Copyright Amy L. Montz
Two minutes later, I slid the security chain in place, let out a sigh of relief, and glanced down at Artful. “We’re safe now, honey. Momma protected us.”
Artful, wise boy that he was, just headed straight to his water bowl.
“You’re absolutely right. Momma needs some water, too.” I walked into the kitchen and chugged a bottle of water. He must be one of Gasconi’s men, trying to make contact. That would explain why he was so big. He was muscle, plain and simple. So if he was working for the old man, then…
Oh God. What if he wasn’t with the old man? I ran into the living room, grabbed my cell phone, and scrolled through the numbers before I found the one I was looking for. “Dominic?”
There was a pause. “March?”
“It’s me. Listen, something weird just happened.” I picked up Artful and put him on my lap. “This guy followed me home from the coffeehouse.”
“You okay?” he asked. “Tell me what happened.” I relayed the details, giving myself more credit than I deserved, perhaps. “Hold on.” A few moments later, he came back on the line. “I sent a car to check out your neighborhood. Give me a description again.” When I was done, he sighed. “Are you okay? Do you want to come to the station?”
“No, that’s all right. It just… it just shook me up is all, especially after our conversation last night.”
“Sorry about that. I didn’t want to scare you.”
“No, it’s fine.” Lying was apparently becoming my strongest suit. “Thanks, Dominic.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll call you later to check up on you.”
After I hung up, I stared around my apartment, itchy to do… something, anything, to get the Mafia out of my head. So like any woman itchy with fear, I cleaned. I finished my laundry, dusted, wiped down my baseboards and polished my wood floors. When I was finished, it was close to noon and I was still itchy.
“Come on, Art.” I clipped his leash on. “Let’s go outside so you can take care of business.”
We took a long walk, and when Artful was done with his business, I reached down to follow the law when a large black car pulled up and idled at my curb. I cocked my head at it. They couldn’t expect to… no, they couldn’t possibly…
Bit, the Gasconi muscle, rushed over, followed the law for me, and gave me a nod. “Good day, Ms. Sanderson.” He held the package arm’s length away, got into the car, and sped down my street.
“He really did it,” I said to Artful. “The Mafia really just cleaned up after you.”
Artful just romped after a lizard, unimpressed.
I checked my cell phone when I got back inside and was surprised to see that I had only twenty-four new voicemails.
“That’s good news,” I said to Artful. “The family’s slacking off.”
There was a long hesitation, and then the sound of faint laughter. The message ran for about a minute before the line clicked off.
I had the strangest feeling in my stomach that I couldn’t shake.
Timed exactly two minutes after the first.
Another long hesitation, before man’s voice breathed, “Nathalie.” More laughter.
“Message three.” Two minutes later.
A different man’s voice whispered, “We’re watching you, bitch.”
I backed into my couch and sat down with a thud. When I stared down at my hand, I wasn’t at all surprised to find it shaking.
Fourth message, two minutes later. Heavy breathing, soft laughter, and the simple, “Scared yet?”
I ran into my bedroom and pulled out my gun before I walked through my apartment, checking every window, every closet, and every possible hiding space.
My apartment was empty.
I walked back to the machine and started skipping ahead. Fifth message, heavy breathing. Sixth message, soft laughter. Thirteenth message: “When you getting home, Nathalie March Sanderson?”
But the last message, the one that forced me back to the couch, my arms wrapped tight around me, was the longest.
“Nathalie March Sanderson’s coming home now in red pants and black shirt, red hair in ponytail and dog on a red leash. She’s walking down the hall and she’s putting the key into the lock.” Pause. Laughter. “See you soon, bitch.”
I went to the front door and shoved a kitchen chair under the doorknob. After I settled back on the couch, gun lying nearby, Artful climbed onto my lap and I pressed a kiss to his head before I grabbed my cell phone, my hands shaking as I scrolled for Dominic’s number. Might as well just program it into speed dial.
“Dominic, it’s March again,” I said when he answered.
“March, what’s wrong? What happened?” After I played him the first few phone messages, he was silent for a minute. “I’m sending my partner over now. His name is Bobby Walcheski. He’ll show you his badge through the peephole, and then his ID. Only then do you let him in the house.”
I sniffled into the phone. “Thank you.”
Ten minutes later, there was a knock at my door. I looked through the peephole and saw a short, wiry man with spiky chestnut-colored hair.
“March Sanderson? It’s Bobby Walcheski.”
