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Neither Meredith nor I were good with remembering numbers and when Meredith ran to get a piece of paper to write them down, Smoke looked at his feet, a muscle clenched in his jaw then he herded Meredith and I into my kitchen. There, he sat us at my big, battered farm table and quizzed us on the three different codes until we memorized them.

He wasn’t really patient with this endeavor, especially when Meredith leaned into me and whispered, “I don’t understand what the big deal is, sweetie, I mean, I don’t want to embarrass you but your Dad and I, we do know you and Hawk are…” her voice dropped, “intimate.” I avoided Smoke’s eyes as Meredith went on. “I mean, it isn’t like he isn’t here looking out for you.”

I bit my lip and shrugged. I didn’t know what else to do. She thought Hawk and I were an item because Hawk was making her think we were an item and I wasn’t helping matters by playing his game. Clearly, she thought I was safe under his care. I didn’t want to mess with that. Especially not the day after her home had been firebombed because of one of her daughter’s shit.

I also didn’t want to talk with my stepmom about being intimate with anyone. Meredith was cool, she’d always been cool but she was also the only Mom I knew and she was definitely a Mom and she had been from the very beginning. You didn’t discuss sex with hot guys with your Mom, especially not super-multiple-orgasm sex.

Dad, by the way, learned the codes in about two seconds. He’d always been good with numbers. It was his way.

The doorbell chimed then clunked as I was staring into the mirror lining my lips and suddenly I felt butterflies in my stomach. The kind I felt when I first saw Hawk and the kind I’d denied feeling every time since when he visited me.

“I’ll get it!” Meredith yelled from downstairs and I sucked in breath and finished with my liner, filling in with lipstick.

Trust Hawk to press my doorbell for the first time now. I probably wouldn’t get butterflies in my stomach if he suddenly materialized in the bathroom. I’d probably get annoyed.

I ran to my room, grabbed my clutch and wrap then ran to the door and closed it a bit so I could look in the full-length mirror on the back.

Little black dress, check. In fact, it was my numero uno little black dress. The best of the lot. Sleeveless and it had a deep vee in front that showed cle**age, a way deeper one in the back and it had a blousy drape around the middle but clung like a second skin to my h*ps and the tops of my thighs were it stopped. It was way short. So short, it was almost Darla-slash-Ginger mini-jeans-skirt-short except without the skank component. And it was made of an awesome material that even on the blousy parts it caught at flesh and revealed things it was pretending it conceal. It was fabulous.

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High heels, check. In fact, they were strappy sandals, black, sexy spiked heel. They made my legs look brilliant. Killer.

Hair out to there, smoky makeup.

The whole thing, the be all you could be of date apparel.

I hoped.

I rushed out of my room shouting, “See you later, Dad!”

“Have a good time, honey!” Dad shouted back. “Tell Hawk not to worry about the doorbell, I’ll fix it this weekend!”

Bonus to Dad being evacuated to my house due to smoke and fire damage. Resident handyman.

“Will do!” I yelled, though I seriously doubted Hawk was losing sleep about my clunking doorbell.

Then I rushed down the stairs to see the living room dark but a light and voices were coming from the kitchen. Meredith was probably offering Hawk a beer. When Meredith was in my house, I gave up the position of Head Hostess. I’d learned it was the best way to go. She could probably go to the White House for a State Dinner and the First Lady would step aside and let Meredith take over.

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I hustled to the kitchen and stopped dead in the doorway when I saw Meredith chatting with Detective Mitch Lawson.

I was freaked out last night, what with the fire and Dad and Hawk battling the flames with fire extinguishers, I hadn’t taken the time to admire yet again how hot he was. Now that he was in my kitchen and I was in a little black dress with hair out to there, when his eyes turned to me and he froze, I had the opportunity to process yet again how hot he was.

So I took it.

He recovered first.

“Gwendolyn.”

God, I liked it that he always said my full name.

“Hey, Detective Lawson.”

He did his small smile then he invited, “You can call me Mitch.”

“Um… okay.”

Lawson’s eyes swept me then he looked at Meredith.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Kidd, but could you give Gwendolyn and me a moment?”

“Oh!” Meredith cried at the same time she jumped. She’d been processing how hot he was too. “Sure. Of course. I’ll just…” she rushed to the fridge and grabbed two beers, “get Bax and I a drink.” She closed the fridge then rushed to the door of kitchen saying, “Nice to see you again, Detective Lawson.”

“Mitch,” he corrected.

“Mitch,” Meredith called as she continued escaping.

Oh boy. Alone in my kitchen with Mitch. No eight cops in the living room. No Hawk… yet. He was late.

I walked a bit into the kitchen. “Uh… is everything okay?”

His head tipped to the side. “Yeah, why?”

“Uh… you’re here and… uh… you’re an officer of the law and there’s the small fact my sister is in some serious trouble so…” I trailed off.

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“I’m here because of your sister but not because anything is wrong.”

“Oh. Okay,” I replied.

“Or, anything else is wrong,” he amended.

“Oh. Okay,” I said again.

“I just wanted to ask a favor of you.”

I took a breath and then repeated, “Oh. Okay.”

And, by the way, I felt like an idiot repeating those two words but what could I say? I was in a little black dress waiting for Hawk and Lawson was hot and I knew he was into me and he was there to ask a favor. I didn’t know what to do. The situation seemed uncertain, not in a good way or a bad way, just in an unpredictable way.

He studied me a second then, his voice dipping quiet, he ordered, “Gwendolyn, come here.”

Without delay my feet moved me closer to him because I was a woman and when a hot guy told you in a quiet, deep, attractive voice to come to him, you just did it.

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