Authors: Jessica Ingro
BY JESSICA INGRO
Published by Jessica Ingro
2015 Jessica Ingro
Arijana Karčić, Cover It! Designs
Edited by Kathy Krick
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, store in or introduced into retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the autho
s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is no authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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For all the beautiful, sweet, caring and tender men in the world. Sometimes nice guys do finish last.
The sun radiated off the blacktop and a fine haze rose up from the surface. It wasn’t even eight o’clock yet and I was sweating. Tipping my head back, I closed my eyes and willed a breeze to come through the open windows. You’d think I’d be used to this by now but each summer I found it more and more irritating.
In order to kill the time, my fingers fiddled with the keychain dangling from the ignition of the old Ford Ranger I commanded on a daily basis. Glancing at the clock, I anxiously awaited her arrival. It should be any minute now. I hoped it would be anyway. She was the highlight of my day.
“Man, the damn heat is going to suck today.”
I turned my head to look at my partner Ed Sanchez and murmured in agreement. It was supposed to reach ninety-five degrees outside and where our official military police truck was stationed meant the sun would beat in on us for most of our ten hour shift. Even if we were able to keep the air conditioning on in the truck—which we weren’t thanks to budget cuts—we would still be the equivalent of fried bacon by five o’clock.
“Hopefully this heatwave won’t last much longer,” I commented.
“Yeah.” Ed began fidgeting with the radio, leaving me to my thoughts.
Ed Sanchez is a Desert Storm vet. His six foot six frame and the two hundred fifty plus pounds he carries makes him an ideal military police officer. I am no slouch at six foot two and just over two hundred pounds of pure muscle, but he definitely puts me to shame.
If it wasn’t our assault rifles scaring potential threats away, it was the sheer breadth of Ed’s shoulders coupled with his menacing gaze that had the bad guys running in the opposite direction.
Ed and I have been partners together on the six a.m. rotation for the last two years and a strong bond had formed between us. He stopped by my mom’s house on Thanksgiving and I brought presents for his wife, Ella, and two young kids, Juan and Jose, on Christmas. We even joked that he was my brother from another mother. Corny? Sure, but if you’ve done any time in the military, you learn to appreciate the bonds that form. We might not be deployed and in constant danger, but our duty of protecting the Eastern Air Defense Sector was no joke.
The very people Ed and I guard are the same ones who helped clear the air space on that fateful September day in 2001 when terrorists flew into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Their mission is guarding the nation’s airways from intrusion and attack. Our mission is keeping them safe to do just that.
Terrorists think they can stake out the building to take it down? Think again. You come anywhere near our perimeter and you’ll have us to answer to. We take our assignment very seriously.
“Hey, Ben. Looks like your girl’s running late again.” Ed’s announcement broke me from my thoughts, and my eyes narrowed on the sight of the gorgeous redhead folding her long legs out of a white, sporty convertible. She shut the door of the car, bent at her waist and flipped her hair over. When she righted herself, it was as if she hadn’t just driven however many miles with the wind blowing through her hair but rather had just stepped out of a damn magazine.
She was in a word—breathtaking.
When she proceeded to bend over the side of the car door, rooting around for her bag in the backseat, my dick instantly took notice of her sweet ass and the way the material of her pale pink skirt stretched deliciously over every curve. What I wouldn’t give to pound into her from behind with that ass firmly gripped in my hands.
Clenching my jaw, I willed my dick to stay down. The last thing I needed was for Ed to have more dirt to hold over my head where the sultry redhead was concerned. He thought I was a pussy for not talking to her and had been making jokes at my expense ever since the first time I laid eyes on her.
As her ass swayed in her high heels, I remembered the way my body reacted the first time I saw her going to work at the consulting company across from the Defense Sector. It was much the same as it still did six months later—like a horny teenager who hadn’t had sex in months.
“You ever going to ask her out?” Ed asked as the building door shut behind my very own wet dream.
