Authors: Kristen Ashley
“Marriott Towneplace Suites on Speer.”
“The old Hirschfeld Press building?”
I nodded, stil feeling a bit dizzy from the kiss and warm and cozy pressed up against his hard body, even though the vodka-stained jacket had fal en off my shoulders.
“Sunshine, open your eyes,” he whispered.
I opened my eyes and he was grinning at me.
“Now I have another question.”
I’d already said too much.
I fought against the Naughty Girl Martini pul , his hand at my hip slid around my waist and held me close. The other one went to my neck.
I lost my fight against the Naughty Girl Martini pul .
“Why’d you thank Indy before you left Fortnum’s?” I stared at him for a second, not remembering, then I remembered.
As this wasn’t a dangerous question, I answered.
“She brought Uncle Tex to me.”
His arm tightened and his thumb slid across my jaw.
“How’s that? You two are close.”
I shook my head, “Until today, I’d never met him.” He blinked, slow.
“Seriously?” he asked.
My hands moved to press against his chest but he didn’t move away. I gave up and left my hands where they were.
“Seriously. We’ve been writing to each other since I was a little girl, but we’d never met. He cut the family off after he got back from the war. He talked only to me and only through letters.”
“Christ,” Hank muttered.
“He’s been writing about you al for months and I know Indy got him off his block and gave him a job. I thought it was time to try and see him and I’m hoping I can get him back to the family.”
His eyes locked on mine.
“That why you’re here?”
It wasn’t, not entirely. It was too important to lie about so I didn’t answer at al .
“Have you asked him to go home with you?” Hank went on.
I nodded. “Kind of but he’s not ready yet.”
“I expect you won’t give up.”
I shook my head.
“Good girl,” he whispered.
His approval felt like he’d wrapped his jacket around me again.
“Wil you let me go now?”
His hand slid along my neck and then into my hair from the bottom to cup the back of my head.
“After you promise me you’l be at the Marriott tomorrow at six thirty when I come to pick you up.”
“I promise,” I fibbed with great remorse. I was going to be nowhere near the Marriott even though I wished I could be.
He shook his head.
“You know I’m a cop?”
“You know Lee owns a private investigation service?” My brows drew together but I nodded again.
“You know al the boys on his payrol are experienced bounty hunters?”
My eyes widened. I didn’t know
“Why are you tel ing me this?”
“‘Cause, you aren’t at the Marriott, I’l find you or one of them wil and they’l bring you to me.”
My throat closed with fear and I swal owed hard to open it.
Boy, was I in trouble.
“Why?” I asked.
“You know why.”
I did. I knew why. I knew exactly why.
“Sunshine, promise me now and mean it.”
I thought about it. I could have dinner with Hank. Then it would be done. Then I’d find a time to tel Uncle Tex my plan, I’d place the breadcrumbs for Bil y to find me and go back to Chicago with him. Then, I’d get my stash of clothes and money from Annette and, with Uncle Tex’s help, I’d disappear for long enough for Bil y to forget me and move on.
And, in the meantime, I could have a pleasant memory, a nice meal with a handsome guy.
“Okay, I promise to be at the hotel.”
I thought that’d be it, but his lips came down to mine, his hand at the back of my head tilting my face up and he kissed me again. It was a repeat of the first, but better (if it could be believed).
When we finished, my arms were around his neck again.
“I’m gonna have to ask you to stop kissing me,” I whispered and, even to myself, I didn’t sound very convincing with my request.
“I’m not gonna stop kissing you, but I’l wait until tomorrow night to do it again.” His hand fisted gently in my hair and his mouth went to my ear. Then he said, “And, as soon as I can, I’m gonna taste more than your lips.” Good God. My head went dizzy, my breasts swel ed again, my nipples got hard and my knees went so weak, I had to hold on tight.
“You’re moving too fast,” I whispered.
He kissed my neck then lifted his head and looked at me.
