Wednesday, October 20, 2004

"Next Comes Love," By Helen Brenna (Excerpt, Continued)

...balance, threw a buzz saw at his plans. There was only one solution. “I want you off my island.”

A look of surprise and something else flashed in her eyes. She backed up and hit the brick behind her. “You want me off your island?”

“Tomorrow isn’t soon enough.”

“Your island?” The angry bite edging into her voice said more than anything that she’d recovered from her initial shock. Now on the offensive, she stepped toward him. “That’s funny ‘cause I heard you haven’t even been here a year. This isn’t your island any more than it’s mine.”

“I’ve got a badge that says it’s mine.” He closed the short distance between them, trying like hell to intimidate. Maybe if he upset her enough, she’d spill something, anything, giving him reason to put her on the next ferry off Mirabelle.

When she thrust her chin out something told him it wasn’t going to happen. “You think I’m not good enough for Mirabelle, don’t you?” she whispered.

“I didn’t say that. I just don’t trust you.”

“You know what? You’re right. I’m not good enough. Even I know it. This place is all lollypops, tiaras and fairytales. Me?” She shook her head and chuckled. “I sure as hell am not a princess.” Her smile disappeared. “You and me, Garrett, we’re two peas in a pod. I may not be a princess, but you’re not even close to being a knight in shining armor—”

“Don’t—”

“Garrett Taylor, a cop from the wrong side of the tracks.”

“Don’t do this—”

“One foot in the gutter—”

“Stop it!” He grabbed her wrists and pressed her back against the brick wall.

“You think if you stay here long enough,” she whispered, “this place, these people will clean you off. Don’t you? All I do is remind you that it’s not going to be that easy.”

She was right. She’d hit the nail on the head. Hard. She stirred something low and deep inside him, something he’d long ago tried to put away. She brought out the worst in him, lit his fuse and make him feel like a bomb hot to explode.

“Every time you look in my eyes,” she said, as if she could read his mind, “you see yourself.”

Somehow, someway, as if she’d cast a spell on him, he forgot about Hannah, forgot about the kind of woman he was trying to convince himself he needed and moved toward her. He pressed against her, from her knees to her breasts, pulsed his hips against her and instantly went rigid with need.

He wanted inside her. Here. Now. “Who are you?” he growled.

“What you see is what you get,” she whispered.

He wanted to see all right and feel every part of her. He lifted her shirt and splayed his hand over her stomach, lost himself in the feel of her, all soft and firm at the same time, under his hands. Her lips parted and her warm breath mingled with his in the cold night air. His mouth hovered a hairsbreadth from hers. One of them moved and their lips touched, softly, then harder and harder still. Their teeth clicked and their tongues clashed.

Then he scraped his knee against the rough brick, piercing his awareness. In a back alley, he was pressing a woman up against a wall like no more than a rutting deer. She had his number all right.

He jumped away and threw his hands up in the air. She fell back, looking as dazed as he felt. He would’ve expected her to smile, to leer at him, triumphant in her victory. Instead, she wouldn’t meet his gaze.

He took a deep breath of cold night air, clearing what felt like a fog from his brain. “I’m sorry—”

“Don’t!” She turned away and, before slamming the back door to Duffy’s in his face, whispered, “You’re like every cop I’ve ever known. Taking what you want without giving a shit who gets hurt.”