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Chapter 1

I licked it. So its mine.

-Fact of life


Youll need to make sure you get to the house by six if you want to make it on
time for dinner, my father said tiredly. You know how your mother gets when
you dont show up on time.

I winced.

I did know how my mother got.

Irrational is what she got.

Its as if she hadnt been married to a doctor for the last thirty years.

I cant name one single time that my father got to any event on time, whether it
be a birthday, vacation, sporting event, graduation, or hell, even a fucking birth.

Not one time had I seen her lose it over my father being late, but her baby boy
was late and suddenly the whole world stopped.

Ill try to be on time, I told him. But Im not promising anything. I have to work
until five thirty; it takes nearly thirty minutes to get to your house from the
station. And thats if I leave on time. I told her to make sure she held the party
later, but she wouldnt listen.

Joslin wanted six, my father told me hesitantly, opening the door to his office.
And thats when Dean could be there.

I squeezed my hands tightly into fists, trying my hardest to not punch a hole in
the wall with my fist.

I had no earthly idea why my mother continued to invite my ex-wife.

Dean was at least my fuckin brother, and I could understand why hed have to
be there.

It was as if my mom didnt care that Joslin was no longer married to me. Usually
the family chooses the child over the childs ex.

We were together for a little over a year and a half when I found out shed

Granted, the reason shed cheated had been my fault, or so shed said, but that
still didnt give her the right to do that to me.

Wed taken vows. And Id at least meant them.

Refraining from saying, Fuck Joslin, I walked to the side doors of the hospital
and to the ambulance bay with my father.

I see, I settled on.

My fathers face looked pensive, as if he wanted to say something, but didnt

know how to say it.

Michael, I need to tell you something my father started.

I wouldve stayed to listen, but the mic at my shoulder started squawking.

The nearest unit is needed at 5543 Pleasant Circle. Possible double homicide,
the dispatcher ordered.

Sighing, I turned and offered my hand to my pop.

Gotta go, dad. Ill try my hardest to get there on time, but Im not promising
anything, I told him.

He nodded, looking for the world like he was upset that he hadnt said what he
had to say, and shook my hand before saying, Be safe.

My father, like my mother, hadnt liked that Id chosen to go into law


Theyd spent thousands and thousands of dollars to get me through medical

school only for me to quit to join the Navy.

Once in the Navy, Id continued my schooling. After Id finished, and then got
medically discharged due to some slight nerve damage in my left foot from a
bomb exploding, did I decided that the medical field wasnt really something I
was much interested in anymore.

Which had pissed both my mother and father off.


But Id hated it.

Id only done medical school because it was expected.

None of my family could understand why Id quit.

My mother was a nurse. My father was a doctor. My brother was a doctor, and
my sister was a nurse.

They couldnt see past the fact that I was happy. They could only see the
millions of dollars I was flushing down the drain to be a SWAT officer.

Not to mention they were hardcore Democrats, and I was most definitely not.
My mind, however, screeched to a halt as I saw her.


She had long, rich brown hair, beautiful brown eyes, and stunning caramel skin.

Today, she was in her scrubs.

A dark gray color that, although it should look incredibly ugly, didnt.

She was a phlebotomist and on the IV team. A licensed paramedic that worked
as a tech in the ER. She went around doing IVs throughout the hospital, but
mostly stayed down in the ER where she was needed the most.

She was also studying to be a midwife, and from what Id learned from Nico, her
brother and another member of the SWAT team, she was well on her way to

I was in love with the woman.

No ifs, ands, or buts.

So in love with her that I could barely be around her.

She was in love with me, tooor had been when wed first met.

But Id ruined that, like I always ruined every-fucking-thing.

See, I was an asshole.

A diagnosed asshole, but an asshole nonetheless.

I was bi-polar.

I take my meds religiously.

Yet, there were timeslike when I told Nikki that I didnt want to have kids with
her that the asshole slipped through, and took hold of innocent people,
tearing apart relationships as collateral damage.

Id not meant it to come out that way.

Id actually meant it to come out the opposite way entirely.

I didnt want to have kids fathered by me.

I didnt want my children to suffer from what I had.

Being bi-polar was only the tip of the iceberg.

I battled with depression during the winter months.

I had ADD.
And swear to Christ I didnt want to put a kid through that.

I was a prime example of a person that shouldnt have kids.

But I was Nikkis, even if Nikki wasnt mine. At least not anymore.

She would forever have my heart, but Id never hold hers.

It was better this way.

I was so fucked up that I literally couldnt handle anymore.

And I didnt want a woman like Nikki, someone so pure of heart, to have to deal
with my shit. Because there sure the fuck was a lot of it.

Watching her until she went inside, I finally pulled out of the parking lot and
responded to the suspected double homicide.

And once again it reemphasized the fact that some people really shouldnt have

Pulling into the yard that housed a double wide trailer, I walked up to the front
door where an elderly couple was standing.

The old man had his hands wrapped around the old womans shoulders, and he
was holding her comfortingly.

As if, if he were not careful, she might very well fall apart.

Stepping out of my cruiser, my feet crunched in the gravel.

As I made my way to them, I took a survey of my surroundings.

The land surrounding the trailer was clean and well kept.

Flowers lined the sides of the mobile home with red bricks surrounding the
flower bed.

A bass boat sat to the side underneath an awning, with a trailer that had two
four wheelers on the back ready to ride to the dear lease at a moments notice.

An infant swing swung on the front porch, being pushed by nothing more than
the wind.

And I got a really, really bad feeling.

The moment I got within speaking distance, both of them started speaking at

Theyre dead! The woman cried, covering her mouth with her hand.
Shot her, and then himself, the man said gruffly. The baby too. We didnt
touch anything.

Bile already making the climb up my throat, I said, Please go stand next to my

They both readily complied, and I was thankful.

I could tell that the man was a hard man.

He had a Marine Corps tattoo on his right forearm, and what distinctly
resembled a knife wound just above that.

His eyes were hard and his demeanor even harder.

But whatever he saw inside had rocked him.

Taking a deep breath, I stepped over the threshold of the mobile home, and
immediately turned around to lose my lunch over the side of the porch.

Im not ashamed I have a heart.

But any man wouldve lost it over what Id just seen.

Taking a few deep breaths, I said a silent prayer, and once again stepped over
the threshold.

This time I was able to take in more of the scene.

Earlier Id stalled over the child.

This time I was able to move past the child that was in front of a sliding glass
door across the room to the man that crumpled against the far counter.

He was on his ass, a revolver had fallen just to the right of his hand.

He had a large hole at the top of his head where the bullet had exited.

Moving past him, I saw the legs of a woman on the other side of the island.

Walking carefully into the room, I skirted around the island and closed my eyes
the moment I saw the woman.

She was beautiful. Long blonde hair laid around her in a halo. Cute skirt and
skin tight top clinging closely to a very pregnant belly.

Fuck me, I breathed, dropping down to my knees.

Although I knew it was futile, I checked for a pulse on each of the parents.

But Rigor Mortis had already set in; I knew they were gone the moment my
fingers met their skin.
Really not wanting to check the child, but knowing I had to do it anyway, I
walked carefully over to the baby.

He was dressed in a red onesie that had little puppy dog prints on it.

His little feet were covered in a tiny pair of red socks, and I found myself

It masked the sheer amount of blood that was surrounding him.

His and his mothers were mingling, and you couldnt tell whose was whose.

But as my fingers met his cool skin, and I felt the rapid beat of his pulse, my
whole body froze in shock.

He was alive!

Mother fucker.

He had a gunshot wound to his face, but he was alive!

Scooping him up, I placed him gently over my shoulder and started sprinting out
the door.

I was thankful as hell to see that Bennett, another member of the SWAT team
and fellow officer, was pulling into the driveway.

He saw me coming and his eyes flared.

I didnt waste a second, however.

I ran to his passenger side door, fell inside, and said, Drive!

He drove, and the last thing I saw before I turned my attention to the little boy in
my arms was the horrified looks on the two elderly people as we peeled out of
the driveway, spraying dirt and gravel in our wake.

Why arent we waiting for the ambulance? Bennett yelled, taking a corner
going way too fast.

Because were two minutes tops from the hospital, and itll take the ambulance
at least five to get to where we are. Its easier and faster to drive, and this baby
may not have that long, I told him honestly.

He didnt say another word, and I didnt either.

Chapter 2
Damaged women are strong. And crazy. Dont forget crazy.

-Coffee Cup


Nikki! Lennox called from the nurses station.

I looked up from the man I was currently getting an IV on, and raised by brows
at her in question.

Nikki, Paxtons going to get that IV for you. I need a hand. Now, Lennox

Her eyes were haunted, and I swallowed at the look.

What the hell was going on?

Id felt it the moment that the trauma had come in.

The entire room had gone into overdrive.

Not one to usually participate in traumas due to my lack of credentials, I stayed

out of the way, helping where I was needed.

Handing off the IV for Paxton to tape and finish up, I patted the mans hand and
hurried around the foot of the bed.

My first indication that something was seriously wrong was when I walked into
the room and saw a mans black booted feet at the end of the exam table
bending over the foot of the end of the gurney.

Then I followed it up to see the cargo pants that KPD wore.

But what really gave me pause was the fact that the man wore long sleeves.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, wore long sleeves in the middle of a Texas

Unless your name was Michael Saint Perez.

What do you need? I managed to ask Lennox, looking away.

Id yet to see what was on the gurney, but I knew it was bad.

Michaels entire body was shielding whatever it was, and I knew it would be bad
before I rounded the end of the gurney.

I need you to get an IV in him, she said softly.

Thats when Michael moved, and I nearly lost my legs out from under me.
Sweet Mary mother of God, I whispered in devastation.

Michaels eyes were blank.

No emotion in them whatsoever.

But I could tell he wasnt doing it because of me.

He was doing it because he knew that if he showed even the least bit of
emotion, hed lose it. Just like I was about to do.

Taking a page from his book, I steeled up my defenses and said, 22 gauge.

Then I went to work on getting an IV in a baby less than ten months old, with
quite a bit of blood loss, and a gunshot wound to his head.

All the while Michael, the man Id been in love with for over two years, watched
me, holding a kid in his arms and talking to him like he was his father.

Heart panging, I found a vein, and started an IV.

Id done it many times, and it was rare that I missed.

Once the access was started, I backed away, watching as the trauma team
descended in mass.

Michael, though, didnt leave.

Even when his ex-wife showed up and pressed her entire body against his to
get a fucking gauze pad when she couldve gotten one out of her pocket.


God, she made my life a living hell.

Literally, day after day she made it a point to torture me, and I didnt know why.

She didnt know that I liked Michael.

Hell, only a few people knew that I even knew him.

What Joslin didnt like about me was the fact that everyone liked me.

I was, by nature, a nice person.

I got along with everyone. I was a team player, and I could work with damn near

Her, though, I couldnt work with.

Not only because she refused to, but because she hated me and I refused to
torture myself.
So when she started to push in close to Michael, I wanted to smack the hell out
of her.

But, as the professional that I was, I backed out of the room, and turned to see
where I was needed.

I was the newest ER Tech.

I was a licensed paramedic.

But a paramedic that couldnt be in an ambulance because I got motion


Something Id not figured out until Id taken my first job.

Lucky for me, I was starting with another licensed paramedic to watch over me,
because I spent my entire time puking, effectively ending my career before itd
even started.

Id completely disregarded the medical field after that, going back to my fathers
office where Id been a secretary, with my tail tucked between my legs.

But when my best friend, Georgia, came back into town, she convinced me to
give it another chance, and here I was, on the IV team and being a helpful
person in any way I could.

What happened? I heard asked from behind me.

I saw Paxton, a PA that worked with us, looking at the room that Id just
managed to get the hell out of.

Gunshot wound to the head, I whispered, trying really hard to forget, yet not
managing to accomplish that very well.

Fuck me, Paxton breathed.

I liked Paxton.

He was a very sexy man with dark brown hair that curled over his ears, and a
beautiful blue set of eyes that could make any persons heart start to flutter.

His heart only fluttered for men, though.

Specifically, his significant other that hed met just a few months ago through a
mutual friend of the two.

Yep, I said, turning away and washing my hands in the sink that sat right next
to the exit that the paramedics used to transfer patients in and out. Im going to
run to Starbucks. Want anything?

Paxton shook his head.

Nah, I just had a candy bar. My ass cant take any more calories today, he
said sheepishly.

I rolled my eyes.

My ass definitely couldnt take it either, yet I couldnt find it in me to give a shit at
the moment.

I definitely took after my curvy mother.

I had what my sisters liked to call child bearing hips.

Big boobs, big hips, toned thighs (that, might I add, were still on the bigger side
of acceptable) and a chin that was questionably close to what they called

My friends and family didnt see what I saw, the imperfections.

They said I was beautiful.

I said I was chunky.

To-ma-toes. Tom-a-toes.

Dont ask me why I did what I did next.

It couldve been because I was crazy. Or it couldve been because I knew he

needed it, but I did it with no ulterior motives.

I want a twenty ounce amaretto latte, and a twenty eight ounce black
Americano, I ordered.

She young teen smiled, busying herself steaming my milk and shaking
cinnamon sprinkles on my frothy milk that collected at the top of the drink.

Thatll be eight fifty, she said, holding out her hand.

I shoved a ten in her hand and said, Keep the change.

She smiled. Thank you.

Taking my two coffees, I walked back down the hallway to the ER. When I
turned the final corner that would take me into the ER, I ran straight into a brick
wall of flesh.

Instinctively, I lifted my hands up to save the coffee, and inadvertently padded

my collision with my breasts which pressed up against a hard, well defined
chest. They instantly pebbled.

Oh! I said in surprise.

Fuck, a deep voice hissed out, hands moving to my hips to keep me steady.
That voice always had the capability to send shivers down my spine.

Michael, I breathed, smiling timidly at him.

Nik, he sighed. Sorry, I wasnt watching where I was going.

Bringing my cups down, I stepped back, and instantly regretted the loss of his

I knew, though, that the longer I stayed there touching him, the harder itd be to
move away.

I got you this, I said, shoving the coffee in his direction.

He caught it before I could spill it all over his chest, but to be honest, his shirt
really couldnt get much worse.

Not with the massive amount of blood I could see soaking it.

Hed have to throw this one away.

It may be black, but there was no way he could get the blood out of this one.

The white lettering that designated him a KPD officer was stained red, and I had
a feeling that it wouldnt come out. Not with any amount of scrubbing.

Thanks, he said, sounding surprised.

You look like you needed it, I muttered, walking around him to the door that
led into the ER.

He smiled sadly.

Preciate it, he muttered, staring at the coffee like it was the answer to all of
lifes questions.

Seeing him like that made me remember the last time hed done that.

Itd been at a SWAT meeting thatd turned into an impromptu party when Id
shown up with a box full of tamales from my mother.


Two years ago

Holy crap that mans freakin hot! I said to my best friend in the whole wide
Georgia was freakin beautiful. Just as beautiful now as she had been when
shed left.

And Id missed the absolute crap out of her.

Georgia smiled over at me.

Which one? She asked cheekily.

I knew that was right.

They were all overly hot.

Except my brother. He was just my brother, and eww. That was just wrong to
think of that on so many levels I couldnt even list them all.

Everyone but Nico. Hes ugly, I told her.

She gave me a roll of her eyes. Your brother is beautiful, and you damn well
know it.

I shrugged.

I was talking about Michael, I stated, watching as he leaned forward on his

chair and laced his fingers between his knees.

Georgia rolled her eyes.

Why are you always going for the bad ones? She asked, forcing a beer in my

I blinked.

I dont like beer, I said, extending my hand to her, as well as the bottle.

She gave me a pointed look. Go take it to him. He asked for it.

Butterflies started to churn in my belly, and I smiled at my best friend. I love

you, you know.

Georgias eyes sparkled with unshed tears. Dont make me cry. Take it to him
before I do.

Sticking out my tongue, I walked across the space separating Georgia and me
from the men.

I knew hed clocked me from the moment I left Georgia.

He wasnt so much as watching me, as he was aware of me.

When I arrived at his side, he turned his face up to me and looked at me, not
Your beer? I offered it to him.

He took it from me carefully. So carefully that he didnt touch a single piece of

my skin in the transfer.

Thanks, he muttered, smiling half-heartedly. Preciate it.

I had seen him before. Noticed him at SWAT events. Watched him while visiting
my brother. That was the night I became aware of him.

That I became obsessed with him.

That was the night that my world changed, and I wished upon a star, while
standing under the star-lit sky with Michael next to me.

Hours after handing him that beer, he told me about his ex-wife. About his job.
About how his wife blamed him for not wanting kids, as for why shed cheated
on him.

That was the night I fell in love with him.

Head over boot heels.


Do you need some clothes? I asked softly.

He shook his head. No. Im gonna go straight to the station and change into my
workout gear. Thanks for the offer, though.

Smiling, I punched in the code that would get me through the door, but stopped
when Michael called my name.


I turned to find him staring at me.

His eyes full of pain.

Youyou want to catch dinner and a movie this week? He asked hopefully.

I blinked, then a small smile split my face. Yeah, I think Id like that.

He nodded, turned, and walked out of the building. Not once glancing back.

And there I was left in the hallway, practically bouncing on my toes in

Then I turned around, and the smile slowly fell from my face when I saw Joslin
standing there, her eyes full of fire.

Choosing to ignore her, I walked past her with a muttered, Excuse me.

But I knew that wouldnt be the end of it.

Not even close.

Chapter 3

Friday. My second favorite F word.

-Coffee Cup


Needless to say, I was very late showing up to my mothers party.

By over an hour.

I was wearing a white t-shirt and black jeans that had so many holes in them
that they could technically qualify as shorts.

And my tattoos were showing.

Something my mother was definitely not going to like.

But it couldnt be helped.

I could either go home and change, and make her happy because I was
covering my tattoos and be later. Or I could be late-ish and come uncovered.

It was a lose-lose situation, and I really could care less at this point.

I wanted to have this dinner about as much as I wanted my nuts cut off.

Alas, I loved the hell out of my mom, and would suffer greatly for her happiness.

Kind of like having to share a fucking dinner with my ex. She was the worst
mistake of my life, yet my mother refused to tell her to fuck off.

Pulling up to my parents house, I got out and dropped to my feet.

I drove a jacked up Ford F-150, much to my parents consternation.

We were a car family, pure and simple.

Or at least they were, not me.

I loved my truck.

I could get it dirty and not worry about the interior because that was what trucks
were for.

Shoving the keys into my pocket and turning to grab the pie Id had in my truck
since this morning, the coffee cup that Id downed the moment I got into my
cruiser fell to the floor.

My eyes lit on it, and I smiled, thinking about how Nikki had given it to me.

She knew me well.

Or as well as I let her know me.

She knew me better than my entire family, and shed only ascertained the
information in about ten total meetings.

Shed gotten more from me in one night than Joslin had gotten from me in a
year and a half.

About time you showed up, my brother, Dean, said lazily from the glider in the
middle of my parents yard.

Bending down, I picked up my coffee cup and placed it gently into the cup
holder of my truck before gripping the pie and slamming the door.

Yeah, I muttered, walking up the front walk.

Heard about your day. Sorry man, my brother said sincerely, blowing out a
breath of smoke hed just inhaled from his cigar.

My brother and I werent what you would call close.

We were family, of course, but thats where that ended.

He was the prodigal son. The one who did everything right, while I did
everything wrong.

And sometimes it was hard not to resent that.

Really hard.

Thanks, I muttered, opening the door once I came to it.

The first thing I noticed was that no one was in the living room where they
usually were, and that I could smell dinner wafting from the kitchen.

The smell turned my stomach.

Eating was the last thing I wanted to do right then.

Not with the memory of Baby Nathans blood pouring out of his body as I held
him on the way to the hospital.

Hes not coming, I think we should just eat, Joslin said huffily.

I rolled my eyes as I made my way down the darkened hallways that would lead
to the kitchen and formal dining room where I assumed they were all gathered.

Hes coming. He texted me when he was leaving the hospital, my sister,

Hannah, defended.

Hannah and I were the closest in age.

Irish twins.

She was born ten months before me, in the same year.

Me, being the baby, was the surprise that everyone still liked to point out was
the accident.

Thanks, Hannah, I said, walking into the kitchen and placing my pie on the
countertop. Im here, so the party may begin.

The last was said once I was in the dining room, which meant everyone turned
to watch me walk in the room.

My father and Hannah didnt bat an eyelash at my attire.

My mother and Joslin, though, did.

Not that I cared.

Nor was I surprised.

Taking the seat to the right of my dad, and directly next to Hanna, I placed both
hands in my lap and waited, like the good boy I was, for dinner to be served.

Which only happened once Dean made his way back inside from his smoke

All the while, I spoke with my sister about her daughter, Reggie.

Reggie was a boisterous two and a half year old that was with her ex-husband
for the night.

Reggie told me I was to watch my step today because I was telling her what to
do. Can you believe that? I bet Joshua taught her that one, too, Hannah said

I snorted.
Needless to say, Hanna and her ex didnt get along.

Not even a little bit.

Actually, I amended. That was me. Im sorry. I said that to her two days ago
when I was watching her.

Hannah sighed. I guess I should be happy you didnt teach her how to say cuss
words, I suppose.

My father snorted. You and Michael were cussing by the time yall were three
and four. Mainly because your Uncle Paddy thought itd be funny to teach you
them. It was real exciting to slam on my breaks to avoid hitting a car and have
the two of you say fuck you and what the fuck respectively.

Hannah giggled while I laughed.

My mother, on the other hand, didnt.

Apparently, she didnt find it funny.

Alright, we can eat now, Joslin cooed as Dean made his way into the room,
breaking the silent death glare I was getting from my mother.

Once grace was said by my father, he started to serve himself, and passed the
dish around the table.

Once I dished up two pieces, I passed it to my sister, and then so on.

We didnt do a sit down dinner often, but when we did, we were expected to
actually sit down at the table instead of in front of the TV like we wanted to.

Its good, Beth, my father said around a mouthful of food.

My mother smiled. Thanks.

I looked down at my untouched food, and couldnt say the same.

It reminded me of the gore from the double wide.

What Id later learned was a cop from a neighboring city, and his wife, who was
a stay at home mom to their ten month old.

And as I picked at my food, I couldnt help thinking about the cop.

What had happened?

Had he slipped through the cracks?

Had he needed help, and no one noticed?

Would I have noticed had he been my friend?

If someone had intervened, would the mom still be alive? Would that baby
growing in her belly still be sheltered in her mothers womb?

Michael, Joslin tells me you had an interesting day, my mother said, bringing
my attention from my plate to her.

I shrugged. Yeah, I guess so. Nothing special.

Joslin, never one to let something go, sat forward.

You saved that babys life. Youre the reason that hes alive! Youre the talk of
the hospital, Joslin crowed.

I shrugged, not answering.

I really, really didnt want to think about it anymore.

Like really.

So much so, that if she continued not to catch the hint, I might have to leave.

Well, I have some news, my brother said, breaking the awkward silence.

I turned my attention to him, and saw him watching Joslin weirdly.

Were engaged! Dean smiled, holding Joslins entwined hand up with his.

I blinked, surprised.

My mother, who loved Joslin to pieces, stood up and clapped loudly.

My father and Hannah, though, turned to me, watching me for a reaction.

I shrugged again.

I didnt care.

I should warn Dean, though.

They didnt know why Joslin and I had broken up.

They only thought that the dissolution of our marriage had happened because
wed fallen out of love. Joslin had practically begged me not to tell them
because she and my mom had grown so close.

Congratulations! My mother crowed excitedly.

You okay? My father asked worriedly.

That was when I realized hed known.

That was what the hesitation had been about earlier.

Fine, why? I asked.

Hannah looked at me, almost as if she was waiting for me to break apart.

Youre sure? She asked persistently.

I nodded. Yeah. Its good for them, I lied.

I really shouldve told them why wed split. Yet, I couldnt because Joslin had
acted likewellJoslin.

Mom, I said, standing. Do you mind if I have a sandwich? After today, this
isnt veryappealing.

I had to eat no matter what. My medication couldnt be taken on an empty

stomach or it wouldnt be absorbed correctly. And if it wasnt absorbed correctly,
then wed be in a very different situation than we were now.

My mom looked at me, and I mean really looked at me, and she saw right
through my flippant attitude and immediately dropped Joslins hand and started
hustling to the kitchen.

I followed her, keeping my eyes on my mothers back instead of on Joslins

annoyed face, and Deans pissed off one.


Spoiled their big reveal. My bad.

She may love Joslin and Dean, but she loved her baby boy more. Tattoos,
disappointment, and all.

They told me about today, she whispered once she was in the kitchen.

II dont like it. I feel like I shouldve done more. Been faster. I dont know. He
was a police officer, I told her.

That tid-bit hadnt been released as of yet.

So when she gasped and whirled around, a block of cheese in one hand, and a
Tupperware of cold cuts in the other, I realized Id surprised her.

What? She asked in horror.

I nodded. The murder suicide was with a cop and his wife, I confirmed.

God, thats horrible. And I heard the doctors talking. The baby will live, but
theyre not sure about what cognitively was effected yet, correct? She asked,
placing the food on the counter and making me a sandwich.

When she wouldve reached back in for the tomatoes I stopped her. None of
those, please.
She looked at me, looked at the tomato that she knew I loved, and nodded,
placing it back on the shelf in the fridge and closing it with her backside.

And yes, thats what I heard when I called to check on him earlier. Theyre
keeping him in a medically induced coma until theyre sure the swelling is down
to a manageable level. Theyre contacting the paternal grandparents, too. I
knew that would be her next question.

My mom had a bit of a soft heart for those who didnt have family.

Which was why Joslin was so loved by her.

Joslins parents werent what one would call quality people.

They both smoked weed and neither had a job. I wasnt even certain how they
funded their extracurricular activities.

Then again, Id never asked seeing as I was a fuckin cop.

She smiled at me.

Thats good. Is he on the peds floor or in ICU? She asked.

My mother worked on the pediatric floor.

Thatd been where she was working when she met my father, who was a
pediatrician, thirty five years ago.

My sister worked on the ICU floor, and Dean was a general surgeon.

ICU for now. Peds when he gets better, I answered, accepting the sandwich
she offered me.

Her nose scrunched when she caught a closer look at my tattoos, and I barely
restrained the urge to roll my eyes.

What was the big fuckin deal about the tattoos?

I thought they were fuckin great.

She, on the other hand, thought they were ugly.


So, when did Joslin and Dean start dating? I hadnt realized they were even
together, I asked, taking a bite of my sandwich.

It felt like a mouthful of sand as I chewed and swallowed.

I washed it down with a large slug of sweet tea that my mother handed me, and
finished the sandwich in three bites while my mother worked the corner of her
lip with her teeth.
Well? I asked again.

She sighed. Theyve been seeing each other for going on a year now,

I blinked. No shit?

She narrowed her eyes. Michael, you know how I dont like when you curse.

Being on the peds floor really kept my mother from using bad language day in
and day out. She rarely, if ever, used them. And hated when her family did.

Whats the big secret? I wondered aloud.

My mother pursed her lips. Joslin said youd be upset, and shed like to keep it
quiet until they were ready to share the news, and I went along with it.

I raised my brow at her. You do realize, right, that Im your child and not her.
She was in the family for less than a year if you want to count the amount of
time we spent separated. Why keep her secret from your own son? Its not that
Im torn up about it, Im just disappointed in my family for keeping it from me. Im
not going to fucking break.

Language! She snapped.

I threw up my arm.

Thanks for dinner, ma. Maybe you can let me know when youd rather put me
ahead of my ex. Ive got some awesome stories that I think youll find extremely
interesting, I said, walking to the back door.

Mikey, my mother said worriedly.

I held up my hand. Save it.

With that, I left and didnt look back.

Chapter 4

I hate you. Not in an I hope you die kind of way, but more like I hope you
develop an allergy to chocolate and cheese kind of way.

-Coffee Cup


Hey there, Nikki! Joanna said from her position behind her desk at the
Pediatric ICU nursing station. How have you been?

I smiled. Im good. I just came up here to check up on that little boy. Hows he

She smiled sadly at me. Lonely, Im sure. But Im short two nurses and were
nearly at capacity.

I brightened. Do you mind if I sit with him for a while?

I think hed like that, she smiled.

Taking her words to heart, I followed the directions to his room, and walked in
on a starkly white room with a crib in the middle of it.

Well, a hospital bed, crib.

It really wasnt much of a crib.

It didnt have that homey feeling like most cribs had.

This one was cold, metal, and bland.

And the tiny boy in the middle of it, hooked up to hundreds of tubes and wires,
broke my heart.

I loved children.

I loved them with a passion and fierceness so powerful that I could barely see

And Id never have any of my own.

So I soaked it up by spending time with other peoples children.

And it looked like this little guy could use a friend.

Walking over to the crib, I took a seat at the chair, just to the side of it, and
watched him.

His little head was wrapped in gaze from about the nose up, only one eye

His hands were taped to little boards so if he were to move, he wouldnt pull out
the IV lines they had in both hands.

His feet had monitors attached to them with a bright green wrap, and his body
was veiled in a bright red hospital gown made for tiny humans such as him.

Picking up one of the books that was on the shelf across from my seat, I leaned
back in my chair and started reading to him.

I mustve gone through five or six books before I realized I wasnt alone.
I looked up from my book I was reading to see Michael leaning against the
doorframe, watching me.

Hey, I said, surveying him.

He looked better than he had before.

His white t-shirt stood out starkly against his tattooed skin.

Id never seen his arms bare before, now that I thought about it.

Hey, he said carefully. I was just bringing him some of his thingsyou know,
so he wouldnt be alone.

That was nice of you, I whispered softly. Come in.

He did, albeit a little reluctantly.

When I noticed, I stood, offering him the chair.

Its about time I went anyway. I just wanted to come check on him, see how he
was doing, I whispered softly.

Michael, whod been surveying the boy, looked up.

His beautiful eyes pierced me straight through every time he gave me the full
force of them.

You dont have to go, he said softly. Im not staying long. I have to go.

Wasnt he being nice?

You see, Michael and I had a long history.

Well, it was more like four months total of history, but that history was enough to
last a lifetime.

I patted him on the forearm, a little bit of smartass filling my tone. Well, then I
guess you can walk me out.

After placing a kiss to the tips of my fingertips, I pressed it against the boys
hand, and looked at him longingly.

How could someone ever shoot their own child?

What kind of monster was capable of that?

Saying a silent prayer, I walked out of the room, very aware of Michael watching
me the entire way.

Id convinced myself he wasnt going to follow me, but the moment I walked into
the elevator, the doors closed, and he was there.
Ninja much?

You like kids, he muttered, settling himself in the corner of the elevator by the

A statement, not a question.

One he knew the answer to already, seeing as thatd been the thing thatd
drawn our relationship to a sudden rocking halt.


18 months ago

Nervously, I looked into the mirror and inspected my attire.

Today would be my eighteenth date with Michael, and I felt that it was the one.

The one that would change everything.

Today would be the day that I gave myself to him.

Lock, stock, and barrel.

Wed only been dating for a little over four months, but it was enough.

I would be breaking my rule of twenty dates before I slept with him, but that was
only because I knew.

I knew I was about to sleep with the man I intended to marry.

A knock sounded at the door, and I hurried through my room to my front

entranceway, and threw open the door.

Michael was standing there, long sleeved button down shirt, as always, and a
smile on his face.

You look beautiful, he breathed.

I smiled at him and opened my door.

I made your favorite, I told him as he walked through.

Id found over the last four months that Michael had a love for Mexican food. A
great love for it.

And he really liked home cooked Mexican food.

Id gone through my mothers entire cookbook making him food and, over time,
wed discovered that his favorite was one of the most simple.

Fajitas, rice, and beans.

Score! Michael said as he made his way through the living room and headed
straight towards the kitchen.

The rice and beans are done. The only thing Im waiting on is for you to grill the
meat, I informed him.

He turned around and grinned, pinning me to the spot with those baby blues of

So we have time, he murmured, for me to do this?

Then his body crowded mine against the counter, and I forgot how to breathe.

Do what? I asked breathlessly.

He chuckled, then his mouth was on mine.

He tasted like heaven, mint with a hint of the Dr. Pepper hed just finished

My hands went underneath his shirt as I said, Im ready.

He blinked, then abruptly circled his arms around my lower legs, and lifted me
off my feet.

Jesus, he breathed, turning around and walking quickly to my bedroom.

He didnt bother with the lights, only laid me down on the bed before following
me down.

Are you sure? Because Im about to lose control here, and I dont want you to
regret anything. Regret me, he whispered.

In answer, I started stripping his shirt from his body, and then started working
on his pants.

He lifted up and resumed his own disrobing, allowing me to shimmy my dress

up and over my head.

All my careful planning for the night that included my outfit, down to the
straightness of my hair, was out the window once his naked body pressed
against mine.

Im so sure I cant even stand it, I told him, widening my legs to allow his hips
to slip between them.

He growled against my mouth, hand moving up to cup my breast.

Good, he rasped, moving up to his knees.

When I heard the sound of a package ripping open, I stopped him.

Im on the pill, I breathed, arching up to him. And Im clean.

He continued rolling on the condom. Im clean, too. But I always wear a

condom. No matter what. Less chance of having kids that way.

I nodded, slightly upset that Id wasted all that money going on birth control
when he wasnt even going to utilize the benefits of it.

Then I was filled completely with him, and I forgot to be disappointed.

Because he was anything but disappointing.


That next day, in my brothers kitchen, had been the showdown that had ended
our relationship.

I wanted kids. He didnt.

Well, that wasnt exactly what hed said. More like he wanted kidsjust not with

That simple.

Youwouldwould you be willing to adopt? He asked softly.

I blinked.

What? I asked in surprise.

He looked down at his hands, inspecting his fingers as he said, Would you be
willing to adopt? Or have kids that werent mine? Maybe by a sperm bank or

I considered that for a moment, letting what he was saying sink in.

Are you asking me if Id be willing to adopt a child and still be with you? I

He finally looked up at me, and my breath caught.

His pupils were dilated and I was fairly positive it wasnt because he was on
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

I miss you.

Three simple words that had the power to defeat me.

Michael, us breaking upit wasnt over something minor. It was huge. Pivotal.
But it wasnt even just the fact that you said you didnt want kids with me. It was
the fact that you were so final about it. You wouldnt talk to me. You wouldnt
share your feelings with me. Hell, but you fucked me with your t-shirt on, and
wouldnt let me in! Then you just shut down and didnt even explain, I said

He let all that he was feeling seep into two words. Im sorry.

I just shook my head. Its going to take a lot more than just sorry to make
everything alright.

Will youwill you come with me. Somewhere? I want to show you something,
he said softly.

I have to go to a meeting tomorrow at eight. I cant stay out late, I tried.

He shook his head. Ill keep you there as long as you want to be there. The
minute you want to go home, Ill take you.

My cars here, I countered.

Ill drive you back up here in the morning, he said pleadingly.

I looked at him for a long while before I came to my decision.

Fine. Justdont hurt me again, Michael. It hurt enough the first time to last me
a thousand lifetimes. I dont think I could survive it a second time, I whispered
hoarsely. Promise me.

He made a sound in his throat that hurt my heart, but I didnt relent.

I watched him and waited for him to promise me, and promise me he did.

I swear on my life that I will never intentionally hurt you again. I promise.

Chapter 5

Lifes a bitch. Oh, no. Wait, thats you. My mistake.

-Secret thoughts of Nikki Pena.


This is my favorite place in the world, I admitted softly as I pulled my truck up

into the front row parking spot of Peeks Tattoo Parlor.

Its a tattoo parlor, she said in surprise.

I tossed her a grin as I opened the door to my truck and dropped out.

I didnt know what the fuck I was thinking.

All I know was that this day had been complete shit, and Id had to do a lot of
thinking. Something Id been avoiding doing for quite a long time now.

Nearly a year and a half to be exact.