“And do what? Walk up to her one morning when she gets out of her car and say, ‘Hi, you don’t know me but I’ve been watching you come to work just about every day for the past six months and want to see if you’ll have dinner with me?’ Talk about creepy. She’d probably punch me in the balls.”
She looked far too classy to fall for a man of the stalker variety. And regardless of what I thought about myself, I had essentially been watching her from afar and fantasizing about her for a long time now. I’d have to say that was the classic definition of stalker.
“Or laugh in your face,” he pointed out.
“Exactly.” I sighed and sat back in my seat now that the show was over. Only nine more hours until I could catch the late viewing when she went home for the day.
I was officially pathetic.
“You head in and grab a table. I’m going to call Ella,” Ed called out as I opened the door to the sandwich shop. I nodded my assent and walked through the crush of people waiting for their food. The bad thing about working on a retired military base turned technology park was there were no restaurant establishments in the immediate vicinity. If you wanted anything other than soup, salad, or sandwiches, you had to drive a good twenty minutes out of your way, which always meant long lines if you stayed on base.
I stood in line and perused the daily menu hanging up on the wall. When my eyes caught on the special—Smoked Turkey and Gouda Panini—I decided my day was looking up.
After placing mine and Ed’s orders, I stepped to the left so the person behind me could place their order. When a soft body brushed against mine sending an immediate shiver from head to toe, I looked over and my breath left my lungs in a whoosh.
Holy shit. It was mystery girl.
This was the first time we had been in this close of a proximity to one another—any interactions I had with her existed solely in my mind—and my reaction was overwhelming. My heart thundered as I took in her subtle floral scent. Her hair looked like pure spun silk and my fingers itched to run through the tresses.
“What can I get for you today, Rissa?” the girl at the cash register asked her.
. I liked it. I could imagine groaning it as I moved deep inside her.
“Turkey and Gouda Panini,” she answered in the most sweet, melodic voice I had ever heard. Each word she uttered resonated right in my dick and even though it was awkward to experience that in public, it wasn’t an unpleasant feeling at all. “You should know that by now. Do I ever not get that?”
Her slight giggle made my whole body tighten and harden. It was a heady thing.
I needed to get to know this girl and find out how to be the one to make her laugh.
“I know,” the other girl chided. “Your favorite. That’ll be nine fifty.”
As she paid, my mind wandered to how many times I imagined meeting this mystery woman. How many times I pictured what it would be like to hold her, to kiss her, to make love to her. Fate could be a fickle thing, but right then I had to believe it was looking out for me.
I moved back half a step and allowed her enough space to move in front of me but not too far so that we had no choice but to be in each other’s personal space. She turned her head and gave me a small, polite smile before turning back towards the front.
So many times I had practiced what I would say to this woman if the opportunity ever arose and now I was standing with my hands in my pocket—a clueless fool. I wanted her to know how seeing her always made my day and show her that no one could make her as happy as I could.
Curiosity about who she was and what she was like finally overrode any nerves I had, and I found myself blurting out the first thing that came to mind.
“Turkey and Gouda day is a good day,” I whispered near her ear. Her body stiffened and she turned her head again. This time her smile was more of the “is this guy crazy” variety.
“I heard you order it,” I quickly added. “That’s what I get every time it’s on the menu.”
This was not going very well. Any smooth moves I thought I had went out the window being this close to her. I had never crashed and burned like this with a woman before.
What the fuck was wrong with me?
Before I could make a bigger fool out of myself, a man’s voice called out, “Rissa!” She turned her attention from me to the man now moving into her side and wrapping his arm around her waist. He appeared older than her by at least ten years if not more and had some salt mixed in with the pepper of his goatee.
Seeing them together pissed me off. Maybe fate wasn’t finally giving me my big break but rather forcing me to realize it was never going to happen with Rissa.
“Sorry I’m late, baby. My meeting ran over,” the man told her.
“It’s fine,” she replied tightly.
“Hey, I said I was sorry.” His tone saying he was anything but.
“Mona! Can you make that two paninis?” Rissa called to the girl behind the counter, ignoring his insincere apology.
“What kind?” the man asked her.