“I’m supposed to see your badge and ID,” I said through the closed door. When he put his badge in front of the peephole, I said, “Okay, now ID.” He did the same and I moved the chair so I could open the door. “Hey. Thanks for coming,” I said as he walked in, trying not to loom over him too much.
“No problem.” He smiled and crinkles appeared in the corners of his eyes. “Where’s your cell phone?”
“Over here,” I said, walking into the living room. He was probably in his late twenties, but his baby face and the fact that he was three inches shorter than me made him look about eighteen.
He looked over at me and I noticed the sprinkle of freckles across his nose. “So Reggianno tells me you’re from Louisiana.” His accent was thicker than Dominic’s, the cadence less rhythmic. If I had to guess, Dominic’s parents were first or second-generation American. The inflections in his voice were flavored with a European dialect. Bobby, however, was strictly Midwestern. “What’s it like down there?”
He laughed and the crinkles at the corners of his hazel eyes grew deeper. Bobby smiled a lot, it seemed. He started walking through my apartment, checking the windows and doors. “Chicago gets hot.”
“Not like home. So you’re Dominic’s partner?”
“Yeah. We’ve known each other forever.” He rattled my bedroom window and nodded, satisfied. “Grew up together, our mothers are in Catholic Daughters together, my sister knows his sisters, the works.”
I drank in his ease, his quick smiles and crinkly eyes, before I leaned against my wall. “So you’re the good cop.”
“Oh come on, Reggianno isn’t still playing bad cop with you, is he? He knows better.”
“Of course not. I’m a woman. That would defeat the purpose of the big brown eyes and the heartbreaking smiles.”
Bobby eyed me, the hazel flashing, for one second, green. “Is that what you think?”
“Well, the men in my family have big blue eyes and heartbreaking smiles of their own. I’ve seen it work my entire life.” And Dominic’s had worked entirely too well on me, act or no.
Bobby burst into laughter and it was completely unaffected. He was adorable, I had to admit. A “scrapper,” as Ava would say. “I’m going to go and take care of this. Is there anything I can do for you before I leave?”
“No. Thanks so much, Detective Walcheski.”
He shook his head. “Just Bobby. Detective Walcheski was my… charming father.”
And I read him, knew him intimately with that one statement. I looked down at the scar on his right hand, cutting deep into the knuckles, and I knew that at some point in his childhood, he fought back, and it changed him forever.
I glanced up from his hand to his face and saw his mouth set in a hard line. “Sorry?”
“Window,” he said, lifting his fist. “He was quicker than I was.”
A blush spread across my cheeks. He had noticed me staring. “I’m so sorry. I…”
He shrugged. “Reggianno told me you had this weird, freaky perceptive thing going on.”
“It’s a curse.” And apparently unappealing if words like “freaky” were any clue.
A faint smile crossed his face. “Well, let us know if you need something.”
After he left, I put Portishead on my MP3 player and cranked the volume. Beth’s voice filled my apartment as I filled my tub with steaming hot water and half a bottle of bubble bath. It was humid and safe, like early fall in Louisiana, just before the slight chill of October settled in for bonfires and crackling leaves.
Beth’s smoky voice started to do its trick and lulled me towards sleep. Even Artful seemed quiet there on the tile next to the tub. Remy always said I had a thing for women who sang with two-packs-a-day scratched voices. He also claimed that it was why I smoked.
“Too much Billie and Beth in my life,” I said to Artful without opening my eyes. “You’re going to have to get used to…” my voice trailed off as I heard my puppy’s nails clatter on the tile. I was just pulling the towel off my face when I heard the knock at the door.
So much for a sleepy evening in the bath. I had just wrapped a towel around me when a knock sounded again. “Just a minute!” I called as I ran towards my bedroom. My still-wet feet skidded a bit on the wood floors.
“Hold on!” The knock became more insistent and the phone rang. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” I said under my breath as there was even more pounding on the door. Fine. I ran to the door but paused, my fingers on the doorknob as I remembered all the recent weirdness in my life. I peered through the peephole, half-expecting some large muscled man in dark sunglasses.
Substitute law enforcement for Mafia muscle. “Hi,” I said, swinging open the door for Dominic. “Sorry. I was worried you were the Mafia or something.”
Dominic pulled his cell phone away from his ear, gave me a long look and cleared his throat.
I closed my eyes for one brief second. “I’m still wearing a towel, huh?” When a little choked sound escaped Dominic’s throat, I ran to the bedroom, clutching the towel closer to me. “Just give me a minute to get dressed,” I said over my shoulder, my cheeks flaming. Stupid, stupid, Sanderson.
