Authors: Lacey Alexander
Their gazes locked; he looked just as surprised as she was. And was she imagining
this or did he appear just as emotional as she felt, too?
“Ginger,” he murmured.
And she was just about to move toward him, busy trying to think what on earth she
would say—when the door next to him burst open and a scary-looking tattooed guy with
greasy hair and a shiny goatee came charging out. His accent was thick as he said
to Rogan, “What the hell you think you’re doing, huh?” And faster than she could blink,
the Hispanic man had pulled a knife and was holding it at Rogan’s throat.
April couldn’t breathe. Her whole body went numb.
Get your phone.
Where is it?
She couldn’t think.
Pocket. Jacket pocket.
She’d stuck it there rather than in her purse just in case Kayla suddenly called
or texted. And somehow now she found the strength to wrest it from the pocket, though
her hands trembled like mad.
She heard Rogan and the guy with the knife arguing, and couldn’t believe how weak
she felt—it made her angry that she could barely operate her own damn phone. But finally
she managed to access the keypad and shakily press three numbers. 911.
“Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?”
And—oh God—the operator had spoken loudly enough, and right in between songs being
played over the sound system, that her voice reverberated through the air, catching
the knife guy’s attention. He looked up, clearly alarmed. “What the fuck?” He glared
at her, making sense of the situation. “You better drop that fucking phone right now,
bitch, or I cut him.”
April didn’t hesitate even a second—she let her cell phone clatter to the floor—a
split second before more music began to play.
“What the hell’s going on over here?”
The words came from just over her shoulder, startling her, and she turned to find
an older man she thought might be the owner, Rogan’s friend.
Then she looked back to see—oh Lord!—the owner’s arrival had surprised the knife guy
enough that, whether accidentally or on purpose, he’d sliced into Rogan’s neck. All
she could see was the bright blood seeping from the fresh wound, staining his white
h God! This couldn’t be!
And suddenly April wasn’t weak anymore. Because now nothing else mattered but the
rage inside her. She wouldn’t stand by and let some low-life loser hurt the man she
Without thought, she reached for a large terra cotta urn sitting as a decoration on
a ledge to her right and flung it at the knife-wielding hooligan for all she was worth.
She didn’t know how badly Rogan was hurt, but she wouldn’t just stand here and watch
things get worse, and she couldn’t have cared less what happened to her as a result.
“You crazy bitch!” the Hispanic guy yelled, turning toward her and then stepping back
a bit as the urn crashed to the floor in front of him, exploding into orangey bits.
But it gave Rogan the opportunity to put out his foot and trip the guy as he tried
to move forward again, and he crashed to the floor, facedown. April squealed in fear
the whole time—but the next thing she knew, Rogan’s shoe was planted squarely on the
guy’s back, his gun held in both hands, arms outstretched, as he pointed it at the
guy’s head. “Don’t fuckin’ move, asshole,” he said.
Meanwhile, the man who had approached was scrambling to pick up April’s phone, dialing
911 again and soon assuring everyone that more police were on the way—and he’d requested
medical assistance, too.
“Oh God, you’re bleeding so much!” April said, sickened and terrified by the horrible
sight. She had no medical training, but it seemed like a lot of blood to her, like
more all the time.
But Rogan met her gaze, looking surprisingly calm now as he said, “Don’t worry, Ginger,
I’ll be fine.” Then he added in a slightly lower tone, “
will be fine now—I promise.”
* * *
e was right—everything was fine. Even though April held her breath the entire time
two EMTs worked on him. She couldn’t seem to stop making hissing noises as she watched
one of them stitch up the cut in his neck—even though he looked totally at ease and
comfortable the entire time. The EMTs had wanted to take him to the hospital, but
he’d stubbornly refused, pretty much leaving them no choice but to do the stitches
on the spot.
“Maybe you shouldn’t watch this, babe,” he glanced over at her to say.
But she just shook her head. “No, given that you
be at the hospital, I’m not letting you out of my sight until I make sure you’re
He looked amused and maybe pleased—she couldn’t exactly tell but didn’t really care
at this point. She was far beyond hiding her feelings from him. And even if things
between them were over, she still loved the big lug and needed to be here with him,
him, right now—even if he didn’t need her there in return.
A few minutes later, the guy stitching up his neck said, “Okay, you’re good to go
for now.” Then he turned to April, passing her a few pieces of paper. “Just make sure
he follows these instructions and takes it easy for a couple days. He didn’t lose
a lot of blood, but enough that some rest is in order.”
