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Authors: Tracie Puckett

Tags: #Romance, #Young Adult, #Contemporary

Just a Little Embrace

BOOK: Just a Little Embrace
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Just a Little
Embrace
| Tracie Puckett

Just a Little Series Part II

 

 

 

 

Just a Little
Embrace
. Copyright © 2012 by Tracie Puckett. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author.

 

 

Chapter One

Wednesday September 12

“Up and at ‘em, Little.
” Luke’s voice rang through my ears. He ripped the sheets from the bed and flipped on the lights. “You’ll have plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead. Now get up.”

I rolled over and checked the clock.

4
am
; just as I’d suspected.

I buried my face in the pillow and prayed my pink satin pajamas would be enough to keep me warm. Whether he liked it or not, I was
sleeping in.
And I didn’t need the
sheets
. Joke’s on him.

“Don’t even think about it,” he said, stomping to the side of the bed. He tucked his arms
under my body and
pulled me up. He swung my legs over the bedside and backed away. “You have five minutes. Use them wisely.”

And with that, Luke marched out of my bedroom, closing the door
behind him.

Across the room
,
I noticed the white sports bra and shorts I’d laid out the night befor
e.

Right.

Our run.

With ten hours to go before completing my job shadowing requirement for the Oakland High School senior project, my Uncle Charlie suggested
I forget about patrolling the streets and
start living the lifestyle required of a
ny
man—or in my case, woman—in uniform.

To me, that meant sitting around the Oakland PD break room all morning eating donuts and sipping coffee. To my mentor Luke, it meant waking up at an ungodly hour to get
in a five-mile run
to jump start the day.

I hadn’
t known Luke
long—two weeks to be exact—and each day we spent together came with its own set of surprises.

When it came to Officer Lucas Reibeck, there were
only
two things I
knew for certain
. One, there was no one in the world
who could hold a candle to his physical assets
. His dark hair, brown eyes, a
nd strong stature only lai
d
the groundwork
. And two, the crush I
’d
developed during my first ten hours of job shadowing
hadn’t subsided
. If anything, it had only grown by leaps and bounds.

“Three minutes, Little,” Luke said, tapping on the door.

I mustered the energy to stand and traipsed across the room to my workout attire. I stripped
my
pajamas to the floor and slid into the sports bra and workout shorts
before completing the ensemble with a pair of bright, pink tennis shoes.

I stopped at the mirror and ran a brush through my hair, meticulously styling it back into a ponytail. With a quick application of lip gloss and a single br
ush of mascara, I dubbed myself acceptable.

Yes, it was only a run. But it was a run with Luke, and I couldn’t squander a single opportunity to catch his eye.

I left the room and reminded myself that just d
own the hall, my cousin Matt was sleeping soundly. Lucky for him, he had another two hours of beauty rest before he’d have to get up and
be
ready for school.

I
took each step down the back staircase a little slower than the one before. When I finally reached the kitchen, Luke and Charlie looked up from the table with wide eyes.

“What are you wearing?” my Uncle Charlie asked, shielding his eyes. “For the love of God, go upstairs and put some clothes on.”

I looked down at my outfit and back up to the
men. “I thought we were running—”

“We are,” Luke interrupted, standing up and taking a step closer. I caught his eyes wonder
ing
down my torso for a brief moment before he looked up to meet my gaze. “I guess you’re ready then?”

“Guess so,” I said, turning to Charlie. “You comin’ with us?”

Still shielding his eyes, he shook his head and motioned for us to leave.

“He’s not comfortable with you baring so much skin,” Luke said as we walked out of the kitchen and through the living room to the foyer.

In
his
running shirt and black shorts, Luke looked just as irresistible as he did in his uniform—if not more. The way the material clung to his muscles made my heart flutter a bit off beat. And as I stood in front of the door, assessing his
shoulders and tight chest
with a mindful eye, I caught him
gazing
at me yet again.

“Is it that bothersome?” I asked. “Would you like
me
to go upstairs and put a shirt on?”

He closed his parted lips and shook his head. “I’m not sure we really have time for
that now, Little. I guess I’ll
have to suffer.”

With a quick wink and a light smirk, he walked out the door, leaving me
stunned in the doorway.

Was Luke flirting with me
?