“Sweetheart, I intend to move so fast, you’l be dizzy,” he promised.
It was way too late for that.
I was laying on a couch at Fortnum’s, feet up on the armrest, knees bent, eyes closed, arm over my face, not caring if the customers thought I was a nutcase. I was listening to Bruce Springsteen singing “
” on my MP3 player, waiting for Uncle Tex to finish work and trying to forget last night.
After Hank took me back inside Indy’s house, I accepted martini number five, or Stupid Girl Martini. If memory served, I spent the rest of the evening standing next to Hank, giggling myself sil y. And, I think I might have even spent some of that time holding his hand.
Luckily, before I could get to martini number six, or Puking Girl Martini, Uncle Tex took me back to my hotel. I laid in bed until the room stopped spinning and fel asleep.
I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by a truck. I stood under the shower until I could pry open my eyes without them burning gaping holes into my skul . I did my massive Get Ready Preparations, ful on makeup and flippy hair. I opted for jeans because everything went with jeans and I didn’t have the brain capacity to pul together a complete outfit. It was a Monday, Hank would be working and I wouldn’t run into him. I didn’t need to be Glamorous High Maintenance Girl until six thirty that night.
I topped the jeans with a fitted, white, col arless shirt that buttoned up the front and had several rows of miniature ruffles along the chest. I completed this with a Me&Ro choker on my neck and Me&Ro dangly hoops at my ears and a pair of silver bal et flats.
I stumbled into Fortnum’s after maneuvering the four lanes of traffic on Broadway and Uncle Tex, Duke and Indy al looked up at me through the line of customers.
“Shit, girl,” Uncle Tex grinned as I made it to the counter, cutting in front of everyone and not giving a good God damn.
“Coffee,” I breathed.
“Hey, I’m next,” the man at the front of the line said.
I turned to him.
“I had five martinis last night and kissed a seriously hot guy I barely knew.
,” I told him.
“You can go first,” he said.
I got my caramel latte and found out why Indy hired Uncle Tex. The latte was sublime.
“Uncle Tex, this is beautiful,” I told him.
“You got foam on your mouth,” he said.
I licked it off.
Duke was staring at me.
Then he looked at Tex. “Couldn’t we have, like, maybe a week before the next one rol ed in the door?”
“Gotta take life as it comes,” Uncle Tex said with a shrug.
I looked between them.
“What are they talking about?” I asked Indy, taking another sip.
She was digging in her purse. She pul ed out a pil bottle, shook out two ibuprofens and handed them to me.
“Tex tel you about Jet’s troubles?” she asked.
I sucked down the pil s with another gulp of latte. “You mean the rapist and the loan shark and her Dad being in the hospital after being thrown from a moving car?” The eyes of the customer next to me bugged out of his head.
I ignored him and Indy did too.
She said, “Wel , that al finished up on Friday. You came in on Sunday. Seein’ as you and Hank, um… seem to be, um—”
I interrupted her, “Yeah, and…?”
“Wel , I think Duke’s a little gun shy.”
“Gun shy, hel . Hank is fucked,” he looked at me. “No offense but you’re gonna run him through the mil , I can tel .
And no doubt, we’l al get ground up with him.” I blinked.
“I’m only in town for a couple of days,” I said.
“I can see it comin’,” Duke said.
“Hal elujah!” Uncle Tex boomed. “No lag this time, keep
‘im hoppin’, darlin’ girl, that’s what I say.” I looked to Indy.
“I think I might throw up,” I told her.
“Hungover?” she asked.
She laughed again but I couldn’t figure out what was so funny.
At that point, Daisy powered in the door wearing a hot pink, velour, skintight, Juicy Couture track suit with the top’s zipper unzipped to what could only be cal ed the Cleavage Danger Zone and a braided terry cloth bandana around her forehead, looking like Dol y Parton halfway morphed into Jackie Stal one, but younger.
“Hey Roxie! Popped by to see if you wanted to do a power walk with me while Tex is working,” she said.
