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I flipped the phone shut, stared at it and then, again, hissed, “Shit!”

And again it rang in my hand.

I flipped it open immediately and put it to my ear.

“It’s not nice to hang up on –”

“Babe,” Hawk cut me off.

“Hawk?”

I was surprised. I thought he was incommunicado.

“Give me a good reason why you’re callin’ Ginger.”

I sat frozen then realized he knew everything about me which must include monitoring my calls.

“Hawk –”

“You don’t know her.”

“Hawk –”

“You don’t know someone, you sure as f**k don’t talk to them.”

“Hawk –”

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“You talk to her and someone’s monitoring her communication, they hear you, they find you or they make assumptions.”

Okay, something new to add to my list of why Hawk could be annoying and that was when he was right.

“I saw her name on my contact list and got a wild hair,” I admitted.

“No, you saw her name on your contact list, it reminded you you’re worried about your sister and you phoned her,” Hawk laid it out.

“Well, kind of the same thing.”

A sigh, then, “Babe.”

“I thought you were occupied,” I changed the subject.

“I was but base got the ping on your phone, Mo called Jorge, Jorge is at my back and he’s not occupied like me. He gave me the message you’re contacting your f**kin’ sister and I got unoccupied.”

“Oh,” I muttered.

“Gwen, baby, do me a favor. Trust me enough to do what I can for your sister. And trust me enough that I can deal with the emotional fallout we find there’s nothin’ I can do for your sister. Yeah?”

I looked from my lap to his books to his CDs to his lair.

“Gwen, you there?” Hawk called.

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He got unoccupied. For me.

He wanted me to trust him with emotional fallout.

I stared at his lair. It still gave me nothing.

Even so, I knew Troy was wrong.

“I’m here,” I said quietly, “and I’ll do you that favor.”

“Thanks, Sweet Pea,” he said quietly back.

“My girlfriends are coming over later, is that cool with you?” I asked.

“Yeah, babe.”

“Elvira has decided she’s my girlfriend,” I shared.

“No surprise,” he replied.

“Do you need to get reoccupied?” I asked even though he wasn’t giving me an impatient or preoccupied vibe but I was guessing if he was forwarding his calls, he did it because he was in the middle of something important that required his full attention.

Attention he shifted for me.

Shit.

“Yeah,” he answered.

“Okay, I’ll let you go.”

“Later, babe.”

“Later, Hawk.”

Dead air.

I flipped my phone shut and gazed unfocused into his lair.

Then I flipped my phone open again and called information to get the number for my insurance agent because I needed to report my drive-by.

Chapter Twenty-One

Queen of Crash and Burn

“Ohmigod! This place is so cool!” This was Tracy, who was sashaying into the warehouse looking around like she just hit the candy garden with chocolate stream at Willy Wonka’s. Her eyes caught site of Elvira who was in the kitchen. “Hey girl! What’s up?”

“Job satisfaction, beanpole, what’s up with you,” Elvira replied on a huge smile thus taking the sting out of her nickname for Tracy (I hoped).

If Cam was yin to Tracy’s yang, Elvira was yang to all of our yins. She had to be no more than five foot four. She was round. Her skin was smooth, perfect mocha. Her hair was cropped at the back and sides but there was a thick, heavy bang at the front with blonde streaks in it. And she was so far from wearing commando gear it wasn’t funny. If Hawk’s dress code allowed Elvira’s outfit, I wanted a job there. Short, mustard yellow sweater dress, off the shoulder neckline and thigh-high, spike-heeled, fire engine red suede boots.

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Elvira was in the kitchen creating what she declared were “boards” except she was creating them on Hawk’s big, square, midnight blue plates. She was doing this because she came into the warehouse laden with bags from Crate and Barrel and Fresh and Wild, places, she informed me, she took off work early so she could pay a visit. These bags contained brand new martini glasses (a set of four, long stemmed, ultra sleek), a martini shaker, a mammoth wedge of brie, a French baton, grapes, apples, assorted olives, gherkins, red onion marmalade, assorted crackers, assorted chocolates and an enormous chunk of pâté.

Oh, and she brought the ingredients for cosmopolitans.

She had me at the martini glasses. The rest of it made me declare my undying love for her and I told her she’d officially been accepted into my girl posse.

No joke.

When I did this, Elvira just laughed and I figured she just laughed because she already thought she was in my girl posse or intended to be.

“Good God, this is where he lives?” Cam asked, wandering in behind Tracy, also looking around with surprise and a small but unguarded hint of wonder.

“He likes space,” I answered.

“He’d have to,” Cam replied.

“Who’re you?” Elvira demanded to know, eyeing up Cam and Cam looked at her.

“Gwen’s best friend,” Cam answered.

Tracy had made it to the bar and she leaned both forearms into it, saying to Elvira, “We share that title.”

Elvira looked over her shoulder at me where I was positioning myself at the back counter.

“If that’s true, girl, you better make up your mind ‘cause you can’t have two maids of honor. I got a friend, she tried that shit, did her head in. Those two competed for everything. Sure, first it seems all good, two bridal showers, two bachelorette parties, two women bent on givin’ you your every whim. But that shit turns nasty. They all ended up fightin’ and by the big day, no one was talkin’ to anyone else. It was a disaster. I had to step in and the dress didn’t fit. They had to lace the f**ker together with a shoestring at the back. You can’t walk down an aisle and hide a shoestring. So I scooted in from the side. Looked funny. I don’t like lookin’ funny. Now I don’t talk to her either but it ain’t because of the shoestring. It’s because she works my last nerve. She always did but I guess I’m just too nice, that is, until I don’t feel like bein’ nice no more.”

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