From the moment that I let Nikki misunderstand why I didnt want kids, I knew
Id made a terrible mistake. But, at the time, I thought Id been doing a good

She would have a terrible life if she stayed with me, and there was no one on
earth that Id want to have to deal with my shit.

But then Id held that boy, while hed drained his lifeblood on my chest, and I
knew that I couldnt deny it anymore.

I loved her. And Id do anything to have her. Even have a child with her if that
was what it took.

I was tired of being lonely.

And when I walked in on her reading to the baby, I knew Id make her mine

No matter what it took.

It all started with letting her into my world. Letting her see me. And that started

So, I guess I need to start by telling you why I do the tattoos, I started,
swallowing convulsively before I flayed myself open. When I was twelve, I
started cutting myself.

She gasped in surprise and whipped around to stare at me.

I put the tailgate of my truck down, and hopped up, holding out my hand to her.

She took it, no reluctance whatsoever, and that bolstered me to say what I had
to say next.

She came in between my legs and leaned into me, looking up at me with her
heart in her eyes.
I leaned my head against hers for a long moment before pulling back and
looking up at the stars.

That was the first time my parents realized something was wrong with me. I
didnt try to kill myself, per se, I just knew that something was wrong, and pain
made it feel better, I explained, not looking down into her eyes. That was when
I was diagnosed with depression. Three weeks after that, I was diagnosed with
bi-polar disorder. Bi polar two, to be exact. By the time I was fourteen, I was
diagnosed with ADD. Right now Im on medication for my bi-polar disorder and
ADD since they believe that those are the two causing most of my problems.

When I finally got the courage to look down at her, it wasnt horror that I saw,
but understanding.

So I felt like I should continue.

Surprisingly, none of that affected my schooling. The manic side of my bi-polar

disorder kept me from falling behind with the other things affecting me. I always
strove to be the best. The depression kicked in when I wasnt the best, I

My youngest sister is bi-polar, she said, surprising the fuck out of me enough
to look down at her again.

And the understanding in her eyes about killed me once again.

When I turned eighteen, I got a job in a tattoo shop to help fund my schooling.
My parents paid for nearly all of it, I only had to cover the books, I explained.
Thats when I found that the pain of the needle fed that need for pain in less
destructive ways, and I havent looked back since.

Schooling? I thought you were in the Navy, she said.

I curled a sliver of her hair thatd fallen free of her bun behind her ear, cupping
her neck once I did.

I went to school for my medical degree when I was seventeen. Graduated with
that when I was twenty five. Joined the Navy when I was twenty three, while
finishing that up. Then realized that I hated being a doctor, so I justquit.

I knew the next thing out of her mouth before she even said it.

And what made you not want to be a doctor anymore? Seems like a lot of
schooling on your part for you to just give it up, she whispered, laying her head
against my chest and looping her arms around my waist.

I held my breath, and tried to hold the pain in, yet it didnt want to be held

I witnessed an abortion that changed the course of my life and also ruined me
for the medical field, I said woodenly. If someone could just kill an unborn child
in that way, one that had fingers and toes, and clearly defined features, then
how could they say they were an upholder for human life? Wasnt what they
were doing the exact opposite?

Oh, Michael, Nikki breathed. Do you want to tell me about it?

I knew Nikki was catholic.

She went to church religiously every Sunday.

In fact, as a way to get closer to her, Id started going to conversion classes,

and attending Sunday mass at the very church that she went to just so I could
breach some of the gap between her and me.

The fact that abortion would never be uttered from her lips really held great
appeal to me.

Because abortion had been a determining factor in how Id live my life from the
moment I turned twenty three.

Even now, twelve years later, I can still remember what that baby looked like.

I looked at it every day in the mirror.

Its gory. And not a good story, I warned her.

She pressed further into my arms, and said what I needed to hear. Tell me.

So I did.

I was asked if I wanted to, and since Id never witnessed one before, I thought
sure, why not. Well, the why not became a what the hell have I done pretty
fuckin quickly. Id heard about abortions during one of the many lectures. Knew
the basics of it. So I go in there, and theres this woman already on the table
with her legs high and wide in the air. I cleared my throat. She was asleep,
and it was then I realized that the baby they were doing the abortion on was a
viable fetus, but the mother just didnt want her.

I watched as they hooked the vacuum up, maneuvered the small hose up her
vagina, and started to suck away. I coughed. Instantly, there was blood, and
thats about when I turned around and refused to watch anymore. Id just
witnessed a child murdered right in front of my eyes.

God, she breathed, a sob catching in her throat.

That was the first tattoo I got, I said, grabbing her hand with my own and
moving it to rest over my heart. Thats when I met Peek.

She moved away, placing distance that I didnt want between us, between us,
and held out her hand. Show me your Peek.

And thats what I did.

Hopping off the trucks tailgate, I made my way inside, hand in hand, with Nikki.
The first person to greet us at the front counter was Alison, the woman thatd
been working the front desk for as long as I could remember.

She was also Peeks old lady.

Peek was a member of an unofficial motorcycle club, and one of the grumpiest
men in the entire world.

Yet, he respected a man who could speak his language. And Peeks language
was the art of tattoos, and I had a lot of tattoos.

Mikey! Alison said happily. You ready to get that blank spot on your back
filled in?

Before I could answer, Nikki spoke up.

Actually, hes bringing me here to get my first tattoo! Nikki said excitedly, as if
wed actually planned for that to happen.

When I went to say something, she placed her hand over my mouth and shook
her head.

Really? Mikeys never brought anyone here before! Im so excited to meet you!
Youre Nikki, right? Alison asked with a happy laugh.

Nikki turned curious eyes to me before returning her attention to Alison.

Yeah, Im Nikki. I hope youve heard good things, she said honestly.

I knew I should stop this before it went any further, but I decided to let it be.
What was said was said, and I didnt have anything to hide.

Nikki would find out soon enough what Id done even without Alisons help.

Alison smiled. Oh yeah. Michael told us all about you when Peek was doing the
piece on his back.

Nikki blinked and turned to me, but Alison didnt notice. She was too busy going
on and on about all that Id said that night a year and a half ago.

The night Id been drunk out of my mind.

Whatd you do? She asked warily.

I shrugged and turned around, giving her my back.

Right above my belt, I told her.

Slowly I felt my shirt lifted, and then she gasped.

I knew what she saw.

It was kind of hard to miss.

You have my name tattooed on your ass! She squealed.

I snorted and turned around, giving her a dry look.

Its on my waist, not my ass. I dont have anything on my ass. I can always get
one if you want, I offered suggestively.

She wiggled her fingers at me.

Turn back around, she said. I wasnt done looking.

I did as I was told, and felt her tracing the letters of her name that was inked into
my flesh with her fingers.

Why? She asked softly.

I shrugged.

Seemed like a good idea at the time, I said lamely.

She laughed, making my heart soar.

Ive heard of women putting their mans name right there, so he can, ya know,
see it when he does her from, ya know, behind. But Ive never seen a man do
it, she tittered.

I let my shirt drop and turned back around to see her eyes now fixated on my
crotch, and I barely resisted the urge to cover it with my hand.

So, I said teasingly. What are you getting on that virgin skin of yours, Nik?

Wed talked about it once, a lifetime ago, but times changed. As did opinions.

Nikki, though, was predictable, proving to me she hadnt changed a bit.

Have you seen those huge eyed stuffed animal Ty Beanie Babies? She asked

Alison nodded. Yeah, who hasnt?

Nikki smiled.

Thats what I want.

I shook my head.

That woman.

On our first date together, Id won her one from one of those machines where
you used the claw to grab the stuffed animal out of the overpriced machine.
Shed fallen in love with it, and Id started calling her Owl later that night as I
saw the resemblance between the owls eyes and Nikkis.

When shed joked that she was going to get a tattoo of the owl, Id called her on
it, and wed made a bet that she wouldnt.

But then, as time went on, wed forgotten about it.

Then things had gone down, and suddenly there was no more Nikki and

Well, Id forgotten about it.

Nikki, apparently, had not.

Do you have a specific one you had in mind? Alison asked.

Nikki smiled and dug into her bottomless pit of a purse for her phone,
unearthing it after emptying not only her wallet, keys, and a makeup bag, but
also a pair of flip flops, onto the counter.

I could do nothing but shake my head.

That woman.

Oh! Alison said excitedly. I love it!

Alison was a forty four year old woman with graying blonde hair, but right then,
with the way she was giggling like a teenage girl, she couldve passed for one of
the young girls that Peek had just shown out the door.

What are you squealin about, woman? You know how that hurts me ears,
Peek growled teasingly.

Peek was fourth generation Irish.

He had a thick accent, but when he was talking to his wife, the accent got
thicker and thicker as he crooned his sweet words to her. Or yelled at her.

How ye doin, boyo? Peek asked slapping me on the shoulder with his large

Peek was a six foot four inch powerhouse that towered over my six foot two

I wasnt skinny by any means.

I had muscle on top of muscle.

Peek, on the other hand, was a bull where the rest of us were most definitely

He was a volunteer firefighter for the Uncertain, Texas Fire Department as

needed, and he worked at his tattoo parlor in Kilgore, Uncertain, and Gun
Barrell City on a rotating shift. He was also a member, and president, of the
Uncertain Saints MC.

Peek had started the MC a long time ago after the death of his and Alisons one
and only son.

Apparently itd been due to drugs, but Id never broached the subject any further
than what he was willing to give.

Id met him that first night, twelve years ago, and hed helped me cope with my
decision to leave medicine, as well as my parents outrage over the fact.

Hed also introduced me to the Chief of Police, Chief Rhodes, on my next shore

Wed hit it off, and Id found myself a job with Kilgore Police Department the
minute my feet met even earth once again.

Im doing well, Peek. This, I said, holding out my hand to Nikki, who ignored
me as she showed Alison pictures of nephews. Is Nikki.

Peek smiled, moving closer until he was directly behind Nikki with his body
turned towards me, remembering just as Alison had. Im glad to hear that,
boyo. Whatre ye doin here?

Nikki turned when she heard Peek at her back.

Eyes wide in wonder she said, Ive never met an Irishman before.

Peek turned to her and gave her a leering grin. Would you like to?

Rolling my eyes, I moved until my arm was around Nikkis neck. Shes spoken
for, big guy. And Im fond of Nikkis eyes, I said looking pointedly at an innocent
looking Alison who had the grace to look chagrined.

A few months ago, Peek had been working on a client, a young female who was
getting one of the most-hated-by-Peek tattoos ever, a butterfly, when the young
client had grabbed Peeks crotch.

Alison, having witnessed the incident, flipped. Then threw the girl and her half-
finished butterfly out the front door.

Id been the one to take the call when the girl had called to report the apparent
assault, which were actually just a few scratches on her face.

I cant help that that girl was a dumbass who thought it was appropriate to grab
a mans, a married mans, crotch, Alison said stubbornly, before tossing a glare
in her husbands direction.

I cant help that me package is irresistible! Peek said in his Irish brogue.
Nikki laughed, covering her mouth to contain her giggles before turning laughing
eyes on me.

You ready to get that tattoo done, Owl? I asked softly, ignoring the two
bickering people to our sides.

She nodded. Yeah, I think its time.

Chapter 6

If she even looks at me Ill fuck her face upwith my killer glare, and hellacious
cold shoulder.

-Nikki to Lennox


Hello? I answered my phone. I sounded tired.

Id literally been in bed for less than four hours, tops, and I was dying to go back
to sleep.

Nikki? Lennox whispered softly. Where are you?

My eyes blinked open tiredly, and I rolled over to look at the clock.

In bed, I moaned. Why?

Uhh, because you were supposed to be here thirty minutes ago. You told me
you switched with Damon, and neither you or Damon is here, and Joslins on a
fuckin rampage, Lennox said hurriedly. Shes telling everyone she can that
youre not here yet. Ive been stalling, but you need to hurry!

Crap, I whispered, jolting up out of bed. Ill be there in ten minutes.

Pulling a brush through my hair as I went to the bathroom, I hurriedly pulled on

clothes and rushed through my morning routine that would normally take forty
five minutes, condensing it down into five.

Which meant my hair was curly instead of straight like I usually styled it.

It meant that my makeup was non-existent and my clothes were wrinkled

because Id had to pull them out of a pile of clothes on the foot of my bed that
my cat loved to knock down when she could. And it also meant that I was
wearing the wrong colored tennis shoes, because I couldnt find my work pair.

I was sure Id get reprimanded for it, but if Id known ahead of time that Id get
written up for it and nearly lose my job, I wouldve called in sick.
My phone rang again, and I nearly panicked.

I was religiously late.

To everything.

Birthdays, work, parties, dates.

If it had a possibility for me to be late, I was late.

Luckily, it was just my sister, Noel.

Nik-Nik, can I borrow your car? I have to have the brakes fixed on mine, and I
need to drive to Tyler for school, Noel said pleadingly.

I rolled my eyes. As long as you fill it back up with gas, and bring it back in time
for me to drive home from work later.

Deal, she said. Ill come get it from your work in about ten minutes.

I closed the front door to my apartment behind me and started to hurry down the
hall to the stairs. Make it fifteen. Im running late.

She laughed. Why does that not surprise me?

Watch it, I teased. See you later. Be careful today.

With that, I hung up and started to run down the stairs.

I was going to be later than Id said.

Twelve minutes later, I was pushing through the doors of the ER with my bag
over one shoulder.

Since I didnt have any food in my bag, because I hadnt had time to make
anything last night nor this morning, I stored my bag underneath the nurses
station and made my way up to Bryan, the charge nurse.

Bryan, I said, catching his attention. Im sorry Im late. I had a really long

I didnt tell him why I had a long night, however.

And he didnt ask.

He nodded. Dont make a habit of it, Pena.

I nodded, then winced when the movement pulled the skin at my back,
reminding me once again of the tattoo Id gotten just hours ago. And Michael.

Bryan, when have we become allowed to wear colored shoes? A snotty

female voice belonging to Joslin, asked.
Bryan looked up from his charting to Joslin.

Were not allowed to wear colored shoes. You know the rules, white only,
Bryan said, sounding slightly annoyed.

I walked away, knowing where this was going before Id even had time to
process the fact that Joslin was aiming for me today.

But Nikkis wearing shoes like that, Joslin tattled like a two year old.

Bryans eyes turned to me, taking in my shoes.

Then quickly turned back to his charting.

It was the soft throat clearing from Joslin that had him sighing and looking at

Go change them, Pena, Bryan said tiredly.

What the fuck was that?

You want me to go home to change them? I asked for clarification.

He nodded. Yeah. Now.

I shrugged. Thats fine with me, but its gonna take me another hour or so to
get back. I lent my car to my sister for the day. Im sure shes already picked it
up by now. So Ill have to call her for a ride home.

Bryan growled in frustration.

Nikki, he said, standing up. Follow me to the break room. We need to talk.

Stomach clutching, I followed Bryan out the double doors and down a side
hallway that led to our break room, all the while Joslins laughing eyes followed
me out.

I refrained from flipping her the bird, but only just barely.

I was already in trouble, and I was fairly positive Joslin would just tell him what
Id done anyway. So I put on my big girl panties and followed dutifully behind

Once we were in the break room, he sat on the edge of the table and crossed
his arms.

Ive already had to talk with the director about your constant lateness, he said
without preamble.

I pinched my lips closed.

I had no reason.
I was late.

End of story.

And always would be.

Im sorry, I said sincerely.

And I was.

Not for just past incidences, but for future incidences as well.

He sighed and rolled his head up to the ceiling.

You need to get your ducks in a row, he said. I have a feeling that the only
reason theyve kept you is because youre such a good worker. Youre always
staying late, always picking up shifts and willing to move when we ask you to.
But that doesnt make up for the fact that youre constantly late, and you need to
try harder to get that fixed, otherwise Ill be obligated to report this to the
director, okay? He asked, sounding tired.

I nodded, uncrossing my arms and placing my hands in my pockets of my

scrubs. Sure.

I wouldnt make any promises, though.

That was just me. I was late.

Ive also had a complaint about you from a few of the staff members for going
off on coffee breaks too often, he said carefully.

A few staff members my ass!

It was only one staff member!

And that was because shed just come back from sucking some mans cock!


I see, I said carefully. And does this staff member happen to have a vendetta
against me or something?

He blinked.

Um, no, he answered lamely.


Well, I only went on one coffee break yesterday, Bryan. And that was right after
I had to put an IV into some kid whod just been shot in the head! I all but
snarled. Excuse me if I cant handle that and needed a fucking break!
He blinked, surprised at my outburst.

I wasnt aware that was why youd gone yesterday. Id only heard what she
said to me. I apologize, Bryan said truthfully.



Well that could only be one person!

Stupid cunt muffin, I muttered as I turned around to leave. Fucking her way to
the top.

I stomped my way down the hallway, passing the entrance into the ER, and
then came to a dead stop when I saw Joslins fucking hand on my Michael.

He was looking at her with concern as she wiped a fake tear from her eyelid,
and I lost it.

Its hard to say where I came by my temper.

My papa liked to say that it was my moms. My mom liked to say that it came
from my dad.

Wherever it came from, it was legendary.

However, legendary temper or not, I needed my job, so I had my tantrum in the

bay where the ambulances parked instead of in the hallway in front of the stupid

Stupid son of a whore. Puta needs her brain scanned if she thinks she can fuck
with me. Im a Pena, goddammit! And that pendejo has another think coming if
he thinks Im going to stand for this after last night. Motherfucker! I hissed
loudly as I marched out of the sliding glass doors.

And right into a group of bikers that were looking at me funny.

In their lead was Peek, and he had a mocking smile on his face that was
perilously close to being slapped off.

What are yall looking at, fools? I snapped, pushing through them.

They moved, Im sure some of them trying not to laugh.

Others, like the tall dark and handsome one with the caramel skin and the
laughing green eyes, as well as Peek, didnt bother to hide the laughs that
bubbled out of their throat.

Whats got your panties in a wad, Owl? Peek laughed from behind me.

I flipped him the bird as I stomped across the parking lot, not missing the fact
that through the glass walls that lined the back hallway I could see Michael
standing with Joslin, in much the same position as before, but now he had his
hands on her head.

I made it all the way to the parking lot before I realized Id forgotten that I didnt
have a car.

Then I saw the shiny Dodge diesel with the black rims and electric blue paint job
that Michael had gotten sometime in the last year, and bad Nikki came out to

Lets just say that my brother taught me a thing or two in his time, and with
nothing else better to do, Id honed the skills until I could get into anything, and
drive anything.

The newer vehicles were equipped with keyless entry, and you had to have a
remote in the vehicle to start it.

Michael, though, had made a whoopsie yesterday.

Hed told me about a spare key he kept in his toolbox.

Id never thought that Id need to know thatbut right now it came in really
fucking handy!

Reaching under the wheel well, I ducked my head above the tire and looked for
the black box, finding it within seconds.

The box came off the metal it was attached to easily enough, but the entire
thing was covered in dirt and grease, effectively making my hand completely
covered in the gunk.

Not that I cared.

I was on my way home.

Id take my time and come back dressed, really dressed, and take it from there.

Although Id probably abandon Michaels vehicle a couple of blocks over from

my apartment.

It wouldnt do to have him knowing it was me.

Pressing the unlock button, I opened the door and hauled myself inside.

Is there a reason a man has to lift his truck so big? I muttered to myself,
slamming the door.

Pressing my foot on the brake, and punching the start button, the diesel motor
rumbled to life with a quiet purr.

Looking left and right, as well as at the door where I guessed Michael would
come out of if he knew his truck was leaving him, I pulled out of the parking spot
that Michael had so nicely backed into for me.

Then I was on the road and two minutes from where Id decided to park my
newest acquisition when the red and blue lights lit up my mirror.

Son of a bitch! I said, cursing myself and my stupidity. Youre always doing
this, Nikki. Always with the bad decisions.

To make matters worse, it was my stinkin brother behind the wheel of the
cruiser that was pulling me over.

His surprise was as great as mine when he saw me behind the wheel.

It took him a few minutes to speak, but when he did, it wasnt nice.

Not that that was unusual for Nico.

He was a major dick sometimes.

You are one stupid bitch, he sighed.

I took the nearest thing to me that I could reach and threw it at him, which
happened to be a water bottle half filled with Gatorade.

He easily caught it and glared.

You do know, right, that half the force is now looking for his truck? He asked
with a raised brow.

I shrugged. I was mad.

He blinked. You were madso you thought itd be a good idea to steal a mans

I didnt steal it. I borrowed it, I said stubbornly.

He just shook his head. Get out.


Yes, he said through clenched teeth.

Make me! I countered.

I was sitting in the back of Nicos police car when Michael pulled up twenty
minutes later.

Nico was leaning against the hood, tired of hearing me yell at him, and I was

Id probably be fired, too.

I knew I wouldnt be arrested for borrowing Michaels truck, but Nico was an
ass and put me back here because he wanted to, not because he had to.

Michael dropped out of another cruiser that pulled up nose to nose with
Michaels truck, and got out.

Thats when I closed my eyes and got comfortable.

Leaning my back against the door, I crossed my arms over my chest and
stretched my legs, with my forbidden colored shoes, across the seat.

I was trying not to think about what I would find on my clothes if I had a black

The inside of this cruiser was disgusting, and if this never happened again, itd
be great.

It even smelled bad.

Tapping on the window across from me had my eyes snapping open, and then
shutting just as quickly.

The door opened and Michaels deep, sexy voice said, Get out.

I shook my head and closed my eyes. Nope, sorry. Cant. My brothers the
arresting officer. Ill have to deal with him from now on.

Michaels eyes narrowed. Im not going to say it again, Nikki.

And what are you going to do if I dont listen? Sit there and stare at me? Yeah.
No, I said, closing my eyes once again.

Then my ass was sliding across the seat by way of Michaels massive hand
wrapped around my ankle.

I screamed, turning over onto my belly as he got my legs out of the car, and
then latching onto the door as I was pulled all the way out.

Michaels hands went to my hips as he pulled harder, and my grip on the door
started to give.

Let me go, you big douche bag! I yelled. Help!

We were on a deserted street in the middle of downtown, so the fact that I was
yelling help when there was no one around was quite comical, and apparently
Michael thought so.

He laughed. The bastard.

Let me go! I hate you! I yelled, starting to kick when he tossed me over his

He smacked my ass, and I screeched.

You bastard! I snarled.

You already said that, he said laughingly, walking past my brother and the
other officer who brought him, which happened to be James.

My brothers mouth twitched as I passed, and the bottle hed handed back to
me as he shoved me into the car sounded like a great thing to throw at him
again had I had it.

Except Michael had made me lose it with his caveman tendencies.

When he got to the passenger door to his truck, he unlocked it with the keys in
his hand and yanked the door open forcefully before depositing me
unceremoniously on the seat.

I gasped in surprise, and then glared at the closed door that had just slammed
in my face.

Pendejo. I muttered, then tried to open the door.

It didnt open, mostly because my brother was there to stop me.

I flipped him off and he laughed.

Ill get you back for this, I said, pointing at him warningly.

He lifted both hands and shook in fake terror.

I narrowed my eyes, and then smiled as I pulled out my cell phone.

Hello? My best friend answered.

Georgia, I said when she answered. You know last week when you asked
Nico what he had for lunch, and he said salad? Yeah, it was really a burger
from Jucys. He lied to you.

Her outraged gasp, and then the click of the phone in my ear, followed by the
instant ringing of Nicos had me nearly laughing in hilarity.

Karmas a bitch! I yelled when he answered the phone.

Georgia was on a diet, which meant that Nico was on one, too.

Except Nico didnt want to be on a diet, and every day he was on shift he ate
out because he was so hungry.

He paid in cash because she could see their bank account, and Id caught him
at Georgias favorite restaurant just last week where hed made me promise not
to tell.

Like the good sister I am, I didnt tell. Until he put on his bastard hat. Then all
bets were off.
That wasnt nice, Michael said from my side.

Id heard him open his door, of course, but I was ignoring him so I didnt bother
acknowledging him.

Crossing my arms over my chest, I stared straight ahead and refused to even
think about him.

Put your seatbelt on, he ordered as he started the truck.

I ignored him.

Nikki, he said with a sigh. Put it on.

I didnt.

Growling in exasperation, he unbuckled his own seatbelt, reached across me.

His forearm caressed my breast, and my nipple tightened.

The traitorous bitch.

Once he had a hold of the belt, he reached it around me and buckled it into
place next to my hip.

He smelled good. Not that I would admit that.

And my nipples were still tingling.

Michael went back to his seat, rolled down the window, and started backing up.

Thanks! He yelled at the two men watching us leave.

I snorted.

Screw them, too.

Id be talking with James wife, too. I was fairly sure I could find some dirt on him
to wipe that smirk off his face.

What crawled up your ass? He asked once we were on the road.

I turned my head to look out the window and stayed silent.

Stop being childish and talk to me. What you did today couldve turned out a lot
different. Youre lucky it was your brother to pull you over and not someone that
didnt know you. Things couldve gone to shit easily, he growled.

I turned to him then.

You wanna know childish? How about your wife telling everyone at work that
Im a piss poor employee, and then tattling on me because Im wearing the
wrong shoes. The same rule, and I say rule with the upmost reluctance
because nobody follows it, that everyone breaks. Which I then get sent home
for, I snarled.

He blinked. Shes not my wife.

Well, you fucked her and you were married to her. Nearly the same thing, I
told him.

Its not nearly the same thing. Ive been divorced from Joslin for way over two
years. We have no relationship whatsoever, and shes marrying my brother,
Michael said matter of factly.

I tried hard not to react to the fact that she was marrying Michaels brother, but

Shes what? I yelled.

Well if that didnt take the wind out of my sails, I didnt know what would.

Michael shot me an amused look, and it only made that fire burning down in my
belly become hotter.

He was so sexy.

His black hair was shaved tightly to his head on the sides, and had about a half
inch on top, and his face was clean shaven, though it hadnt been last night. He
was back in his trademark black t-shirt, and a pair of jeans covered his legs.

Yeah, you heard right, he nodded.

I blinked and turned back towards my window.

She was such a hoe!

Bryan. At least three doctors that I knew. And Michaels brother? For real?

How did the woman have that much energy?

I thought you had to work today, I said accusingly, not turning away from the

I do. At twelve. Its only nine thirty in the morning, he answered. I was up
there to come see you, when I didnt find you at your apartment, but Joslin was
telling me you were sent home.

I clenched my hands into fists.

She is such a bitch, I snarled.

He snorted. And youre just now figuring this out?

I snorted. You were touching her.

He sighed. Theres something wrong with her. She doesnt understand the
word no. Shes devious and vindictive. Ive learned over the years that the
easiest way to deal with her is just let her have what she wants. Or, at least, let
her think she got what she wants. Gentleness seems to throw her off, so thats
why I do that. Ive learned to be just as manipulative as she is out of necessity.

I rolled my eyes. Well, I think if you want to continue this relationship, you are
going to need to figure out how to not touch her, because I dont like it. Not even
a little bit.

He smiled, revealing brilliant white teeth.

Noted, he agreed immediately.

Then he turned back to the road, and I was left contemplating my brashness of
stealing his truck.

I sometimes dont think before I act, I admitted softly, looking at my hands.

He snorted. Thats an understatement.

Ill try not to steal your truck again, I said softly.

You wont have the opportunity to steal my truck again, he laughed.

I raised my brow at him.

You think? I asked.

He smiled. I know.

When we pulled up to my apartment, I pulled out my keys and offered them to


He took them, thankful that he hadnt asked, and started up the stairs.

Id realized over the course of our four month dating life, and again last night,
that Michael liked to be cautious.

It didnt matter if we were gone ten minutes or five hours, when we got back to
my place, he was going to take a look through the house to be sure that
everything was fine before he left me.

I followed behind him, bemused, and walked into the door just as he was
coming out of the kitchen and disappearing into the bedroom.

I had a one bedroom apartment that I loved to hate.

I was on the top right of a four apartment unit, and I hated every second of it.

The neighbor to my right stole my parking spot. The neighbor to my bottom left
liked to take my clothes out of the shared laundry room. And the neighbor
directly below me liked to have loud, wall banging sex. Not that I knew how he
did it since I was above him, and I was fairly sure he couldnt fuck on the

Regardless, he did it, and I was impressed. But also a little sleep deprived at

The interior of the apartment was nothing special. White generic walls, beige
carpeting. Plain crappy countertops and appliances that shouldve been
updated last decade.

My furniture, however, was nice.

I spent a lot of time at home, and I wanted to be comfortable while I did it.

Which was why Id spent nearly an entire paycheck on my couch, and the next
paycheck on my TV.

My bed wasnt as nice as my couch, which was why I found myself sleeping on
the couch more often than not.

Whatd you get sent home for? Michael asked, breaking into my thoughts.

I turned to him and crossed my arms over my breasts.

I couldnt find my appropriate shoes for work this morning, so I wore my

regular tennis shoes, which Joslin immediately brought up to our boss, and I got
sent home to change them. Although that was over an hour and a half ago, so I
might not have a job to go back to, I admitted.

He moved forward, running his hand along the back of the couch.

Visions of our one single night together started to filter through my brain, and I
barely restrained the urge to cross my legs to try to circumvent the throb
between my legs.

Youll have a job to go back to, Michael told me. As for your shoes, those are
in my truck in the backseat. You took them off last night and forgot to take them
in with you. Which was what I was bringing back to you when you stole my

I laughed.

That man! How freakin funny he was!

That wouldve saved me a lot of time and heartache, I told him. Why didnt
you just text me? I asked.

You told me to lose your number, remember? Since Id never memorized it,
and you deleted it from my phone, I didnt have it. Unless I wanted to call Nico,
and today was his day to take a standardized test with the department, athough
it was canceled, thank God. So I wouldnt have been able to do that. So I
brought them to you instead, he explained, his eyes eating me up.
I sighed.

Turning to my kitchen, I put my bag down on the table and went to the fridge to
grab my lunch, which Id forgotten and shoved it into my bag.

Well I guess you didnt have to bring me all the way home then. Ill just have to
go change my clothes now because I feel like I swam in a cesspool after being
in the back of Nicos cop car, I said, heading to my bedroom.

Stripping my shirt off on the way, I tossed it to the floor of my bedroom and went
to my closet for a new one.

I stepped out of my shoes and pushed my pants down my hips when I felt a pair
of hands settle on either hip.

Im pretty sure that I shouldve stayed in the living room, he whispered against
the back of my neck.

Tingles started to run down my spine, and this time I didnt try to stop my thighs
from rubbing together.

Just the sound of the mans husky voice had me replaying our one night,
remembering what it felt like to have him inside of me. The way his rough hands
felt against the sensitive skin of my breasts.

The way his beard tickled the lips of my sex as he pulled his cock from me and
ate me to completion right before slamming back inside of me and coming hard
in two rough strokes.

Why? I asked breathlessly, widening my legs when his hand started to move
between my thighs.

Because youre about to be even later.

Chapter 7

Youre too short to be that full of shit.

-Michael to Nikki


I gasped in surprise when he spun me around and moved forward until my back
met the shirts I had hanging in my closet.

Hangers screeched in protest as our bodies forced them to press against the

One of my hands went around Michaels shoulders as the other went to the pole
currently holding up every shirt I owned.

Im gonna be picking these up later, I gasped right before Michaels mouth met

I moaned as his tongue swept inside, rubbing teasingly along mine as he forced
his mouth down harder on my own.

When I felt his hands move between us, I lifted my hips slightly, allowing my
aching core to rub against his hard abs as he unbuckled his pants and let them
drop to his ankles.

I gasped when he took hold of my hips and forced them back down.

His cock ground against my panty clad *, and I couldnt help the involuntary jerk
of my hips as pleasure ripped through me at the simple touch.

Michael, I gasped, throwing my head back to pillow in my shirts.

His mouth skimmed along my collarbone, and moved down until his lips glided
over the swell of my breast.

I had on a modest white bra that was the single one that I found comfortable to
wear all day while working, and I was fairly sure it probably wasnt what one
would call attractive.

Yet, I forgot to care when he tugged the cup of the bra covering one breast
down with his teeth, then followed that by sucking the tip of my nipple into his
hot, wet mouth.

Oh, Jesus, I breathed, hips moving jerkily as tiny sparks centering in the tip of
my nipple coursed through my body.

My stomach clenched and I moved both hands from his shoulders down.

One hand went to my panties as the other grasped the hard length of his cock.

Pulling my panties to the side, I lined the head of his cock up with my entrance
and waited.

Michael didnt disappoint.

As he switched breasts, pulling down the other cup with his teeth and nipping
the tip of my nipple with his, he surged inside of me.

My * convulsed as it tried to adjust to his size, but he didnt give me time.

Once fully seated inside, he pulled slowly back out before sinking back inside of
me roughly.
I bit my lip and moved my hands up to the side of his head, watching as he let
the tip of his tongue circle the diameter of my nipple.

He started thrusting in and out of me, filling me to the point of pain, before he
retreated once again.

Hangers snapped and shirts fell all around us as his hips powered into me, his
cock kissing the entrance to my womb with each thrust.

Please, I said, needing more.

I opened my eyes when he stopped, and my eyes widened when he pulled out
completely and dropped us down to our knees.

I turned around as he urged my hips to the side, presenting him with my ass.

My hands were resting on my pile of shoes as I looked over my shoulder and

watched him pull my panties down over my hips.

My * clenched with need at the look on his face as he devoured the sight of my

I could guess what he saw.

My * lips red and puffy. My entrance leaking with need as it begged him to fill
me once again. My panties down around my knees where hed hastily yanked
them. My ass round and full.

I wiggled my hips and pressed back slightly as he continued to look for too long.

Michael, I whispered. Please.

My * clenched when he looked up, my eyes catching his.

They were on fire.

The blues nearly completely black as his pupils dilated.

He moved forward on his knees until his cock met my entrance, and unhurriedly
he sank inside.

I moaned and dropped to my elbows as he pushed his hips forward until every
last bit of him was buried in my channel.

This position allowed him to sink deeper inside of me, and I swear I could feel
him in my belly each time he filled me.

His thumb brushed over the pucker of my asshole, and I practically came with
just the single taboo touch.

I clenched down so hard on him that he let out a strangled groan, and finally lost
the control hed been trying desperately to hold on to.
I screamed when he pulled out and thrust into me so hard that my knees left the
carpeted floor.

Not in pain, though.

In pleasure.

Yes! I keened, pushing back with my own hips to meet his powerful thrusts.

He growled at the way my * clenched down on his cock and gave me a small
smack on the ass when I tried to reach between my legs to help my orgasm

No, he said sharply. Thats mine.

I didnt bother to argue with what was his.

I remembered how he liked it.

Itd been a very long time since Id last had his cock, but I knew he only wanted
my pleasure to come from him.

He wanted to be responsible for bringing me to orgasm.

He wanted to make me come so hard that I screamed so loud I aroused the


My hand dropped and I let the side of my face rest along the length of one of my
house slippers as he pounded inside of me.

My orgasm was just around the corner, and he could feel it.

Come, he ordered.

I laughed. You cant just tell me to come. You have to make me.

So he did.

By inserting his thumb into my ass.

I shot off like a freakin bottle rocket, surging so high and far into oblivion that I
couldnt see my way home again.

Distantly, I was aware of him pulling out of me and roughly fisting his cock
against my back as he shot his come down the length of my back, but I was too
busy coming to wonder why.

His thumb twisted inside of me and my orgasm, which Id thought had been on
the downhill slide, started to move forward again.

By the time I was back in my own skin, I was in a boneless heap where Id
collapsed, shoes digging into my upper torso and not one single care in sight.
I think you broke me, I told him, feeling him withdraw his thumb.

He snorted as he stood, and I watched as he drug his pants that were still
around his ankles, back up his legs and over his hips.

He zipped them, but didnt button them as he walked away, leaving me in my

indecent position in a pile of sexual haze.

He came back short moments later with a wash cloth, and started cleaning my
back free of his release.

Once done, he shoved his hand underneath my hips and lifted me up and back.