“Turkey and Gouda.”
“I hate that shit. Mona, make it an Italian Panini.”
Mona nodded and stuck her head through the kitchen door to correct the order.
“You know how I feel when you order for me,” he said in a low and somewhat pissed off voice. What a putz this guy was. If she wanted to order for me, I’d gladly let her.
“And I hate when you say you’re going to do something and you don’t,” she bit out and crossed her arms.
“I’m sorry,” the man whispered and peppered kisses down her cheek and neck. Highly inappropriate if you ask me. “I’m all yours this weekend. We’ll go up to that cabin on the lake that you like so much.”
“Promise?” Her words were both unsure and full of hope.
“Promise.” He kissed her lips and she melted into his arms.
And with that any hope I had of getting to know Rissa was crushed.
The sounds of the baseball game blared throughout the living room in my brother Tanner’s living room. His apartment was on the small side, but his sixty-inch television made up for it. Even if it was ridiculously large for the size of the room it was in, it didn’t matter because the curved screen and surround sound was worth practically sitting in each other’s laps when there were multiple people over.
“Yo, Tanner! Grab me another beer!” I shouted over the game to my brother in the kitchen.
A few minutes later, a cold bottle of beer appeared over my shoulder. I popped the top, tossing the cap on the coffee table already littered with the remnants of our drinking escapades since the last time Tanner decided to clean.
“The Mets are looking good this year,” he commented as he plopped down on the other end of the sofa from where I was stretched out.
“You’re delusional. The Phillies are stomping all over the Mets,” I scoffed.
Tipping my head back, I welcomed the relief of the cool liquid from the oppressive heat outside. Nothing like a cold beer on a hot evening.
“Fuck you.” Expecting a reaction from him, I quickly put my hand out and caught the bottle cap that came flying at my head.
Tanner could be a hot head when he wanted to be. Being the older brother, you would think that he would be the more responsible one, but that wasn’t the case. He worked as a personal trainer but constantly bounced from gym to gym for one reason or another. Most times he was forced to leave thanks to some sort of scandal involving a pretty girl or two.
Other than our looks, there wasn’t much about us that was alike. Standing at six feet two inches, we both had blue eyes and light brown hair that we wore closely cropped. The only person who could ever tell us apart without any trouble was our mother. If it weren’t for the fact that we were eleven months apart, you might think we were twins.
Growing up we were always deemed troublemakers thanks to our tendency to pretend to be each other. Teachers constantly sent us to detention. Girls constantly slipped back and forth between our bed sheets. And parents constantly cursed us for ruining their daughters.
Ahhh, fun times.
Now an adult at twenty-eight years old, I was known to still have a meaningless liaison or two. Tanner, however, never grew up and his bedroom was still a revolving door of women of all kinds—lawyers, doctors, hair stylists, waitresses. His bed saw more action than a pole at a strip club.
I didn’t need any of that. Variety wasn’t important to me. What I ultimately wanted was what Ed had. A nice steady relationship where you came home to the same woman every night. She made you laugh. You made her sing in pleasure. And together you raised a bunch of kids who drove you mad one moment and made you love them even more the next.
“You should really get yourself into some anger management classes,” I told him. With a flick of my wrist, I shot the bottle cap back at him. It ricocheted off his hand and landed on the floor where it would probably stay until one of his conquests decided to clean the house for him.
“Sure if the instructor is hot.” He gave me a wolfish grin and shrugged unapologetically before turning his attention back to the game.
After the inning was over, I stood and made my way into the kitchen where I was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t as cluttered as usual. Grabbing a beer from the fridge, I called out to Tanner, “You want another beer?”
“Yeah,” he yelled back. “And grab a bag of chips.”
I turned and spotted three different bags lying on the table. Making a split second decision, I grabbed all three in one hand, while juggling our beers in the other.
“All of them?” he asked along with a raise of his eyebrow.
I shrugged. “I couldn’t decide.”
