too good.”

I closed my eyes, leaned forward and my head collided with my desk.

Why was no one paying attention to me?

“Was that your head hitting your desk?” Cam asked in my ear.

“Yes,” I whispered into the phone, keeping my eyes closed.

“All right, babe, I’ll leave you alone but we need cosmos, soon. I’ll talk to Leo about a double date. Maybe since you aren’t a major player in this case Mitch’ll be able to do dinner. Or maybe we can just plan a get together at our house and no one will be the wiser.”

I opened my eyes and stared at my lap. “This isn’t letting me go, Cam, this is planning my romantic future with a man I barely know while I’m freaking out about how I’m going to get the man I also barely know but have been sleeping with for months to agree we’re over when his ideas on that subject violently clash with mine.”

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