When my back met his front, I leaned my head to the side, exposing my neck
for his seeking mouth.

Thank God youre on the pill, he said in his gravelly voice.

I looped my arm around his neck.

How do you know Im on them? I asked curiously.

I wasnt surprised that he knew I still was.

He was a cop for Gods sake.

If he wasnt observant and smart, he wouldnt make a good cop.

And there was one thing I knew of for sure, Michael was a damn fine cop.

Because I saw them in your purse last night when you were handing your
phone to Alison, he explained. Just remember to take them, because after
fucking you bare like this, Im fairly sure Ill never be able to do it again with a

His admission made me smile widely.

Then my smile died as I heard my phone ringing from the kitchen.

Shit, I said, standing up and yanking my panties up as well.

The new position placed Michaels face right at eye level with my ass, and he
took full advantage of it as I looked down at the mess wed made of my closet.

Shit, I said, bending down to look through the mess.

I found a shirt, followed by a pair of pants, and threw them on, all the while
Michael massaged my ass and inner thighs, working me into another tizzy
before I realized it.

Michael, I said pleadingly. Im already late. Please.

He growled in frustration as he said, I have to get to work shortly too.


I smiled as he let my hips go and stood, but only to replace his fingers with his

He ground his hips into me.

I was thankful that he was still wearing pants, because had he been naked, Id
probably be asking him to fill me once again.

Michael, I pleaded once again.

He sighed and stepped back.

Immediately, I missed his body heat, but I had a job and commitments.

Thank you, I told him, turning around as I settled the shirt onto my body.

He smiled.

Anything for you, he said painfully, rearranging his cock in his pants as he
buttoned and buckled his belt.

A smile curved the sides of my lips as I walked into the bathroom to inspect my

Where I then decided that the just fucked look looked good on me.

And it wouldnt hurt to allow Joslin to see just what she was missing.

Ready? Michael asked once I exited the bathroom.

At my nod he led me into the kitchen where I grabbed my bag and headed out
the door.


Thirty minutes later, with Michaels essence still leaking out of me, I ran into
work, throwing a kiss over my shoulder at Michael as I sped inside.

He caught it and waved, making me smile.

Id asked him to wait for me to make sure I still had a job, and he gave me an
okay sign as he leaned back in his seat and finished programming my number
into his phone.

I still cant believe he ever listened to me.

Hell, it seemed surrealall of it.

Just a few days ago I was puttering along, trying to stay afloat with classes,
work, and studying.

Now here I was, blowing off study time so I could go on a date with a man I
never thought Id have a chance with again.

Good, youre back! Lennox cooed, rubbing her hands together in excitement.
There was a lot of excitement here an hour or so ago. Cops were everywhere,
and then there was this man, Michael, I dont know if youve met him but he has
brown hair and blue eyes. He was yelling at someone about his truck being
stolen. Then he forced the security guy to go through the camera feed, but the
feed was down because the security guard spilled coffee on the hardware last
week and completely fried the whole system.

I blushed. Did they find out who stole the car? I asked innocently.

Lennox shook her head. No. They didnt, or at least we didnt see who it was.
They ran out of here like their asses were on fire earlier when they got some
call about a BOLO, which I later learned was a be on the lookout, and we
havent heard anything since.


That wouldve been bad to have the hospital know what Id done.

I was already on shaky ground as it was!

Well, that sucks, I managed to say lightly while squirting a large dollop of
antibacterial soap into my hands. You heard why I had to leave?

Lennox nodded and we both looked to where Joslin was standing across the

She was with a new intern that Id never met before, leaning into him and
patting his arm while fake laughing.

God that woman was such a hoe!

And I still hadnt forgiven Michael for touching her earlier.

I didnt give a shit if that was the only way to get her unsettled. He needed to
find a different way.

I wonder what her problem is? She usually only reserves that kind of treatment
for the women who try to steal her thunder, Lennox wondered.

Thats cause Joslin is a show hound that likes to have all the attention on her,
Melissa, one of my favorite nurses, snarled as she threw down a chart on the
counter next to my hand.

Im dating Michael, I told Lennox by way of explanation, completely ignoring

Melissas pissed off mutterings.

Then a fountain of understanding welled in Lennoxs eyes.

Well, thats going to be interesting for you, she managed to say.

You can say that again. That woman needs the stick thats lodged up her ass
removed, Melissa grumbled. She just told Bryan that I was flirting with a
patient, and that I needed to learn to be more professional. Motherfucker, but I
was just telling him he had cute kids! I didnt say he had a cute cock or

We both looked at her in surprise at her outburst.

That woman needs to go, I muttered. Surely there are enough people around
that can complain about her to someone she hasnt fucked.

The three of us fell into a fit of giggles at the thought.

There probably wasnt a single manor married man for that matterin the
entire hospital that she hadnt had some of. Which was the entire problem. For
all of us.

Chapter 8

You touch my tats, I touch your tits.



Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

The sound of my Glock echoing off the cavernous walls of the gun range made
me feel at peace.

Almost as good as I felt when I had Nikki wrapped in my arms, in fact.

Shooting was a peaceful feeling.

One that let me shut my mind down and just have fun.

I had to log so many hours in the gun range a month anyway, so it worked out
well that I loved doing it.

What I didnt love was the man at my back whining about the dirt he was getting
on his clothes.
I didnt tell you to come, I grumbled to my brother.

No, but you didnt react like I thought you would at dinner when we told you. I
expected anger and you gave us nothing. Then left. I just wanted to make sure
you were okay with this, Dean said stubbornly.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

Placing the gun on the table in front of me, I took the magazine Id just ejected
from the gun and started to reload it.

Michael, are you even listening to me? Dean asked in frustration.

I ignored him.

I didnt really know what he wanted me to say.

Id already told him exactly what I thought about the matter: mostly that I didnt

Not one single bit.

And he refused to think that I didnt.

So we were at an impasse.

I didnt care.

He cared too much that I didnt care.

Michael! Focus! Dean roared.

I slammed the magazine into the gun, cocked it, and let off eight more shots,
trying hard as fuck to ignore him.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

Michael! Get out of your fucking head and talk to me! Dean snarled, yanking
my arm with the gun in it around so I faced him.

I holstered the empty gun and exploded.

I am out of my fucking head, you moron! Im not that fucked up mess I was
when I was fifteen. Im not ever in my head! Now keep your fucking hands off
me, and for Gods sake, dont yank a mans arm when he has a gun in his
hand! I yelled back, getting into his face.

Dean stood his ground.

We were both the same height.

I was bigger, but only because I lifted weights.

Dean was in shape. Excellent shape. But he wasnt me.

So when he raised both arms, reared back, and pushed me, I only went back

Whereas when I did the same, he fell flat on his ass.

What the fuck do you want from me? I snarled, looking down at Dean.

Dean glared and stood up, brushing off his ass and his brand new suit he just

What I want is permission. I want to make sure this wont cause any contention
when she marries me, he insisted.

I sighed and raised my hands up to my face, letting my fingers curl into what
little hair I had.

Its not a bone of contention, Dean. I dont love her and I havent for some time.
When she cheated on me, that was it. Any and all love I felt for her was wiped
off the face of the earth, I said tiredly.

I never shouldve let Torres have my shift.

I shouldve taken the overtime and stayed at work.

This was bullshit.

Id rather be doing anything but this right now.

Hed ruined a perfectly good day with his insistence that I wasnt okay.

Dean looked stunned. Youre lying. She told me you wouldnt have a kid with
her, thats why yall got divorced.

I laughed humorlessly.

I wouldnt have a kid with her, thats true. But what made me divorce her wasnt
that she wanted kids. It was because she slept with about fifteen men while we
were married, and I only found out because she was sloppy and let some new
doctor call her at home. He left a voicemail telling his girl that he couldnt make
dinner, and that they needed a raincheck. Which got me curious since she was
supposed to be at work at the time, I told him honestly.

And damn but it felt good to get that shit off my chest!

Id been holding that inside for a long time now.

It was hard to let my family think I was the bad guy for not wanting kids.

My mom resented me for that, I could tell. But I didnt know how else to not tell
anybody what had happened without Joslin being shunned from the family, so I
kept my mouth shut.

Youre lying, Dean said without venom.

I could tell he believed me.

Want the private dicks files? Ive got about two hundred photos of it happening
in real time, too, I offered.

He narrowed his eyes. Why would you not tell us this? Why let us think badly of

I smiled without humor.

Mom loves Joslin. And Joslin has nobody else. I was just being nice, I told

He sighed. Goddammit. Thats not what I wanted to hear.

I shrugged. Sorry man.

He looked at me for a few long moments before he said, I love her, man.

I nodded. If you want to be with her, thats good with me. I dont care. Just be
aware of her faults. And I wont tell you I told you so.

He flipped me off. Fuck off.

I smiled and patted him lightly on the back. Now get the fuck out of here and let
me enjoy the rest of my day.

Grudgingly he left, and I couldnt help but smile at the big brown stain on his ass
from where hed fallen in the dirt.

Served the fucker right for pestering me.

Turning around, I loaded my gun once again and started firing off shots at the
piece of paper floating down range.

I was having a damn good time until I got a call, and what I heard made my
stomach nearly drop to my feet.


Whats going on, Luke? I asked him as we walked, side by side, down the
hallway to our conference room.
Luke opened the door and ushered me inside ahead of him.

I came to a stop just past the entrance when I was faced with multiple men in

Whats going on? I asked again.

Luke walked past me and had a seat next to Chief Rhodes, who I was surprised
to see was also in attendance.

Take a seat, Perez. We have some things to discuss with you. Nothing you did
wrong, though, so stop looking at me like that, The Chief grumbled.

Smiling slightly, I walked to the chair on the other side of the chief and took a
seat, leaning back in my chair and crossing my arms over my chest.

The chief pushed over a file folder that was nearly an inch thick, and I took that
to mean that he wanted me to open it and have a look.

And when I did, I wished Id at least braced myself first.

Goddammit, chief. Fuck you, I said, pushing the file away from me and closing
my eyes to control my urge to vomit.

Hell do, the man I sat across from said.

He was in his early fifties and had brown hair peppered with gray throughout.

He was a thin man, and probably didnt reach much over five and a half feet tall.

The other man at his side was burly with black hair and a deep tan. He was in
his mid to late thirties with green eyes and a goatee.

I glared at the two of them.

What the fuck is going on? I growled.

I hated fucking games.

Just tell me what the fuck is going on already.

This is Special Agent Troy Palmer, and this, The Chief said, indicating the
black man. Is Special Agent Dane Elliott. Theyre here to speak with you about
the Cox case.

The Cox Case was the murder suicide Id first responded to.

Yeah, so? I asked tiredly.

Hell, was I tired. I was living off of only hours of sleep, and I could really use a
few hours of shut eye before I had to deal with them and their shit.

Crime, however, didnt wait for it to be convenient for all those involved.
Which Agent Palmer explained in the next second.

Weve discovered a few similarities in about ten murders throughout the Ark-
La-Tex involving cops and their pregnant wives, Agent Palmer said without

I blinked. What?

He pushed the file back to me, and I looked down at it, only now realizing what
Id thought was the murder Id walked in on just two days prior wasnt the one Id
thought it was.

It was a different one.

Holy shit, I said, surprised. Are they all positioned this way?

It was nearly identical.

The only thing different was the color of the tile floor they were laying on.

We have reason to believe that you might have seen the man who did this on
your way to the scene. Weve had three witnesses saying they saw a man
walking his dog down the street just down the road from the crime scene. Black
hoodie. Black jeans. Black dog.

I thought back to the day Id driven to the crime scene.

Remembered passing the mobile home park sign, then seeing a black dog off to
the side of the road that I passed.

I remembered thinking that the owner needed to get the dog the fuck out of the
way when he heard lights and sirens blaring.

Yeah, I saw him, I confirmed, thinking back to the man in question. Black
hoodie. Black pants. Red shoe strings in the shoes. Dog had a red collar with
black lettering on it. Black lab.

Agent Elliott took notes on his pad of paper as I spoke.

The other one just watched me closely.

Any cars in the area? he asked.

I shook my head. Actually, no. I passed four houses before I got to theirs and
hadnt seen a single one. The couple had two cars in the driveway as well as a
red mid-sized sedan belonging to the elderly couple. I did pass an abandoned
car with hazard lights on pointing in the opposite direction Id been going, but I
also saw a man walking away from the car in a white t-shirt and khaki pants.

The agent nodded. Good. Thanks.

We have reason to believe that the mans a practicing doctor in the area. Or a
nurse. Or a midwife. Possibly a registrar at the hospital. Each woman thats
been killed, their only connection, is them being in the same doctors office that
practices in the Ark-La-Tex. Its a large one that has over eight offices and
seven doctors serving it. Only four of the doctors travel over the state line, and
weve made a note of those four in this chart, Agent Palmer said, sliding the
three of us a stack of papers.

I scanned the names on the list as well as the pictures.

I didnt recognize any of them.

So what do you need from us? Chief Rhodes asked bluntly.

They both shook their head, but Palmer was the one to answer.

Nothing. Not yet anyway. Weve already been privy to the reports, photos, and
crime scene data. We just ask that, if you encounter another one of these, you
call us. Weve been working this case for a little over two years now, and so far
we have just as much now as we did then. A bunch of nothing, he said simply.

I looked down at the papers in front of me, recording the faces of all the four
doctors into my memory bank so Id have it later if I had need of it.

As for why youre here, Officer Perez, its just so that we can congratulate you
for saving that child. Hes our first survivor, and I never wished more that a baby
could talk than I do right now, he said dejectedly.

I completely agreed.

Id wished the same thing.

I didnt know what kind of heartless person could shoot an innocent baby like
that, but whomever it was needed a single shot to the heart as his final coup de

So is it a coincidence that all these men are cops? Chief Rhodes asked as he
looked through his own folder.

I flipped to the page behind the one Id stopped looking at and saw what he was
talking about.

Longview Police. Kilgore Police. Shreveport Police. Gun Barrel Police. Gilmer
Police. Bossier City Police. Benton Police. Tyler Police. Waskom Police.
Hallsville Police.

What the fuck? I exhaled.

Not only did they kill pregnant women and babies, but the fucker was a cop
killer as well.

So you have nothing, is what Im understanding? I asked carefully.

The two of them nodded. Nada.

I linked my fingers together, and steepled them while tapping the first two

I was a fidgeter.

Like major.

I couldnt sit still for anything, something Id learned to live with.

It drove my friends and family nuts. It was what it was, though. Nothing I could
do to change that.

I have a couple of people that might be able to help us, and Lukes brother in
law is a part of The Dixie Wardens MC. Theyre in the town of Benton,
Louisiana. One of the cities you named. He can talk to them and see what he
can dig up. I can do the same through my resources. Go from there, I offered.

Both men looked at me, moved their eyes to Luke, then settled them on Chief

You vouched for them. If this gets leaked to the press, therell be a public
outrage. You understand that, right? Agent Palmer confirmed.

Agent Rhodes nodded. My boys wouldnt give this kind of information to just
anyone. I trust them implicitly.

Finally, the two nodded and stood to leave. Keep us informed, and well do the

With that they left, and the three of us sat there silently for a few long moments.

If this gets out, Ill kick both of your asses, The Chief rumbled.

I smiled down at my hands before standing. Ill get it done on my part. Luke,
you gonna talk to the Wardens?

Luke nodded and stood, pulling out his phone. Yeah, I got it.

With that, we all split up, me heading to Free, and Luke heading to Louisiana.

It was going to be a long rest of the day.

Chapter 9

Dear teenagers, complaining about life is like a toddler complaining about nap
time. Youve only seen the tip of the monsters dick. Just fucking wait!

-Michaels secret thoughts


Get up off the floor or Ill make you get up, I growled at the stupid teenager
whod tried to boost my truck.

Id had that bastard stolen twice, or nearly, in the same fuckin day, and this
time I was not amused.

I didnt do anything! The boy yelled, refusing to move.

With no other options, I moved the boy myself, all under the crowds watchful
eyes as they watched the entire thing take place.

Rolling him over onto his back I stared down at him in contempt.

What did you think you were going to do? How far did you think you could get?
You nearly stole a police officers truck, I hissed. Not to mention I have GPS
on it that I couldve activated. Then theres the fact that every cop in the city
would be looking for you because you dont steal something from a cop without
consequences. Youd have every single cop in the state looking for your
dumbass. Not get the fuck up off the ground and go sit on the fuckin bench like
I asked you.

He did.


Very reluctantly.

The boy was fifteen, at most, with an attitude that said he usually got whatever
the fuck he wanted.

Well not fucking today.

Id walked into the convenience store to get my receipt, but decided that I could
use a Gatorade while I was in there.

When I turned the corner of the snack aisle, I came upon the fifteen year old
shoving candy bars down his pants.

He wasnt even being conspicuous about it.

They were so full already that you could see the large bulge, as well as the
orange wrappers sticking out the top of his pocket.

Then he ran.

I had to give it to the boy, he was quick.

Hed made it past me and into the parking lot before Id even pushed out the
door toward him.

Lucky for me, and unlucky for him, Id caught him at my truck.

All hed seen was a truck running with the windows down.

Sadly, I still had the keys in my hand and had turned the truck off before he
could even get it into drive.

Hed looked at me like I was the grim reaper, as he should since hed been
sitting in my truck.

Then he tried to bail out the other sides window, but only managed to fall on his

Whyd you steal those? I asked, gesturing to the pile of candy bars and bottle
of milk that was in a pile at his feet.

He shrugged.

Whats your name? I asked.

A cruisers chirp-chirp of the siren going on and off quickly had me looking up as
Miller, another member of the SWAT team, pulled up.

He stepped out of the cruiser and moved his glasses up to the top of his head.

Saint, Miller said, nodding his head.

I nodded back, choosing not to call him on the use of the nickname that I hated.

I was not a saint.

Far from it, in fact.

Now wasnt the time or place for it, though.

Whatcha got, Saint? Miller asked, taking in the scene.

Fifteen or sixteen year old male stealing candy from the 7-11. I caught him red
handed, and he ran. Tried to get away fast by taking my truck, but he didnt
make it far. And here we are now. He was just about to tell us his name, I
explained lightly.

Miller nodded. Whats your name, boy?

The boy glared at Miller with all the heat and venom a fifteen year old could

I couldve told him that he was wasting his time, but teenagers didnt seem to
have that comprehension when they were mad.
When the boy refused, I shrugged and told him to stand.

He didnt.

You know, this can go one of two ways. One, I said holding up a finger. You
can just cooperate. Stand up, tell us your name, let us check you, and well get
you booked downtown. Or two, you can refuse to do all of those things, we can
force you to do them, and you still go down town.

The boy glared at me, and then moved his gaze to a car at the far corner of the
parking lot.

Following his gaze, I narrowed my eyes when I saw what he was looking at.

Whos in that car? I asked, glancing back at the boy.

He closed his lips tightly, then looked down at his feet.

A shared glance with Miller had me walking over the pile of candy bars and milk
to the car that was parked underneath the 7-11 sign.

The closer I got, the more worried I became.

Because I could see a car seat in the car.

Two car seats.

Holy shit.

I opened the door with suddenly shaking hands, scared to death at what Id find.

Id seen some bad shit in my time, but the moment I opened that door, I knew
nothing could be worse.

Two starving children looked up at me from hollowed eyes.

Neither was crying, and neither looked particularly scared of me.

Interested. Hopeful, maybe. Scared? No.

Miller, I called loudly. Put him in your car and get over here.

Miller tossed a look over his shoulder at me. I stepped back to allow him to see
the closest car seat, and his eyes widened.

His mouth dropped open and he turned back to the kid that looked defeated.

Now I understood why hed stolen the candy bars.

And the milk.

I had no doubt in my mind now as to the character of the kid.

Desperation makes a man do funny things.

I picked up the smaller baby first.

She felt extremely tiny in my hands.

So tiny I couldnt even gauge how old she was.

Miller joined me as soon as I fit the baby into the crook of my arm, sidling up to
my side.

What the fuck? He asked in denial at what he was seeing.

I nodded. Yeah.

It was more than obvious that the children hadnt been well cared for.

Their clothes were dirty.

The car itself smelled horrid.

The little boy in the car seat looked at the two of us with a smile, but that smile
didnt meet his eyes.

The deep circles under his eyes, as well as the hollowness to them, showed
that he was anything but healthy.

Get the other one, I ordered.

Miller circled around the car and picked up the boy from his car seat.

The boy wrapped his skinny fingers around Millers mic cord, and smiled so
brightly that it hurt my heart.

The little girl in my arms cooed and I looked down in awe.

As a police officer, there are times that youre not going to experience nice

Although this wasnt the ideal situation, they were both alive, and had a fighting
chance that they didnt have before.

Something I counted as a check in my win column.

I felt like I was carrying air as I walked back to the police cruiser.

Miller didnt look like he was carrying much more as he got on the mic.

Ill need a bus here. Got two babies in need of some medical attention, he said
quietly, smiling down at the little boy who made a grab for his mic.

The boy looked scared shitless the closer we got to Millers cruiser, and by the
time I opened the door to the cruiser he looked like he was about ready to bail
out. Straight through the glass window.

Alright son, I said, dropping down to my knees beside him. Tell me whats
going on.

He looked sort of green, but it was then that I noticed that his heart was in his
eyes as he looked at the children.

Theyre mine, he croaked.

I blinked. Theyre yours?

He nodded.

Yeah, he rasped.

How old are you? I asked.

He swallowed. Fourteen. Fifteen in two months.

My heart started to race.

Theyre yours, I stated for clarification.

He nodded again.

Yeah, he confirmed.

I looked up at Miller, then back at the boy.

Whats your name? I asked softly.

He looked down at his hands.

Madden, he said quietly.

Madden, youre not even old enough to be on your own yet. How do you have
two kids? And why are you on your own? Wheres the babys mother? I

He bit his lip, and looked up at me with eyes that were shining with tears.

I stole them from her. She wasnt taking care of them, he cried. Not like they
needed to be taken care of.

I refrained from saying that he wasnt doing too good of a job either, and
nodded my head. Whos the mother?

Shesshes my stepmother. And I stole them away from her while her and my
father were high. They weredoing stuff that I didnt like. And she was smoking
around the baby. I didnt like that. I had to get them out. I had to. They wouldve
died. She wouldve killed them, he insisted pleadingly. She already smoke and
drank throughout her pregnancies. She didnt even go to the hospital to have

I looked down at the baby in my arms, saw the frailness to her, and started to
get mad.

Not at him, no.

But at the situation.

When did you take them? I asked softly.

He bit his lip. Last night.

Jesus, so this was how they were from her, not him.

Alright, Madden. How about you come take a ride on the medic with your kids.
From there well figure this out, okay?

He nodded, wiping his eyes with the back of his hands.

Thank you, he croaked, voice cracking like all adolescent boys do at that age.

Jesus, this was one sick, fucked up situation.

Fucked Up. With a capital F and U.

Chapter 10

My brother has the best sister ever.

-Coffee Cup


Go get your newspaper! I said hurriedly the moment I pounded through Nicos
back door.

Nico glared at me, still holding the door open. Georgia, being Georgia, did what
I asked and ran to the front walk to get the newspaper.

Why didnt you just get the newspaper on the way in? Nico asked.

His hair was a freakin mess.

The twins keep you up all night? I asked cheekily.

He glared.
Maybe you should take them for a night. Give me a little break, he muttered.

I blinked. Ive offered no less than thirty times since they were born. Id love to
watch them. Youd only have to convince yourself to let them go.

My brother was attached to his family.

No matter the bitchin he did, he refused to let the twins, or Georgia, out of his

A few years ago, before hed reconnected with Georgia, hed gotten into a spot
of trouble with a mafia boss.

So much trouble that to save Georgia, hed faked his death with the help of the
CIA and the Texas Rangers. While he was dead, hed continued to search for
the man responsible for putting his life and Georgias in jeopardy, finally finding
him around the time the twins were born.

Georgia, though, as well as the rest of our family, hadnt been able to get over
the fact that hed died.

We still had nightmares.

Georgia and I spoke about that quite a bit.

Nico wasnt without his own nightmares, either.

Although we all talked a good game, the entire leaving thing was hard on us all,
something that showed with the way Nico clung to his kids and wife and refused
to let them get too far out of his reach.

Oh, my God! Saints on the front page! Georgia squealed in excitement,

jumping up and down in her nightgown.

I jumped too, clapping my hands.

Isnt that the cutest thing ever? I asked in excitement.

Georgia laughed and spread her paper out on the table.

Nico leaned forward to study the picture.

Nice, he said, laughing.

Michael, the ultimate Im not cut out to be a father, was on his ass on the back
of the cop car holding the tiniest of babies in his arms.

The baby didnt even look to be a month old, at most.

He was gazing down at the little girl holding a pacifier in her mouth.

His eyes were gazing at the small bundle, looking for all he was worth like a
devoted father.
Something I knew hed be if he ever gave life a chance.

Was this not something you couldve called for? Nico asked after he read the

I shrugged. Sure I could have. But then I couldnt annoy the shit out of you like
Im doing right now.

He lowered his eyes into a glare, and I plopped down into his lap.

He grunted as my weight hit him.

Jesus, I think youve gained weight, Nico teased.

I wrapped my arms around his fat neck, although it wasnt really fat, and
squeezed for all I was worth.

Ackk! He said as air escaped his lungs.

I smiled down at him.

Now what were you saying? I asked with a raised brow.

He curled his lip at me.

Alright, Nik. Let me get dressed and well head up there to see these babies,
Georgia said as she hustled out of the room.

Hey! Nico said, standing.

I held on for dear life, causing him to come down with me.

Nico grappled for purchase, but I succeeded in pulling him down with my
unexpected move of holding on while still going down.

Nico landed beside me with a grunt, and I wrapped my arms around his neck
from behind, wrapping lightning and thunder (my legs) around his upper torso
and squeezing the life out of him.

God! Youre such a shit! Nico growled, effectively knocking the wind out of my
sails by rolling over onto his back and pinning me to the floor with his body

I didnt let that stop me for long, though.

Instead, I anchored myself even better, let go of his neck, and started attacking
his armpits with the tips of my fingers, ticking him like a lunatic while he writhed
and shook with laughter on the ground.

God! Stop! He yelled loudly.

I was like a tick, though.

I stayed and stayed until I had no strength left to hold on, then, like any smart
woman, I ran.

Like the wind.

I pushed off of him with inhuman strength that resembled a lumbering donkey,
and sprinted for Nico and Georgias door.

I made it, too.

Slammed it right in Nicos face and locked the door before he could reach me.

Then I promptly fell on their bed that was littered with clothes and other baby
paraphernalia, and collapsed in exhaustion.

Yall fight all the time, Georgia said from the closet.

I nodded. Yeah, we do.

I dont know why yall cant just be normal siblings, she said observantly.

Nico was the only boy with six girlsit was bound to happen.

I wasnt a bad sister. I was a normal sister!

Youre just jealous that your brothers wont give you the time of day, I teased.

I was lying.

Georgias brothers loved the hell out of her.

They just had a different relationship than Nico, my sisters and I did.

It didnt mean it was wrong that they tried to baby her.

It was understandable, really.

Especially how Georgia held their family together after the death of their two
youngest brothers.

So whats going on? Why do you want me to go to the hospital with you?
Georgia asked.

I gave her a droll look.

Youre a social worker, Georgia. Why the hell do you think I want you up
there? I laughed.

She flipped me off and took a huge step over her Saint Bernard, Hamburger,
that was taking up half the closet.

You know were not just assigned these things. They have to come to us.
Youd have more luck calling in Shiloh, Georgia explained.

Georgia was a social worker with an adoption agency that placed children in
their forever home.

Shiloh, James wife, on the other hand, was a child protective service social
worker with the state of Texas, working in Gregg County.

Which was why Id invited her to come as well.

I already called her. Were picking her up on the way, I told her.

Georgia smiled.

Good, she said solemnly. Tell me what happened?

I sighed.

From what I got from Michael, as well as what I got from the hospital yesterday,
a lot happened. The boy, whos also the father of the two children, is fourteen.
His step-mother raped him repeatedly over the years, and then got pregnant
with his babies. She then had said babies, and used them to keep the boy quiet
about it all. The father was none the wiser to it all, but basically that was
because he was high out of his mind, I told her. After the second child was
born at home, addicted to God knows what drugs, and then totally failed to be
cared for, the boy took it as his cue to get the hell out. He stole their car, took
the kids, and had been parked in that gas station parking lot for about twelve
hours before Michael caught him trying to steal candy and milk for the kids.

Georgia stopped and turned half way through the story, but by the time I was
finished recounting it, tears were in her eyes, as well as in my eyes.

Holy crap, that poor boy, she said, voice devastated.

I nodded. Thats where the SWAT team was last night. Doing a raid on that
house. The judge whos overseeing the case is the son of a man that abused
him, so he wasnt tolerant at hearing what happened to Madden.

Madden is also the name of the boys father? Georgia clarified.

I nodded. Yeah, thats him.

Whatd they find at the raid last night? Georgia asked.

Nico came through the door, shoving a lock pick into his pocket as he threw the
door opened.

He walked past the bed and pushed me hard enough that I fell backward,
causing me to laugh.

He shot me an Ill get you back look, and turned to his wife.
If you were interested in that, why didnt you just ask your husband? Nico
asked cheekily.

Georgia sat down on the bed beside me and slipped her socks on before
shoving her feet into tennis shoes.

Probably because Im still mad at you, she said, tossing him a fake glare.

I snorted.

I told you I was too tired to change that diaper! I didnt steal your hamburger,
and I didnt pour hot sauce in your tea! It was a freakin diaper! One! He said,
raising his hands in the air for emphasis.

Rolling my eyes, I got up and tugged Georgias hand.

Well be back, brother dear. Take care of the babies and the diapers, until we
get back, I ordered.

Then we left, all under the very annoyed glare of Nico.

So, whatd they find? Georgia picked up where we left off.

I closed the front door behind me and walked with her to my car.

My beautiful baby.

It was a sky blue Volkswagen Beetle convertible.

Georgia got into the passenger side, and I dropped into the drivers side before I
told her.

A lot, actually. Drugs. Enough drugs that they think they were dealers. Dirty
needles. Cocaine and weed. Horrible living conditions. Both parents were high
as hell. Neither one of them even knew the kids were missing - thats how gone
they were, I told her, backing out of the driveway and turning left to head to the

Georgia hummed.

I looked over at her.

What? I asked, moving my eyes back to the road in front of me.

A tractor was taking up three quarters of the road, and I contemplated passing
him on the shoulder when he finally moved over, allowing me to pass.

And in all that time, Georgia stayed silent.

What? I asked again.

Theyre going to split them up, I can see it now, she said softly.
I winced.

Thats what I was afraid of.

Madden was a good kid, but he was in no way, shape, or form, ready to raise
two kids, seeing as he was only a kid himself.

Thats why Im bringing in the big guns, I replied.

She frowned.

Ill try, honey. But I cant promise a single thing, she explained. I cant make
any promises.

I nodded in understanding. I know. I just want you to try the best you can. Work
with Shiloh. Anything is better than what they had. I just feel so horrible about
the situation.

She patted my hand as I stopped at the stoplight that would lead us to the

And what about that other little boy? Hows he doing? She asked.

I smiled happily.

Much better, actually. They said he opened his eyes yesterday. I was going to
stop in and see Nathan since Ill already be up on the peds floor, I informed
her. But we have to be back at your house by twelve so I can make my one
oclock class. Okay?

Georgia nodded. Yeah, that sounds good. Then I can be there in time for Nico
to go to work, and we wont have to call your mom to watch the kids.

I held up my thumb in a good gesture, and opened my car door.

I blinked at the cop cars that were lined up at the front entrance of the hospital.

Whats going on? I asked the woman that was standing in front of my parked

The woman turned and shrugged. I dont know. Theyre not letting anybody in
or out.

Picking up my phone, I called Michael.

Hello? Michael answered.

He sounded distracted, but that wasnt going to stop me from getting inside.

Hey, I said. Were outside the ER entrance and therere a bunch of people
outside the doors. Whats going on?
He cleared his throat.

There was another murder, he said softly. Give me a few minutes to come
down and Ill escort you inside.

Chapter 11

Dont make fun of a woman with big lips. Shes probably thick and tired of it.



Where was this one from? I asked Agent Palmer gruffly.

Agent Palmer offered me a file folder, and I steeled myself before opening the
offending folder.

What I saw did not disappoint.

Goddammit, I said, clearing my throat. Why another one so fast?

All of these have happened within the last three weeks. Roughly every three
days. This is correct with that timeline, he admitted softly.

Well that wouldve been news you shouldve shared yesterday seeing as this
happened today and here I am again, I muttered, staring at the scene in front
of me.

I wasnt a detective.

I didnt have the patience to be one.

Being a detective took dedication, time I didnt have, and serious patience and

I had the dedication and the perseverance, but not the other two.

Which was why it was confusing to me that I was here at a crime scene looking
at the carnage that was left behind.

There werent any bodies left because those had gone to the hospital the
moment the first responders arrived.

The man, the killer, had fucked up.

Hed done them in a good neighborhood.

The type of neighborhood that, if they were to hear gunshots, the cops are
called almost immediately.

First responders had arrived within minutes, and both the woman and the man
thatd been shot had been rushed to the hospital.

They werent expected to live, although the last I heard they were both rushed
to surgery.

There wasnt much they could do when the couple was shot in the head, but
they still had to try.

Who is this one with? I asked, surveying the scene.

Wolfgang Amsel worked for Karnack Police Department. His wife, Abby Amsel,
was an accountant for Roscoe and Rush Accounting firm. Abby was eight and a
half months pregnant with her first child, Agent Palmer informed me.

I nodded.

The name sounded so familiar, but I couldnt place the name with a face.

What doctors office do these women go to? I asked, the thought suddenly
occurring to me.

The Womens Center of East Texas for this one. The others are various ones
of the Ark-La-Tex, he said. But all of their systems interconnect since the
doctors float throughout the offices.

I turned my head to look to the kitchen counter.

On the counter was the officers service weapon, badge, and various
accessories he wore on his utility belt, car keys, and his phone.

But the thing that drew my eye was the badge.

When a law enforcement officer has fallen, theres a tradition that other officers
wear a thin line of blue over their badges to commemorate the fallen life.

Its usually only worn during the period of mourning, but over the years, it has
come to be a show of respect for all law enforcement officials, civilians and
public servants alike.

You see this? I asked Palmer.

Palmer looked over and pursed his lips at the sight. Yeah.

The badge had two strips of black duct tape arranged in an X across the badge,
as if he was saying he took care of that particular officer.

Asshole, I growled in anger.

I concur, Palmer agreed.

Then a thought occurred to me.

Did you check the tape for prints? I asked.

Agent Palmer nodded. Yeah.

What about the back of the tape? I asked.

I wasnt a crime scene tech, but that would be a place that Id look for prints.

Agent Palmer pursed his lips.

Theyve already collected the evidence, but Ill just take that to the techs and
see if they can find anything, Palmer said as he took an evidence bag out of his
pocket, then used the tip of his pencil to hook the badge and drop it into the

Once zipped, he said, Thats why I wanted you here. I noticed the other day
you had a good eye. Nobody else could tell me much about the suspect, but
you did.

I shrugged, uncomfortable with the flattery.

Palmers phone rang, and he pulled it from his pocket before answering it with a
muttered, Yeah?

Youre fucking shitting me, Agent Palmer said in surprise. No fucking shit?
Alright, well come down now.

Palmer was already headed out the door, and I followed behind him quickly.

The officer at the door, who was guarding the door for us, nodded as we

When Palmer hung up the phone he looked at me with elation in his eyes.

The cop, he said nodding to the house. Made it through surgery and is
talking. He wants to speak with us.


Why would he want to talk to me?

I didnt question it, however, only got into my truck and followed him to the

When we arrived, the entire hospital was swarming with cops.