I heard him whistling. “Stop grinning, damn you!” I yelled through the door. I pulled on a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt and pulled my wet hair into a ponytail. Suitably dressed, for once, I headed back into the living room.
Dominic was on the floor playing with Artful, drinking a beer from the fridge. “Well at least you didn’t hit me with the door this time.”
My cheeks flooded with heat again. “Shut up.”
“What is it, twice now?” He teased Artful with his Kong.
“I have guns, Reggianno, as in plural. More than one.” I was going to lock myself in my room for the rest of my life in embarrassment, honest to God.
“Where are we going?” I asked, grabbing my purse. “Do you have a lead?”
“This is not a lead. This is a pub,” I said as we walked through the doors and looked around at the bar, all mahogany wood and gleaming brass fixtures.
“Best reubens in town,” Dominic agreed. “That’s a lead. Plus, they give officer discounts.” We managed to grab a booth in a corner near the window and Dominic handed me a menu.
We ordered sandwiches and beers and I looked at Dominic who just looked tired. His face was darkened by stubble and his hair seemed more tousled than normal. I resisted the urge to run my fingers through that hair and straighten it out. “Everything okay?”
He ran a hand through his hair. “Long night and an even longer day. I got worried about you holed up in that apartment.”
After the waitress dropped off our beers, I slumped down in the booth. “I didn’t mean to make your day worse.”
He shook his head. “Not like that, kid. I just thought you might want to get out of the house.” He took a sip of beer and sighed. “We couldn’t find anyone matching the man’s description in your neighborhood and there’s not much we can do about the phone calls. I would say to get your number unlisted, but that would be counter-productive now.”
“Do you think there’ll be more?” I fiddled with a coaster.
“It’s possible,” he said. “I don’t know if the man and the phone calls are related, but we’ll see. Who else have you met since you’ve moved?”
“You, Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham, my landlords. Let’s see… Vanessa, the future student, Bobby today, Jackson, and the sisters at Our Divine Mother, of course.”
He grimaced at the mention of the school and his fingers twitched on the table. “Well I think we can rule out everyone but Jackson, and he’s up in the air. Keep an eye out for him.”
“I will, but just don’t tell my brothers all of this. They’ll hop on the first plane from Baton Rouge and drag my ass back home.”
“Hey, speaking of Baton Rouge, what’s this about Tiger Stadium?”
I exploded into a coughing fit. My finger twitched against the table as I tried to regain oxygen. “My brothers did not tell you that. There’s no way they would blab about that.”
“They told me to ask you about it, see what you would do.” He peered over at me. “You know, they’re right. You do develop a tic in your cheek when I say….” He paused and kept his eyes rooted on my face. “Tiger Stadium.”
I pressed my finger down on my cheek to stop the tic, which happened again. “I’m not telling you anything. That story is going with me to the grave.”
“Aw, come on. I want to hear a story about little Nathalie March.”
“Keep wanting, buster. I’m taking the fifth.”
“I could force you to tell me,” he said, rolling his beer bottle in his hands. “I have the power of the law on my side.”
“Like I didn’t hear that threat every day of my life? No going, Reggianno. You’re not hearing about the Tiger Stadium fiasco. That’s between me and God.” Well, and some other assorted people, but no more than seventy thousand. It was before the extra seating addition after all.
“There must be something you could tell me.” He chewed on the bottom corner of his lip. “I’ve had this Tiger Stadium story dangled in front of me all day and now, I’m just sitting here, frustrated.”
Heavens to Betsy, I felt like I was having a hot flash. I cleared my throat and took a gulp of beer. “Well, there was senior prom.”
“What happened at senior prom?”
“You try smuggling alcohol into a limo with twenty-six police officer relatives and tell me about senior prom.”
“Did your brothers catch you?” he asked.
“No, Sister Rose, God bless her rotten soul, caught me and called my brothers. Who then called everyone else.”
He leaned forward and tapped my hand. “Hey, you ordered a reuben. I thought you didn’t eat meat.”
God, who was this sweet, this attune to a near-stranger’s moods? My skin felt too tight all of a sudden, stretched over muscle and blood and bone too big for it. I was falling for the freaking detective on my case. Great job, Sanderson. “How could you…” I cleared my throat and tried to make my voice less squeaky. “How could you ever think something so horrible as that?”
He relaxed back in his seat, job done, apparently. “You didn’t want pepperoni. I thought you were a wacky vegetarian or something.”