The
morning sky was dark as night
, and the sun hadn’t
yet
begun to show.
I followed close behind
Luke
and met him on the sidewalk
, where he was
already bent over at the waist, touching his toes, and stretching
to prep himself
for the run. I stood and watched as he stretched, appreciating his
loyalty to everything he did.

“You need to warm-up, Julie,” he said, glancing up. “You’ll pay for it if you don’t
—”

“I’m young,” I said. “Stretching is for the elderly
—”

“How old do you think I am?”

“Old enough,” I said, not disguising my disappointment for a single moment.

Luke was old—every bit of twenty three, give or take a few months, making him six years older
, and in his opinion—six years too old for me.

I watched as he finished his stretch,
using each moment he was bent over to my full
visual
advantage. He finally stood and looked up at me, the street lights dancing off his brown eyes.

“You’re really not going to stretch?” he asked.

I smiled and shrugged, hoping that would be answer enough.

It was a five-mile run. How hard could that possibly be?

And before I had time to register another thought, Luke set off on his run.
I watched him
from the sidewalk, knowing I’d be s
colded if I didn’t soon follow, but t
ook
a brief moment to appreciate the alone time
we
’d spend together… even if that time was limited to complete exertion.

As I took my first step forward,
a light inside the
neighboring house
came
on,
attr
acting my immediate attention, and t
he face of a teenage girl appeared behind the curtain
of the downstairs window
. I
turned to watch her for a moment, looking on as she stared at me intently from inside the house.

It was odd to see her there in the first place, let alone at this hour.
The neighbors had moved out months ago, and last I heard
,
the house still hadn
’t
been
sold.
But
there was definitely someone
there.

And if I didn’t know any better
, I’d think she was watching me for a reason.

Wednesday
September 12
,
8
am

I was ready to die one mile into the run.

Luke hadn’t taken kindly to my complaining, especially when I whined about the pain in my legs and back.
You should’ve stretched, Little
, he’d said over and over.

Who knew running could be so difficult?

Now, at school, the memories of the morning were
still
far from behind me.
The aching in my legs served as a constant reminder that Luke expected only the best from me—and that required full dedication to each and every task he threw my way. If I wanted to earn his respect, I’d have to start taking him—and his tasks—seriously.

I slid into the first desk and threw a sideways glance at my cousin Matt.

“Rough morning?”

“You have no idea,” I said.

A sympathetic look crossed his face as he leaned over to pat my back. “Trigger’ll have you whipped in
to
shape in no time.”

Trigger: the official Oakland PD nickname for Lucas Reibeck. And yes, it had everything to do with him accidently shooting himself in the foot
last year
during target practice.

“I only logged an hour with him this morning,” I said. “That’s nine more hours of doing… whatever in the world he comes up with. He’s killing me
—”


Because you’re letting him
,” he said, pushing his fingers back through his dusty blonde hair. “Just go along with his plans for the next few days, and before you know it, he’ll be gone and out of your life. You’ll never have to worry about him again.”

I didn’t need the reminder.
I could only foresee another nine hours
with Luke
, and it pulled at my heart in ways I couldn’t even describe. After the shadowing was over, would I ever see him again? Would
he
ever want to see
me
again?
How would I make it through each day kn
owing I wouldn’t get to see him,
if only for a moment? It killed me to know that Luke and I were so close to slipping through each other’s fingers.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t breaking my heart.

“Ladies and gentlem
en,”
Mrs. Brown
said, standing in front of the class. “I’d like to introduce you to our newest addition.” Standing in the
front of the
room next to
our teacher
was a small, petite redhead with eyes of emerald stones. She watched over the class with a frec
kled smile, somewhat mischievous, and somewhat familiar
. “This is Hannah
Jones
.”

Hannah, the red
head, nodded to the class before her gaze fell on Matt. The two of them stared at one another for what seemed like forever, but Mrs. Brown finally spoke up, assigning Hannah to the empty desk in the back of the room.

By the end of the class period, Mrs. Brown had explained our latest
current events
project and assigned
two-person
teams across the board, but Hannah’s addition brought about an odd number. And while Mrs. Brown didn’t think it would be fair to let the new girl work alone, she gave her the opportunity to pick which group she’d
like to
work wi
th. Of course, given her glazed-
over staring match with Matt
earlier
, she chose to work in our
group—making us the only three-
partner team in
c
lass.

BOOK: Just a Little Embrace
4.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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