Since the shooting had taken place, everyone and their brother was here,
reporter wise, which meant that my fellow men in blue had to be here to take
care of crowd control.
Are you with the FBI? One reporter asked as we started pushing through the

No comment, Agent Palmer muttered darkly.

Are you the officer who responded to the Baby Cop Killer? Another reporter

That question was directed at me.

But I acted like I hadnt heard, and kept pushing through right along with

Agent Elliott met us at the ERs doors and held the door open wide as we
crossed through.

Talk to me, Palmer ordered Elliott.

Elliott started hurrying to the elevators as he spoke.

Hes awake, first and foremost. He woke up viciously the moment the
anesthesia wore off, but he cant speak per se, Elliott explained. The bullet
missed his brain completely. Apparently, at the last moment, Amsel jerked to
the side. The bullet passed through the base of his neck and came out his
mouth just perfectly. He lost a few teeth, and has a quite a bit of tissue and
muscle damage in his neck, but hes expected to make a complete recovery.
Had to tell him that his wife died on the OR table. The baby didnt make it

I shook my head.

That didnt sound good, even with him saying he would make a full recovery.

His wife was dead. His kid was dead. His life was forever changed.

How could he recover from that?

I knew I couldnt.

If I lost Nikki, Id be so fuckin lost it wouldnt be funny.

Even though I hadnt had her the last year and a half, I still knew she was okay.

Amsel, though, didnt have that gift.

He would forever live knowing he couldnt protect his woman and child.

Then I berated myself.

Amsel may not have those problems.

I just knew I would if our situations had been reversed.

If it was Nikki carrying my child.

Then I shivered.

Nikki wouldnt be carrying my child.

No matter how much the idea of it turned me on.

This is him. I got him a pad of paper to write everything down. I also had them
fax the copies of all the members who work for The Womens Center, Elliott
said, shaking his hand that had a thick pile of papers in it.

When I made to wait outside, Elliott jerked his head. You too. He asked for

My brows rose. Me?

He nodded. Yeah, apparently he knows you.

How would he know Im working on this case at all? I asked.

He stopped and turned. He was the best friend of Darren Cox.

My mind shut down.

Mother fucker.

That guy. The murdered father in the crime scene that started this case for me.

Holy shit, I breathed.

Elliott nodded. Yeah, needless to say hes not doing too good.


An hour later, with more information than Agent Palmer had in months over
multiple cases, we walked out of Wolfgang Amsels hospital room.

We still didnt have a name.

We did, however, have a hair color.


Which seemed to be the mans trend.

Amsel had explained that hed just gotten off work and was in the kitchen eating
the breakfast his wife had just cooked for him when someone had knocked at
the door.

Shed gone to answer it, and hed looked up when she started backing up.

Hed said that he heard Turn around or Ill shoot her!

His service weapon had been at the island, half a room away from him, so hed

And was promptly shot in the back of the head.

He looked over in time to see his wife gunned down moments later by a man
with black hair.

Then he was gone.

And he was left to watch as his wife fought for her life.

My phone rang when we made it to the waiting room, and I smiled when I saw it
was Nikki.

A little bit of happy in a big bowl of oh fuck.

Hello? I answered the phone.

Hey, she said worriedly. Were outside the ER entrance and therere a bunch
of people outside the doors. Whats going on?

I cleared my throat.

There was another murder, I said softly. Give me a few minutes to come
down and Ill escort you inside.

Id known shed be here.

She couldnt help herself.

Shed been by to see Nathan Cox multiple times since hed been there.

And with what Id told her last night about Madden and his two kids, I knew
shed be here as soon as she could.

Id planted the hint to call Shiloh and Georgia, though.

Madden didnt deserve that lot in life.

He deserved to live a happy, easy life.

Something he couldnt do anymore.

Not with two kids.

Two kids he was adamant he was not leaving.

And he was most definitely not giving up.

In the eyes of the law, a child is solely your child, no matter what the age.

Although it got a little hairy when you couldnt take care of your children.

Something Madden couldnt do by himself.

The best way to make this happen was to place all three within a home that was
willing to take them on.

And that was where Nikki, Shiloh, and Georgia came in.

I gotta go let my girl in, I told the two men in front of me. Shes stuck outside
the ER with a shit ton of cops and reporters.

They both nodded.

Thats fine. Were leaving anyway. Well walk down with you, Elliott said.

Nodding, I hit the down button, and the elevator doors swung open.

Do you think what you got today will help? I asked the two as the doors closed
and we started to descend.

Elliott shrugged, but Palmer nodded. I think so, yes.

I felt a relieved breath pour through me.

Thats good, I told them. Really good.

And it was.

Cops didnt deserve to have even more people against them.

They deserved unity and support from the public, and with all the cop related
shootings going on lately, it wasnt looking good for us.

You know my number, I said when the doors opened.

The two of them nodded and exited the ER with me.

Once outside, they went left, and I went straight to where I could see Nikki and
the two women at her sides.

Hey, I said, pointing towards the gap in the saw horses the police had erected.

They all nodded and started pushing through the last of the crowd until they
arrived at the gap.

When Estevez wouldve stopped them, I put my hand on his back.

Theyre with me, I informed him.

He winked. Gotcha.

Both girls came around the barrier and I pulled Nikki against my side with my
arm around her shoulders. I need a hug thatll turn into sex, she whispered
against the skin of my neck. I squeezed her shoulders tightly, pulling her even
deeper into me. Then, like a boss, I said, I could give that to youif you want.

Chapter 12

Hello, my name is Nikki Pena, and Im a liar. Im also going to hell.

-A liars secret thoughts


Hello? Michael answered his phone with a large bite of hamburger taking up
the majority of his mouth.

Michael grinned, and I could see chunks of food in his mouth, causing me to
turn away in disgust.

My stomach roiled, and I looked down at the barely eaten plate of nachos Id
ordered for lunch-one hundred percent sure that if I tried to eat them Id be
barfing in no time.

Itd been four weeks since all the business with Madden and his children had
gone down, and a little over four weeks since little Nathan Cox had been
admitted to the hospital for a gunshot wound to his head.

All four were doing fine, and Madden was with his children at a temporary foster
home until we could figure out a more permanent situation.

Nathan, however, wasnt home.

Although he was doing much better, he still wasnt where he needed to be to be

allowed release from the hospital.

Then there was the murderer out there killing cops and their pregnant wives.

That was the worst.

That part was so scary because I worried for my friends and family, since all of
them were cops.

Nausea started to slither up the back of my throat, and I hastily grabbed my cup
of tea before taking several sips in a vain attempt to keep it down.
I told you to buy a four wheel drive, Michael said, taking another bite of his

I closed my eyes as a ball of food and stomach contents started coming up my

throat, and swallowed convulsively to get it to go back down.

Yeah, Ill be there in twenty minutes, Michael said with a laugh. Dont dig it
down any more. Ill be there.

I opened my eyes when I felt the table cloth move from him standing up.

I raised an expectant brow at him, all the while trying not to let on just how badly
I felt.

My sisters stuck in her front yard. I have to go pull her out. Do you want to go
or are you going home to study? He asked hopefully.

I immediately started to feel bad.

Although Id spent time with him over the last month, Ive not spent much time
with him.

We were togetherjust not together. I was there physically, just not mentally.

Id been studying for my final exam that would hopefully lead to me being a
certified mid-wife in the state of Texas.

A test that I was taking next week if all worked out as planned.

I had been ignoring him, though, and I was regretting that.

The only time we actually spent together, without me studying, was when I was
laying in his arms at night.

Ill go, I said softly, standing up.

A wave of exhaustion hit me the moment I stood and I swayed.

Michael caught me by the elbow and asked, Okay?

I nodded. Im really tired.

His brows raised.

Thats cause youve been studying into the wee hours of the night, working so
much you get overtired and waking up at the crack of dawn for more studying,
he admonished, helping me around the table and easing me into the aisle.

He didnt let go of my hand until I was fully ensconced in his truck.

Buckle up, baby, he whispered, running the rough palm of his hand up my
I shivered at the familiar touch, and my core started to clench in anticipation.

Okay, I said quickly, plugging my seatbelt in and squeezing my legs shut

tightly to circumvent the need that was slowly starting to course through me.

Nausea completely forgotten now that I could only think about how his cock
would feel inside myNikki! Control yourself!

I was a walking horny machine.

At any given time of the day or night, I was ready to go.

So horny, in fact, that I now masturbated in the shower to thoughts of Michael

when he wasnt there to take care of me.

What are you thinking about? Michael asked, the look on his face comically

Nothing. I muttered, trying my best to make the whole horny feeling go away.

But it wasnt of any use.

It was there to stay, and would be until either he, or I, took care of it.

Jesus, I was becoming such a slut puppy!

Wed driven about two miles and were just turning onto a dirt road when he
suddenly pulled off into a corpse of trees, the truck bouncing awkwardly on the
grass and gravel before he rocked to a stop.

Michael! I gasped.

Then I was being pulled across the seat, dragged into his lap until I was facing
the windshield.

I could feel the hard column of his cock digging into my ass, and I squirmed in

Do you know, he murmured against my neck, What its like to see you like

I shook my head and arched my body when he started to move his fingers from
my hips, up my rib cage, to come to a stop at my distended nipples.

Nipples that had become so sensitive lately that I could barely breathe when he
touched them.

Even the minutest of touches had me soaring in seconds.

N-no, I said, gasping for breath.

He growled against my neck.

I can always tell, he told me. I could tell two years ago, and I can still tell now.
You have a tell, baby.

I moaned when his mouth moved up the column of my neck to dip his tongue
slightly into my ear before licking around the outer shell.

A tell? I asked breathlessly.

My eyes closed as his other hand went down until he reached the hem of my
skirt and slowly started to work it up.

It wasnt long before my ass was bared, and he noticed I wasnt wearing

You rub your legs together and flip your hair from side to side. Your nipples get
hard, and your eyes start to dilate, he informed me, moving his hand until his
fingers zeroed in on my *.

Three fingers coasted through the lips of my sex and immediately found
purchase inside me.

So wet for me, too, he growled.

I nodded, lifting my hands to play with my other breast.

Yeah, all of its for you, I told him honestly. All I can think about is having you
inside of me.

He chuckled against my neck. Do you know what its like to have a boner in the
same room as your womans brother? Its not fuckin easy, and it happens all
the time with all the dirty texts you send me day in and day out.

I laughed breathlessly. Yeah, Im really sorry about that, I lied.

He snorted at my lie. Yeah, Im sure you are.

Then his hands went to his belt behind my back, and I felt his belt being
released from its clasp, and his pants pulled down over his hips.

When his cock popped free of its confines, it rubbed deliciously against the
cheeks of my ass before he said, Sit up.

I nodded, lifting up until he could position himself at my entrance.

Then he pulled me down, filling me so swiftly and quickly that I immediately

started coming.

I dont know whats wrong with me, but even the idea of him taking me so
roughly had me seeing stars.

So fuckin responsive, he growled as he took my hips and started roughly

pulling me down on him.
I made a keening noise in my throat in agreement, and he laughed.

Lean forward so I can watch you taking me. Hold onto the steering wheel, he
ordered me.

I did, leaning forward until my breasts were pressed up against the horn and
swiftly picked up the pace again, working fast to bring him to release.

So perfect, he whispered, running his hands over the expanse of my ass.

I moaned again.

Yeah, you fill me so good, I said, slapping my ass against his thighs, taking his
big dick as far as I could get him.

His hand ran up the length of my spine to settle on my shoulder, then slammed
me down using the purchase he had, urging me to go faster and faster.

On one particular thrust he started to come.

I felt his belly tighten, then his cock started to jump as he shot his release into
my waiting channel.

And that was all I needed, once again, to come.

My eyes crossed, and I threw my head back.

Michael fisted my hair as it tickled his belly, holding me steady with it when I
finally came down from the high hed just delivered to me.

Fuckin beautiful, he whispered fiercely.

I smiled and leaned back until my back rested against his front.

He wrapped both hands around me and buried his face into my neck.

Youre killing me lately, he whispered laughingly.

I snorted.

I cant help it. Thats all I think about. Your cock, I teased.

He chuckled and leaned forward to grab the stack of napkins wed gotten from
Chick-Fil-A the night before.

Handing half to me, I placed it on the front of my vagina while he took the back,
doing his best to catch the come that started to leak from my * the moment it
was free of his cock.

I fell to my side in the passenger seat and did my best to clean myself of his
come before retaking my seat.
Hed already tossed his napkins in the little bag hanging from his steering

Here, I said, offering the soiled napkins to him.

He gave me a yeah right look and took the bag off his steering column, offering
it to me. There.

I smiled and shoved the napkins into the bag before handing it back to him.

He took it reluctantly and replaced it before starting the truck up once more and
backing out of the makeshift driveway.

Were going to be late, I told him.

He tossed me a look. Were not going to be late. You cant be late to somethin
like this.

Instead of answering, I stayed silent and watched the trees pass by, my nausea
starting to return now that the horniness wasnt there to overwhelm the nausea.

You can be late to something like this if your sisters been sitting in the
driveway for the last hour waiting on us to get there, I retorted.

He rolled his eyes, not that I could tell that hed done so.

I, at least, heard the derision in his tone.

My sister can wait as long as it takes, seeing as I told her not to buy the house
in the first place because it was in a flood zone. Then I told her not to wait on
getting a driveway because if she did, the whole thing would flood and shed
tear up her yard. Then when she didnt get the driveway, I told her to get a four
wheel drive. Do you know what she got? A two wheel drive Jeep. Who the fuck
gets a two wheel drive Jeep?

I could tell that he really wanted to know, and I didnt have an answer for him.

The answer was: nobody.

What was the point of a Jeep if it didnt have four wheel drive?

Not that Id side with him.

Women needed to side with each other, otherwise men would take over the

Or, at least, Michael would get a fat head thinking he was always right.

She lives out in the boonies, too, which means its a drive from wherever Im
at, he told me as he turned down a dirt road. And its a fixer upper, so Im
there every other weekend, it seems like.

He wasnt there every other weekend, which I told him.

Youre not there every other weekend. Because youve been with me for a
month now, and Ive never met her, and you spend your weekends with me, I
told him dryly.

He winked at me, and I felt shivers race down my spine.

But then we hit a pot hole causing the truck to dip down low.

And the nausea welled back up my throat.

Pull over! I pleaded, hand going to my mouth.

He read the state I was in quickly with a quick scan of his eyes, and pulled over.
Not that it was much.

But it was enough.

He stopped the truck quickly, and I had enough time to throw my door open
before I lost the lunch that Id barely eaten.

My head felt like it was a million times too big as I threw up everything I had in
there, then started dry heaving.

I guess Michael was worried about me falling out of the truck because his hand
went to the waist band of my skirt to hold on while I violently puked.

Head pounding, I lifted up.

Only to come face to face with a cow.

He was on his side of the fence, but still, the surprise of it all had me squeaking
in surprise.

You okay? Michael asked.

I turned to him, then back to the cow.

Yeah, Im okay now. Ive been nauseous since breakfast, I told him.

Stomach bug? He asked worriedly.

I shrugged. I dont know. Maybe. We have so many sick people come through
the hospital every day that its possible. But I havent a clue. I just hope it goes
the hell away.

Reluctantly, he let my skirt go, and turned back to face the front of the truck.

Maybe we should take you home, he said. It wouldnt be good to pass

whatever you have to Reggie.

I waved my hand. Ill stay in the car. Youre all the way out here, and Ill be fine
as long as you dont mind.
He shook his head. No, I dont mind. Just dont spread your cooties to me.

I snorted, and pulled the door closed, tossing a glance at the cow who looked a
little bit sad to see me go.

I leaned my head back against the seat, and closed my eyes as Michael started
moving the truck back down the road. At a much slower pace this time.

I wont spread my cooties if I can help it, I laughed.

His hand captured mine, and he held it on top of the middle console for another
two miles.

Then he pulled into ayard.

There wasnt any driveway.

None at all.

And with all the rain wed been getting over the past two months, her yard
resembled more of a lake rather than a yard.

She drives a jacked up two wheel drive Jeep I said unsurprised. Why would
she lift a two wheel drive?

Michael burst out laughing.


He tried carefully, but the moment he pulled into her yard, his tires sank and
started to spin.

Gonna have to put it in already, he muttered, doing something on the

floorboard that I couldnt see.

I couldnt see it because the woman that was coming out of the little brown
house was beautiful.

I could clearly tell she was Michaels sister.

She had the same beautiful brown hair, and even from this distance I could see
that her eyes were the same translucent blue.

She looks just like you, I observed as he pulled a u-ey in her yard and started
to back up.

Mud splattered and slammed against the windows, causing me to laugh at the

Id been mudding before.

Hell, I was raised in East Texas.

If you hadnt been mudding, that was because you hadnt lived here long.

But I hadnt done it in so long that Id forgotten the way you slipped and slid.

Mud had zero traction.

It helped that Michaels truck was so big. And his tires were so mean looking.

He rolled the window down and placed his hand on the windows ledge while he
lined up to his target.

Because he had it backed up to Hannahs Jeep in no time, and was bailing out
before I could ask him if he needed me to do anything.

I was studying the horses across the street when Michaels voice yelled for me.


I stuck my head out the window and turned around until I could see him.

Yeah? I asked curiously.

Hannah and Michael were standing close, both of them looking at me.

Michaels was teasing, and Hannahs look was calculating.

She was sizing me up.

I waved to him, and she cracked a smile.

He told me to stay in the truck so I didnt spread my pukey cooties to you! I

informed her.

Hannah smiled.

Appreciate that. If I catch it, itll mean Reggie will catch it! She thanked me.

Are yall done? Michael snapped impatiently.

I blinked, but wisely kept my mouth shut.

But I did nod my head.

Good, he muttered. Now get into the drivers seat and back it up a little more.

I saluted him, and he narrowed his eyes at me.

Scrambling over the seat, I scooted the seat up to where I could reach the
pedals easily, and backed the truck up.

Promptly saturating them both with mud.

I slapped my hand over my mouth.

Im sorry! I yelled.

Michael didnt laugh, but Hannah did.

Great guffaws that had her doubled over in hilarity.

Do you want to pull yourself out? He growled to his sister.

She shook her head and stood up, but she still had streaks running down her
face where the tears from her laughing washed the mud away.

Jeez, she said, walking to her Jeeps door. Youre no fun.

Thats right, Im not.

I raised my brow at him, but he couldnt see me because he was busy attaching
the chain hed produced from his toolbox to both vehicles.

I contemplated Michaels sudden change in demeanor.

Hed done that quite a few times in the month Id really been spending time with

Three instances where all of a sudden his mood would just snap from one
extreme to the other.

Going from really happy, to pissed off at the slightest thing in a matter of

Quite frankly, it was fascinating to witness.

Not that Id tell him that I found his disease fascinating.

Id learned to roll with it, though.

I had sisters.

Enough said.

Also, it was easier not to call attention to it and act like nothing was wrong.

That was the fastest way to get him back on track, and I knew he was grateful
that I didnt heckle him about it.

Alright, Hannah. I want you to give it some gas when you start to feel the tug
on the chain, okay? He confirmed.

She nodded, and he started to the drivers side door, so I moved before he
could ask me to.

I was in my seat when he opened the door, and I had to look the other way so
he wouldnt see the smile on my face.

I know youre laughing at me, he growled.

Im not laughing, I lied.

He snorted and threw it into drive.

The tightening of the chain sounded, and both of them started giving it gas.

Then, all of a sudden, Michael stopped.

Shes going forward, he said, covering his face with his hands. Please tell me
shes not. Because Ill be embarrassed to call her my sister.

I hopped out of the truck, and my white tennis shoes immediately sank into the

It came all the way up to my lower calves, but I got out to circumvent the
argument I knew was about to ensue.

Hannah! I whispered loudly.

She turned and let off the gas.

Backwards! I whispered again.

Her eyes widened, and then she covered her mouth with her hand. Shit!

With pink cheeks, she pushed it up into reverse and started to go backwards.

Michael then started to go forward, and immediately pulled her out of the dirt
with little to no effort at all.

He drug her all the way to the road where he pulled over and parked just to the
side of the road and got out.

You need a driveway, he growled.

Hannah fell out of her Jeep because she was parked on the incline that lead to
a ditch, causing her to trip and nearly fall on her face.

Her baby brother, though, saved her before she could even make it to her

Youll need to keep parking here where its packed ground, otherwise youll
keep getting stuck, he told her, setting her on her feet.

I crossed my arms over my chest and turned to look at the dog that was
peeking out the door behind me.

Hey big boy, I said to him.

He was old.

He was a black lab that had a white mask covering the entirety of his face.

He moved slow as he made his way to me.

I went down to my haunches, holding out my hand for him.

He nudged my hand, and I started to pet his head.

Youre a sweet baby, I told him, scratching behind his ears.

Thats Mogley, Hannah said from behind me. Hes a sucker for some lovins.

I smiled. Hes sweet. I used to have a black lab like him named Nike. My dad
had to put him to sleep when he was fifteen because he couldnt walk anymore.
Too many Frisbee tosses, I guess.

Mogleys a whiz with a tennis ball. He used to be my exs, but Joshua didnt
want to take care of him anymore when he started to lose his desire to duck
hunt, she said sadly.

What a dick.

How could you just get rid of a dog who was too old to do what you asked of

Certainly not me!

Id kill for a puppy, but my apartments pet deposit was outrageous, and you
couldnt have a dog over twenty five pounds.

And, although I loved small dogs, I couldnt handle the high pitch barking that
came with them.

I much preferred a dog that would protect me. Play with me. And genuinely
have fun with me.

Id have that again someday.

Hes a sweetheart, I told her.

Michael came up to the porch and offered Mogley a scratch on the head before
he started stripping off his boots, followed quickly by his pants.

Got anything I can change into? He asked.

I blinked when he stripped right down to his boxer briefs.

What would you do if I didnt? She asked laughingly.

He glared at her.
Drive home in my underwear, he said simply.

Of course he would.

Although, men could get away with that.

They could get away with almost anything.

Whereas, if a woman had tried to drive home in nothing but a bra and panties,
shed get into trouble for it.

I have some of Joshuas old clothes in the spare bedroom. They wont fit you
well, but Im pretty sure theres a pair of old shorts and a t-shirt or something,
she told him.

He grunted and walked into the house, completely ignoring me.

Hmmm, I said once he left.

Hes in one of those moods, she explained softly.

I nodded. Hes fine.

She looked at me carefully.

You know, she said simply.

I blinked. Know what? I asked innocently.

That hes bi-polar.

I nodded. Yeah, he told me.

Her eyes widened in understanding.

He loves you, she whispered. And you love him.

I blinked.

Well I did. I just didnt want his sister to know.

I was waiting.

I sensed that that was somehow crucial to our budding relationship.

If I spooked him, he would run.

Which was why I was denying, with everything I had, what I sorely suspected
wasnt food poisoning or a stomach bug.

I was pregnant.

Very pregnant.
Because since Id hooked back up with Michael, Id not had my period.

I was so regular with my period that I could set a timer to it.

I could tell you within the hour of when I was going to start, because it started at
the same time every month.

Which meant that the first time we were together wed conceived a child.

A child that he didnt want.

A child that I had to convince him that he could have. Who could be healthy.
Who could be a good person, just like he was. Whether he wanted to admit he
was a good man or not.

You love him, she confirmed, nodding her head. Good. Hes a good man.

See? I knew he was.

I know, I told her. Hes a really good man.

Hes a sap for a little kid, though. As you can see, hes collecting them once
again, she said with a snicker. A year or so ago, he saved a little boy from a
car crash, and stayed with him for four hours while he was cut out of a car. Now
Jackson is Michaels biggest fan. They still hang out with each other every once
in a while. Hell, hes Reggies best friend. Hes all she talks about sometimes.

That knowledge that he loved kids gave me hope.

Id already known that, of course, but it was good to have it reiterated.

How old is Reggie? I asked, gathering up Michaels clothes and boots and
putting them into a trash bag that Hannah had magically produced out of a
planter/secret hiding spot between two chairs on her porch.

Shes two and a half, going on eighteen, Hannah laughed. Shes Michaels
little mini-me. Imitates everything Michael does, and it drives my ex-husband
bonkers. I love it.

I laughed with her.

Which was how Michael found us.

He wasnt in a bad mood any longer.

No, he was in a great mood.

Which he proved when he said, I like it when my two favorite girls get along,
smiling and laughing.

I gave him a thumbs up. Well, we were laughing at you. Does that make you
feel any different?
He shook his head in the negative.

No, it doesnt. As long as youre getting along, he announced.

I raised a brow at him, studying his attire.

He was in a black pair of jogging shorts that were seriously too tight on him,
mostly because I could make out the outline of his cock through the shorts. And
although it was a very nice outline, it wasnt something I wanted the world to be

His shirt wasnt much better, but at least it was something.

I was happy to see his tattoos in the daylight, though.

Normally, I only got to see him when we were at his house or mine. And it was
only in the privacy of our bedroom.

Michael wasnt like normal men.

He didnt go without a shirt. He always had one on. Always.

Unless he was going to bed or getting out of the shower.

Why wouldnt we get along? I asked curiously.

Hannah was the one to answer.

Joslin and I didnt get along. At all. She was selfish and stuck up. She also
hated the fact that I called her on her shit when I picked up ER rotations.
Something she really, really didnt like, she answered.

Ahh, I said. That makes sense. She hates me because I do that, too.

Hannah grinned. Looks like we have a ton of stuff in common. And guess what!
We can gang up on her at family dinners and Christmases! Because my big
brother is being stupid and marrying the cheating hoe!

Michaels head tilted to the side. Howd you know she cheated?

Hannah looked at him as if he were stupid. Michael, baby brother dear, Im not
stupid. I work in the same hospital she does. And her stink doesnt just stay on
the ground floor. It permeates to all the floors. Trust me.

I had to agree.

Joslin was somewhat famous.

She was the hoe of the hospital, and everyone knew it.

They may not know her by sight, but they knew her by name, and that name
wasnt really pretty.
They call her Whoreslin instead of Joslin, Hannah informed him.

He blinked.

And shes alright with that? He asked in disbelief.

My eyebrows shot up.

She doesnt know shes called that, I told him.

He blinked. If everyone calls her that, she has to know. The woman is far from
dumb, he told me.

I shrugged. No matter. Whatever she is, is not dumb. But she also has no care
of what others think of her. Shes going to do what she does without another
thought on what anyone else thinks.

So will you be on time for dinner tonight? Hannah asked, changing the

I was glad.

That subject always had the ability to make me depressed.

A year and a half of working with her, and I still hated it.

The fact that I was about to meet his parents, though, wasnt much better.

In fact, the nausea was back full force at the thought of meeting them.

Id met parents before, but I never knew what to say.

I wasnt a very outgoing person.

I could talk to someone, of course, but I always said or did something to make
myself look stupid.

Well be there on time, I think. Unless something with the team comes up,
Michael said, lifting his arms high above his head to rest on the lip of the porchs

His way too short shirt rode up exposing his taut belly, and my mouth started to

His belly was covered with tattoos, but I could still see the defined ridges of his
abdominals peeking out.

The man was seriously ripped.

And it never hurt to see his tattoos. Something which made me so happy to see
on display since they were made for people to see.
Not that he agreed with me.

Itd been the subject of many discussions, and Id finally decided to just let it be.

He could do what he wanted to do, and Id be there to support him.

Well, its not like you have any control of when you get a SWAT callout. It is
what it is, she said, waving her arm at the idea that hed be late for that. Mom
will get over it.

I sensed that this was also a sore subject, him being on the SWAT team, and I
made a mental note to ask him about it later.

Alright, Hannah. Ive got to run. Weve got a lunch with the boys, but Ill see you
later this afternoon, he said to his sister.

Hannah walked forward and hugged him, effectively getting him muddy once
again, but not nearly as much as hed been before.

He scrunched her hair and kissed her forehead before he let her go.

Be careful, he whispered to her.

Hannah nodded. I will.

Then, before I could think or say anything to the contrary, I was picked up.

One of his arms swept my legs out from under me, and the other went behind
my shoulders to catch me as I fell.

I squealed and looped my arms around his shoulders, hanging on for dear life,
even though I knew hed never drop me.

Im too heavy! I protested.

He snorted.

Youre not heavy. Youre petite. Which is the opposite of too heavy, he said
with that annoyingly sweet tone of his.

I could hear the way his feet sank into the mud with each step, and I couldnt
help but object.

Michael, my feet are already covered in mud. Why are you carrying me? I

He laughed.

I leaned my head down to rest against his neck.

Whatever, I said teasingly.

He squeezed me tighter, and Id never felt safer or more content in my life.

Chapter 13

Dont put off tomorrow what you shouldve done today. Maybe I willtomorrow.

-Fact of life


Michael! I gasped, my head going back as he roughly pulled my hair, exposing

my neck to his mouth.

He ran his tongue from my collarbone all the way to my ear lobe, which he
sucked into his mouth, running his tongue along the outer shell.

Were going to be late, I said desperately.

He wasnt listening, though.

He was already pulling my jeans down my thighs, pushing them down with both
hands as he bent me over the side of the bed.

Ill be quick, he rumbled deeply, making my eyes roll back in my head when
his bearded cheeks ran down my slit as he traced the length of my sex with his

God, I breathed, pushing back involuntarily as he thrust his tongue into my

waiting *.

The scratchy beard covering his chin dug deliciously into my clit, and I was on
the verge of coming when he pulled back so abruptly that I cried out in

Alright, we can go now, he said sternly.

I looked over my shoulder at him, saw the gleam in his eyes, and knew he was

Narrowing my eyes I gave him the stink eye. Youve already got me on the
brink. How about you just finish the job? I asked, wiggling my ass for effect.

He grinned and slowly worked the zipper of his jeans down, unbuttoned them,
then lowered his pants from around his hips just enough that he could free his
erection without much maneuvering.

I licked my lips causing him to grin at me.

He knew how much he affected me, and I didnt care one bit.
Michael, I urged, pushing my hips back against him.

His eyes darkened, and he lined his cock up with my entrance before slowly
easing inside.

I gasped and threw my head back.

My hair flipped over my back, and Michael caught it, fisting it into his hands as
he pulled back his hips.

Then he sank back inside, pulling my hair to urge me to move back against him
at the same time.

I obliged, throwing my hips back so hard that a loud smack filled the room
where our hips collided.

He grunted.

Thats the way you want to do this? He asked casually, as if he wasnt driving
me crazy with his slow movements.

Yes! I screamed.

He obliged that, too.

Pulling his hips back until the meaty head of his cock stayed notched in my
entrance, he rammed back inside of me so hard that my knees lifted from the

Ahhh, I moaned, lightening coursing through my veins as the erotic staccato of

his movements lit me up like a firecracker.

Pleasure was building in my core.

My previous orgasm barreling back towards the finish line as he slammed into
me, harder and harder until the only thing I anticipated was the delicious pain
that shot through me each time he sank inside of me.

His free hand, that wasnt pulling back on my hair, found a home on my ass,
squeezing it tighter and tighter until I was sure hed pull my ass off.

But soon I didnt care because I was coming.

The erotic pain, the pure pleasure, and the excitement smashed through me all
at once, and I spontaneously combusted.

Or so it felt like.

Maybe it was an orgasm.

But I wouldnt call what I had with Michael normal.

What we had was fan-fucking-tastic.

Im coming, I gasped. Please!

He knew what I wanted.

His hand left my hair, and the other left my hip.

One traveled to my clit while the other went to one of my breasts: pulling,
plucking, and tickling.

My personal bottle rocket exploded into a full blown fireworks finale as I

clamped down on him so hard I heard him curse and pump his hips impossibly

Jesus, he grunted.

Then I felt the hot splash of his come pouring into me, filling me up, and
marking me as his.

He pushed forward one final time and stayed planted, panting with exertion.

You know, he said. I dont even muster up this much sweat when I run.

I groaned.

I cant complain.

And I couldnt.

If I had to deal with the sweat to get the pleasure I just had, then Id take it every
day of the week and twice on Sundays.

He pulled out of me, leaving me feeling bereft.

I was on my belly on the bed, and I could feel his essence leaking out of me in a

Yet I didnt have the energy to care at that moment.

Get up, woman, Michael slapped my ass.

I flipped him off, no doubt leaking come all over the bed.

Id change the sheets when we got home.

There was no way I could move right now.

Well, that is unless Michael were to pick me up.

Which he did only seconds later, wrapping his big hands around my waist and
standing me up.
Clean up, pull up your pants, and lets go. I can just hear my mom screeching
now, Michael teased.

Horror filled me.

What? I said frantically. Are we late?

Of course we were late.

Wed just had sex when we shouldve been leaving, Nikki Pena!

Gah! I said hurriedly, placing the palm of my hand between my legs to catch
any stray drops that might leak out as I hobbled to the bathroom, my pants still
around my ankles from where hed left them earlier.

Michael laughed as he watched, sitting down on the bed to holster his gun and
tie his shoes.

Twenty minutes later, and only ten minutes late, we pulled up to his parents

It was gorgeous.

It was one of those plantation houses with white paint, huge white pillars, red
shutters, and a large front porch that housed rocking chairs.

This is nice, I said in awe.

Id grown up on a farm.

Wed lived in a five bedroom house with seven children.

My brother, being the only boy, had gotten a room by himself while my sisters
and I all had to spilt into three.

It looked like this house had no less than ten bedrooms.

Plus a maids quarters.

And a pool house.

Yeah, he agreed, opening his door and hurrying around to mine. It was good.

I hopped out when he offered me his hand, and started up the front walk.

Im nervous, I whispered to Michael. And were late!

He patted my hand. Itll be alright.

I knew it would be.

Hed make it so.

But that still didnt help the nervousness that was tearing up my insides.

Or was that the nausea that hadnt gone away for three days?

Because I felt like I was going to die.

Of nervousness. Or maybe anorexia since I was so stinkin hungry.

Id met his parents on the peds floor, of course, but only long enough to chat
with them since theyd both been working at the time.

Meeting them at their house, in their territory, on their baby boys arm, was a
different thing entirely.

Its going to be okay, I promise, he told me, as we walked up the front walk of
his parents house.

Are you sure my pants arent too tight? I asked worriedly.

His eyes went from the front door to my ass, and I could see his pupils dilate.

No baby, theyre fuckin perfect, he murmured, licking his lips. Maybe we

should go home. Call and tell them youre still sick

I laughed, knocking him with my elbow in the ribs.

We did that before we came, I teased lightly.

Then the door in front of me opened, and a beautiful woman, with Michaels
blue eyes, opened the door, and at her back was a man with Michaels brown
hair. With a few gray hairs that only added to its awesomeness.

Michael, youre late, his mother said reprovingly. Then her eyes lit on
Michaels bared arms, and I winced.

Thatd been me begging him to wear a t-shirt.

I shouldve let him wear the long sleeve one he wanted to wear.

Ma, he said, walking in with me behind him. We were held up trying to find a
matching shoe.

And we had been.

Thatd been what had started the whole thing tonight.

Id been looking under the bed, and hed been looking at my ass instead of for
my shoe.

Nikki! Hannah called from further beyond. Im glad you could make it!

I smiled genuinely at Hannah, then melted even further as the little girl in her
arms launched herself at Michael.

Uncle Mickey! Reggie screeched.

Reggie was a ball of sunshine and happiness wrapped up in a hot pink dress
and brown curls.

I wanted her!

How cute was she?

Uncle Mickey! Spin! Reggie screeched again.

The rest of us watched as Michael spun Reggie in a circle, arms extended out
in front of him while he held her suspended in the air.

She screeched and yelled, hollering and hooting as she did the airpane.

Alright, children. Thats enough. How about some dinner? Elizabeth chastised
them gently.

Michael swung one more time, then came to an abrupt stop.

He placed Reggie on the floor, and we all watched as she started to stumble as
her equilibrium came back to her in slow increments.

Michael caught her before she could face plant, and laughed at her.

You did better, Reggie-Roo, he said, pulling her tightly into his chest.

I could tell he loved her.