Settling back into the couch, I sipped from my bottle and snacked on barbeque flavored chips while I allowed myself to relax. The day had been hectic to begin with but an overturned tractor trailer right before the end of my shift was the icing on the cake. There’s nothing like standing in the hot as hell sun in fatigues, beret and combat boots in order to secure the scene and direct traffic.
“So I need a favor,” Tanner casually tossed out during the seventh inning stretch. I raised an eyebrow and waited to see what he needed this time.
Last month it was a dog sitter for his flavor of the week. Before that it was a place to stay when he was being stalked by some woman he slept with “just the one time.” And of course there was the time he wanted five grand to invest in a startup that was sure to succeed—it didn’t by the way.
What I was still trying not to think about though was the blind date he needed for his date’s friend—on Valentine’s Day no less. The girl still texted me hoping for a hookup five months later, which wouldn’t have been a bad thing if her face wasn’t so smushed that she looked like it met the front grill of a semi.
When he didn’t answer my silent question right away but rather glared at my non-response, I asked, “What is it?”
That was a loaded question. He could have been referring to any number of women. Racking my brain, a vision of a curvy woman with bright green eyes and a rack to die for came to mind, and I couldn’t help but smile in appreciation of her beauty. “The auburn fox that you used to sleep with? The one who liked to call you Daddy?”
His eyes took on an unfocused look and he grinned lasciviously. “Oh yeah. I forgot about that.”
“So what about her?” I asked wanting to move this conversation along.
“She’s an author now. I did a photo shoot a few months back for her book cover.” He gave me a smug look before shoving a handful of chips into his face.
“Good for her. I always thought she was too clever for the likes of you.”
“Screw you.” He reached over and punched my shoulder. “As I was saying, she’s got this book signing this weekend and I told her I’d do it but Lucy has tickets to a Tom Petty concert in St. Louis for the same time. I was hoping you’d step in for me.”
“Why would she want you at a book signing? I haven’t seen you read in years,” I heckled him a bit.
“You got me there. Look, all you need to do is show up and pose with her fans if they ask. I did a local one a few weeks back. It was only a few hours and I was done. Piece of cake.”
“Why do I have a feeling I’m committing to more than I want to?” I semi-joked. I knew better than anybody that nothing was as expected when it came to Tanner. I had been roped into far too many embarrassing and just plain bad situations after hearing the words “piece of cake” come from his mouth.
“Because you love me?” He deadpanned.
“It’s a good thing I don’t then. You’ll have to see Tom Petty another time.”
“Come on, asshole. This is
we’re talking about here,” he said her name as if it should mean something to me when it definitely didn’t.
“And she is?”
,” he drew her name out to emphasize the point. “You know the stripper who comes into the Palisades every Thursday night like clockwork. The one with the legs that go on forever and the biggest real tits I’ve ever had the pleasure to bury my face in.”
The Palisades was our neighborhood dive bar that we frequented because the regulars there were laid back and the bartenders were heavy on the booze. There was hardly any riff-raff there, which made it a great place to kick back and unwind.
“Okay, and this means something to me because...” Lucy was the type of woman I stayed far away from. She had man-eater written all over her—from the way she dressed to the way she used her assets to reel a man in before spitting him out. I had seen numerous men fall to the she-devil. I wanted nothing to do with Tanner getting tangled up in that.
“Come on, man. If you do this for me, I promise I won’t ask you for another favor for at least a year.” He held up his fingers in a Boy Scout salute. Too bad he got kicked out of Boy Scouts.
“You’re so full of shit,” I told him in response. It wasn’t as if he had never promised me that before and yet here I sit getting harassed over a new favor.
“Fine. You leave me no other choice,” he vaguely threatened followed by a dramatic sigh. “I’m going to have to call Mom and tell her that you’re refusing to help your big brother out. She’ll probably call you constantly and make you feel guilty until you finally give in.”
Oh that bastard. My mother was ridiculous when it came to coddling him. You would think it would be the other way around seeing as how I was the baby of the family, but it wasn’t. Thanks to my fierce independence as a child, she put all her energy into making Tanner her momma’s boy. If he followed through on his threat, she would in fact drive me up a wall until I agreed to do this.
