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“Listen to me, Gwendolyn,” he growled and I missed that somewhere he got un-pissed but I wasn’t missing that he was now re-pissed and him saying my full name only underlined it. “As far as intel we got goes, Ginger was nowhere in the vicinity today when you had your drive-by. So that means one of two things. Those shots were meant to take out Tack or they were meant to take you out.”

“No one wants me dead,” I returned.

“No, but they want Ginger to suffer and she’s your sister and they might not know you’re not tight and, last, they’re gettin’ desperate so, like I said, they could have been meant to take you out.”

Holy f**king shit!

I closed my eyes and muttered, “Why does this keep getting worse?”

I opened my eyes when Hawk answered, “Because your sister is a piece of trash.” I was going to let him have that this time but I didn’t get the chance to tell him that because he went on. “Now, we don’t know but we need to assume you’re a target, which means your parents may be targets which means protection. You’re safe here so you’re gonna stay here. I’ll do what I can for them. And I’ll do what I can to bring peace with Tack because I need him as an ally with this shit and I don’t need more to deal with and that includes you giving me lip.”

“You’re going to do what you can for my parents?” I asked and he stared down at me, his fingers flexing into my neck.

“Sweet Pea, look at me.”

“I am looking at you.” And I was!

“No, really, look at me.”

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I was really looking at him!

He kept talking. “Gayle’s never been here, she’s never gonna be here and her place got shot up in a drive-by, she asked my advice, I’d tell her to talk to the police. Now, do you get where I’m comin’ from here?”

“Not really,” I told him and his fingers flexed again so I asked, “You said you investigated me and watched me and not them, why?”

He looked over my head and muttered, “Jesus.”

“Now you aren’t looking at me,” I observed and his eyes cut back down to me.

“I’m good, babe, and I know you like it, I know you like what I can do to you but that isn’t it for you with me and now I know it never was. And for me, you’re you. That meant I needed to engage.”

My heart skipped a beat.

“What?” I whispered.

He kept going. “I did the normal shit, looked into you and I found out Ginger was your sister. I found out you showed too much skin when you went out. I found out you talk to strangers like they’re your best friends. I found out you don’t live in the real world, you live in a dream world where you don’t pay a f**kuva lot of attention to what’s happening around you and you make questionable life decisions and I found out you gave what you have to give only to me. Because of that, it became clear you needed looking after. So I did.”

“I can look after myself, Hawk,” I partially lied. This was true in normal circumstances it wasn’t when I was getting shot at.

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“Bullshit,” he replied.

I wasn’t going to fight that, not now, not with bullets flying so I decided to fight something else.

“You didn’t complain about too much skin the other night,” I reminded him.

“Yeah, babe, that’s because your ass was in my ride and on my arm the other night and your focus was entirely on me.”

Hmm. That was a good answer.

I kept at it. “I don’t live in a dream world.”

“Gwen, you took one look at me, decided I was the one, I said four words to you and you took me to your goddamned house and your goddamned bed and didn’t say word f**kin’ one when I kept comin’.”

He had a point there.

Time to retreat.

“I’m hungry and I need to go to the bathroom,” I announced.

His fingers flexed on my neck again when he declared, “Christ, you’re a pain in my ass.”

“Okay, then let me use your bathroom and then your phone to call a taxi so I can go to a hotel.”

He glared down at me and flexed his fingers at my neck again but this time he used them to pull me in and up.

“You say I don’t listen to you but you haven’t been listenin’ to me. We’re gonna ride this wave, you and me, what we got, what we had the night before last, even, f**k me, what we have right now. Don’t think for a second you can give me the sweet taste you gave me yesterday morning and then freak out and think you can cut ties. And while we’re doin’ it you’re not getting filled with holes, kidnapped, tortured and mutilated for your f**kin’ sister, not on my watch.”

I had to admit, that last part gave me some relief and made my belly get squishy. Though I didn’t admit this verbally, I just stared.

He held my stare then he sighed, his hands relaxed on my neck and I was able to move away two inches but that was all I got.

“I’m callin’ one of my boys to get Imperial and then you’re callin’ your father and then I’m callin’ Lawson so he can come here and talk to you about what happened at your house today. What do you want from Imperial?”

I was hungry so I wasn’t going to bicker. And anyway, Imperial was the best Chinese food in Denver. It would be a crime against nature to bicker when Imperial was on offer.

“Sesame chicken and hot and sour soup,” I told him then added, “oh, and crab cheese wonton.”

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He stared at me then he asked, “Anything else?”

“No.”

“You sure?”

“I’m usually too full to try their desserts so I don’t know if they’re good so if you don’t have a roll of cookie dough in your fridge, it wouldn’t be unwelcome if one of the commandos swung by King Soopers and got some. Chocolate chip or sugar cookie.”

“I don’t have cookie dough in my fridge.”

I knew this. The morning before I’d checked in his fridge and he had yogurt, cottage cheese, fresh fruit, slices of smoked salmon and veggies. It was a wasteland in there. He didn’t even have condiments.

He studied my face while I thought this then remarked, “Babe, it isn’t a punishable offense not to have cookie dough.”

“Maybe not but you don’t have condiments.”

“Ketchup and cottage cheese don’t go real good together.”

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