And I couldnt help a pang of sadness at the sight.

I wanted that to be our kid together.

Whats for dinner? Another voice called from the living room.

I looked up, startled to see another man there.

He resembled Michael in color.

He had the same tanned skin and brown hair. But that was where their
similarities stayed.

This man had a more baby face with a very lean build to him.

He didnt look much like the rest of the family, like Hannah and Michael did.

I made lemon pepper chicken and garlic mashed potatoes with asparagus and
a pound cake for dessert, Elizabeth smiled, happy that someone had asked her
what shed made.

I noticed how the man nodded, and the woman plastered against him grimaced.

Id forgotten that Joslin might possibly be here.

Or more like shut it out.

I really didnt like the woman, and I mustve unconsciously protected myself
from thinking about it all day, because until just now, Id completely forgotten
shed be here.

Michael wrapped his arm around my shoulders, pulling me into his side as he
said, Smells great, mom. I hope you made some sweet tea, though. Im thirsty.

Elizabeth gave her son a droll look.

What do you take me for, a Yankee? She jeered.

I snorted, and covered my mouth with my hand at the jab.

Joslin was from up North.

I knew that because she always liked to say how Texas wasnt New York.

Well, thank God for that!

Well, lead the way, ma. Youre complainin about how I was late, yet here you
are lolly-gaggling, Michael teased.

Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at her son.

Watch it, she waggled her finger at him.

Dinner was excellent. And not a thing went wrong the entire time.

I kept my eyes on my own plate, smiled at everyone, and acted like I was

But the whole time I wasnt.

Joslin did nothing but glare at me the entire time, and I lost patience with her
about thirty minutes into the meal, and started glaring right back.

More chicken?

I looked up to find Dean holding the chicken dish out to me, and I shook my
head. No, thank you.

His eyes narrowed when I wouldnt take the dish, and I looked down at my
empty plate.

Im filled to the brim, promise, I told him.

He sighed.

Dean doesnt like it when the women in his life dont eat as much as a small
horse, Michael mumbled around a bite of bread. I keep telling him to get over
it, but he has a phobia.

I blinked.

A phobia? I asked in confusion.

I really was stuffed, so it didnt matter if he wanted me to eat more or not. I

wasnt going to.

Not with the way my stomach had been roiling on and off lately.

A girl he dated in high school used to be anorexic. So he thinks every girl he

knows is, Hannah muttered, smiling at her brother in humor.

I do not! Dean denied.

You do, Manuelo laughed from the end of the table.

So, Mom, Joslin interrupted the conversation with her normal awesome self.
What are we doing for the holidays? I really want to go to Colorado to ski

I hated skiing. So hopefully Michael didnt expect me to go with him.

We tried that last year and it didnt go well; thats off the table for this year,
Manuelo muttered, making me love him in that instant. Plus, now we have
another person to add to the mix well have to start syncing our schedules now.

My heart warmed at the mention of me, and when Manuelo smiled at me, I
knew hed forever have my heart.

If anyone can take on Joslin like that, then I was all for him!

But last year the boys picked. This years the girls pick, Joslin whined.

Michael made his mouth busy by shoving another piece of bread in it, but I
could tell he wanted to yell at her.

Hell, so did I.

I didnt, of course.

Surprisingly, it was Dean who said it.

How about we talk about this when it comes closer to time? Its only April,
Dean offered.

Alright, well since everyones done, Ill clean the dishes. Nikki, Joslin, how
about you two help me? Elizabeth asked nicely.

I refrained from grimacing.

Cleaning the kitchen was my least favorite thing to do in the world.

Give me a mop or a toilet brush all day long, but the thought of touching food
and smelling it really made me want to gag.

Michael looked at me, gauging my willingness to do it, and started to say

something, but I stayed his hand.

Okay, I said brightly, standing up and reaching for Michaels and my plate.

When I started to pull Michaels plate away, he held onto it until I looked into his

What I saw there was concern.

For me.

Smiling at him, I leaned down and kissed him softly on the lips, whispering, Im

He looked into my eyes, studying me for long moments, then nodded. Bring me
some pie on the way back out.

I winked. Yes, sir.

See, thats what I like to hear! Lizzie, when are you gonna learn how to obey
like that? Manuelo asked loudly.

Laughing, I followed a grumbling Elizabeth, and an even more unhappy Joslin,

into the kitchen.

Makin us look bad, my dear, Elizabeth said once the door swung shut behind

They had one of those swinging doors that Id only seen in movies, and their
kitchen was state of the art.

Man, I could knock out some tamales in here! I said in awe.

Youre welcome to make them anytime you wish, as long as you share,
Elizabeth offered graciously.

Deal, I said, stopping by the trash to dump what remained on the two plates in
my hand into the trash before walking them to the sink where Elizabeth was
rinsing the dishes.

Joslin took a seat at the table and started leafing through a magazine, leaving
Elizabeth and I to fill the silence, which was surprisingly easy, considering.
So, what made you want to be a midwife? Elizabeth asked, offering me a
rinsed off dish to load into the dishwasher.

Im a paramedic. The first call I ever took when I was on my own was a forty
week pregnant woman having her baby in a closet in her bedroom. It was
during one of those storms that threatened to hail and damage everything in the
affected area with its high winds. Theyd just rung the tornado siren when we
showed up, I told her. So we get there, and shed already moved to the closet
with her freaking out husband at her side. Thats where we delivered her. And
Ive been hooked ever since.

Those are the types of stories I love to hear. As you know, I work on the peds
floor. It can be depressing at times to hear some stories, Elizabeth said,
handing me a handful of forks.

Dean and I have decided to try invitro fertilization, Joslin announced from her
spot at the table.

I froze, as did Elizabeth.

Yall havent really given it that long, Elizabeth hesitated.

Weve been trying for over a year, so Dean went to get tested and they
discovered he had a very low sperm count. They suggested invitro, but even
then theyre not sure that hell be able to fertilize my eggs. Were going to ask
Michael if hed be willing to donate sperm

I dropped the plate I was holding and stormed out of the room.

I was so mad that I could spit nails, and when I found Dean and Michael in a
tense huddle in the corner of the living room.

Michael! I yelled, storming to him.

He turned around to look at me in concern, then his eyes narrowed when he

saw Joslins smiling face at my back.

What? he asked worriedly.

We need to talk. Outside now, I told him quickly.

I told her that were going to ask Michael to donate sperm, Joslin announced
to the room as a whole.

Michael turned stiffly and stared at me, ready for what he knew was coming.

Because let me tell you a little something about me.

Im a hothead.

I react first, speak second, and think third.

Its gotten me into trouble my entire life.

You will not have a kid with anyone but me! I yelled loudly, punctuating my
point with a finger jab to his chest.

Michaels eyes glittered.

Im not having kids with anyone, so its a moot point, Michael said, crossing his
arms over his chest.

But Dean, you said hed agree! Joslin whined.

My baby brother is not having a kid with you. Thats fucked, Hannah put in her
two cents.

But it wouldnt be his kid and mine, itd be mine and Deans, Joslin continued
to whine.

Yeah right. You know damn well and good that if its Michaels DNA, hell have
a responsibility to that kid, even if you want him not to, Manuelo said seriously.

Itd be our kid! He wouldnt have any say to it! Joslin dug herself deeper.

Michaels body became tense, and I knew he was about to say something

Michael and I are serious, and Im really not comfortable with having a child of
his running around with yall. Not to say that you wouldnt be capable parents, I
told Dean. But whats a part of Michael is a part of me. So would yall be
comfortable with sharing this child with me and Michael? Because I know I
wouldnt be comfortable doing that with yall.

I think that we need to talk to Michael without you here, Dean said softly.
Joslin, why dont you go finish cleaning the kitchen with Nikki and

No, shes right. I wont be having any kids. But if I were, it wouldnt be with
Joslin. Sorry, Michael said, shoving his hands into his pockets and looking
around the room at all the occupants.

Manuelo and Hannah, I could tell, were firmly on my side.

Elizabeth, I could tell, was conflicted.

She wanted both of her boys to be happy.

And I knew Id made an enemy out of Joslin first and foremost.

There wouldnt be any turning back from that.

Dean, however, looked oddly happy.

Like he hadnt wanted to have children with her. Nor her to have any children
with anyone else.

I glanced at Michael as he pulled his pager out of his pocket.

Gotta go, he muttered, looking at the readout. Nikki, come on. Lets go.

We left within seconds, and I was so happy I could scream.

I cannot believe, I said, plugging my seatbelt in, That she asked you that.

Michael snorted. She always wanted kids. And I think Dean was in the process
of telling me he didnt want kids either, when you burst through the door like a
hot fire poker was shoved up your ass.

I winced.

That sounds painful, I admitted.

He shrugged. I wouldnt know. Ive no doubt that it would be, though.

He pulled out of his parents subdivision, flipping the lights on that I hadnt
realized were there.

Wow, I said, looking up at the flashing lights that were mounted to his rearview
mirror. Does it make sounds, too?

He hit a button on his steering wheel, and the sound of a loud air horn, followed
by the distinct buuuurp-burrrp most police cars used filled the night air.

Surprisingly, people moved out of our way fairly quickly.

You can take my truck back to your house, he muttered. Ill get someone to
drop me off at my place.

I blinked.

Youre not coming back over?

Was that a whine I detected in my voice?

Yuck, I hated whining.

No, theres no telling when Ill be back, he told me as he pulled into the station.

Then, without another word, he disappeared, leaving the truck running and me
surprised and a little bit hurt.

Hed always come to my house after his calls before. Why was this time any

Had what I said been out of line?

Surely not. But hell, what did I know?

Chapter 14

Show me your kitties.



Where are you? Michael asked.

I looked at the doctors office where I was currently waiting for my appointment,
and lied through my teeth.

Im at the store. Do you need anything? I asked sweetly.

He grunted. No. I was just hoping you were home so you could bring me my
spare pistol. Something is wrong with mine and I guess I need to take it in to get
it fixed.

No, Im not there. Im sorry, I told him honestly.

Damn. I cant get away. Im about to go into a meeting, and I have a SWAT
seminar in Longview at twelve, he sighed.

I can bring it to Longview for you, as long as thats okay. I have to go to the
mall anyway, I offered.

He made a sound of contentment. That sounds good. What do you need at the

Pants because mine dont fit anymore, was what I was thinking, but what I said
was, New pants. Mine have something defective with the button.

Not totally a lie.

The defectiveness with the button came up because I couldnt get the button to
meet the hole that was designed for it.

Id had to use a hair tie to hook the two together, and eventually Michael was
going to notice that I could no longer button my pants.

I was going to buy myself some time, though, by buying some bigger jeans.

Itd been three weeks since Id gone with Michael to pull his sister out of the

Three weeks since Id met his parents.

And three weeks since Id finished school.

But Id been busy.

Id graduated just two days ago, although it was just a formality.

Id taken my certification test that was required in the State of Texas, and I was
now a licensed certified midwife.

Ms. Pena? A young womans voice called, making me look up from the
contemplation of my fingernails, which were sorely in need of a manicure.

Sadly, I knew that wasnt going to happen any time soon.

I didnt have time.

And when I did have time, Id rather nap.

This pregnancy that I wasnt announcing was really draining the hell out of me.

I stood and walked over to the woman.

Are you ready? She asked with a smile.

I nodded. Yep.

I was.

There was no denying it anymore.


If all my calculations were correct, I was well past the I just missed my period

Which was normally when women felt it safe to announce their pregnancy to the

Something that I hadnt, nor wouldnt, find the courage to do anytime soon.

Alright, well get your weight and blood pressure, then youll take that cup right
there, she indicated the cup on the counter. And fill the cup up to the

First line, yes I know. Im a midwife, I told her, smiling happily.

It never got old, saying that.

Oh! I want to do that! The woman crowed. Ive been thinking about it. Is it

I smiled. Its tough, yes. I think the hardest part though, is waking up in the
middle of the night when the women start giving birth. But Im not going to go
that route with the home births. Ive already got a position lined up with Good
Shepherd. Ill be assisting the doctors there. Ill be on twelve hour shifts, ready
to play catcher if the doctors cannot make it in time, I told her.

Her eyes lit.

I didnt know they had that option, she said, gesturing to the scale. Ill
seriously have to look into it. I took this job because of the baby aspect. I just
love meeting the little ones.

I could relate.

Delivering babies never got old.

Id helped deliver a baby in the parking lot of the ER.

The woman had pulled to a rocking stop in a big, jacked up Chevy truck with her
frantic husband at the wheel.

The husband had been white as a sheet, and I could see why the minute I
opened the door to the truck and saw a baby practically on the verge of being
born, staring at me from the womans vagina.

The baby was literally staring, too.

His head was in the sunny side up position, which meant the baby was coming
into the world facing the sky rather than the ground like he was supposed to.

It also meant that it hurt a lot more.

Which the woman thatd been birthing the boy was letting us know with her
eloquent play on words.

Id lifted my arms just in time to catch the boy as the woman had given one
valiant push.

The baby slid from the mothers birth canal into my outstretched hands, and
thered been no looking back since.

Okay, you can step down, the woman said. Sit here, please.

After checking my blood pressure, and filling the dreaded plastic cup, she
showed me to a room.

Im sure you know by now what this little gem is! She said, holding up a

I nodded, sat down, and lifted my shirt. Sure do. Have at it.

You said you were twelve weeks, so that should be more than enough time for
her to develop and allow us to hear the heartbeat.

I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of the Doppler at work, amazed at
how different it was from this end.

Ahh, the woman said. There it is.

I smiled, and tears filled my eyes, as I listened to mine and Michaels baby for
the very first time.

And I fell in love.

Hopelessly devoted to this little life inside of me.

One forty two. Perfect perfect! She said. Alright, my dear. My names Dalia if
you need anything. The doctor should be in with you in about ten to fifteen
minutes, Dalia explained as she headed to the rooms door, and then closed it
quietly behind her.

Well, at least I didnt have to sit here naked while I waited.

This visit was late.

Most women usually went in when they were four to six weeks pregnant.

Seeing as I was twelve, I wouldnt have to have the normal vaginal ultrasound. I
could have the one that would run over the outside of my belly.

Which also meant I wouldnt have to get naked.

I busied myself with a magazine on birthing a child, all the while I tried to tell
myself to calm down and not freak out.

Freaking out had been a major part of my life as of late.

How did I tell Michael?

Would he be okay with it?

Would he ask me to abort it?

I knew one thing, though, and that was that this baby was mine, and I loved it

And if I had to give up my relationship with Michael because he couldnt see

past his fears, then Id do it.

Itd be hard as hell, but Id do it.

And I planned on telling him tonight after we had dinner with our families.

Maybe Id pour a few drinks into him, too.

Maybe that would help him stay calm and help him realize that having a child
wasnt the end of the world.
The door to the room clicked open, and I looked up into the eyes of an older
man in his mid to late sixties.

Hello, Doctor Jones said, offering his hand. Im Doctor Jones. Its nice to meet

I smiled at him and offered him my hand, too.

The moment my hand touched his, I felt a little zing of discomfort pulse down
my arm, but I hid it with a smile. Nice to meet you, too.

He took a seat on that little rolling chair, and I was never more thankful that I
wasnt naked than right at this moment.

Because if this man wouldve been doing stuff between my legs, I might very
well have screamed.

There wasnt anything that I could put my finger on that made me so nervous
and uncomfortable.

He was normal looking for the most part.

He did have a slight bald spot at the very top of his head, and he had too much
of a leer in his smile.

But other than that, he was a normal man for that age.

There was nothing that truly stuck out about him, but I knew I wouldnt be
coming back to this doctor if I could help it.

The way this practice worked, though, was that I had to see all of the doctors in
case of the event that my primary OB/GYN was busy with another patient or out
of town.

I had to meet with them all, and this doctor, Dr. Jones, was the first one

So Id taken the appointment, even though he wasnt the doctor that I wanted to
speak with.

Luckily, I wouldnt have to take another appointment with him.

Alright, well your pregnancy test came back positive, so you are indeed
pregnant. Today well be doing a sonogram on you to double check the dates,
but with what I heard about you being a midwife, Im fairly positive that your
calculations on your gestation are correct, he grinned.

I hid my wince once again with a smile. Yeah, Im fairly positive myself.

He nodded. What does your husband do?

Instead of telling him that I wasnt married, I just smiled and told him, Hes a
police officer.
Something in his eyes flared, but was gone just as quickly as I saw it.

Well thats nice, I bet yall are excited, he said, standing up and walking to the
sink to wash his hands.

I leaned back and lifted my shirt when he came back to me, his hands moving
to my belly.

He pressed into my abdomen, and I had to clench my core tightly when the
movement made the state of my bladder go from bearable to Defcon One.

Everything feels alright, he said, moving back until he was standing at the
sink. Ive written a prescription for prenatal vitamins, as well as some nausea
meds if you feel that youll be needing some, since I read in your chart that
youve been experiencing quite a bit of nausea and vomiting.

I nodded, and he smiled, that leer tilting up just the corner of his lips once again.

Alright, he said, standing up and heading to the door. If you have any
questions, please dont hesitate to call if need be. Do you know where the
sonogram room is?

I nodded, and he winked. Alright little lady, youre more than welcome to go!
See you next month.

I held my shiver in check until hed closed the door, and I let out a breath of air.

Then an irrational rage swept through me.

If that bastard boyfriend of mine didnt have to be so irrational about children,

then I wouldnt be freaking out right now alone. Id have him holding me, telling
me wed never see that fucker again.

Because I knew damn well that Michael wouldve felt the same coming from him
as I had.

I left the little room, waving at Dalia as I headed in the direction of the
ultrasound room.

I found the room, and immediately realized that Id fucked up.

Because Memphis, the wife of another member of the SWAT team, was smiling
brightly at me.

I just knew it! She crowed happily. I knew it!

I blinked.

Knew what? I asked carefully.

When I saw your chart. I bet Michaels so happy! She cheered happily.
Wrong. Michael didnt even know!

Umm, Michael doesnt know, I told her softly.

Her eyes cleared of their happiness.

What? She asked.

I was sure that was a shock to her.

Downy, her husband, was a really good man whod been over the moon at
hearing that Memphis was pregnant.

She probably didnt even realize that some men didnt feel the same way that
hers did.

Yeah, I havent told him yet, I informed her. And Im not sure I want toor
how to.

She blinked. But why? Hes Saint. Hes the baby whisperer. He loves children.

Yeah, I could see this going really wrong. Michael doesnt want kids, I finally
said. I dont know how hell react to hearing that Im pregnant, nor if hed be
happy about it. If Im being honest, Im fairly sure hes going to flip out and leave

Oh, Nikki. Im sorry, she whispered forlornly.

I shrugged.

It was what it was.

Id deal with everything else once it happened.

Tonight, though, Id tell him. I didnt want him finding out from a friend when it
should be coming from his woman. At least I could give him that.

Chapter 15

Nobody cares about your problems. Weve got enough shit of our own to deal

-Michael to a suspect


Surprise! I said, throwing the door to the restaurant that Id rented for the night
open, revealing all of our family and friends.

Nikkis mouth dropped open in surprise.

Whatwhywhat she stuttered, flabbergasted.

I smiled.

Congratulations on your certification, best friend, Georgia said, wrapping her

arms around Nikki and hugging her tightly.

Oh, my God! Nikki jumped up and down, then turned and barreled into me,
knocking me off balance. You are the best man ever.

I huffed out a laugh and let her go when her parents made their way over to us.

Mom, dad! She cried in happiness.

And thats when I knew.

I did all this just to get that very smile on her face.

You did good, suck up, Nico said, slapping me on the back.

I snorted and turned, offering him my hand.

He took it and narrowed his eyes on me.

I can see now that youll try to worm your way into my parents hearts. But it
wont work. Im the favorite, he deadpanned.

I blinked.

He was serious as far as I could tell.

Or maybe he was just that good at holding onto his composure.

No youre not! A young woman that looked a lot like Nikki, but had yet to
develop all the luscious curves said. I am!

Nico glared at her. What the fuck are you wearing, Nila?

She looked down at the short skirt that clung to her toned thighs. A skirt.
Whats wrong with it?

Uh, Nico said, slapping his head and looking to me for direction. I know you
have a sister. Does she dress like a harlot?

I shook my head. No. Not anymore, at least. She had a baby at sixteen,

Nicos eyes turned murderous. You will not have a baby! And ruin your life! Pull
your skirt down.
Our babies ruined your life? Georgia asked with laughter filling her voice.

Nicos babies were now one year olds, but Nico still acted like they were born

Yeah, when was the last time we had se Georgia slapped her hand over
Nicos mouth before he could finish your sentence.

you will watch your mouth around our friends, you randy bastard, Georgia
hissed at her husband.

I cracked up and turned to Nila. Its nice to meet you, finally, Nila. Ive heard a
lot about you.

Nila smiled. And I you. Although all that Nikki and I have spoken about is the
fact that you can give it to her

Not you, too! Georgia kept right on hissing. What is wrong with you Penas?
Obviously, Nikki has the right way of it, finding a man to get her the hell out of
this fucked up family.

Nico laughed, as did Nila.

I, though, froze. Was she talking to Georgia about getting married?

I hadnt actually thought much past the summer, but the thought of being with
Nikki forever really made me happy.

Like, manic happy.

Which also worried me.

I didnt want to marry her yet.

We needed time to get to know each other.

Shed never even witnessed any of my manic/depressive episodes.

I, at least, needed to get through this winter with her, then I could think about

Right now, I was just happy having her in my arms, knowing shed be there
when I woke up.

Michael? Nikki called to me.

I looked over to see her parents and her studying me.

I turned and walked away from the arguing siblings, offering my hand to Sol,
once again.

Hows it going? I asked.

He smiled.

You did a good job, keeping this from her. I was just telling her that you were
the one to organize all of this, Sol said.

Nikki looked from her father to me.

Youre good at keeping secrets, she teased. Im usually the first one to talk
my family into opening the presents. Next time Ill have to pay attention for the
signs of you hiding something.

I snorted. Youd never figure out if I was hiding something from you. You, on
the other hand, are an open book.

Her eyes widened. Really?

I nodded.

Then her eyes narrowed. Im good at keeping secrets, though.

Then Memphis and Downy walked up, effectively ending our conversation.

Lolita! Did you bring me some tamales? Downy asked loudly.

Lolita blushed. No, my Downy, I didnt. But Im making some tomorrow, so Ill
be sure to bring you some by the station.

Downy grinned.

Score! he said, pulling his arm down quickly from head height. Make em hot!
You know how I like em!

Lolita rolled her eyes, and I turned to Memphis, only to see her looking at Nikki

She was staring at the glass of champagne in Nikkis hand like it was a viper.

What? I asked her.

Memphis turned and looked at me with wild eyes.

The first thing I noticed she saw was my bare arms, causing her eyes to widen

Holy shit! She announced loudly. You got a new one!

I looked down at my bare arms and grimaced.

Id gone without the long sleeves tonight for Nikki.

I knew she liked when I showed them off.

And, although I did it for her, I wasnt comfortable with it.

I didnt like explaining why I had so many tattoos. Because with that explanation
came the explanation of the fact that I suffered from depression and I was bi

Which only launched into more conversations that I didnt want to have.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Nikki turn to place her champagne glass
down on a nearby table and turn to me.

I raised a brow at the move, but she only winked and walked away, talking to
even more of her friends and family, leaving me to explain to Memphis
something that I didnt even want to get into.


Two hours later, the champagne dilemma was brought up again.

Nikki, why arent you drinking any champagne? I bought it specifically for you!
Georgia asked, thrusting yet another glass at her.

Nikki once again waved it off. No, Im not interested in champagne tonight. I
want to enjoy this night, not forget it.

Somewhat mollified, Georgia took the drink to her lips and sipped, keeping her
eyes on Nikki, studying her.

I studied Nikki, too.

Shed not had a drink in a very long time, now that I thought about it.


Making a note to question her later, I turned back to the conversation at hand.

So theyre making budget cuts? Where? Are they going to take away our new
body armor? The vehicles that they promised? The overtime pay that they force
us to take? Nico asked in outrage at hearing what Luke had just said.

Luke shook his head. Im only telling you the rumors Im hearing, and
explaining why Ill be attending the town hall meeting.

Well, how about they lower the amount of pay the mayor makes, or some of
the city officials? Why not take the budget cuts out of the fuckin flowers that
they plant in the middle of the road. Or the new red lights they keep putting up
that only do more problem than good, Nico muttered darkly.
Luke held his hands up in surrender.

Thats why I mentioned it. I want yall to go to the meeting with me this Friday,
Luke said.

After a few grunts of confirmation, Luke turned to me.

Ive also wanted to talk to you today, too, but I could never get you. Have you
heard any more about those murders? He asked.

We all knew which ones he was talking about.

Everyone did.

It was now public information after the fourth one in forty square miles and two
weeks happened.

Wolf is up and talking, but hes only been able to give the minutest of details.
He can attest to the black clothes, the black hoodie, and the black boots. We
know he had black hair, and he was about five foot nine or ten. Whipcord lean.
About one hundred and eighty pounds, I told them. But yall already know that.
Parker and Elliott arent sharing much else yet. Wolf is getting released on
Monday, though. And, hopefully, hell be approved to adopt Nathan like hes
looking to do since he has no other family, I informed them.

Luke nodded.

I heard the boys finally doing better, Downy said around a mouthful of cake.
Whens he get to go home?

I shook my head. Only time will tell with him. Hes got some swelling on his
brain thats causing him to act a lot differently than he was before, so theyre
waiting for that to go down some more before they make any plans of him
getting released.

Fuck, Miller said, pulling his beer up to his lips and taking a sip.

My sentiments exactly.

Youre pregnant! Noel crowed. Thats why youre not drinking.

My heart froze in my chest at the declaration from Nikkis little sister, and I
started to pay a little more attention.

What? No! Im not! Nikki shook her head savagely.

Even though she denied it immediately, I started to connect some dots.

Throwing up.

No period that Id seen as of yet.

And I wouldve noticed any of the million times wed fucked in the past month
and a half.

Weight gain.

Why she needed new pants at the mall today.

Why her nipples were so fuckin tender lately.

Id barely brushed them in the shower this morning, and it had her begging for
me all over again.

Scuse me, I muttered, eyes connecting with Nikkis.

Her eyes widened slightly, flaring with something I couldnt read, and then
disappeared before she schooled her features.

Then she excused herself from her friends and followed me out of the
restaurant, then further outside.

I didnt stop until we were in the shadows along the side of the building.

I could hear Nikkis flip flops flapping against her feet as she walked behind me.

The wind from the impending storm flapping her skirt as she hurried to catch up
to me.

But my strides were too fast for her.

She didnt catch up to me until I stopped in shadows so deep that I couldnt tell
she was standing in front of me before I moved my arms out to catch her before
she slammed into my front.

Nows not the time for lying, Nikki, I said breathlessly.

I was breathless because I was freaking the fuck out.

I was a doctor for fucks sake.

I knew the signs.

I was also smarter than Id been acting.

I guess I wanted so bad to give Nikki the benefit of the doubt that I ignored the

I never looked to see if she was taking the birth control.

Mother. Fucker.

Michael, she said, pressing her hand against my abs.

And I suddenly forgot what she and I were fighting about.

Mostly because her mouth was on mine, and her hands were wrapping around
my neck.

She held on tight as I started to fight her, but then she pressed those delicious
hips against my raging cock, and I forgot that I was mad.

Forgot that my life had just changed.

Forgot that she was trying to distract me.

Because she did distract me.

And I took the bait.

Hook, line, and fucking sinker.

My mouth slammed down on hers as I gathered her up into my arms.

The slinky skirt that reached her ankles tangling up in her legs as I tried to lift
her up.

She and I both shoved the skirt up until it rested up around her hips, then I
moved until I pressed her against the brick wall of the building wed just exited.

Nikki, I growled, grinding my dick into her *.

Yeah? She asked, need evident in her voice.

She rocked her hips against my cock, and keened when I hit her clit just right.

Pleasejust dont lie, I begged.

She didnt answer, which I guess that was answer enough.

Nikki, I said, reaching between us to rip my cock free from the dress slacks
and place it at her entrance. Why?

She shook her head. I did everything right. I swear on my life, Michael. I did
everything right.

My eyes closed, and my heart felt like it was breaking as she sank down slowly
onto my cock.

Her heat fisted my dick, covering each and every single inch of skin covering
my length.

My eyes closed, not that it mattered anyway since it was pitch black outside

The lone light wed been using for the minimal lighting it gave went out when a
hard burst of wind screamed between the buildings.
Nikki gasped, and I couldnt figure out if it was because of the pure darkness, or
the way I rammed into her, taking my frustration about the entire situation out on
her *.

Michael, she gasped, clinging tighter.

Take it, I ordered.

She leaned down and bit my neck, hard.

And I exploded.

It was all too much.

The way she clenched around me.

The way she smelled.

The thought of her carrying my baby.

A baby that was a miracle in its own right, but would probably grow up to be
just like me.

I finished without you, I murmured into her hair.

She petted my head, running her nails along my scalp and making shivers
chase down my spine.

Thats okay, she whispered softly. Just dont do it again.

I laughed humorlessly and pulled out of her, letting her feet fall back towards the

Once I knew she was steady, I let her hips go.

Her skirt fell from my grasp as I did, and we sat there in an awkward silence.

Me with my head against her shoulder, and her with her arms still around me.

What are we going to do? I rasped, eyes clenching tight.

A sob caught in her throat, and I knew that she didnt do this on purpose.

I knew it with all my heart and soul.

And when she whispered, I dont know, but I love you, I knew that I would do
whatever it took to come to terms with this.

Because I had just as much of a part in the conception of this child as she did.

And thats what a man did.

Stepped up to the plate.

Chapter 16

So tell me what you want, what you really, really want.



I knew he wouldnt find me here.

It was the one place I could go without anyone finding me.

Salsarita Mamacitas.

My family wouldnt be caught dead here.

It was the poorest quality dancing place in town.

Plus, Michael didnt dance.

Hed told me so.

Many, many times.

When Id be dancing around the kitchen making dinner, hed just roll his eyes at
me in exasperation when I tried to get him to join in.

Something about attending too many dances when he was younger or some
bullshit excuse like that.

Itd been two months since Id told Michael that I was pregnant.

Two months since hed fucked me, stayed with me throughout the rest of the
night, and then disappeared without a trace.

Well, not without a trace.

I knew where he was.

He called me, updated me on what was going on, but he wasnt there.

He was seeing a therapist.

He was coming to terms with the baby, as he said.

Hed been on a case.

I knew it was a bad case.

I also knew it was a worthy case for him to be on, but I didnt understand why it
was taking him away from me like it was.

And I was fairly sure he was just using it as an excuse to lick his wounds.
Wounds that he believed I delivered against him.

I was on birth control. I didnt know what else to do to prevent a child other than
abstinenceand that wasnt going to happen with Michael.

I hadnt been on antibiotics, so it wasnt anything stupid on my part.

Nor had I forgotten any pills. I knew he didnt want kids. I would never trap him
into keeping me, nor give him a child he didnt want on purpose.

So, needless to say, I was in a mood.

A lonely mood.

Because he wasnt there.

He wasnt with me, and I needed him so bad that I could barely stand it.

Id been ducking his calls for three days now And I knew he either would plain
old stop calling, or hed pull his head out of his ass and come see me.

Either one was a desired effect at this point.

I knew he loved me.

Knew it so deeply that I felt it with each call he made to me. Heard it in the tone
of his voice.

I took a gulp of my water, enough that I could technically say I was done with it
since there was no way Id be touching it when I got back to my table.

I wasnt going to be roofied.

Plus, I wasnt stupid.

Want to dance, mamacita? I heard called over my shoulder.

I turned from where I was swaying my hips along with the beat to find a very
beautiful man at my back.

He was tall.

He had a black leather vest over a red t-shirt with black jeans and a pair of
black boots.

I knew he spelled T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Did I care?

Fuck no.

Because I was a single lady, and single ladies had needs.

No, not that kind of needs.

Needs that made me want another humans touch. Crave it.

Needs that Michael should be fulfilling right now. Not leaving me to my own

Jesus, now I was depressing myself again.

I turned, and the mans eyes immediately went down to my stomach.

Something I made no effort to hide.

I was proud of this stomach.

I was one week shy of four months pregnant, and I was definitely showing.

My previous flat belly was now gently rounded.

And my jeans that I was wearing hugged my legs and hips like a glove.

I had on black spiky heeled boots that came up to mid-calf, and a skin tight
black, low cut tank top that showed off the girls.

It was an outfit that I knew would drive Michael wild if he saw.

He wouldnt, but I still hoped.

Yeah? I asked sharply.

His eyes moved up from my belly to my face and he asked abruptly, You got a

I laughed. Yeah, I have a man.

His shoulders seemed to slump. Shit. I was hoping youd say different.

I smiled genuinely at him.

Lifes a bitch like that, I offered him my hand. My names Nikki.

He took my hand, shook it twice, then let it go.

Names Dane. Can I get you another drink? He asked, looking pointedly at the
near empty glass.
Sure, but Im going to dance right now. You may want to wait because if it sits
there too long, I wont drink it, I told him, taking a step away from him.

He smiled. Ill do that. But I have a meeting thats supposed to start in about
fifteen minutes. Ill have to take a raincheck.

I tossed a laugh over my shoulder and then disappeared into the crowd onto the
dance floor.

Shaking my bon bon to some Ricky Martin, completely forgetting about the
man and his meeting by the time the fourth song, Pitbull this time, rolled


Forty five minutes later, I came off the dance floor with one thing in mind.

A bathroom.


I barreled through the door to my destination, and came to a sudden halt when I
was faced with the most gorgeous woman Id ever seen.

And she was pregnant to boot.

Flowing blonde hair that came down to her ass. A black skirt pulled up to just
underneath her belly, a sky blue tank top, and gold gladiator sandals rounded
out the outfit.

She looked hip and trendy, something I never managed to do.

My curves were too generous to look nice in what she was wearing.

Hello, I said, skirting around behind her to go into the stall behind her.

Hi! She answered back immediately.

I did my business, but heard her leave before I made it back out of the stall.

Washing my hands and fixing some fly-aways from the bobby pins holding my
hair out of my face, I smoothed my hands down my jeans and made my way out
to the mouth of the hallway.

I tried to decide whether or not to grab a drink from the bar again before going
out to the dance floor once again when I saw them.

And my heart stalled in my chest, coming to a slow, pounding stop before it

started beating again at a rapid staccato.

Because there, in front of me, was Michael.

He had his arm around the blonde woman from the bathroom, laughing with

Dane was across from them on a bench by himself, watching the two interact
with crude eyes.

He said something to them, and made his way to the bar.

Where he ordered a water, and turned to smile at me.

I didnt smile back.

Instead, I walked to him, dread in my every step, and took the glass from him.

Id never in my life wanted a drink as bad as I did right then.

But, alas, I was pregnant.

And that was a no-no.


Whats wrong? Dane asked as he took in the set of my shoulders, the way my
eyes were flat without any emotion.

How do you know them? I asked pointing at Michael and the mystery lady.

Colleague, he answered.

Wonderful. Dane was another cop.

With a sigh, I walked to the dance floor, knowing Michael would see me as I
walked past his table.

Then I found the first person I saw, remembering that hed wanted me to dance
with him throughout the time Id been there, and grabbed him.

Startled at first, the man smiled when he saw who it was.

Then started to grind into my backside.

And dammit, I hated it.

I wanted to want it so bad that I didnt pay attention to my surroundings.

I totally missed the man that was staring at me as if Id just stolen his heart
straight from his chest.

Missed the way Dane caught it all, and the way understanding lit his eyes.
I also missed the way the woman watched me, knowing I was the one for

When the mans hands moved up to cup my hips, I slapped his hand away.

Michael missed that, though, because he turned to talk to the woman, and
hurriedly she moved out of the booth allowing him to head straight to me.



This has to look real, Dane said to Lisette and me.

I rolled my eyes.