Clearly the guy assumed they were a couple—which she could easily understand given
her behavior. “Um, okay,” she said quietly, feeling sheepish now.
Several uniformed policemen, all of whom knew Rogan, had already carted off the knife-wielding
guy—April had found out that he was Juan Gonzalez’s friend, the guy Rogan had been
trying to catch selling drugs all along. And apparently a significant amount of crack
had been found on the guy during the arrest, which only made things all the worse
for him and all the better for Rogan.
The restaurant had been cleared, of course, after the trouble had erupted, and when
the EMTs departed, April found herself sitting at a table with Rogan alone—back in
the place where everything between them had begun. So much had changed since then;
so much had happened. It was hard to believe. But she just tried to focus on this
moment and on being glad Rogan was safe, and in better shape than his bloody T-shirt
“I, um, guess you’ll need these,” she said, setting the EMT’s instructions on the
table and sliding them in his direction.
He turned toward her then, shifting his legs beneath the table so that they touched
hers. Oh God, it felt like so long since there’d been even the slightest physical
connection between them, and just feeling his denim-covered knee gently between both
of hers made her skin tingle. “Unless you want to come home with me, make sure I’m
Oh. Wow. She hadn’t expected that. But it was a good idea that made sense. And she
was glad he saw that. “Of course. I’d be happy to.” Then she cringed anew and said,
“I just hate seeing all that blood on your shirt. It upsets me.”
“Then we should head to my place right now and you can help me change it.” The playful
cock of his head, his soft grin, told her he was actually flirting with her—now of
But all things considered, she wasn’t sure what to do with that. She loved him, yes,
and she’d be there for him, of course—but even as much as she missed having him in
her life, she didn’t want to be lured back into a one-sided relationship where she
constantly felt like the one who wanted more, felt more, gave more. And it would be
easy to forget all that right now—but she just couldn’t let herself. So she simply
bit her lip, lowered her gaze, and said, “Yeah, sure.”
And she reached for her purse, thinking the time had come for them to get up and go—when
both his knees clamped tight around one of hers. “My childhood sucked, Ginger, okay?”
She flinched, totally taken aback. “Huh?”
He looked her in the eye now to say, “You want to know about my family—so all right,
here goes. My parents were physically abusive—they beat the shit out of me and my
little brothers all the time. They were alcoholics and the kind of people who shouldn’t
be allowed to have kids.
“We were poor, lived in an old ramshackle house a long way from town, and it was like . . .
being trapped with them there and never knowing what the next moment held. One minute
things were fine, the next all hell could break loose.
“Since I was the oldest, I was also the biggest, and the fact is, I didn’t get the
worst of it. Once I got big enough to start fighting back, they picked on my brothers
more than me. I tried to protect them the best I could, get between them when I could,
but I still spent a lot of time seeing my brothers get kicked and beaten for no reason.
The best I could do was take care of them afterward, bandage up their injuries, so
I got pretty good at that part. But it never felt like enough.”
He stopped then, sighed, and April felt the full weight of the things he was telling
her. And she understood now, completely, why he hadn’t wanted to before. Her own parents
had died and that was awful, but this was a whole
kind of awful that she could only begin to imagine.
“The upshot was—my brothers didn’t stand a chance in life. One of them is in prison
in Tennessee, the next youngest died of a drug overdose about five years ago, and
I don’t know
the hell my baby brother is because he took off when he was seventeen and I haven’t
heard from him since.”
April could barely breathe. Oh God, it was just too much to bear and now she felt
awful that she’d pressed him to tell her.
But still he went on. “My mother is dead—suspicious circumstances. I’m pretty sure
my old man drowned her in the bathtub. But nobody made much of a fuss because we lived
outside a run-down old town near Lansing where people didn’t care much, and I guess
she didn’t seem like much of a loss. I’d already left by then—and I didn’t go to the
funeral. As far as I know, he still lives in the same house, drinking himself to death.
Or maybe he’s dead by now and nobody let me know—I can’t say. And I don’t care.
“So that’s it. That’s the story of my family.”
April barely knew what to say. “I’m . . . so sorry, Rogan. For all of it. I wish I
could somehow make it better for you. And I’m sorry I pressed you to tell me.”
“It’s okay,” he said softly, stiffly.