“No wackiness. Just anti-meat on pizza. It ruins the pizza taste.” No, it wasn’t just sweetness. It was empathy. Not nearly as strong as Remy’s, but there all the same. Reggianno made detective young because he could read people, and read them well. No wonder he warred between coldness and amusement at the hospital. He had known I was innocent from the start. I was sure of it. But that meant that someone else hadn’t thought I was innocent, which was almost worse.
After we finished eating, I excused myself and was almost to the small white sign proclaiming “restrooms” when I felt a hand at my elbow.
I froze for the tiniest of seconds before I glanced up into the man’s face. He was probably in his early fifties, with a thick head of graying hair and a gray goatee. He looked friendly enough, but then, so did all scary men these days.
“You are March Sanderson, right?” He gave me a smile and wrinkles creased in the corners of his eyes and mouth.
I eased my arm away from his. “Sir?”
“Sorry, of course.” He shook his head and removed his wire-rim glasses. “I’m George Callaghan. My daughter, Patricia, will be one of your students next semester.”
“I’m glad to meet you, sir, I just don’t see how…”
He chuckled and gestured over his shoulder. “Patricia and Vanessa Holladay are friends.”
I glanced over his shoulder and saw two teenaged girls giving me enthusiastic waves and smiles. One was Vanessa, my clerk from the pet store. The other was a cute young girl with uniform walnut coloring. With hair, eyes, and skin the color of light toast, she looked a lot like the older woman sitting next to her, who was nodding and smiling at me as well. I waved and smiled back at all of them before I turned to Mr. Callaghan. “I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Patricia yet, but Vanessa was just charming.”
“You’ll get the pleasure of Patricia soon enough. She’s a good girl. A little anxious about grades, but…”
“What AP student isn’t?” I held out my hand. “Nice to meet you, sir.”
“You as well,” he said, shaking my hand. “And it’s George. Have you meet the Holladays yet? No? They’re great people. Paul Holladay is the president of the Parents’ Club. Really involved with the school. We all are, really.” He had a beautiful voice with a fascinating accent. Chicago with a tinge of the Northeast. Probably went to college on the east coast.
“I wouldn’t expect anything else.” I leaned against the wood-paneled wall and looked up at him. “Parental involvement is so important to a great school.”
He leaned in a bit and I noticed that he was only a few inches taller than me. “Listen, I just wanted to say how delighted we are to have you on staff in the fall.”
I shifted my weight from one foot to the other and wondered what kind of “recruiting” Sister Regina had really done to get me this job. “It’s all the girls, sir. Really. I just sit back and watch them discover their brilliance.”
He shook his head. “Our scores have been lower than St. Agnes’ for years now, and I think this is finally going to be our year, thanks to you. The parents’ club is quite willing to do anything to beat St. Agnes.”
“St. Agnes is Divine Mother’s rival school. Sports, academics, you name it, we’re in contest over it.”
I gave him a little smile. “You’re very involved, aren’t you?”
“My wife went to Divine Mother. Both of my daughters have gone. My son and I went to St. Michael’s, which is Divine Mother’s brother school. It’s hard not to get sucked in.”
“Well, I will certainly try my best.”
“I have absolutely no doubt.” He shook my hand again. “Vanessa just adored you. When she saw you, she just raved about you to Patty.”
I paused for a second. “Did she, ah, mention anything about the dog?”
His brow wrinkled a bit before it cleared out. “Yes, she did. She said that this morning, she went to work and the puppy was sold. She assumed that you came in after her shift and bought it.”
“Yes,” I said, a little disappointed that there wasn’t more info. “I got the puppy.”
“Well, March, if you need anything, you just let me know.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card. “Since you’re new to the area, you might want suggestions on restaurants or directions or things of that nature. My wife Evie and I will be more than happy to oblige. Anything you need, you just give us a call.”
The card in my hand read “GEORGE C. CALLAGHAN, FINANCIAL CONSULTANT.” There were phone numbers for both his office and his cell phone. I pocketed it. “Thanks so much, Mr. Callaghan.”
“It’s George,” he said, giving me a slight smile. “And my wife is Evie. Take care.”
I got back to the table to find Dominic smoking a cigarette and staring off into space. “Sorry for taking so long,” I said as I slid into the booth. “But you’re not going to believe what happened.”
“What’s that?” he asked, his eyes coming into focus.
“I just ran into one of my future students’ parents. Can you believe that?”