Weve already gone over this a million times, Dane, I growled.

You arent even touching her. In fact, you havent touched her all night. How
convincing is that? Dane laughed.

I ignored him, scooting closer to Lisette and putting my arm over her shoulder.

Dane studied the two of us. Yeah, I guess.

I felt like I was betraying Nikki.

Even sitting here, just like this, wasnt good.

I knew it.

I should call and explain.

But I was a coward.

What time do you want us to meet up at the doctors office tomorrow? Lisette
asked Dane.

Dane shrugged. What times your appointment?

I ignored them, pulling my phone out of my pocket once again, disgruntled when
I still had no reply texts or returned calls from Nikki.

I laughed when Elliott said I texted like a girl, and watched when he got up to
You dont really want to do this, Lisette observed.

I shrugged. It needs to be done. I just wish I didnt have to lie to my girlfriend

about it. Shed be devastated if she ever

I watched as the woman Id been dreaming about walked past me without a

glance in my direction.

Eyes down at the floor and a look of devastation on her face, I knew shed seen

Hell, how could she not?

We were in the middle of the dance floor under the fucking lights for Christs

Fuuuuck, I groaned, turning my head to watch Nikki as she walked up to some

punk of a kid, grabbed his arm, and started grinding her ass against him.

I was stunned still, for long moments, and only came unstuck when the punks
hand went to Nikkis hips.

She slapped his hands away, but he didnt take the hint, grinding his dick into
her ass and holding on when I knew she didnt want him to.

Move quickly please, I urged Lisette.

Shed seen the altercation, had followed my eyes to the dance floor and Nikki,
and chose to move.

Smart girl.

I walked purposefully up to Nikki and her new friend, and roughly yanked him
away from her.

Go find your own woman, I hissed at the boy.

The boys eyes narrowed, and I yanked my badge from my belt and held it in
front of his face.

Now do you really want to try it? I asked him honestly.

I didnt think he would, but Id give him the option. I was itching for a fight.

He shook his head frantically. No.

Didnt think so.

I nodded my head. Good boy.

When he stayed where he was, waiting for my next direction, I cocked my head
towards the exit and said, Why dont you go ahead and go?
He went.

And I was left with Little Miss Trouble Maker.

Really, Nikki? I asked, amusement clear in my voice.

She narrowed her eyes.

Go fuck yourself, pendejo, she snarled.

There was my little Spanish hellcat. The one that only came out when she was
well and truly pissed.

I raised a brow at her, and then took in her attire.

I liked the way her spiky heels brought her up to me.

I liked the way she stared me in the eyes, all fire and innocence with a hint of

Take it outside, buddy, Elliott said from my back.

I looped my fingers around Nikkis wrist, noting that shed gotten more delicate
since Id last seen her, and made a mental note to speak with her about that as

First on the agenda, though, was setting her straight.

Id gone long enough keeping her in the dark.

It was time to bring her into the light.

Let her know what all she was about to get into.

Because Id just given my notice, so to speak.

I wouldnt be the FBIs guinea pig.

I would be my own man and Id have my woman at my side.

Let go of me, Nikki yanked her arm out of my grip before wed made it outside.

I stopped, then pushed her into the handicap bathroom, slamming the door
closed before she could protest.

Michael! Let me out! She shrieked.

I moved forward, until my body was pinning hers to the door, and she started to
squirm viciously.

Her shirt rode up, and I looked down, feeling the new hardness of her abdomen.
Before itd been soft and yielding. Now it was hard and round, causing me to
lose my train of thought.

I moved my hand down until it rested on the side of her belly, my hand cupping
the small life inside her tummy.

Youve gotten big, I murmured softly.

She froze.

Then smacked me upside the head.

You dont tell the woman you knocked up that shes gotten big! She snarled.

I chuckled, then dropped down to my knees in front of her.

I moved my hands up, catching the hem of her shirt, and pushed it over her
belly as I slid my hands up to her ribs.

My eyes feasted on the sight before me.

Her gently swollen belly popped out over the top of her pants.

A black hair tie looped around the hole of the jeans, and then over the button,
holding them closed.

Her belly button was a little less concave, and I assumed, by the end of her
pregnancy, itd be an outie instead of an innie.

I leaned forward, pressing my lips against the soft skin of her belly, and said,
Ive been a fool.

Her hands found my hair, and I looked up to see tears streaming down her

Im so sorry, Nikki, I told her. Ive only been thinking of you, though. This
guywhomever he ishes good. Hes gotten fifteen couples to date, and out
of his thirty five kills, only two have made it. We have one witness, and he
hasnt been able to give us a fuckin thing to go on beside the build and color of
the mans hair. He never went to any of the appointments, so were all hanging
on by a fricking thread.

Why havent you come to see me? She asked, devastation clear in her voice.

I shook my head.

At first, I said. It was because I was trying to get my head on straight. Then I
started seeing a therapist that the department recommended. Then another
murder happened, and well, Ive been a fucking coward. I shouldve come to
you. I actually have every night since I left you in bed that night two months
agoI just dont come inside.

She glared.
Whos the woman? She snapped.

An FBI agent. Shes going to help us catch this man. Shes been posing as a
new patient who moved here because her husband was transferred to another
police departmentbut Im not sure thats going to work too well now since I
was supposed to be that police officer, I told her honestly.

She glared.

And what does being a fake husband make you have to do? She asked,
clearly not happy with my answer.

I shrugged. Go to doctors appointments. Be seen with her in public. Stay in the

same place at night.

Her eyebrows rose to her hairline.

And what about my appointments? She asked.

I saw where she was going with it, and I knew she wouldnt like my answer.

I cant go to them.

And I couldnt.

Not if this was to be authentic and believable.

What about the birth of our childwill you be able to come then? She asked

If hes caught, I said carefully.

She dropped her hand from my face and stood there, looking up at the ceiling.

Her tears had never abated, and I felt about six inches high.

Please get off me, she said. Please.

We can have each other at night, I told her. I love you.

Those words seemed to make her snap.

She pushed me away from her with enough force that I fell backwards, my ass
planting on the ground solidly.

And I was also far enough away that she almost had the door open.


This doesnt change anything, she growled, yanking on the door.

I slammed my hand down to stop her progress.

It has to look real! I yelled at her.

You want to have real, use me! Im real! You put this baby inside of me, maybe
you should use me since Im actually yours! She yelled, waving her hands in
the air in true Pena Tantrum fashion.

My eyes narrowed, then I moved forward until I could only make out the whites
of her eyes.

I cant use you. Because youre mine, and I dont ever want you on that mans
radar, I hissed, crowding her into the dirty, grunge covered wall once again.

She pushed at my shoulders, but I didnt budge.

Get off me! She screamed, drawing the attention of the entire bar I was sure.

I pulled back and let her escape, and immediately saw Dane.

Dane had taken my place on the Lisettes arm. He looked at me in concern, but
he didnt intervene.

Nobody did, in fact.

I followed Nikki out of the bar.

Then followed her to her car.

Then followed her straight to her apartment.

When I got to her front door, I tried the handle, and was surprised to feel it

So she wasnt too mad at me, otherwise she wouldve locked the door.



When I pushed the door open to her apartment, I was startled by what I saw.

She was on her knees in the middle of the living room.

She was facing away from me, her chest up tight to the coffee table as she
looked at something with such focus that I wasnt sure what to think.

Nikki? I called, walking up behind her slowly.

She looked over her shoulder at me, and I read the determination there.

The understanding.

The resignation.
Come look at this, Michael, she said softly.

As I made my way up to her side, I looked down, and my knees went weak at
what I saw.

Are you kidding me? I asked softly, dropping down to my knees beside her.

My knees sank down into the plush carpet.

The pretty purple carpet that Nikki just had to have when we were at Lowes
one weekend looking for paint thinner.

And I thought to myself, thisll look good in the babys room.

You need to choose, Michael. The killer and your duties, or me. Because I
cant do this anymore. I cant put my life on hold, wondering how long itll be
before you come back. Wonder if youll make it to the birth of our little girl.
Wondering if this killer will take you from us. I just cant Michael. So choose.
Them, or us.

I closed my eyes, and made the easiest decision of my life.

I gotta go.

Chapter 17

Run like Dean just saw you crash the Impala.



My emotions were swirling around me like a black funnel cloud of doom.

Id given him my ultimatum, and hed chosen.

It hadnt been what I thought hed choose, but hed chosen, nonetheless.

I walked up to the elevator from the parking garage, and depressed the button
that would take me down to the ground level, allowing me to the cross the
breezeway to my destination.

Another doctors appointment.

This would be my four month checkup, and the gender reveal.

Even though Id technically had that two weeks ago when Id gone to Georgia
whod insisted on doing an ultrasound.

See, it turned out, that we saw each other quite a bit, working in the same

Id started my job on the labor and delivery floor a little over a month ago, and
Id had a freakin blast doing it.

So far, Id delivered twelve babies.

All of them happy and healthy.

The elevator dinged when the doors open, but I was in my own little world
thinking about my job, which meant I didnt see the man standing in the elevator
until he spoke.

Going down? An amused male voice asked.

I looked up, and my heart started to race.

Michael, I breathed, tears starting to form in my eyes.

He smiled, and held out his hand.

Come on, or well be late, he said laughingly.

I blinked, but took his hand and made my way into the elevator.

Howd you know where I would be? I asked softly.

My eyes stayed firmly planted on the floor, though.

Because I didnt want to believe he was here, and look up to see that Id
imagined it all.

That would be cruel, but life was a bitch like that.

Your best friend, he said.

I could hear the smile in his voice, and if Georgia had been in the room with me
right then, Id have punched her for not telling me.

We rode the elevator in silence.

Me not saying anything because I just didnt know what to say.

Him not saying anything because I was sure he was waiting for me to flip out on

Something I wouldnt do at my place of business.

When the elevator doors opened, I made my way out with Michael directly at my
I could feel his warmth from the top of my shoulders to the backs of my thighs.

Nikki, wait, he said softly.

The pain in his voice had me turning sharply, looking at him in worry.

What? I asked.

He closed his eyes, and I realized just how tired he looked.

I told them I couldnt do it. And Im sorry. I knew if I stayed there with you last
night, Id put it off, and I needed to get it done, he answered.

Michael, I wouldnt say what you did didnt hurt, but I understand. I gave you
the night to think it over, and I meant it. I knew youd make the right decision, I
told him.

He nodded, his eyes shifting from my eyes to my lips where I was currently
worrying the bottom one with my teeth.

I love you, he said again.

My heart melted at those words.

The same ones that had come out of his mouth last night.

The ones I hadnt returned because I couldnt.

Today, though, knowing he would be staying with us. Giving us a chance.

I said it back to him.

Meaning it with all my heart.

I love you more, I said simply.

His rumbled laugh warmed my insides when he pulled me into his arms.

Im gonna fuck up, he promised.

I snorted.

You and me both, big boy, I shot back.

I dont know anything about kids. He informed me.

I looked up into his eyes and said, Really? Youre pulling that card?

I turned on my heel and started walking inside, very aware of the man at my

Yeah, that card. I dont, though. I really dont, he said.

I rolled my eyes.

Michael, you make it your mission in life to save kids. Trust me, you know how
to handle kids even if you think you dont, I told him gently.

Michael smiled.

Whatever. So tell me about your doctor. I feel like Ive missed a lot, he
changed the subject.

I smiled. Dr. Mead is my doctor, but well be seeing the PA, Joanie Dooley,
today. I have to see them all just in case my doctor is out of town or at a birth or
something when I go into labor.

Michael nodded, but his eyes had clouded like he did when he was
concentrating on something.

What? I asked.

He shook his head, and when the elevators dinged, signaling wed arrived at the
floor I needed for the doctors office, he froze.

Id already walked out and turned the corner before I realized he wasnt
following me.

Michael? I called, turning around and looking for him.

I found him still inside the elevator, his hands on the doors to hold the doors

What doctors office do you use? He hissed.

I reeled back at the vehemence in his tone.

Blinking, I said, Womens Center. Why?

Michael yanked me to him, then further pulled me to the stairwell.

What, Michael? What is it? I asked in alarm.

He didnt stop until we were three floors up, and I was breathing hard from

He yanked the door open to the sixth floor, and pulled me right along with him.

Once he saw that the coast was clear, he visibly relaxed.

He let me go almost immediately, then pulled out his phone and placed a call.

Yeah, my womans been going to the Womens Center for months now! He
hissed quietly into the phone, looking around him as he inspected the empty
hallway. Why didnt one of you fucking catch that?
I blinked in surprise.

Yes, shes fine. And no, you told me you had the place under surveillance. You
shouldve known! He half yelled.

I refrained from saying, You shouldve known.

Instead, I kept my mouth shut and pulled out my phone, taking a seat at a small
chair that was next to a potted plant.

I immediately saw that Id be late if he didnt hurry up, but I figured whatever it
was was important if he had reacted the way he had at realizing I was going to
a certain center.

Then realization dawned.

Hed only care about where I was going if the place was dangerous.

And thered only been one case hed been working on lately that wouldve made
sense to warrant this reaction from him.

And I had a feeling I knew exactly what it was.

And I was nauseous again.

Mother fucker!

A cold sweat started to pepper my skin, and I visibly started to shiver as I

jumped to conclusions.

Michael continued his seething conversation with the person on the other end of
the line, and I started to let my mind wander.

Had I let some killer get close to my baby?

What would happen to us now?

Would the baby and I be in danger?

Could I switch doctors?

Id have to drive out of town to go.

The Womens Center dominated the entire Ark-La-Tex. There was only one
company in the area that worked with my insurance, and I had a feeling Id be
finding out what panic felt like very soon.

Then sorrow started to fill me.

Had all those women come here, given their trust to one of the doctors or
nurses, then had their faith ripped away when theyd shot those poor women
and their husbands?
This is it. We do this today, and tomorrow she finds another doctor. Do you
hear me? Im being one hundred percent serious. If anything happens to her,
theres not one thing on this goddamn earth thatll save you from me. And no, I
dont fucking care that Im threatening an FBI agent, Michael growled.

Then slammed his phone shut.

When he turned to me, his eyes immediately went soft.

Im so sorry, Nik. Had I known, I wouldve never let you come. I swear on my
life Ill protect you, he promised, dropping down to his knees beside me and
wrapping his arms around my midsection.

I moved my head, resting it on the top of his.

Whats in the past is in the past. Lets look forward from now on. You, me, and
this baby, I told him.

He squeezed me a little tighter, and I felt the now familiar flutter in my belly
signaling our unborn childs movement.

I love you, he said, looking up at me with his heart in his eyes.

I leaned down and smashed my lips against his.

Our tongues dueled as he thrust his tongue into my mouth. His tongue slid
along mine as his hands moved up my back, burrowing under the loose shirt Id
stolen from him.

The one I wore to every doctor appointment because I liked to think that he was
there with me.

Youre wearing my shirt, he said against my mouth.

I leaned my forehead down to his.

Yeah, I said simply.

Its a little big on you, he surmised.

I laughed.

Yeah, you could say that, I agreed.

It was big.

Really big.

Id tied it into a knot at my waist, at least making it somewhat flattering.

I didnt really care what I looked like, though.

It was all for sentimentality.

And by the look in Michaels eyes, he knew why I wore it, too.

You ready to get this shit over with? He asked quietly.

I nodded.

Michael, I hesitated. There are some good doctors in this office. Ive seen a
doctor and a nurse practitioner so far, and my regular doctor, well hes a
sweetheart. His name is Doctor Mead. Him and his wife are the creators of this
practice. Even Memphis works here.

His eyes widened.

Does Downy know Memphis works here? I asked carefully. The place that
yall are investigating?

He shook his head. Nobody knows. But hell know within ten minutes of me
leaving the office. And Im taking Memphis with me until theyve discussed it.

I snorted.

Yeah right, I laughed. She wont go with you.

Well see about that, he muttered, tugging me along to the elevator.

Thank God.

I didnt think I could do those stairs again.

Even if I was only going down them.


Michael! Memphis said, clapping excitedly. Youre here!

Michael grinned at Memphis, his face lighting up with pleasure.

Yeah, Im here, he nodded.

Well, howd the appointment go? Memphis asked, patting the table.

I handed Michael my purse, and he tossed it onto the chair. Something I

couldve done.

I had a coke in there, I muttered darkly.

He winked. You shouldnt be drinking coke. Thats what the doctor just said.

Michael, youre not my doctor. Dr. Mead is. He hasnt said a word about my
caffeine intake, I growled.

He was insufferable!

Hed been going on and on, contradicting the nurse practitioner about damn
near every piece of advice shed given in the hour and a half wed been here.

Not one single thing had happened, thank God.

But Michael mustve been trying to provoke the woman.

Whatever his reason, hed done it.

I could see the usually sweet tempered woman losing her cool before my eyes,
so Id put a stop to the questions and smiled apologetically at her before Id left.

Well, I am a doctor. Theres no reason you cant listen to my directions, he

said sarcastically.

I shrugged and hopped up onto the table, leaning back and exposing my belly.

Michael, today were doing a scan to make sure the baby is growing alright.
Come stand right here, she said, indicating a spot near my head. Youll be
able to see this screen or that one.

She pointed at the large flat screen on the wall, and Michael took them both in
before he looked down at me.

Does he know what youre having? Memphis asked happily, squirting a

generous amount of lube on my belly before she started to run the wand over
my belly.

I looked at the screen where the black and white grainy picture filled it.

Yeah, he knows, I informed her. He still wants a boy.

Memphis laughed.

Weellllll, its most definitely a girl! Memphis said, gesturing to a point on the
screen. Hamburger means girl. And she wants you to see that she is.

Michael became transfixed with the screen as Memphis went along taking
measurements, and showing us different parts of the babys anatomy.

Then they showed the face, and I looked up to Michael to see his face avidly
focused on the screen.

His eyes scrutinizing her every feature.

Shes perfect, he mumbled, knowing I was looking at him.

He looked down, and I could tell he was on the verge of something big.

Some huge emotion had a hold of him, and I had a feeling it was joy.

Well, lets turn it to 3D, Memphis said excitedly. I cant wait until mines big
enough to see like thisoh shit!

Memphis eyes were wide. Dont tell Downy! I havent told him yet!

Michael laughed.

He already knows. Hes told everyone he can that youre expecting again,
darlin, Michael teased.

Memphis eyes narrowed. Youre kidding.

Michael shook his head. No, weve known for weeks.

She turned back to the screen, clicked a few buttons, and then replaced the
wand to my belly. Oh, Ill be getting him back. Hes such a shit!

Michael snorted, and I burst out laughing, making the screen flip with my bellys

When I finally settled down, she ran the wand over my belly once more.

The orange screen was captivating as we saw our child in more detail.

It looks like an alien, I surmised. Like a weird alien.

Michaels mouth met mine, and I couldnt help the butterflies that filled my
insides at his unexpected touch.

I was happy that he was happy.

And right now, that was all that mattered.

Thirty minutes later, we were out the door, with Memphis in tow.

I cant believe youre making me come, Memphis said in awe. I didnt think
anybody but Downy was that stubborn.

Michael, who was driving, pulled into the police stations parking lot and parked
in the back of the lot near the rear exit.

Believe it. This is beyond your capacity. And I have a feeling Im about to be
ripped a new asshole for not sharing this information before, he muttered

Now that the excitement at seeing our baby had worn off, Michael was in
protect mode.
His sole focus was on the two of us, and what was about to come.

Hed practically taken Memphis by force, and when Downy met us at the back
door; I knew Dr. Mead had called him.

Just like hed said he would.

Although Memphis had assured him that everything was alright, Dr. Mead still
wanted to follow up just in case.

Which was another reason I knew he was a good guy.

I slid out of the seat, bending my knees to help with the impact as I dropped out
of Michaels massive truck, and landed on the balls of my feet.

That wouldnt work for much longer.

I could just see myself now falling on my ass when I had another twenty pounds
of baby added to my frame.

What the fucks going on? Downy asked, holding out his arm for Memphis.

Memphis walked into his arms, burrowing her face into his neck and hugging
him tightly.

Michael had given her the bare minimum of whatd been going on to get her to
leave with him, and she was obviously freaked way the hell out about the
prospect of her employer being involved in something so vicious.

Inside. To home base, Michael ordered.

Downys brows rose, but nonetheless turned and followed Michael and I to what
I later learned was the SWAT teams shared offices.

The first person I saw was my brother with his legs propped up on the long table
in the middle of the room.

I walked up behind him and hugged him hard around the neck.

I love you, I said to him.

He raised his arm up and circled it around my back as best he could do from his
current position.

Love you, he said. What are you doing here?

I gestured to Michael.

Theyre killing our women.

Chapter 18

Whiskey is my spirit animal.



That announcement dropped like a bomb in the quiet room.

I need to call Trance. And we need to get Sam in here, Michael announced.

Trance was a police officer for Benton, Louisiana. And Sam was an ex-Army
Ranger who lived in Kilgore with the rest of us. He was a badass, as was
Trance. I couldnt figure out why they needed to be here, though.

How about you tell us how theyre killing our women, and then well go from
there? Downy asked shortly, curling Memphis into his body.

I sighed and took a seat.

I was sort of interested in hearing what Michael had to say.

Id gotten bits and pieces, but I still wasnt fully up to par with what Michael

And apparently, the boys in front of me werent either.

Which pissed them off.


Michael started talking, and by the time he was done, not just Downy was

They all were.

What the fuck, man? My woman works there! Downy roared.

I reeled back.

Downy was normally such a good natured man that it was a complete and utter
surprise to see him get so worked up.

It shouldnt have surprised me, though.

Memphis was Downys world.

Anything that put her into danger would be a bad thing in his book.
Downy shook his head. Were not even sure thats where the threat is coming
from. We only know that there is one. And that the connection is the women. I
didnt know until today, though, that that was where Memphis worked.

Downy calmed down slightly, taking a deep breath before he said, Fuck me.

Not now, darling. Well get to that later. After you rub my feet and brush my hair
like the princess that I am, Memphis said soothingly, rubbing Downys belly like
she was coaxing a big beast into sleep.

I snorted out a laugh, then turned in my chair to face my brother.

Hed been awfully quiet, his face a mask of shadows as he studied the wall
behind Michaels head.

Then my eyes narrowed on the awful, heartless man and my mouth opened so I
could roar at him in outrage.

You didnt tell me! I yelled loudly. Why wouldnt she tell me? Im her best
friend, and youre my favorite brother!

Nico didnt even flinch as he turned his eyes to me.

Its been rough. She wasnt sure she was pregnant at first, he said simply,
shrugging in indifference. Still not sure.

I narrowed my eyes at him. I cant believe you wouldnt tell me. I tell you

He gave me a droll look.

You tell me nothing, he retorted.

I tell you what you need to know! Youre delicate! I countered.

He laughed, which was what Id been trying to accomplish.

Turning back to the room at large, I realized my mistake.

These men didnt find me and my mouth as funny as my brother did, and I could
tell by the looks of annoyance on a few of their faces.

I closed my mouth and inadvertently scooted closer to Nico, because mean,

lying, betraying brother or not, hed always have my back.

Which he proved in the next moment by wrapping his arm around my shoulder
and kissing the top of my head.

Have I mentioned I love the hell out of my brother?

Alright, well how many of you have used this particular doctors office? Luke
asked, pinching the brow of his nose.
All of them, I muttered under my breath. Its the only one in Kilgore.


I closed my eyes when I realized the silence was back and they were all staring
at me.


I pulled out my phone and kept my eyes glued to it, leaning my head against
Nicos shoulder as I listened to them talk, trying my hardest not to butt in where
I wasnt wanted.

A text from my sister, Noel, came in while I was in my latest level of Candy

Noel: I got a really weird call from your mother.

Me: Shes your mother unless it was something awesome. Then shes my

Noel: She wants to know why you arent paying your doctors bills.

My brows furrowed.

Nicos phone buzzed, and I looked over at him to see his eyes furrow.

What? I asked him.

I just got a really, really weird text from mom telling me she wanted to know
why you werent paying your doctor bills. She asked if you were low on money,
Nico said.

Michael, whod been talking up until that point, stopped and turned to me.

You didnt tell me you were having trouble paying your bills, he left that
hanging, and my face flushed in embarrassment.

Im not having trouble. In fact, Ive already pre-paid for the hospital as of last
visit! I replied huffily. What the hell? Why would anyone call my mother? Thats
like against the law or somethingisnt it?

Silence fell among the room, and something huge in the air started to radiate
around me.

Testosterone paired with fury started to fill the room, and I looked around at the
men surrounding me as they comprehended something I hadnt.

What? I asked, settling on Michael whose eyes had gone flat.

He blinked. Call your mother. Ask her who called.

Surprised at the way hed spoken to me, with zero emotion at all, I did just that.
I called my mama.

Dialing her number, I put it on speaker phone and set it on the desk in front of
me, keeping my eyes focused on Michael.

He didnt look right.

In fact, he looked like he wasnt my Michael at all.

Nikki? My mother answered. What is this about you not paying your bills?
You told me Michael was helping you pay when I offered to help you. Why
would you lie about that? I only wanted to help you.

A blush rose to my face and I dropped my eyes from Michaels flat ones the
moment she called me on my lying ways.

No, Michael hadnt helped me pay.

In fact, Id paid all eight thousand dollars that I owed out of pocket myself, and I
hadnt asked him for a thing.

Something I was regretting right now if the fury that was coming off of him was
anything to go by.


And you know, Ive supported you even though you sinned. I will always
support you. Which is why when you get the bill in the mail, I want you to bring it
to me and let me pay for it, she chastised me sternly, the only way a mother
knew how. And I told them where you and Michael worked, as well as
Michaels home address because you shouldnt lie about something like that.
Bill collectors are not fun to deal with. Theyll call you any time of day.

I rolled my eyes.

Why wouldnt she have just asked me herself, instead of sending a text to every
one of my sisters?

Why would you have given them my work address? And Michaels? Hes not
even on the chart at all. They shouldnt even know his name.

Had she been hoping that I wouldnt hear it from my siblings?

Lolita, this is Michael. Nikkis paid up in full as of last week. Was it a man or a
woman who called? Michael asked abruptly.

Oh, Micahel! I didnt know you and Nikki were together. How are you? My
mother asked, her Spanish accent getting a little thicker with affection now that
she wasnt yelling at her daughter.

Im okay, Lolita. Now was it a man or a woman who called? He asked again, a
little less polite this time.
My mother didnt notice, or if she did, she didnt care that he was being short
with her.

It was a man. He said he was the doctor, believe it or not. I couldnt believe it
when I spoke with him, but he seemed to be a really nice man, Lolita chattered.

Thats when things started to make sense.

This wasnt about any bills at all.

This was about a killer.

A killer whod just put his sights on me.

Chapter 19

What do we want? Coffee. When do we want it? Right the fuck now.

-Coffee Cup


Got a warrant to search his place yet? I asked Luke.

Luke shook his head. Not yet. Judge Maddox is out of town, and we had to go
to Bender. Hes not our teams biggest fan since the last warrant that was
served was the one where that old lady broke her hip.

I winced.

That had been a complete clusterfuck and a half.

Wed served an arrest warrant on a kid whod been selling drugs out of his
home, and wed served it flawlessly, arresting the boy within seconds of
breaching his home.

Then the old woman had come out using her walker, and promptly tripped over
her grandson whod been lying on the floor in the middle of the living room,
breaking her hip and arm in the process.

Itd been horrible, and Id felt horrible, but in our defense, we had told her to stay
where she was until we could get the boy out.

She hadnt listened, and now we were still hearing about it three months later.

My eyes moved from Luke to the corner of the command room where Memphis
and Nikki were on a computer looking at baby shit, of all things.

I smiled slightly, but it just as quickly fell from my face as I thought about how
bad this all couldve gone without my knowledge.

All because I was trying to protect myself.

Well, look where that got me.

My woman in trouble.

My child in danger.

Me in danger because I was fucking around.

Not to mention all of my colleagues and their wives.

I didnt deserve to live sometimes.

I was a failure at life.

Then I shut those thoughts down, realizing them for what they were.

Id forgotten my meds.


I need to go run by my place. I forgot to take my meds, I told Luke. Ill be back
in about ten minutes.

Luke nodded.

Got it, he replied, keeping his eyes on his phone.

I got up, walking out without saying a thing to anyone else.

They were all pretty mad at me.

As they should be.

I was no good.



By the time Id arrived at my house, Id gone through quite a bit of self doubt
before I got to my meds.

I had the bottle in my hand and had just popped the pill when I realized that I
wasnt alone.

Rookie mistake.
Turning stiffly, I found myself faced with a man in all black.

Wheres the wife? He snarled.

Thats when I thanked my lucky stars that I hadnt told Nikki where I was going,
and hadnt asked her to go with me like Id contemplated.

Thank Christ!

The gun pointed at my head didnt instill any fear in my heart like the thought of
the gun pointed at Nikkis head.

Id had this feeling before. The thought that I was going to die.

Nineteen times.

Each of those times I remembered with picture perfect clarity.

And I was sure, if I made it out of this alive, that this time would be no different.

Call her, he ordered.

Fuck you. Im not calling her, I told him, crossing my arms across my chest.

I knew if I could stall him, Luke would figure something went wrong.

I wouldnt have left and stayed home with the chance of that warrant coming in.

John, our computer expert, had already traced the calls to Lolitas phone, and
come up with the Womens Center.

There were six people on duty at the Womens Center at the time of the call,
and only two of them were men. And one of them had been in the room with a
patient for the entire time it took to place the call. So wed done our research.
And had come up with one man.

Wed applied for the arrest warrant for Stan Jones, M.D.

And I had a feeling that was who this man was in front of me.

So, Stan. What are you going to do to me? I asked, crossing my arms across
my chest.

Stan froze.

How do you know my name? He asked stiffly, re-gripping the Glock in his

I shrugged. You fucked up.

Simple words, but they really pissed him off.

I did not fuck up! he snarled. I did everything right!

See, serial killers had a certain way they did things.

They didnt deviate.

Which was why I knew he wouldnt shoot me until my wife was here.

What do you have against cops? I asked calmly.

Stans eyes narrowed.

He had a hoody on, and it was covering his head, but since he was facing me, I
could still get a pretty good indication of what he looked like.

About five foot ten, hundred and eighty five pounds. Brown or really dark green
eyes. Brown hair. Tan skin. Small hands with no wedding band.

Black pants. Black lace up boots. Black hoody.

You dont need to know why. Just suffice it to say that this earth should be rid
of you and every one of your kind, Stan hissed.

My brows rose. Really?

He sneered. Really.

I laughed.

Got it. How about I take a guess? I asked.

I recalled the notes in the case.

The details of each doctor.

Stans page listed him as widowed.

Also listed him as not having any living children.

Did we kill your wife? I asked.

It was heartless, yes, but it was effective.

Dont you say her name! He bellowed.

I refrained from saying that I didnt say her name at all.


Did a cop take your kid, too? Or did your kid take his own life because your
wife died? I continued cruelly.

Stan shook his gun at me, waggling it around as he started to scream at me.
It was all you! You! She did nothing to you! All she did was get pulled over, and
then one of you, he hissed. Shot her because he thought she was going for a
gun. She didnt even know how to shoot a gun!

He ended that explanation on a shrill scream.

I felt sympathetic.

Of course I did.

Accidental shootings happened.

It sucked, extremely, horribly bad, but it happened.

Cops, on a daily basis, had to deal with so much shit from everyone that, at
times, we expected everyone to be bad.

When we pulled someone over, we arent happy to do it.

Were wary.

When we pull you over, are you going to be accepting of why we pulled you

Will you rant and scream at us for doing our jobs?

Will you pull your gun on us? Pull out a knife from some hidden place inside
your car and stab us with it. Will your passenger do something?

A car to most people is just that, a car.

A car to a police officer is a weapon.

It can run over us. It can hide larger weapons. It can get you away from us and
put other people, innocent people, in jeopardy. It can house more than one
person who could potentially harm us.

So you see, there are multiple facets to look at when a police officer pulls
someone over.

All of this is running through our brain.

We have to be extremely cautious, doing what we do.

Whether this was what happened with Stans wife or not, I would never know.

But even if it was or wasnt, that didnt give him the right to take out his hurt and
pain on every single police officer that he came into contact with.

Im sorry, Stan, I said seriously.

And I was.
I was sorry he had to experience something like that.

I would hope had the same thing happened to me that I would find the strength
to move on.

To make this world a better place.

I wouldnt, however, start shooting and killing innocent people.

Especially ones that were carrying our next generation like these innocent
women were doing.

You can shove your sorrys up your ass, Stan snarled. Sit down in that chair
right there. We wont have to wait much longer. I called your womans mother. I
know she gets home around this time.

I closed my eyes very briefly, thankful that this time wouldnt be one of those

She was safe at KPD headquarters.

Thank God.

Stall. Thats all I had to do.

Itd been thirty minutes since I left.

And I knew Luke had seen right through my hasty exit.

He was very aware of my shortcomings, and Id made sure that he was up to

date on my state of mind.

He was aware that something wasnt right, and I knew hed come to check on
me if I was gone longer than thirty minutes.

My disease and conditions were all about checks and balances.

I was very open with everything about meto the right people.

I needed those people in my life to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Luke. My parents. My sister and brother. A few doctors.


I smiled slightly.

She had no clue just how much she helped.

Why are you smiling? Stan asked, ruining my good thoughts.

I shrugged. No reason.
His eyes narrowed.

And to keep him talking, and me breathing, I continued to ask questions.

Why the cops wives. Why babies? I asked carefully.

He sneered.

Why would I want to bring more of those bastards into this world? Not by my
hands, no sir. He shook his head. I wasnt aiding in any more births to people
like you.

I shook my head.

The degree of his hate was staggering.

To take his problems out on innocent children was just jaw dropping to me.

What would your wife think about all of this? I asked softly.

Stans eye twitched, and it was long moments before he answered.

Well, Im not sure why she would even matter anymore. Shes gone, and Ill
never need to know what my wife thinks about any of this, Stans voice broke.
Because shes so gone. Gone, gone, gone.

Shes not gone, I said softly. She lives on in your memories.

Shit, now I was quoting Big Hero 6!

I knew I shouldnt have watched that movie with Reggie!

She tells me I should think before I act. I dont know how to do that, he
admitted, looking down at his hand and dropping his gun to the floor.

I didnt move.

Not time yet.

My heart rate picked up when I saw the movement in the side window of my

A distinctly blonde head popped into the side window before disappearing just
as quickly.



Only a little bit longer now.

Women have a way about them. They think theyre rightbut most of the time
they are right. Ive found that out myself just the other day, I told him, thinking
back to the night Nikki saw me with Lisette. Theyre smart creatures, women.
They instinctively know what is best for us, and they move heaven and earth to
make us happy.

And Nikki did do that.

Every day.

I saw that now, with the threat of my life being taken from me from a man that
felt such pain over the loss of his own woman.

Stans eyes moved to the table, and my breath caught in my throat when I
caught sight of the sonogram picture that Id dropped there when I arrived

Id seen it in the cab of the truck, and on instinct had grabbed it to make sure it
wouldnt get ruined.

Now the man that wanted to take her away from me was staring at it like it was
the lowliest of life forms.

Cops dont deserve to have a happy life, he muttered darkly. You dont
deserve to live.

He dropped down scooping the gun up off the floor and pointing it for real this
time and I knew my time was up.

He wasnt going to wait, and if I didnt do something, Id be lying in a pool of


May you rot in he


I closed my eyes, sick to my stomach.

The smoking gun still in my hand.

Stan was dead before his body even met the floor.

Shit! Luke said, rounding the corner of the back hallway with his gun in his
hand. You scared the shit out of me, man!

I raised my head and looked at my boss, and one of the best friends Ive ever

I dont think we need that warrant anymore, I said softly.

Lukes face lit in a brief smile before he moved around the table where I was
sitting and took a knee on the floor beside Stans prone body.

Dead, he confirmed, standing up. Gotta call this in.

With that, he put his phone up to his ear and reported the shooting.