My stomach roiled. “I’m going to get a cheeseburger,” I replied.
Cheeseburgers (with fries) were the only hangover cure I knew that worked. It only lasted fifteen minutes after the last fry was chewed and swal owed, but it was fifteen minutes of nirvana.
Daisy frowned. “Sugar bunch, cheeseburgers kinda defeat the purpose of a power walk.”
How did these people avoid hangovers? They’d al been right with me, drink for drink. It was unreal.
I figured it had to be the altitude.
“Maybe you can power walk to the burger place and back,” Indy suggested.
“Maybe you can power walk to Siberia and stay there,” Duke put in.
I turned and scowled at Duke.
“Shee-it,” he said when he caught my scowl. “Hank is fucked.”
“Hank’s gonna be fucked, you ask me,” Daisy giggled and it sounded like tinkling bel s.
“I’ve entered a loony bin,” I told another unwitting customer, this one a female.
“It’s always like that around here,” the customer replied.
“That’s why I come, it’s like walking into a sitcom that could only air on HBO.”
I wasn’t getting a good feeling about this.
Daisy grabbed my arm and power-walked me the few blocks to a fast-food burger joint on the corner of Broadway and Alameda.
While we were standing in line waiting for my order which consisted of an ultra-sized cheeseburger meal and four extra orders of ultra-sized fries, she said to me, “Al right, tel Daisy
“About what?” I asked.
“About whatever’s making your eyes sad.”
Holy cow. Was I that obvious?
“Nothing’s making me sad,” I lied.
She looked at me for a while. The counter guy passed me my bag and then she said, “When you’re ready to talk, I’m here, comprende?”
She let it go. Left it at that and I liked her al the more.
Though not enough to share, but I did feel badly about it.
We walked back a lot slower, mainly because I was consuming my ultra-sized cheeseburger meal and Daisy was programming phone numbers into my cel phone (just in case).
When we got to Fortnum’s I handed out the fries, sucked down my diet cola (because even if I’d just hoovered through an ultra-sized meal, there was a girlie law that said you had to have it with a diet drink) and ordered another caramel latte.
The customer crush was mostly gone, Daisy and Indy were talking at the book counter, Duke had disappeared and Uncle Tex was alone behind the espresso machine.
“I’m takin’ it that your loser boyfriend is your loser fuckin’
ex-boyfriend since you were holdin’ hands with Hank last night.”
I sighed. “Can we talk about it later?”
“Got a lot of respect for Hank, he’s good people. Tel me you’re done with that weasely motherfucker.”
“I’m done with Bil y, I’ve been done with him for a long time. He’s just not done with me. I’m having dinner with Hank but only because he’s persuasive—”
“I bet,” Uncle Tex broke in.
“It’s just dinner. Nothing more, not until I can finish up with Bil y.”
“Dinner may be just dinner in Chicago but it ain’t in Denver. These boys don’t fuck around, you know what I’m sayin’?” Tex asked.
I’d already learned that.
He went on anyway. “Indy was livin’ with Lee after ‘bout
. Jet was with Eddie from my count, after less than a week. The way Hank’s lookin’ at you, I’m guessin’ less than forty eight hours.”
He continued. “I’m your fuckin’ uncle and I like that boy enough to say I’d be doin’ cartwheels, you end up with him.” Boy was I in trouble.
“We’l talk about it later, okay?”
He stared at me awhile then he said, “Hang out in here for a few hours then we’l go someplace and talk. I don’t want you wanderin’ off and gettin’ abducted or car bombed.”
My eyes bugged out and he shrugged. “It’s been known to happen.”
I settled into the couch, chose Springsteen and made it through “
Incident on 57th Street
” and was enjoying “
” even though my hangover had come back with a vengeance when I felt movement beside me on the couch and something pressed against my hip.
My eyes opened.
Hank was sitting next to me, his hip against mine.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
For some reason, this made him smile and my stomach clutched.