“No, I’m not sure it is.” She really saw that now. That there had been good reasons
he didn’t want to tell her these things. And that maybe if she’d just been more patient
and understanding, he eventually would have in his own time. Which brought a question
to mind. “But . . . why are you telling me now?”
He didn’t answer right away, yet his knees still held hers tight. And then he reached
out past the corner of the table to take her hand. “Truth is, Ginger, I’ve missed
you. A lot.”
April drew in a deep breath. “You have?”
He let out a heavy sigh. “Hell . . . I’ve been going fucking crazy, okay? I . . .
like having you in my life. For more than just sex. The sex is fucking amazing, but . . .
there’s more to it than that, babe. And if you needed me to tell you all that in order
to keep you in my life—then that’s why I did it, why I told you. Okay?”
April still barely knew how to respond—it was so much to take in. But a joy, a sense
of real connection, deeper than anything she’d ever really known before in her entire
life, began to permeate her soul. She’d never actually had this before—a man she was
totally wild about, crazy in love with . . . who saw enough worth in her to come back,
make a real effort, do something to show that he must be pretty crazy about her, too.
She couldn’t quite believe it—and yet she did. Because as different as the two of
them were, there was just something about Rogan and her, together, that made sense.
They filled certain voids for each other. And she thought he was amazing.
“I’m so sorry I made you tell me, Rogan. I see now why it was hard. But . . . oh God,
I’m so happy you did. Because . . . it really means something to me. For you to trust
me that much.”
His glance dropped to the table. “So you don’t think I’m some low-class loser now
who you don’t want in your life?”
She let her eyes open wider on him, utterly stunned by the question. And realized
there had been perhaps more than one reason why he hadn’t been comfortable telling
her. So she said, “Are you crazy? I think you’re nothing short of incredible. To have
overcome so much. To do what you’ve done with your life. To be doing a job that helps
people.” She stopped, shook her head. “I’m blown away by how strong and wonderful
and perfect you are.”
She felt his gaze lock on her face then, along with the gravity of what she’d said
to him without quite having thought it through first.
“Perfect?” he said, sounding truly confused. “Damn. Don’t think that’s a word anybody’s
ever used to describe me before, Ginger.”
“Perfect,” she whispered, shyly lifting her eyes, “to me.”
She saw the sentiment pass through him, saw him absorbing it—his eyes changing, softening.
And when he spoke again, his voice had dropped to a whisper as well. “Really?”
She just nodded.
And his voice was back to normal when he said, “Aw hell, woman, the truth is—I think
I love you. All right? There, I said it. I fucking love you, April.”
April’s heart filled to overflowing as she rushed to say, “Oh, Rogan—Rogan, I love
And then Rogan reached for her—just before emitting a deep sound of pain, having stretched
his neck too abruptly—and April quickly said, “Be still. Stay where you are. Let
And as she moved gingerly onto his lap, he gave her a sexy grin to say, “Who’s the
boss here, Ginger?”
“Right now, me. You’re going to have to learn some give and take, mister.” And with
that, she wrapped her arms carefully around his neck and kissed him for all she was
They didn’t talk much for a few minutes after that—both of them more wrapped up in
kissing than talking—but Rogan seemed content enough with the concept of give and
take, and God knew he’d given of himself today, in a whole new way.
And April realized that while he’d been teaching her to give less of herself to people,
maybe she’d begun teaching him, helping him, to give a little more. And she knew all
this give-and-take stuff, all this control stuff, would balance itself out until they
both found the exact place where they were supposed to be—together.
Finally, after they’d kissed for so long that April’s lips felt a little sore, Rogan
said, “Come on, Ginger. Let’s go home and let you get me out of this shirt. Maybe
the pants, too,” he added with a wink.
“Just remember, you’re supposed to rest. So I’m calling the shots for now.”
“Wow, first you attack a drug dealer with a clay vase and now this. You’re starting
to scare me a little, babe.”
“Well, I wasn’t going to let him hurt you any worse than he already had.”
“I had no idea you were so tough,” he told her as they stood up to go. Yet then he
pulled up short. “But wait—yes I did. Sometimes I forget—you’re tough all the time,
with other people. Hell, the first time I saw you, you were throwing yourself in front
of Kayla Gonzalez, trying to protect her. You’re only your softer self with me. And
I love you for giving me that, baby.”
She smiled up at him. “I love you for
me give you that, my big bad wolf.”