Slowly, I placed my gun on the table by my right elbow, and moved to stand.

Blood was slowly filling up the floor beneath Stans body and I had to step over
it in order not to track it throughout the house.

Want me to go outside? I asked.

Luke shook his head.

He was the assistant chief as well as the SWAT team leader; so, as the more
superior officer, I wanted to make sure I was where he wanted me, seeing as Id
just shot a man.

We always miss all the fun! James, with his sniper rifle in tow, whined.

Sorry I couldnt provide that for you, I said with semi-amusement.

He fucked up. His usual MO is to make the cop empty his pockets and get rid
of the sidearm. Had he done that with you, he might still be alive, Luke
muttered, arms crossed across his chest as he glared at the dead man at his
feet. Fuckin paperwork. Did you get anything out of him?

I nodded.

It was because of his wife. She was killed by a police officer during a traffic
stop, I explained what I knew.

Fuckin A, Miller growled.

You found me faster than I thought you would, I admitted to Luke.

Put a BOLO out on his car. Stan drives a shiny Maserati. Its hard to miss
something like that driving down the road. Officer Lyons saw it the moment he
pulled into the RV park to turn around. Was parked off to the side, as if he was
broken down, Miller explained. Luke called you to tell you we had the warrant,
you didnt answer. He started to head this way because he said you didnt look
right, and then passed the same RV park where the car was found. Put two and
two together. Made twelve. End of story.

I shook my head.


Two and two make four, not twelve, dumbass, Foster tittered from the front

Neither had breached the front door since they knew it was a crime scene, and I
was talking through the screen door.

The entire team was occupying my patio furniture.

James was kicked back in the lounger. Miller and Foster on the couch. Bennett,
Nico, and Downy were on the final three chairs with the umbrella over their
heads, eyes closed.

And I had an irrational desire to tell them how much I loved them.

Would that be weird?

To have their support, and to know they were all there for me when I needed
them was exactly what I needed in that moment.

All my self-doubts were gone.

And it its place was relief and thankfulness.

Relief that I had lived to breathe another day.

And thankfulness that Id have good friends and a good woman around to do it


Later that night

Nikki walked into her bedroom, glanced at me, and went straight to the

She was mad at me.

Hell, I was mad at me.

Id left her thinking Id be right back, and she hadnt known where Id gone. I
hadnt said goodbye. I didnt even wave.

She also hadnt known that my life had been in danger.

She only found out two hours later when Id arrived back at the station and had
promptly been whisked into questioning to answer a shit ton of questions.

Id been put on administrative leave, pending an investigation, but I knew

nothing would amount to that seeing as I had Luke to back me up one hundred
percent of the way.

Nikki had been told by her brother what had transpired, and lets just say that
she hadnt been happy. Not even a little bit.

When Id gotten out of questioning, Id found that Nikki had been taken home by

By the time I arrived home, it was four hours later and pushing ten oclock.

She hadnt been asleep, though.

Far from it.

Shed been sitting on the couch watching the news. Which happened to have
me as the breaking story.

Michael? Nikki asked, removing her shirt from her body.

My eyes took in the bounty before them.

Nikki had always been beautiful.

But right now, with the moon at her back streaming through the blinds, and her
hair a curly mass falling down her back and draping over her shoulders, Id
never thought she was more beautiful.

She had the beginnings of a belly, and the pink belly button piercing had a star
attached to it, resting on the soft swell...a belly button ring Id never seen before

Yeah baby? I asked, swallowing tightly.

The next thing to go was the black bra.

Although nothing special, it held up her breasts perfectly, placing them up and
together, allowing my eyes to feast.

And when Nikki lost it, her breasts bounced free, making my semi-hard erection
full blown as all the blood rushed to my dick.

Her panties were the last thing to go.

When she bent over, her breasts hung, swinging enticingly as she slipped the
panties free of her feet and stepped out of them, one by one.

I about lost my ability to speak as she put one knee into the bed and started to
crawl up between my legs, stopping when she met my hips.

Make love to me, she ordered.

Swallowing thickly, I sat up slowly and gathered her face into my hands, placing
my lips softly on hers.

Okay, I whispered, before breaching her lips with my tongue, curling mine
around hers.

She moaned and leaned forward into the kiss, giving me her weight.
I rolled with her until we were on our sides.

My hands still in place against her cheeks, I let one slip down, tracing down her
shoulder, curving around her breasts, following the line of her side until it came
to a rest against the back of her thigh.

She moaned when I let my hand move further back to flatten around the curve
of her ass, fingers dipping into her overheated core.

Im sorry, baby. I never dreamed that would happen, I told her.

A sob caught in her throat and she kissed me harder.

You scared the shit out of me. I thought you were going to die, she said
desperately between kisses.

I moaned when her hand found my throbbing erection.

Guide it inside you, I said, spreading the lips of her ass with my fingers and
pushing forward with my hips.

She angled my cock to let the head rest at the entrance of her sex, and we both
flexed towards each other the moment our skin met.

She gasped into my mouth as my cock filled her to the breaking point.

You fill me completely, she whispered fiercely. Dont ever leave me like that
again, okay? Always say goodbye.

I promised her, and then continued to promise with my body. The way my
hands ran along her skin.

The way my cock thrust in and out of her.

Our lovemaking was slow, steady, and beautiful.

Something we both needed right then.

And long minutes later, when I felt her * start to clench around my cock, I let go,

Shooting my essence into her waiting heat, filling her up with cock, my come,
and my love.

I love you, Nikki. I promise not to leave without saying goodbyeas long as
you promise me something in return, I panted against her lips.

Her eyes opened, and I stared into her beautiful brown orbs as she asked,
What do you want me to promise?

I leaned forward, ran the tip of my nose along the bridge of her nose.

That when were married, youll forgive me like this every time, I told her

She laughed, and I rolled until she was once again on top.

My flesh, that was still seated inside of her, started to throb once again at the
new position, but what she said next had my entire focus, not the state of my

Are you asking me to marry you, Michael Perez? She smiled happily.

Her hair spilled over her shoulders, tickling my chest.

I shook mine. No.

Her eyes, which had been happy, veiled slightly, so I hurriedly explained.

Im telling you that youre marrying me, I said, reaching under my pillow to pull
out a hot pink velvet covered box that Id picked out.

Her eyes widened as she watched me open the box, and then continued to
widen as I pulled out the ring for her and held it out to her.

She raised her hand, offering me her finger.

It fit her perfectly, sliding over her knuckle and coming to rest just right.

You will marry me, Nikki Pena. I ordered her.

She leaned forward and placed her lips against mine.

I thought you were never going to ask, she teased.

I smacked her ass, causing her to jump in surprise.

Inadvertently making my hard cock ram into her to the hilt.

Her eyelids lowered slightly and I smiled.

Not sure about the asking part yetIts just a formality. I only expect one
answer, and one answer only, I informed her.

Her eyes narrowed. Is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life?

I grinned.

Yeah, thats what you have to look forward to. Plus loving all night long.
Babysitting whenever you need it. A hug when you want it. Kisses in the middle
of the night. Gas in your tank. Your groceries brought into the house. Pants put
into the hamper. Steaks cooked on the grill, I listed out my attributes,
purposefully making them sound really enticing.

She narrowed her eyes. Its not babysitting if its your own kids, she countered.
I snorted. Whatever you say, darling mine.

As long as you know that, Ill marry you.

I laughed and rolled with her once again, pushing my cock into her and grinding
my hips against her.

Ill remember that.

You bet you will, big boy.

Chapter 20

For fox sake.

-Coffee Cup


Alright, Memphis said, laying on the lounge next to me. How did we all end up
in this predicament?

I laughed.

There was no other recourse.

Seven women were in attendance with me today, and all but one were

Georgia, Memphis, Lennox, Mercy, and Blake were all in different stages of

Although, I was on my first pregnancy while the rest of them were on their

Seemed the men of Kilgore SWAT liked to keep their women barefoot and

Fighting crime during the day and making babies at night.

I laughed and rolled over onto my side to face Memphis and the other ladies.

Today we were having a spa day.

I was getting married in less than four hours, and the SWAT ladies were having
a pamper day while the men did some fishing.
I dont know what youre talking about, I said, running my hand over my belly.

Two months had passed since Doctor Stan Jones had been formally charged
for killing fifteen officers, their wives, and three of those officers children.

You know exactly what shes talking about, hoe, Georgia said, stretching and
wiggling her toes.

I smiled.

Yeah, I did.

Guess maybe one of us needs to learn control, I surmised, sighing in

appreciation when the man at my feet rubbed a particularly good spot on the
heel of my foot.

Hey, I noticed that Dr. Jones name was scraped off the paint at the door this
morning when I went to my appointment, Reese said before she took a drink of
her Dr. Pepper. All eyes turned to hers, and her eyes widened in alarm. Im not
pregnant! It was just my yearly pap, I swear!

When all eyes stayed on her, she held up two fingers. Scouts honor.

Scouts honor is three fingers, not two, I replied helpfully.

Well, whatever it is, I just had my yearly. I got my tubes tied after the little
hellion arrived, Reese promised solemnly.

That was the truth.

Her son was a little hellion. Just like his daddy, that boy was.

Yeah, they took his name off of everything, Memphis said. Printed new
business cards. Changed the signs out front. Painted over the wall with his face
on it. Updated the website. Anything with Jones on it was probably burned.

I didnt doubt that.

After Dr. Jones was killed, they found evidence linking him to nearly every crime
scene in his house. The clothes that he wore. The gun that he used. Hell, even
the dog that he took with him.

He sure was arrogant, but in the end, justice was served for those officers, their
wives, and the children.

Thats not a surprise. Theyd had to do a lot of ass kissing to keep most of their
clients. The only thing they had going for them was that they dominate the area.
Wed have to drive to Dallas to find a doctor in our network, I told them all.

Mercy made a sound of agreement. Same here. Were using Millers insurance,
and they wouldnt accept anyone else unless we wanted to pay nearly twice as
much for out of network.
I grimaced.

Lets change the subject to something better. Nikki doesnt need this on her
wedding day, Blake yawned loudly.

I snickered.

Tired, Blake? I asked teasingly.

She rolled her head in my direction. Yes. That man of mine doesnt care that
my hours arent the same as his. He only sees my ass in the air and wants to
touch it. Then touching leads to other things. And then Im out two hours of
sleep. Sleep that I needed because his baby seems to think Im a superhero,
demanding all this energy, food, and drink.

Youre not having a boy. Boys are horrible, Reese said, closing her eyes and
smiling fondly at something only she could see.

Boys arent horrible. But, I do feel fine, Lennox said.

We all rolled our eyes. Lennox thought that everything was fine.

She loved being pregnantmost likely because her first pregnancy was a
breeze, despite the complications from when she was hurt by a deranged

She just had no clue how bad a pregnancy could be because she was always
floating on cloud nine with the unicorns, her glowing skin, and ample energy.

She was still in the I have a positive pregnancy test stage. The stage where
she was floating on air, and loved to put on pregnancy clothes.

Clothes she didnt need yet.

Hey, what color are you doing? The man between my legs asked.

Purple and pink, I said. Alternating.

He rolled his eyes.

Pietro was used to my quirks.

Id been seeing him every two weeks for a year now.

He knew all about Michael. Knew all about my family. Knew about my love of
color. My job. The new home Michael and I were building.

A home that should be done very, very soon, in fact.

Why do you always get the muscled guy who has good hands? Georgia
asked, narrowing her eyes.

I shrugged. I found him first.

Ladies, ladies. No need to fight over me. Im just loyal to my girl here, he

Nikki delivered his baby. Thats why he loves her so much, Georgia informed
the rest of the ladies.

I did. He was my second baby.

Him and his wife, Trudy, had been contemplating a home birth over a hospital
birth for over six months before theyd finally decided to call my mentor,
Annalise, in for an evaluation.

And three months later, Id delivered my second child ever as a midwife with
Pietro at my side.

Twenty minutes later, I was done and heading to get my hair and makeup done
when I was called by our contractor.

Youre officially done! Alex crowed.

I screamed. Yes!

We werent sure if itd be done in time, seeing as Id been so nitpicky about


Id had to choose the tile, the paint, the stain for the wood floors in the kitchen,
cabinets, counter tops.

Id wanted to be a huge part of everything, and I was.

Which annoyed the hell out of Michael.

He was all for customization, but I didnt think he knew what he was getting into
when he offered me the huge book of paint chips.

But he knew now.

Thats great! I exclaimed. What do you need from me?

Nothing. I just dropped it all off at your parents place. The keys are yours, my
dear! Alex informed me.

I smiled. Wonderful. Im so happy, thank you so much, Alex.

After hanging up, I immediately called Michael.

Guess what! I said, bouncing up and down in excitement. They finished!

Michaels smooth, deep voice sent shivers through me. Thats good, baby. He
said hed do it.

I closed my eyes and enjoyed the way it felt to listen to his voice.
The way joy spread through me. The way I couldnt wait to wrap my arms
around him.

My fianc and soon to be husband.

You catching anything? I asked after I composed myself.

Sun. Thats about fucking it, he growled. But thats the way of it, isnt it?

I agreed. I hated going fishing, just for the sheer fact that we never caught

Or maybe we would had I any patience.

Well, I just wanted to tell you that. Go back to catching your sun, I said softly,
as Pietro made his way into the room with his huge package of bobby pins, hair
rollers, and other odds and ends to start fixing my hair.

Okay, baby. Love you, he murmured.

Love you more.


The moment I saw him as I walked down the aisle, a smile burst over my lips,
and my hand came up to cover my mouth.

Oh, my God, I said, turning to Georgia with wide eyes.

Her eyes were filled with her own tears of laughter as she caught a look at my
man as well.

Jesus, I said, shaking my head. What the hell is wrong with that man?

He wasnt lying about catching sun.

He caught a whole lot of it.

Georgia snorted, and my father gave out a strangled laugh of his own.

Lets get you to him, honey. Hell think you cant handle him for better or for
worse if youre not careful.

Georgia was the final one to leave, and I was left with my father.

You look beautiful, baby, he said softly.

I smiled at him, seeing the truth in his eyes.

Im not going anywhere, I told him. Ill still see you every Sunday for lunch
after mass.

He smiled. I know. Youre just my first little bird out of the nest, he said,
running his hand over my hair and smoothing back a stray curl thatd fallen from
a pin.

Nico was your first little bird, I said laughingly.

He shrugged. Nico can take care of himself. Youre my first girl. And youll no
longer have my name. Youre the first bird Im setting free.

Hugging him tightly, I let him go and turned to face the now closed door.

Alright, Im ready, I said with a nervous sigh.

Hell be good to you, baby. Youve tamed the beast, he said before the
attendants opened the doors to the church.

I looked up at him, and I caught the first flash of a camera as it captured the
moment forever in time.

I know. But he tamed my beast, too. Lets do this.

With a smile, he offered me his arm, and I placed my hand delicately on his

I love you, papa, I told him.

He leaned down and kissed my forehead. Love you too, baby.

I could already hear my mother crying, as well as my bridesmaids.

Jesus, my father said in despair. Its like an estrogen fest in here. Its choking

I brought my flowers up to cover my snorted cough at those words, and turned

to face my future husband once again.

Man, these would be some horrible pictures.

But Id cherish them for the rest of my life.

We finally made it to the end of the aisle, and my eyes connected with

I barely caught the words as the priest asked the words, Who gives this woman
to this man?

My fathers deep voice said, Her mother and I do, and suddenly I was in
Michaels arms.
Michael, I said trying not to laugh. Why wouldnt you wear any sunscreen?

He shrugged, grinning unrepentantly. I was just worried about which fishing

poles I was going to take. Not about anything like sunscreen.

I raised a brow at him. What exactly did you expect to happen?

He shrugged and fell silent when the priest started to give us a blessing.

I looked shyly at the man I was seconds away from pledging my life to, and I
knew this would forever be one of the best memories in the world.

I love you, Michael, I said soft enough so that only he could hear.

I love you, too, he replied back, uncaring that the pastor gave him a dirty look.

He didnt have anyone to please except me, and the same went for me.

We no longer wanted to worry about anyone but ourselves and what it would
mean to each of us.

And thats the way we would do it from now on.

Nobody needed to know why Michael was tatted up head to toe.

Because we only lived by one motto now.

And that was to live and let live.


Five hours later

Michael! Im too big! I yelled as Michaels hands went around my waist as he

opened my door. Youre going to hurt yourself.

He ignored me, sweeping me up into his arms and walking steadily towards the

You forgot to close the door to the truck, I said lightly, wrapping my arms
around his neck and leaning my head against his face.

Ill get it later, he murmured.

Laterlike tomorrow lateror later like later this night later? I teased.
Because we live in the woods now. Theres no telling whatll be in the truck
come morning.
Michael knew I was right.

Hed had this new house of ours built in the boonies with absolutely nothing
around. Literally, the closest Wal-Mart was forty minutes away, if that tells you

Fuck, he growled, turning on his heels and walking back to his truck.

You could put me down, I suggested lightly when a light sheen of sweat
started to dot along his brow.

Im fine, Nik. Quit worrying, he muttered just before slamming the truck door
closed with his boot covered foot.

It slammed closed with a bone shattering thud and he turned on his heel to
head back towards the house.

You really dont look fine, I said laughingly.

Nikki, he gave me the look. Im fine. I can bench press three hundred and
fifty pounds and squat twice that. Trust me, Im okay.

You can squat seven hundred pounds? I asked skeptically.

Yes, he answered.

With your legs? I countered.

He shot me a look, and I shut up.

There was no way he could squat seven hundred pounds. That was unheard of.

He was in a good mood, though, so I wouldnt pester him about ittoday.

How are you going to get the door open? I asked once he reached the front

A set of keys fell into my lap from where hed tossed them from his hand across
my back.

Its the pink key, he said, a smile in his voice.

It was indeed pink. With purple flowers on it.

I assumed that one was mine, but whatever.

Why didnt we just go in through the garage? I asked while I unlocked the

He grunted.

Because Im supposed to carry you over the threshold. It doesnt work the
same way if I carry you through the garage, he muttered, sounding slightly

Okay, I said slowly, drawing the word out. Whatever you say, my dear.

He pinched my ass just as I swung the door open, causing me to jump and
squeak, followed by him cursing.

Hurry up and carry me over before you break your back, I squealed.

Im not going to drop you! He roared.

I had to smother a laugh as the moment he walked through the door, he

unceremoniously dropped me to my feet and walked off towards the kitchen.

Hey! I said indignantly. You were supposed to carry me up to our room and
ravish me!

Wasnt that how it worked in movies?

My husband must not have gotten the memo.

Where are you going? I asked, following behind him.

To get something to eat. That dinner we supposedly had was shit, I heard him
mutter from in front of me.

I smiled as I ran my hands over the walls.

They were beautifully done.

As were the floors and ceilings.

Wed gone more home and country rather than modern.

We wanted our house to be warm and inviting, and our contractor accomplished
that to a T.

When I breached the door to the kitchen, I found Michal standing at the fridge
with his head stuck in it.

We dont have any food in there, I muttered. What do you think youre going
to find?

He backed out of the fridge with turkey, cheese, mustard, pickles, lettuce,
tomatoes, and mayo, causing my brows to shoot up to my hairline.

Whered that come from? I asked in surprise.

He shrugged.

If I had to guess, your parents or mine. Whatever, I dont care. Im just glad
theres food. I cant believe you expected me to live on so little, he muttered.
He was right.

The food wed had catered had ran out because I hadnt prepared for the sheer
amount of food that all of Michaels friends would eat.

Turns out, muscles required about twice the protein of a normal full grown adult.

Who knew?

Make me one? I asked, pouting my lip for added bonus.

He gave me a look that clearly said, What do you take me as?

So I raised my hands up in a placating gesture and walked around the counter.

Love you, Mikey Mike, I said before kissing his cheek and patting his ass.

He tossed me another look before kissing my upturned lips.

Why do you insist on calling me that all of a sudden? He asked with


I shrugged and circled the counter once again to leave the room.

I could call you hubby now, I guess, I said just as I was leaving the room.

Thats not any better! He yelled at my back.

I snickered as I made my way around the house, checking to see if everything I

wanted was up to par.

It was.

The furniture had been delivered while we were getting married, and while the
rest of us were celebrating at the reception, my sisters came over here and
made the beds, and I assumed brought over a few staples for us.

God, I loved them.

Especially when I crossed the threshold of our room and saw the bed already
made, ready for my tired body to crawl into it.

Which was what I did.

Falling asleep nearly instantaneously.


Nikki, I said, looking around the room for my wife. Heres your sandwich.

I trailed off as I spotted her curled up around a pillow.

She had half the comforter covering her, seeing as she was laying on it, causing
me to smile.

Guess Id be sleeping with the sheet tonight.

Not that I hadnt gotten used to it.

I loved sleeping with Nikki, although she did move a lot.

Id had to sleep a few times during the day when she was gone, since Id had a
late shift, and Id slept like crap.

Placing the sandwich on the nightstand, I went to the bathroom, stripped out of
my police dress blues, and brushed my teeth.

Turning the light off, I walked slowly to the bed, relishing at the way the new
carpet felt between my toes before I flipped off the lamp, tugged the cord at the
ceiling fan, and plunged the room into darkness.

I crawled into bed carefully, as not to wake Nikki, though I shouldnt have

Nothing woke Nikki anymore short of a freight train barreling down on us.

She slept anywhere.

In the car.

In my office chair.

Halfway through dinner.

It was actually quite endearing.

As I settled around her, curling her into my body as best as I could, I closed my
eyes and said my prayers. A nightly ritual that I would repeat for the rest of my

Thank you God, for my wife and unborn child.

Chapter 21
The only kids I want are Sourpatch.

-Nikki during the throes of labor


Alright, Jasmine. When you feel the need to push, I want you to bear down,
bring your knees up to your chest, and push down from your bottom. Almost like
youre doing number She held up her hand to stop me.

Jasmine nodded miserably. I dont know why you let me say no drugs. I like

I smothered my smile and started laying out sheets.

My big ol belly was in the way, but there was nothing I could do about that.

Id been a married woman for a little over four months, and I was nine months

Our little girl would be here very soon, and it was times like this, with other
women giving birth to their own little miracles, that I started to feel envy for

I felt like Id been pregnant for forever!

I need to poop! Jasmine yelled in alarm a few moments later.

I smothered another smile and moved closer to her on my stool.

Thats the urge to push. Bare down, I instructed.

She narrowed her eyes at me. But what if I

She gestured with her hands.

I waved a dismissive hand. Shit happens.

She burst out laughing, but then, just as suddenly, she started to scream as she
curled around her belly and gave it all she had.

My own stomach cramped right along with hers.

Okay, one more push and the head should be delivered, I told Jasmine. Tony,
do you want to come catch the baby?

Tony shook his head frantically.

Like all first time fathers, he was a nervous wreck, and anything dealing with
childbirth was a very scary ordeal to him.

Alright, well its up to you, Jasmine. Show me what you got


Two hours later

Pick up, pick up, pick up, I chanted to my phone as I called Michael once I was
leaving Jasmine and her newest addition.

You got my voicemail, leave a message.

Fuck! I said, walking quickly to my car before it happened again.

It being those regular pains that signaled that I, myself, was about to have my
own baby.

Id been having them on and off all day long, but itd only been since Jasmine
started to push that they began to become regular and consistent.

At least my water hadnt broken yet.

Although, that wasnt a good indication of progress. There were some women
that went all the way up to delivery before their water broke.

My next call was to Doctor Mead, my OB/GYN.

Or his office, anyway.

Although I did have his home number, Id play the good little in labor mom and
call the office like everyone else was instructed to do once they were in labor.

Hello? A bored womans voice came over the speakers in my car.

This is Nikki Perez, Im in labor, I said a little breathlessly.

Another pain had consumed me, and I had to pull the car over to avoid

How do you know youre in labor? The woman asked with annoyance.

I clenched the steering wheel and said through clenched teeth. Because Im
having regular contractions, and I go breathless each time one hits. Now, relay
the message.

What did you say your name was again? The woman asked snottily.

The pain finally loosened its grip on my uterus, and I started moving forward
I knew Id get a good two minutes of reprieve, which might get me all the way to
the ER before I had another.

Nicole Perez, but my maiden name is Pena. Sometimes they have to pull it up
underneath that, I told her, pulling around an old woman going fifty in her
maroon Lincoln Towncar.

I found it, Dr. Mead isnt on call today, Dr. Shepherd is. Ill transfer you to

I interrupted her.

No, call Dr. Mead. There should be a note in my chart. My husband refuses to
have anyone but Dr. Mead take care of me. Trust me, he wont let Dr. Shepherd
touch me if you call her, I explained quickly, excited to see the red and blue
sign that denoted the emergency entrance of the emergency room up ahead.

I turned into the lot and parked before the next pain hit.

Ill try, but thats not protocol. He wont even answer if its not an emergency

I hung up on her.

Fuck it, I panted, pulling up Dr. Mead in my contacts and pressing dial.

This is Dr. Mead, he answered three rings later.

This is Nikki Pena Perez. Ive gone into labor. Im at the ER right now, I told
him quickly.

Ill be right there. Tell the doctors Ill be there in twenty minutes or less, he said

10-4, I agreed and hung up my own phone.

I grabbed my purse and bailed out of my car before I tried calling Michael again.

Luckily, this time, he answered. Yeah?

He was breathless.

Im in labor, I panted, hoofing it all the way to the ER doors before another
pain nearly took my feet out from under me.

Where are you? He asked sharply.

The ER, I told him, happy that my contraction had left me, but unhappy
because another one was right on its heels, which meant that I was getting
closer to delivery. Im less than a minute apart.

Something which I proved moments later when another contraction slammed

into me.

This time, I really did have to go to my knees because I was sure if I didnt, I
would fall on my face.

Maam, are you alright? A womans voice called from the doorway.

I looked up into Lennoxs familiar eyes.

No, Im pretty sure Im having this baby, and my asshole isnt here yet, I told

Then a commotion from the ERs entrance startled us both enough that we
looked up only to see Michael running out with a bandage covering his eye.

Michael! I screamed, panicked now that my eyes caught sight of all the blood
staining his shirt.

Michael dropped down to his knees beside me, gathering me into his strong
arms as he said, Im okay.

Isnt that something I should be saying to you? I asked, raising my hand to

look at the wound being covered by the bandage.

He grimaced and helped me stand by putting both arms underneath mine.

Suspect knocked me over the head with a wrench, he explained. Now tell me
about you.

I panted as another pain hit me and said, Im having your baby.

He laughed.

Generally, thats what labor usually indicates, he teased as he helped me to a

wheelchair that Lennox pushed out.

You have the entire emergency room in an uproar, little lady, Lennox crowed
as she held the chair as I sat.

Why? I asked with worry.

What had I done to warrant such a reaction?

Michael here has everyone scared as hell of him. Something he proved weeks
ago when he told the charge nurse that, under no circumstance, was anyone
but his parents, him, Dr. Mead or me to touch you when you go into labor
without him being in the room. Not to mention he threatened them, Lennox
laughed. So guess who your personal helper will be until Dr. Mead arrives!

I shot my husband a look, but he shrugged as if he could care less what

everyone thought of him.

Please, ignore him. He wont bother anybody, I shook my head. Plus, were
heading up to Labor and Delivery anyway. So well never even see anybody in
the emergency room. Howd you get to leave the ER for this?
Thank God, Lennox said as she walked with me to the elevators. I got to help
because your husband decided to have a talk with my boss. She agreed, so
here I am!

I just shook my head and closed my eyes as another pain washed over me.

Another one? Michael asked, looking down at his watch.

I nodded, too breathless to speak. Yeah.

A minute and a half apart. Epidural or no epidural? He asked.

I closed my eyes and tried to block out the painbut I couldnt.

Which answered the question he asked rather quickly.

Wed been fighting over the epidural or no epidural question for months now,
and Id told him that Id have to wait and see.

Hed insisted on a birth plan, and Id shook my head, telling him that babies did
what they wanted to. There was no rhyme or reason. No womans pregnancy
was the same, and I couldnt base a birth that hadnt happened yet on a hunch.

Now, I was sure.

Epidural, I insisted through gritted teeth.

I felt like my uterus was trying to force its way out of my vagina.

God, it hurt.

And I was sure that Michael was only getting one kid, because this
motherfuckin hurt.

One kid, Michael. You better enjoy this one, I informed him.

He smiled. Well see.

No, we wont. We really wont. Ill never be able to forget how this feels. Its like
razor blades tearing through my uterus, and a pair of needle nose pliers trying
to rip the spasming organ out through my cun Michael slapped his hand over
my mouth as the elevator doors opened.

Id been screaming, and apparently he didnt want me to scream cunt in

general population.

Lennox had no problem laughing her ass off, consequently forgetting she was
supposed to be pushing my wheelchair.

Michael, exasperated, took over the job and pushed me to the nurses station
where they immediately gave us a room.

What? Did you threaten them, too? I asked with a narrowed eyed look over my

Michael smiled. Youll never know.

I rolled my eyes.

The man was incorrigible, and he couldnt help himself sometimes.

Are you going to let any of the nurses take care of me? I asked dryly. Youre

Michael helped me into the bed once hed locked the wheelchairs wheels, and I
sighed in relief to have my feet up.

Yeah, as a matter of fact, he is! Hannah crowed as she came into the room.

I rolled my eyes. You know, its really, really weird to have your sister in laws
hands up your cooch.

Hannah smiled. Were all adults here. If you can handle it, I can handle it.

I just shook my head. I havent seen you on this floor in a while. How perfect
that youre on shift today, I said dryly.

Hannah grinned. In reality, I wasnt supposed to be on this floor today. But Im

scheduled on this floor for the time being until youre back from maternity

She gave me a pointed look that said shed known where I was today.
Something Id told her but not my husband.

I blushed.

I was supposed to be on maternity leave.

But when Jasmine had begged me to continue seeing her once Id graduated
school, I could do nothing less.

Even if it meant I had to deliver her kid while I was in labor with my own.

Something Michael hadnt realized Id done yet, since Id left while he was at
work and conveniently forgot to tell him.

Thats cool, I said, changing the subject.

Alright, Hannah, check her out so we can see where were at, Michael

Hannah shot him a disproving look. I know how to do my job, boyo.

His brows rose. Youve been talking to Peek.

Hannah grinned and lifted up her shirt to reveal her belly to us.
Shed gotten a tattoo of Reggies name on her lower hipbone in bold, beautiful
scripted letters.

Wow, thats awesome, Lennox and I parroted at the same time.

Michael smiled. It hurt, didnt it. I told you not to go there with your first tattoo.

Hannah shrugged. Hurt like a motherfucker. But Peek gave me a shot of Jack
Daniels to tide me over. And kept them coming until it was done. When I left I
could barely stand. Had to call a cab to take me home.

I gasped as another contraction tore through me, bringing everyones attention

back to me.

Alright, you know the drill, Hannah picked up a gown and tossed it at Michael.
Help her in that, and well step outside the curtains. Let us know when youre
doneand what the fuck happened to your face?

I coughed to cover up my laugh.

Shed just now noticed that after being in the room with him for ten minutes?

Michael ignored her and swung the curtains closed himself before walking over
to me.

You ready for this? He asked softly, his eyes taking in my every feature.

I nodded and started to strip my shirt over my head, followed by my sports bra.

Michaels eyes flared as he caught sight of my swollen belly and big breasts,
but managed to stand still as I stood and pushed my maternity yoga pants over
my hips, followed closely by my panties.

I offered him my hands, and he slipped the gown on over my chest, covering my
nakedness without one lewd touch or comment.

He must really be scared, I thought.

Which stood to reason.

I was scared to.

Really scared.

But the thing about Michael and me was that wed both gone through hell
together, and had come out the other side.

We had our scars.

We had our doubts.

But we also had each other, and as long as I had him at my side, we could get
through just about anything.

I love you, Mikey Mike, I whispered, knowing itd draw a smile from him.

And he didnt disappoint.

He smiled, eyes sparkling.

I love you more, Nik.

Impossible, I whispered fiercely.

Nothings impossible when it comes to you. You showed me that, he said just
before pressing his soft lips against mine. You ready for this?

I nodded and touched the side of the bandage covering up the right side of his

Have you had this taken care of? I asked, feeling another pain coming.

He nodded. Ten stitches.

I winced.

Not only because that was a lot of stitches, but because it felt like this child of
ours was trying to claw its way out of my vagina like a tiny Hulk.

Epidural, I insisted.

He smiled and helped me sit back down before yanking the curtains open.

Lennox and Hannah turned from their discussion, hurrying up to my bedside.

Alright, lay back and let me feel you up.

I covered my face with my hand as Hannah snapped gloves into place over her

Sit back, Ill try to make this good.

I huffed out a laugh as I moved until I was flat on my back, moving my

enormous beached whale body until I was in position, then slowly open my legs.

Hannah didnt waste any time doing her thing, and I was grateful.

You know, Lennox said from her positon by my head. Ive never seen a
pregnant woman so calm before.

I didnt say anything to that.

I was freaking the fuck out.

Michael, though, didnt need that from me.

I was sure he was already nervous enough, and I didnt want him to regret
having a kid.

He didnt need yet another insecurity, and I wouldnt be the one to give it to him.

Do you remember what I do for a living? I panted.

Youre at six centimeters and fifty percent effaced. Doing good. You can still
have an epidural, but Id recommend making that decision quickly, Hannah
said, taking my gown and covering my knees.

Lennox sat the head of the bed up, and I looked to Michael to see him staring at
the wall.

What is it? I asked him.

I cant tell you how disturbing it is to see my sisters fingers up youryou

know, Michael informed me.

I smiled at him.

Youre better at it, if it makes you feel any better.

He made a gagging sound. Disgusting.

I snickered as Hannah tossed her used gloves in the trash and washed her
hands. Ill go get the on call anesthesiologist. Well get your shit knocked right

Should she be talking like that? I asked, eyes closed as I tried to breathe
through my next contraction. Motherfucker, this hurts like a bitch!

The room stayed silent for long moments while my question and subsequent
comment hung therein the air around us.

What? I asked, opening my eyes to squint at Michael.

He just shook his head. Nothing.

Lennox busied herself hooking up the monitor, starting an IV, and drawing blood
while Michael and I watched the screen to monitor my progress.

That was a big one, Michael said a few minutes later.

I grunted.

I knew it was a big one.

Simply because Id felt the motherfucker.

But I tried to be nice about it.

Uh-huh, I agreed tiredly.

Then Michael and Lennox started talking about medical jargon that was too
advanced for my exhausted brain to process, so I ignored them and tried to
sleep during my contractions.

Something I realized wasnt working very well.

Especially since two of my favorite people in the world, under normal

circumstances, wouldnt shut the fuck up.

Go away, I muttered.

The talking stopped, and I ordered my husband to do my bidding.

Go call your family and mine. Let them know whats going on. And stop talking
over my body. Its annoying, I ordered them.

Michael chuckled as he bent down and kissed my forehead. Yes, maam.

Okay, Nikki. This is Amy Jones, the nurse anesthetist. Shes going to do your
epidural for you. This is Eddie Gonzales, hes the anesthesiologist that she
works under. Theyre here to answer any questions you might have. Okay?

Michael froze on his way out the door, but then I started having another

Get out so she can do her job, I ordered my ornery husband.

Amys eyes followed Michaels progress, brows raising to see what hed do.

Michael chose correctly, though.

He offered his hand to the two of them, said, Im going to call my family, and
left the room.

Eddie and Amy, Hannah said. Is there anything you need from me? I have
another patient thats in the final stages of pushing.

Amy shook her head when Eddie looked at her. No, thats all, thank you.

I knew Eddie, and the moment Hannah left the room he walked to my bedside.

You ready for this rodeo to get started? He asked teasingly.

Eddie loved to tease me.

We worked well together, trading barbs back and forth like two children in a play
yard battle.