“Fine. Give me Meredith’s contact info and I’ll set it all up with her.” I gave in with a heavy sigh, dreading what was sure to be coming my way.
He gave me a victorious smirk that quickly morphed into a scowl when he realized what I had asked for. “I’m not sure I want you to have her number.”
“You’re going out of town with Lucy but afraid I might seduce a woman you haven’t slept with in over a year?” I really hoped he wasn’t being that petulant and immature.
“She wouldn’t go for your sorry ass anyway,” he scoffed, but I could see right through the mask of indifference he put on. He was afraid Meredith and I would hook up. It almost made me feel bad about what I was about to say... Almost.
“That’s what you said about Brenda, but I specifically remember it was my name she was screaming when she came so hard she practically mil—” I stopped speaking when I suddenly found myself in a strong headlock. “Son of a bitch! What is that for?”
“I still haven’t forgiven you for Brenda.” He let me go with a forceful push to my head.
“I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m really not.” I smirked at the ire written on his face. “Just give me Meredith’s number, asshole.”
“Fine,” he grumbled digging his phone out of his pocket and texting me the info. I decided to call her later when Tanner wasn’t around and get the scoop on what to expect at the signing.
“Are you done being a drama queen or can we watch the rest of this game?”
“I’m suddenly very tired. You should probably go watch it somewhere else.” He went for the remote, and I kicked the coffee table out of his reach causing bottle caps to scatter across the hardwood floor.
“Fuck you,” I told him.
“Fuck you too,” he replied.
Then we both sat back and finished watching the game.
“You’re doing what?” Ed choked out in between coughs thanks to his soda going down the wrong pipe. I guess you could say he was caught off guard by my cover model/book signing confession. “Please. Tell me again, but slowly this time.”
“So not going to happen,” I murmured. Steering the truck along one of the dirt roads outlining the south side of the old air force base we patrolled, I cursed myself for telling Ed what my plans for the weekend were. I should have known he would find it hilarious. I know I would have.
The only reason why I did was because I wanted someone else’s feedback on the matter. I wasn’t sure if it was paranoia surrounding Tanner’s antics factoring in or if my unease and anxiety was justified.
Clearing his throat, he schooled his face into a mask of indifference. “Come on, man. I’m being serious. What exactly did you let your brother talk you into doing for him?”
“I’m flying to Philadelphia tomorrow afternoon, which is why I had to give Lawrence my shift. There’s a welcome party tomorrow night and the signing is the next day. Tanner swore all I had to do was play nice with the women and take a few pictures. Not really a hardship.”
“And you’re sure that’s
you have to do? You know Tanner’s been known to throw you to the wolves.”
I barely suppressed my sigh. “I know. When I talked to Meredith she didn’t mention anything else.”
I didn’t bother to tell Ed that my conversation with Meredith lasted all of five minutes before she had to go. Other than her excitement at seeing me again and my itinerary, I didn’t get much of anything out of her because she was so rushed.
I was choosing not to worry about the lack of detail. Whatever happens, I’d just suck it up and deal with it. And once the weekend was over I’d never have to think about it again.
“And she’s paying your whole way?” he asked in disbelief.
“Airfare and hotel. She already planned on paying for Tanner so I guess it was no big deal. I told her not to worry about anything else though. It seemed a little wrong taking even that from her as it was.”
“Is she going to be your sugar mama now? You said she was beautiful and now she’s shelling out big bucks for you.”
“Yeah right. Could you picture that? Besides Tanner would have a shit fit if I slept with Meredith.”
“Never stopped you before,” he pointed out.
“Nah. He was awfully territorial when I joked about it. It was... interesting to say the least. Definitely out of character for him.” I thought about that as we bumped along the narrow dirt road that always reminded me of being on my grandparent’s farm as a kid.
Tanner wasn’t known for making long lasting connections with women, but something seemed different about the way he got possessive over Meredith. Maybe there was something hiding beneath the lust after all.