“So how did the parent know you were his daughter’s future teacher? Psychic friends’ network?”
“No network. Remember I told you that I ran into the girl yesterday? Well, she’s friends with one of my other future students, and Vanessa and Patricia are at dinner with Patricia’s…” my voice trailed off as I watched Dominic’s face grow hard. “Oh God,” I said. “What now?”
“Patricia?” he asked in a strange voice. “What’s her last name?”
“Callaghan,” I said. “And her father is–”
“George Callaghan.” Dominic sucked in a breath. “You’re really not kidding, are you?”
I pulled out the card from Mr. Callaghan and handed it to Dominic. “He gave me this,” I said. “Told me to call him for anything I need.”
Dominic choked on that long breath and spent a minute coughing. “He did, huh?”
“Who the hell is he?” I asked, although I was pretty sure I knew.
Dominic slipped the card into his pocket and leaned back in the booth. “He’s the second biggest mob boss around here,” he said. “The biggest being–”
“Big Tony Gasconi.” I stared down at my hands, not at all surprised to find them clenched. “And you think the Callaghans are the ones who are after Tony. The ones whose hit I interrupted.”
Dominic didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to say anything. He just threw some money on the table, pulled out of the booth, and escorted me to the door. I gave the Callaghans one final look before I walked out. George Callaghan was regarding me with an interesting smile on his face. Something between concern and triumph. A cold chill ran down my spine that I was pretty sure had nothing to do with the sudden change in temperature as we stepped outside.
When we walked upstairs to my apartment, I ran into a sleepy Mrs. Cunningham, who chatted with me for a bit while Dominic headed towards my door. When I approached Dominic, I saw he had a note in his hand.
“What’s that?” I said, nudging my chin towards the paper in his hand.
He opened the envelope and was quiet for a minute before he read the note out loud. “‘You’re safe now. Don’t worry,’” he read. He turned to me, his face hard. “Give me your key.”
I handed it to him with shaking fingers. Dominic walked into my house, gun drawn, and checked everything while I stood near the door with my puppy.
He popped his head out. “It’s okay.”
When I put Artful down, he scurried off to his food bowl, so I sat down at the table and put my head in my hands.
“March–” Dominic began.
“Do you want coffee?” I popped out of my chair. “I need coffee. You want some?”
He nodded and sat down at the table. After I brewed some coffee and put the cream and sugar on the table, I brought over two mugs and handed Dominic one. He took a sip and sighed. “You really make great coffee.”
I settled at the table, my cup cradled in my hands. “It’s not me, it’s the coffee. My mother sent me with a boatload of chicory before I moved, and promised to ship it to me when I run low.” I was babbling about coffee, freaking coffee when I had just met a Mafia don. Hysterical laughter bubbled in my throat. “God, what do I do if Patricia Callaghan gets a C on a paper? Is the Mafia going to break my kneecaps over better–”
“March,” Dominic interrupted. “Calm down.”
“And God, the voicemails. Do you think it was the Callaghans? Are they following me around?” I pressed my voicemail icon and speakerphone. “Are they trying to get back at me for…”
“March, it’s Ava,” my best friend said on voicemail, interrupting my nervous tirade. “I think I felt the baby move today. God, why the hell aren’t you here? Little Anne-Marie or Jacob moved, Sanderson.”
A sudden calm washed over me. I still had a life that didn’t involve police investigations or the Mafia.
“Or maybe it’s just gas,” Ava continued. “That’s what Jordan thinks, anyways. So, godmother-to-be, call me the second you get this. Jordan says he’s not surprised you got shot, by the way. He’s just surprised it took you this long. Love you.”
“Jordan?” Dominic asked as I deleted the message. “I think I talked to a Jordan in Baton Rouge.”
“Yet another Sanderson brother,” I told him. The centered calmness didn’t dissipate with his interruption, but it did bring reality back to the surface. I let the second message play.
“Natty Bumpkin, it’s me. How’re the race relations going?”
“Huh,” Dominic said. “Natty Bumpkin?”
I deleted Remy’s message before I turned back to the kitchen. “My twin’s called me that since we were in the womb. So talk Callaghan to me.”
But Dominic didn’t seem to want to talk about that. He didn’t seem to want to talk about anything. We finished our coffee in silence before he spoke again. “It was taped on your door,” he began, his eyes a little unfocused. “And that meant someone knew when you weren’t home….”
“Someone like Callaghan?” But why the hell would Callaghan try to keep me safe? It was too much, all at once and much, much too quickly. Gasconis. Callaghans. Cop details. And let’s not forget Jackson trailing me home. Who in Chicago didn’t know me?