He loved the Yankees, and I was a Texas Rangers fan all the way. Which
tended to make us butt heads from time to time.
Well, I was all ready to have you teasing me while giving me the epidural, I
grunted, toes curling when the next pain hit me. But I guess since youre too
good for me Ill settle for Ms. Amy.

Amy didnt smile, but Eddie did.

I have a C-section with triplets in about fifteen minutes. Im sorry, but shes
cooler than you are, he admitted openly.

I laughed. Yeah, thats what they all say.

He winked. Ill check back in with you later.

I nodded and watched him leave the room.

As my face turned to Amy, I was immediately struck with just how different she
looked now that Eddie was out of the room.

Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde different.

You okay? I asked her worriedly.

She walked to the door and closed it slowly.

Dont you need a nurse? I asked. And your stuff?

She didnt answer as she drew the curtain and turned back to me, walking
towards me with a new purpose that set my instincts on edge.

Your man fucked up, the woman whispered to me. Youd think with how
cautious he was being with the doctors that hed pay a little more attention to
who was about to inject all sorts of fun drugs into your spinal column.

I looked at her nametag and realized with a sinking feeling that she had the
same last name as Dr. Jones.

Her name was Amy Jones.

Wife or daughter?

I couldnt tell.

And why had I never seen her before?

I worked on this floor, and it was kind of a rule that I saw everyone on it seeing
as I was a midwife. It was good business to know my colleagues.

Dont you mean my epidural space? I asked worriedly.

My hands were sweaty, and my thighs quivered as I prepared to launch myself

from the bed.

Only before I could, Amy Jones produced a gun.

Dont move, she hissed. I dont really need your cooperation. I think Ill just do
it the quick way.

My body froze.

Theres oxygen in this room, not to mention my husband is right outside, I tried
to reason with her. Surely you know that youll never get out of this unscathed.

She shrugged.

I dont really care. At this point, I just know you need to be gone, as well as
him, before I go. Youll be my final couple. How does it feel? She said
soothingly, bringing the IV tubing that was going into my right hand up to her

I could see the syringe in her hand, and knew she was about to give me

Which was why I yanked my hand to the side hard and quick, ripping tape, hair,
and skin as I forcefully removed the catheter from my vein.

She glared at me disapprovingly and shook the gun at me for emphasis.

I told you not to fucking move! She whispered forcefully.

I moved.

I couldnt help it.

It wasnt in me to lay back and take what was coming for me.

Hey, I just got word from Dr. Mead. Hell be here in just a few minutes. He got
held up by a train on 18 Lennoxs voice trailed off as she got a load of the
situation shed walked in on.

She looked to me, then back to Amy before raising her hands up near her head.
Dont shoot her.

Amy kept the gun pointed at me, but she was glaring at Lennox, which was why
she never saw me move close to the emergency code blue cord and yank it
from the wall.

The alarm in my room started to shriek.

And people poured inside.

Nurses, doctors, techs. Michael.

The sheer amount of people thatd entered the room had overwhelmed Amy,
but she was smart and put the gun away before anyone could see her.

Michaels eyes fell on me, and I started to scream.

She has a gun!

Amy was quick, though.

Using the commotion to her advantage, she ran, skirting past multiple nurses
who were standing there stunned.

Michael, though, wasnt stunned.

Far from it.

He was following her out the door almost as quickly as shed left it.

Lennox walked up to me, placing a towel to the wound at my hand that I just
now realized was pouring blood onto the floor.

Youre a mess, she whispered soothingly.

A sob caught in my throat, and the pain that Id somehow been able to
disregard in this entire debacle hit me again tenfold.

God, I slumped.

Lennox caught me and moved me towards the bed, and I went willingly.

Youre hands a mess, she said, eyes scanning the wound.

I nodded. Yep.

I shouldve done what Michael wanted and not gotten the epidural. Then we
wouldnt be in this mess right now, I said worriedly.

Lennox started to clean off my hand with an alcohol swab.

Which was ridiculous since I needed a lot more than an alcohol pad to clean up
this mess. Maybe a towel or something.

Then I forgot all about the mess Id made and started focusing on the massacre
that was happening between my legs.

It burned, but it didnt hurt anywhere near as bad as everything else attached to
my body.

I feel like I need to push, I said worriedly a few moments later.

Lennox looked up into my eyes.

Your doctors not here yet, she said worriedly.

I closed my eyes.

Alright, Hannah yelled. This isnt an exhibit. Everyone out.

But that psychos got a gun! A nurse replied worriedly.

I wanted to roll my eyes.

And I would have had I not been worried that I might suddenly make a big move
and the baby would fall out of my vagina.

I really.really need to push, I urged insistently, ripping the blankets that

Lennox had just replaced, off my legs. Either back off or catch this baby,
because its about to happen.

Hannah shooed out the rest of the people and Lennox and her stared at me
with worried eyes.

Ive never delivered a baby before, Lennox said helplessly.

Shes in the custody of the police, Michael growled, throwing open the door
and slamming it shut behind him. It took him a few moments, but it wasnt long
before he realized that my vagina was out for everyone to see. What?

I pointed down to my vagina. Your baby wants me to push.

He shook his head. Dr. Mead isnt here yet.

If I could have, I would have beaten him.

Well you tell that to this kid! I screamed.

Michaels eyes widened when something between my legs caught his eyes, and
I moved my hand down between my legs and felt something that most definitely
hadnt been there before.

Im crowning, I said to the three of them.

I wished Id had a camera to capture the looks on the three of their faces.

One of you need to come over here and play catcher, or you need to go get a
doctor. Now, I ordered them.

Still, none of them moved.

A doctor. A PA. And a nurse.

And all three of them stared at me with blank faces.

I cant believe I was having to do this all myself!

My body started to do what it was made to do, and soon I could do nothing but
push and hope they got with the game.

Because seriously, it fucking hurt!

Ahhhh! Michael get your fucking head out of your ass and catch this fucking
kid! I screamed.

Michael finally came unstuck and put his doctor hat onor at least his thinking
cap anyway.

He moved between my legs, then asked the stupidest question on earth at that

Should I put on gloves?

I wouldve kicked him had I not been holding onto my legs.

Instead, I closed my eyes, pushed, and daydreamed about shooting our kid out
of my vagina and hitting him with her.

Which seemed good in theory, but probably not good for real.

My mind didnt really care at that point.

How come nobody waited for your family to arriveahhhh! My eyes! Nico
screamed, covering his eyes as he got a good look at my vagina.

I would be embarrassedlater.

Right now, I couldnt muster up the ability to care, though.

Move out of the way, hijo. Ive got to get in there! My mother yelled.

I didnt look at her either.

I couldnt.

My eyes were on Michael as he did things between my legs that I hoped he and
I could both forget later on.

Then I swear to you, he stuck his hand into my vagina and I saw starsand not
the good kind.

Owww! What the ever loving fuck, Michael! I shrieked.

The cord was around her neck, he rumbled softly. All better now. Push again
when you feel the next contraction.

I pushed again at the next contraction. But not because hed said to. Because I
needed to. My body wouldnt let me not do it.

Owww, ow, ow, ow, ow, I chanted over and over again.

Would you grow the fuck up, Nico? Georgia asked, shoving him out of the
doorway where he was still covering his eyes and facing the opposite direction
of me and my big ol vagina.
Georgia came to my side and swept my hair back off my face.

Youre doing good, almost done, she soothed.

I nodded, panting as the worst pain yet washed over me.


Language, hija, my mother admonished from my other side.

When had she gotten there?

The heads out, Hannah and Lennox said at the same time, standing at the
end of the bed and looking at the humongous child that was trying to come out
and being incredibly slow about it. Your amniotic sac is still intact.

Then, suddenly, in a great rush of relief, our baby slid out.

Michael made a hook with his finger and broke the amniotic sac, and suddenly I
could hear my baby, who was very unhappy with being forced from her comfy,
warm home. By her daddy no less.

Alright, Nikki! Lets get this baby delivered! Son, move out of the way! Dr.
Mead ordered Nico.

Once Nico moved, though, he came to a stop. Well, I sure didnt expect this!
For your first child no less!

I laughed.

What else could I do?

Ive never seen that before, Hannah said in awe.

Me neither, Lennox agreed.

Oh, my God, shes beautiful! Georgia cried softly at my side.

Can I look yet? Nico whined.

Alright, lets get this placenta delivered. Daddy, are you going to cut the cord?
Dr. Mead asked jovially.

I moved my eyes away from our daughter to Michael, who was staring at her in

Yeah, I think I will, he rasped.

Lennox handed him the hemostats to clamp the cord, and then a pair of
scissors once hed done that.

Then, with the utmost care, he carried our little girl over to the warmer, where a
team of nurses were already set up waiting for her.
When theyd arrived, I dont know, but they were there.

And I was so happy I could scream.

I delivered the placenta, and waited for them to bring the baby to me.

But I kept waiting and waiting and waiting.

I could see them all looking back at me in concern, then back at the baby.

Michael was busy washing up at the sink, so he didnt see what was going on,
but I knew immediately something was wrong.

Whats wrong with her? I asked urgently. Tell me!

The nurses all looked at each other, and one of them, Lucille, broke off, picking
up my daughter and carrying snugly in her arms.

She brought her over to me, and I reached for her, pulling her into my arms like
theyd taken the most precious gift away from me without plans of giving her
back. They gave me teasing bits and pieces of her until I was a whimpering,
needful mess.

The moment she was in my arms I felt at peace.

She was absolutely perfect.

Dark brown hair like me. Cheeks like Michael. Long fingers and toes like
Michael. A heart shaped chin like me.

Then she opened her eyes, and I immediately knew something was wrong.

Because the entire iris of her eye was covered in a milky white, circular film. In
both eyes.

Whats wrong with her? I cried, looking up to Michael for help.

He frowned and walked over, eyes on our baby, and immediately scowled.

What it looks like is a cataract, he said, running his thumb over the babys
cheek lovingly.

His eyes met mine and theyd never looked more serious.

Shes fine, he said soothingly.

A cataract isnt fine! I cried. Its not fine at all!

My raised voice mustve made the baby annoyed because she started to cry.

Michael immediately reached forward and took her out of my arms, and I felt the
loss like a punch to the chest.
Michael brought our baby up to his chest and cradled her, brushing his nose
along the top of her head as he breathed her in.

Look at me, Nikki, he ordered.

I peeled my eyes away from where his hand was holding her under her bottom,
and looked at him.

He wasnt worried.

Not even a little bit.

And that was what I needed to finally gain some control.

What do we do? I asked softly.

He leaned forward and took a seat on the side of my bed, running his hand
along the length of my cheek.

We let the pediatrician look at her. We talk to my father. My mother. But we do

it all together. Because we can do nothing less, he whispered.

A tear slipped down my cheek, and I looked down at my hands. Seeing them
trembling, I took a deep breath and said, I love you Michael. Im sorry for
freaking out.

He pulled me to his chest, and my head rested next to the entire length of our
babys body, and I just knew everything would be alright.

Why, you ask?

Because Michael said it would, thats why.


Four hours later

So youre saying shell need to undergo surgery for this within the first three
months of her life, I asked the pediatrician Id painstakingly chosen out of many
in the East Texas area.

He nodded. Having those taken care of is imperative. If you dont, it could

become malignant. It could stay the same. Or they could mean shes blind for
the rest of her life. And this is an easy fix. Its relatively painless, but it is
something shell have to be put to sleep for. Which is always a risk.

I closed my eyes as tears started to form.

Thank you, Dr. Rush, Michael said, offering his hand. Well follow up with the
doctor in Dallas next Tuesday, like you said. We really appreciate you coming
out and seeing her on your day off.

I smiled through my tears.

That was awfully nice of Dr. Rush.

Most doctors didnt do things like that.

Which was why Id chosen Dr. Rush in the first place.

Bringing my knees up to my chest, I moved Carolina up until she was resting on

my upraised legs, and stared at her.

She was so beautiful.

And perfect.

And it broke my heart that she had to have this done at such a young age.

But I didnt have to worry about that now.

I had five full days with my little beauty, until I had to see that doctor in Dallas
with her, and I was going to love her so hard.

Michael put his arms around me and hugged me to his chest, pressing his lips
against my cheek.

Im going to go home and change my clothes, he rumbled softly. And bring up

your bag so we can get little miss priss dressed. Anything you need while Im

I shook my head. No. Not unless you want to grab me a number one from

He leaned back and gave me a grin.

I think I can handle that, he teased.

Kissing me once more, he moved his lips to our little girl and brushed his lips
over her hair.

The two best things that ever happened to me, he whispered, then left the
room without another word.

Picking up my phone, I started to take a few hundred pictures of my little beauty

when a knock sounded at the door.

I looked up, and smiled.

Because at the door was Wolfgang, or Wolf as I liked to call him, and baby

Although Baby Nathan wasnt so much a baby anymore. He was a toddler who
was full of mischief and love for all things furry.

Wolf, I said softly, smiling at him once he breached the doorway. Come in,
come in.

Wolf smiled. Id have waited to come see you, but I have to be at work in a
couple of hours, and I didnt know if Id get to see you before you got out. How
are you doing?

He smiled as he looked down at the baby in my lap.

He did good, he rasped, a deep seated hurt evident in his voice.

His own child wouldve been six months just a few weeks ago.

Would you like to hold her, Wolf? I asked softly.

He swallowed, and looked into my eyes. Yeah, if thats okay.

I held out my hands for Nathan, and he handed him to me.

Nathan immediately wrapped his chubby arms around my neck.

Take her, I said softly.

Wolf did, reaching forward and scooping Carolina up with nimble, practiced

Shes beautiful, he rumbled, cradling Carolina to his chest.

She is, I agreed, turning away from the devastated look that came over Wolfs
face. How ya doing, Nathan?

Nathan offered me a slobbery smile as he played with my hair.

Fish, he babbled.

Fish? I asked him.

Thats his new favorite word, Wolf explained. That and cup. Seems he only
says what he wants.

I smiled.

I remembered that with Nicos twins as well.

Hows work going for you? I asked softly.

Wolf spoke without looking up from Carolina.

A lot longer than I realized itd be, he muttered. I find that I miss the hell out of
Nathan while Im there.

I smiled.

That tended to happen when you had children.

Id witnessed it with all of the SWAT team, as of late.

They all wanted to get home to their kids and wives.

The parties had gone from all nighters to we need to leave by eight p.m. to get
the kids in bed kind of parties.

Although, it was nice to see all these reformed bad-boys turned family men.

Thats the way it was supposed to be.

How do you like the new mayor of Uncertain? I asked. Michael said they got a
Sheriff and Mayor in the same day. He said its been kind of crazy.

Wolf nodded. Its been a clusterfuck. Its going to take some doing to get things

I wasnt surprised.

Texas was a true Republican state, and to have two Democrat officials in high
positions in the city was really getting on a lot of the citys nerves. I was still
surprised that itd happened in the first place.

Cup? Nathan asked, tapping my face.

I looked to him and smiled. I dont have your cup, big guy.

Nathan frowned, and my eyes were drawn to the barely noticeable scar on his

Hed had plastic surgery done on his head about eight weeks into his hospital
stay. Then four more reconstructions after that.

And theyd done a wonderful job. Such a wonderful job, in fact, that you could
only see that something had happened when he frowned or cried.

Wolf got up, drawing my attention to him.

He really was a big man.

Today he was in his leather jacket that I never saw him without.

He had some extensive damage to the back of his head and neck, which made
him grow his hair longer than Id ever seen on any police officer before.

He wore the leather jacket to cover up the scarring on his back and neck.
Another thing Id heard from Michael.

Id never seen it myself, but it broke my heart that he wore it.

I gotta go, he rumbled. I just wanted to come see yall and make sure you
were okay.

So hed heard.

Dont do anything, Wolf, I reprimanded him.

His eyes looked up to mine, and I could see the determination here.

Well see. He placed Carolina into my arms and reached for Nathan. I cant
promise anything, though.

I looked into the sweet face of my little girl once he left the room, and came to a

Id do everything in my power to help make that man happy. Even if I had to

throw one of my sisters at him.

They were tenacious.

You and me will get him there, little girl, I said, running my finger down the
bridge of her nose.

She stirred, and my heart filled with just a little bit more joy.

I was so happy I could scream.

I had the man I loved with all my heart.

A baby with that man.

And a life that I loved.

And in a few months, when Carolinas surgery was behind her, I would be

I couldnt ask for a thing more.


I missed you. Lets have sex. A lot.

-Michaels secret thoughts.


You left the toilet seat up again, Nikki grumbled from her bent over position.

She was loading the dishwasher and I winced. I was supposed to do that last
night. Shed asked a million times, and I just plain forgot.


And you forgot to take out the trash again, she continued.

I sighed.

The woman was a freakin mess.

I didnt complain about her inability to put things away.

Like the pitcher of tea. I hated drinking hot tea. And I didnt like the way ice
watered it down.

Yet did she make more of an effort to put it away?


So I drank my tea with ice now because it was inevitable that shed forget to put
it away.

And dont even get me started on her makeup, hair products, curling irons, and
God knows what else.

The first thing on our remodeling agenda, if it ever came to it, was a duel sink
for him and her, because I couldnt tell you how many times Id wished I didnt
have to put away shit on the counter to shave my face or brush my teeth.

I didnt tell her any of that, though.

Wed learned, over the last four years, how to pick our battles.

I cant fix the plumbing because you bought a male end, and I need a female
end. I said.

What do you mean? Whats the difference? Nikki asked, turning to study me.

I was a fucking mess.

Id been under the house, fixing the plumbing thatd decided to fucking combust
last night.

And shed been bothering the fuck out of me for the entire morning to fix it so
she could have running water for the party we were throwing for Madden.
Madden hadnt had an easy life.

Hed had a lot of struggles, but in those struggles, hed come out on top.

After Maddens children had been released from the hospital, the three of them
had gone to a foster home with Dean and Joslin, of all people.

After the whole asking for sperm from his brother debacle, Joslin finally gave up
on ever having a baby with Dean. She actually gave up a lot of things, in fact.

Mainly other mens dicks.

And with that new attitude on life, Joslin turned into a half decent person.

Joslin and Dean had helped raise not only Maddens two children, Sophia and
Tawny, but also Madden himself.

Theyd given Madden the opportunity to just be a kid while helping him raise his

And as of this afternoon, he was officially a high school graduate.

Michael, are you even listening to me? Nikki yelled.

My brow rose. Yes, Im listening to you. But youre not saying anything that I
havent already explained to you. Five times, in fact.

She narrowed her eyes at me.

Well then, maybe you should enlighten meone more time.

I grinned at her.

You need an anatomy lesson? I clarified.

She narrowed her eyes at me.

No. I need you to explain to me how plumbing parts have male and female

I charged forward and pinned her to the counter, my sweaty body plastering up
against hers.

Nikki had put on a little bit of weight over the last four years, but not one bit of
that weight did I not love.

In fact, I was fucking ecstatic to have a little more of her to hold onto while I
fucked her.

Something I was about to prove during the anatomy lesson I was about to give
to her.

A female end, I said, pressing my hands against her. Is wider. It allows the
male end to fit inside of it.

I punctuated this comment by pressing my erection into her hip.

She gasped and her eyes widened.

Youyou didnt say that when I left, she stuttered.

I leaned past her and turned the water on, picking up the bottle of soap and
washing my hands behind her back.

She licked her lips, and I knew she knew what I was about to do.

The kids are about to wake up, she hesitated when I slapped the faucet down
to stop the flow of water once Id was finished.

I grinned.

Then my hands went to her sides, and I ran my hands up and under her shirt,
pushing it up and over her head in one fluid movement.

Her hair fell from the haphazard bun shed placed on top of her head, with a
pencil of all things, and tumbled down her back and over her shoulders.

Just the way I liked it.

I didnt bother removing the bra.

Thatd take too long.

I knew the kids were about to wake up.

They only gave us a solid two hours at most, and it was already going on an
hour and forty five minutes.

The next thing to go were her pants, panties going with it for expediency.

Michael, she said breathlessly when I turned her around and pressed her over
the sink.

She grabbed onto the faucet for dear life, looking back over her shoulder as I
unzipped my pants.

Yeah, baby? I asked, pulling my dick from its confines and running the
hardened length up her * lips.

She gasped and pressed back against me, helping me coat my cock in her
juices as she involuntarily jerked her hips.

See, to fix this plumbing, I said, pressing my lubed cock up against her
entrance and pushing in. I need a three and five eights male end. You got me a
female end. To get full satisfaction on both ends, one wont do without the
I could tell she wanted to laugh, but she was too busy moaning as my cock filled
her to the brim.

My eyes crossed when she clenched down on me.

Less talking, more fucking. Were running out of time, she panted.

I agreed.

Picking up the pace, I grabbed a hold of both hips and started to move in and
out of her.

Faster and faster, I thrusted.

Each one harder than the previous.

We worked well together.

She knew what I liked, and I knew just the right angle that would set her off like
a bottle rocket.

Moving my hand between the counter top and her hips, I found the bud of her
clit and started to circle it as I ramped up my speed.

Michael, she moaned. Yes!

I gritted my teeth and closed my eyes as I felt her * begin to convulse around
the length of my cock, meaning the end of me holding back.

She did that to me, though.

Undid me.

Tore me down to rock bottom and built me back up again.

I growled when my release hit me.

Hot come poured from my cock and splashed against her insides, coating the
two of us equally as I worked myself inside of her, until the last dregs of my
orgasm abated.

Then, right on cue, I heard the sounds of Clayton as he started screaming at the
top of his lungs to be let out.

Shit, I growled, reaching forward and to the side to yank the dish towel off the
peg where Nikki insisted we hang it.

Not my good towels! She cried.

But it was too late.

Id already pulled out and placed the towel over her entrance to catch my
release before she could protest.

Dammit, Michael, she growled, holding the towel between her legs and

I raised my hands. So now that you know what I need, I said, buckling my
pants. How about youfuck.

My pager went off, and I looked at it over on the table, then back to Nikki.

Dammit! She cried when I walked to it.

Wincing, I looked at the readout and sighed.

Im sure the rest of the ladies will be able to come help you. Just remember not
to run the water in the main bathroom, I ordered as I started walking to our

Nikki followed me, moments later, with Clayton on her hip and a hardness to her

What are we supposed to do when we need to wash our hands? She asked.

I raised a brow at her.

Wash them in the kitchen. Put a bottle of the eighteen million bottles of
antibacterial shit you have lying around every surface of the house. I dont
fuckin know, I said, shoving my foot into my boot.

She sighed.

You better be here by eight or Ill kick your ass, she growled in mock anger.

I knew she wasnt mad.

She knew what she was getting into when she married me.

She knew that the SWAT team was a huge part of my life.

And she accepted itand me.

I love you, baby, I said, kissing her softly on the cheek.

She smiled. I love you, too.

With a final kiss on Clays head, I rushed out of the house, only to come to a
stop when my father and mother pulled up with Carolina.

Hey, I called, veering around their car to my truck.

They all waved, and Carolinas baby blue eyes followed me.

Daddy, where are you going? I wanted to show you my new cat! Carolina held
up a stuffed cat with a huge, fluffy tail.

It was in a box that distinctly marked it as a Build-A-Bear.

I narrowed my eyes at my parents. Nikkis going to kill you.

They grinned unrepentantly.

Rolling my eyes, I blew a kiss to my little girl and said, Daddy has to go to

She pouted, but blew me a kiss nonetheless.

Just like her momma, she knew when daddy had to leave to go save lives.

Take care of my girls, pop, I ordered my father.

He winked and helped my mother out of the car.

Will do, son, see you tonight.

I made it to the station twenty minutes later, and was just in time to see Luke
and Bennett walking from their trucks.

I caught up to them at the door to the station.

What do we have? I asked them.

A multi-city wide fuck up, thats what.




Momma, I got a cat! Caro called the minute she made it through the front door.

I smiled and handed Clay off to Elizabeth and caught Carolina just as she
barreled into my legs.

I smiled and picked her up, looking at her new cat.

Oh, yay, I said, looking up into her crystal clear blue eyes. Every time I saw
them up close my heart clutched.

Wed had Caros cataracts removed from her eyes when she was exactly one
month of age, and itd been the most terrifying experience of my life.
Shed gone through the surgery remarkably well, but the sheer horror of having
to watch my baby be wheeled away from me was torture.

Now, though, she was healthy and happy.

And those eyes that looked exactly like Michaels sure had a way of making my
heart melt.

Each and every time.

Yeah, Grammy and Poppop spent a hundred dollars on her. They said I better
like her. And treat her well, because that was the last time they took me there,
Caro continued.

I smiled and winked at Poppop.

They were such suckers.

Id known, of course, the minute theyd said that they were taking Caro to the
Boardwalk, that they were in for a rude awakening.

Caro was my child.

She could shop until she dropped, and did so daily.

She could talk just about anyone into anything, which was why her room was
filled with all kinds of toys, clothes, and shit she didnt need.

Hey! Let go of my kitty! Caro screamed when Clay latched onto the kitty and
wouldnt let go.

Caro, I said sternly. Clay is just a baby. You cant yank stuff out of his hands
like that. You could hurt him.

Caro stuck out her tongue at her brother, who was all of eight months old so the
effect was lost on him, and crossed her arms.

I smiled and looked down at my hands.

She looked so much like Michael when she did that that I could barely stand it.

If yall wouldnt mind watching them, I have to go to Lowesagainand get a

coupling for the plumbing underneath the house. And pick up the cake, I said,
trying valiantly not to blush and failing miserably.

Okay, dear. Dont forget to pick up that prescription you made me call in,
Manuelo said.

The blood in my veins froze.



Okay, I said shakily, walking to the front table and clutching my keys in a tight

I was out to the car when I managed to quietly pull out my phone, open the door
to my Tahoe, and slide inside.

When I started the truck and started to back out of the driveway, I hit the call
button and immediately called Michael.

He didnt answer, of course.

I didnt expect him to.

But I wanted his voicemail anyway.

This is Michael, leave a message.

Michael, I said quietly. If you managed to knock me up again today, Im going

to fucking kill you, I growled, then slammed the phone button on my steering

Ineffective but it made me feel better, nonetheless.

Id run out of birth control pills two weeks ago, and had completely forgotten
until just yesterday that Id not been taking them.

Michael and I lived busy lives.

We both had some really odd hours, so on the off chance that we had been
able to find time to do the deed, in the past two weeks, Id forced Michael to use
a condom.

Something he absolutely loathed doing.

Today, though, Id completely forgotten.

And I knew, like Id known with Clayton, that hed just knocked me up.

There was something about Michael and his damn bad intentions that made me
lose my mind. Forget that I didnt want to be pregnant.

But there Michael was with that magic dick as my lovely friends liked to call it,
and all my inhibitions flew out the window.

And with it went my ability to drink.


Four hours later, with all my family and friends around me, I realized that maybe
another kid wouldnt be so bad after all.

Especially not with Georgia and Nicos fourth baby in my arms.

Hes just the sweetest thing Ive ever seen! I said, rubbing my nose along
Heaths head.

Heath was all of two weeks old, and the very definition of his father.

You did good, big brother, I said, smiling up at Nico.

Nico winked. I know.

And so humble, Georgia laughed.

Nico, humble? Downy asked after taking a sip of his beer.

The whole group laughed.

And I looked around at my extended family.

They were all there.

Luke and Reese with their three children.

Nico and Georgia with their four kids.

Downy and Memphis with their two children.

Miller and Mercy, with their three.

Foster and Blake with their two.

Bennett and Lennox with their two.

My sisters and their husbands and boyfriends.

The Chief and his wife.

My parents. Michaels Parents.

Joslin and Dean.

Madden and his kiddos.

My husband and children.

Hannah and Wolf although, that was a new thing.

Theyd spoken on and off for the last few years, but with the way they were
acting, looking at each other but not going near the other, I knew something had

I just didnt know what, but I had a feeling that something would break soon.

And then theyd be just as happy as the rest of us.

And I was happy

Ecstatically so.

Here you go, Mama, Michael said, handing Clay over.

He took Heath from my arms and handed me my own little butterball, and I
smiled as Michael gazed longingly into Heaths little face.

For a man that hadnt wanted any children, he sure was adamant about having
more and more.

And as I looked around at all the children running and playing happily in the
yard amongst their parents, I decided that just maybe another baby wouldnt be
a bad thing.

As long as I had Michael, I could totally get on board with another kid.

Because I loved him.

With my whole heart and soul, and I knew hed always be there for me.

He was just that type of man.

A man that always had his womans back, no matter what it took.

Thats what true love was.

Coming Soon
Counter To My Intelligence 1-6-16


Rules are meant to be brokenjust not quite like that.

-Coffee Cup.


Bristol, please lets not do this! I pleaded with my best friend.

Bristol looked over at me with a raised brow. Finals are over. You dont have
volleyball practice for two months. Its time to stop being such a hermit and just
be a college freshman like the rest of us.

I shook my head. I dont think this is going to be a good idea. Im freaking out
here, and Im not even there. I dont want to go.

Bristol looked unimpressed.

Im going whether you want to or not. The decision is up to you, she left that
hanging in the air, and walked out of our shared dorm, closing the door quietly
behind her.

Shit, I sighed.

I really didnt want to go.

But it was more than apparent that Bristol did.

I wasnt one for parties. I was more comfortable curled up with a good book
rather than going to a party or hanging out with friends.

I loved Bristol with all my heart, and I knew she loved me right back.

Wed been friends for as long as I could remember, and I knew that shed
always be there for me. Even if I wanted to be left the hell alone.

Bristol had done her best to get me out of my head, as she liked to call it, but it
would help if I actually wanted to be out of it.

Which I most certainly did not.

I was a very shy person.

Between her and Isaac, my boyfriend, I was doomed.

Something he proved in the next minute when a text showed up on my phone.

Going 2 the party w/ Brooklyn. You better be there.


I looked longingly over at the new book I picked up at the grocery store before I
walked to my dresser and pulled out a pair of pants and a black spaghetti strap

It wasnt the greatest, but itd do.

I wasnt there to impress. I was there because I was being forced.


No, Isaac. I dont want any, I growled four hours later.

Id already had a beer, and it was one more than Id wanted.

I was a lightweight. After more than four, I wasnt gonna wake up for a very,
very long time.

Which was why I always stayed with one and one only.

Isaac, though, didnt seem to care.

Seriously, I dont want one! I said, shoving it away.

After this night was over, so were Isaac and me.

Hed tried to publicly grope me and have sex with me, something we hadnt
done before, and wouldnt ever be doing.

Hed tried to get me to play beer pong, and when I wouldnt, he played with a
couple of other college coeds.

When I drank the first beer Id had, he thought hed won the lottery and kept
trying to force feed me more.

Youre such a fuckin downer. Get the fuck away from me, Isaac slurred.

I wanted to nut punch him.


Well, I think Ill go home, then, I hesitated. Do you want me to give you a

His eyes narrowed and he took a look around.

The party had been a bust, or so hed said. I didnt know if it had or not.

Seemed thered been a lot of people there for me, but theyd slowly drifted out
of the main room until there were about fifteen of us left.

Yeah, Ill go home. Let me go get one more drink.

I wanted to tell him no, but I knew that that was probably the only way I was
going to get out of here.

We were in his truck, after all.

Ill go get Bristol, I said, wandering away from him.

I found Bristol in the kitchen doing things that I didnt think were possible.

Mainly those things being drinking upside down with a tube shoved down her
throat while a few of the football players yelled, chug over and over. She even
managed to look good doing it, too.

Uh, Bristol? I called worriedly. Its time to get going, are you ready?

The football players looked up at me, curiosity in their eyes.

Theyd been doing that all night and I had no clue why.

I wasnt anything special, but they were staring at me like I was the biggest
piece of juicy steak theyd ever seen.

Bristol? I called again.

The closest football player finally lowered Bristols legs, and she hit the floor
with a spewing laugh.

Beer covered her from head to toe.

I think its time to go, I said softly.

Bristol nodded, so glassy eyed that I thought for sure she was going to fall over
any second.

With the help of the football players, I loaded a very boisterous Bristol, and a
very touchy Isaac into his big three quarter ton truck.

Isaacs truck wasnt my favorite thing to drive on the best of days, but it being
night and slightly rainy, I knew it wouldnt be fun at all.

Regardless of my apprehension, I got into the drivers seat, pulled the seat up
so I could reach the pedals and the steering wheel, and started it up.

Remember, it pulls to the left, Isaac slurred, leaning over the console to run
his mouth along my neck.
I cringed and pushed him slightly to fall back into his own seat.

Let me drive, please, I said pleadingly.

Isaac laughed as he turned to Bristol who was sitting in the middle of the
backseat, staring at us giddily.

I knew yall would make such a great couple! She cheered, clapping her hands
like she was a seal at Sea World.

I wanted to flip her off, but it took two hands to maneuver Isaacs huge truck.

Did I mention I hated driving it?

He had huge tires on it.

They were so big that they came up to my waistline.

His truck was the size of a tank on steroids.

His daddy bought it for him the day he turned eighteen.

Now, two years later, it still looked brand new because he took such good care
of his precious baby.

Three years ago, when I got my first car at eighteen, itd been because Id
saved money, since I started working at fifteen.

Although my parents were great, they werent the richest.

In fact, they werent even middle class.

We were the barely making it class.

Even now, with me out of the house, they were still struggling to make ends

But they did have four other kids besides me.

So it was understandable.

But it was also probably why Id be in debt until I was fifty.

Paying for my bachelors degree in nursing wasnt very easy. Thank God for
student loans.

Although they wouldnt be my friends once I graduated.

Why are you going so slow, Sawyer? I feel like were crawling! Bristol yelled,
leaning forward on the console.

Put your seatbelt on or Ill pull this truck over, I said with as much venom as I
Neither one of them ever wore seatbelts. And it drove me nuts.

I heard two clicks, and I turned accusing eyes onto Isaac.

He knew my rule!

Why is it so hard for yall to follow that rule? I mean, seriously, it could save
your life if we were in an accident! I growled, turning back when I saw lights
flash in front of me.

I couldnt stop.

The car thatd pulled out in front of me did it at the exact wrong time.

Under normal circumstances, had he done that, I wouldve missed him.

But I was in Isaacs huge truck, which was hard to slow since it was so big.

I was also driving at night. In the rain.

Which meant that, instead of stopping when I slammed on the brakes, the truck
didnt stop.

It slid.

The brakes locked.

Tires squealed.

Isaac, Bristol, and I screamed.

And we hit them with a deafening crash.

It was terrible.

I saw the whites of the mans eyes before the truck t-boned him.

Saw the woman in the front seat turn to someone in the back.

Then nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

I couldnt make my brain make any sense.

And I wouldnt know it until days later... but I killed every single person in the
vehicle I hit.

And it would all be my fault.


Six months later

After the evidence has been heard, and the defendants testimony, we find the
defendant guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter, the spokesman for
the jury said.

My world came to a stop.

All my time.

All my dreams.


Every one of them.

Four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

I looked to my mother with tearful eyes.

She looked back at me with the same.

And I closed them, a single tear slipping down my cheek.

Sawyer Ann Berry, youre sentenced to eight years in Huntsville. Dismissed,

Judge Abbott declared, finalizing that statement with a slam of his gavel.

My heart hurt.

I couldnt breathe.

Eight years.

Id be nearly thirty when I got out!

Dont worry, Sawyer. Ill get you out. Well appeal it. I promise you, my fathers
good friend and my attorney, Donald Barber, promised.

I looked at him and shook my head. Justjust take care of my parents. Theyre
going to need you.

He smiled at me sadly. I will, pumpkin.

My only hope, once the appeal was denied, was that Id make parole.

I looked over at my best friend, who understandably felt horrible, and my

boyfriendwhom I hadnt broken up with because hed become my rock.
Maybe not as much of a boyfriend anymore as much as a huge support system.

The two of them had become my soul reason for making it through.

Theyd stayed with me, despite what Id done.

And I couldnt thank them enough.


Four years later

Parole denied.

My eyes closed, and my heart ripped in half.

The last thread holding it in one piece was gone.

Most likely forever.