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And through my giggling, I forced out the words, “Baby. Your voicemail message is ‘talk’.” Suddenly my laughter died away and I whispered, “That is so you.” I closed my eyes tight because it was so him and I loved that about him and I finished, “Please call me so I can say I’m sorry.”

Then I flipped the phone shut, placed it on the kitchen countertop, lifted both hands and pressed my fingers in my cheeks. Then I closed my eyes again and sent a wish into the universe that Cabe Delgado would call me back.

Then I grabbed my phone, grabbed my purse, grabbed my net bags and headed out the front door to my car, which was still at the curb where I parked it prior to the drive-by. It hadn’t moved in over a week. I was halfway down my walk when Detective Mitch Lawson slid up and parked behind my Hyundai.

I stared at him in his car.

Why?

Why me?

His being there could only mean, firstly, something was wrong with Ginger and/or I was in some peril or secondly, he’d heard things were over with Hawk, I was down the mountain from Tack and he was moving in.

Why… me?

I buried this reaction and met him on the sidewalk, wishing he wasn’t so freaking hot.

“Hey Mitch,” I greeted.

“Gwendolyn,” he smiled.

I stared at his smile.

Why, I will repeat, me?

“I’ve managed not to get shot at or kidnapped for a whole week,” I bragged.

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“Good for you.” He kept smiling.

“Please tell me you’re not here to inform me my winning streak is ending and another incident is imminent.”

He shook his head. “Not here for that, sweetheart.”

I tipped my head to the side. “Then why are you here?”

“’Cause Leo spoke to me this mornin’ and he gave me a surprise invitation to girls’ night in with cosmopolitans.”

I stared at him.

I was going to kill Cam.

“Mitch,” I whispered.

“Honey, I said no,” he replied gently.

I felt relief and loss, the first more than the last but I felt loss all the same mostly because he was hot, partly because he was gentle and also partly because I really liked his eyes.

He got closer and I held my ground as his soulful eyes I liked so much locked with mine.

Then he shared, “Every instinct I got is tellin’ me to move in and protect you not only from everything that’s happening with your sister but from two men I’m uncertain are good for you.”

I sucked in my lips and bit them.

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“At the same time,” he went on,” I’m sensin’ that you need space to do whatever you’re gonna do.”

I let my lips go and nodded my head.

“That said, I’d be a fool not to tell you where I stand.”

Uh-oh.

“I was another type of man, the type they are, I wouldn’t hesitate gettin’ in there and muddling your head by making my play.”

At that point, I felt I should intervene.

“Hawk is… well, Hawk,” I lamely defended him. “And Tack is giving me space.”

“It isn’t space to install you in his house, sweetheart.”

Well, that was semi-true.

“But –”

“He’s makin’ his play,” Lawson said firmly.

“Uh… okay,” I agreed since he would know because he was a man and I, obviously, wasn’t. “But I’m home now.”

“Yeah,” Lawson agreed. “You’re in a home that every time you walk up your walk or into your livin’ room, you’ll be reminded of Tack’s play.”

Hmm. This was true. I hadn’t thought of that.

Still, what Tack did was nice.

“Mitch –”

He cut me off. “Remember what I said to you, Gwendolyn. Head up, eyes open and I’ll go on to say, be happy. And I’ll finish by tellin’ you, you’re willin’ to give me a shot at makin’ you happy, you call me because I’m willin’ to take that shot.”

Wow.

“Mitch,” I repeated and his hand came up to cup my jaw so I blurted, “Please don’t kiss me. I like kissing and if you’re a good kisser that’ll definitely muddle my head. No joke. And, honest to God, I don’t need that right now.”

His head dipped toward me, I braced but his face stopped an inch away.

“Okay, honey,” he whispered, “I won’t kiss you but just for your information, I’ve had no complaints.”

I bet he hadn’t.

“Great,” I muttered. “Now I’m curious.”

He grinned and his thumb moved over my cheek. “You ever wanna assuage that curiosity, find me. Yeah?”

“You’re muddling my head,” I warned.

His grin got bigger and I knew he knew he was and I also knew he intended to, so I knew that whole speech about not muddling my head was a big, old play.

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“You’re eyes say you’re soulful but you’re actually dangerous,” I whispered.

“A man can be both,” he replied, his fingers slid back into my hair, he tipped my head down, kissed my hair at the top, let me go and, when I looked up at him, he winked at me and walked away.

I watched him drive away and then I wondered about the angles of Hawk’s cameras and then I worried that he’d seen that or it would be reported and then I got in my car and checked my phone.

Nothing.

Then I drove to the grocery store and, considering my recent past, I did this vigilant so it wasn’t lost on me that the minute I pulled my Hyundai away from the curb, a shiny, black SUV pulled out with me and followed me to the store and in the driver’s seat was Mo.

Shit. Even if the cameras hadn’t seen me, Mo had and Hawk would get a report.

Shit!

Well, the silver lining was, Hawk had sent Mo to have my back which didn’t exactly equal good-bye forever and ever you thoughtless, selfish cow.

But it didn’t say I forgive you either.

“I’m a thoughtless, selfish cow,” I announced to Cam, Tracy and, somebody kill me, Elvira.

Then I leaned forward and banged my head on Cam’s kitchen table.

“I think maybe this means cutoff time,” Elvira muttered.

I was on cosmo four and I was drinking fast, firstly because Hawk hadn’t called back, secondly because I spent the entire afternoon obsessing about the fact he hadn’t called and whether or not I should leave another message and thirdly because Elvira showed at girls’ night in.

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