Dominic’s eyes retained focus and I recognized his expression. He had an “investigation” face on. “I’m going to go down to the station and take care of this. Can I do anything else for you before I go?”
I leaned over the table and pointed an accusing finger at him. “I don’t play these reindeer games. Tell me what in God’s name Callaghan has to do with this, and why I’m suddenly ‘safe.’”
“Let me figure this out, and then we’ll talk.” He yawned, half-covering his mouth with his fist, and the investigation face was replaced by an exhausted one.
The exhaustion was real, as was the slight confusion. He knew little more than I did, of that I was sure. “God, I’m so sorry for keeping you. You need to get some sleep,” I said, standing up. “You were up all night.”
“Yeah, I was,” he agreed. “Do you want me to crash on the couch for safekeeping when I’m done at the station? Or send a cruiser by to watch your house?”
Of course I wanted him to crash here. Living alone scared me on a normal day. Add in the messages and Mafia dons chatting me up at restaurants and I was considering getting a hotel room. But I bucked up. Besides, I was feeling a little vulnerable, he was more than a little sexy, and I didn’t see myself resisting temptation with those odds. I was a gambling woman, but not about premature intimacy. “I’m fine, really.”
He stood up and stretched, a small bit of his stomach flashing out from under his shirt. It was lean and muscled and very tan. I mentally reviewed my odds and my ability to resist temptation. “Good night, Nathalie March.”
Odds weren’t good enough, and definitely not in my favor. “Good night, Dominic…” I paused, looking up at him. “Dominic what?”
He gave me a sleepy smile. “Dominic Matthew.”
And then, I knew what was so attractive about him. There was something about Dominic Reggianno that implied sleepiness. The tousled hair, the sweet smile, the dark eyes, even the five o’clock shadow made me think late nights, early mornings, and bedroom. My left hand clenched so tight I felt my nails bite into my palm. “Good night then, Dominic Matthew.”
He walked out the door and I bolted it behind him, even put a chair under the knob as an added security measure. And then, I grabbed my cell phone and scrolled through the programmed numbers. It wasn’t too late, and my godfather should still be awake. If he couldn’t get me a concealed carry license, then I would beg, borrow, or steal one if I had to. One Mafia Family was too much. Two Mafia Families and I was carrying, license or no.
I was just about to dial out when the cell phone rang. I stared at the caller id in confusion. It was a Chicago number, but I didn’t recognize it. “Hello?”
“Don’t answer numbers you don’t recognize,” Dominic said. “And program this number into your phone. It’s my personal cell.”
“You safely away from this crazy situation?” I asked. Maybe Dominic could get me a concealed license. I was just about to ask him when he spoke again.
“You sure you’re okay?”
“I’ll be okay when I can sleep with the lights off. Thanks for dinner again. I’ll cook next time.” I paused for a second. “Hey, do you happen to know how–”
“Damn,” he interrupted.
“What?” I asked, a little panicked. “What’s wrong? Is George Callaghan outside?”
“Nothing, I just forgot to do something.”
There was a knock on my door and I jumped. “Shit, Dominic, there’s someone at my door.” I tiptoed over and looked through the peephole to see Dominic waggling his fingers at me. I hung up the cell, pulled the chair away, and opened the door. “That was a dirty, lowdown–”
He wrapped his arm around my waist, pulled me close, and placed a gentle kiss on my lips. I leaned into him, the kiss deepened, and I started to melt, honest to God melt against his warm chest. His arms wrapped tighter around me and I felt his fingers start to curve in at my spine. He tasted like his own heady mix of vanilla and sandalwood, of the beer he last drank and of something else, something warm and exciting. He tasted like… like first dates, like prom, like the night before moving into a new home. I fell deeper into the kiss and spiraled towards something new, something unknown, something I hadn’t experienced in a long time. He was attracted to me.
When I pulled back, I realized that my arms were around his neck and my fingers were curled in his soft hair.
“That’s what I forgot to do,” he said before he walked away.
I locked up behind him and trailed into the bedroom, my fingers playing along the walls. Artful looked up at me with sleepy chocolate eyes and I pulled him close to me. “Maybe this is a bad idea, Art.” My puppy wiggled up and licked my nose. “I mean, he’s a cop. And what’s the one thing your Momma always said? March, I said, never ever date a cop.”
Artful snuggled against my hip and started snoozing. I snuggled down and did the same.