Protecting What's His Page 10

Derek’s stomach muscles went rigid at the sight of her. Walking through the doors of that ridiculous meat market last night, he’d sat down at the bar with every intention of engaging her in a normal conversation for once. One that didn’t end with both of them pissed off. Then he’d been forced to watch for over an hour as she fluttered her eyelashes and flaunted her body, giving every man within a hundred yards, including him, a hard-on that could cut through steel.

Possessiveness, insistent and primitive, had flowed through him like lava. Once they got back to their building, his plan had been to drive Ginger to the brink of orgasm and back off, leaving her as frustrated as he’d been watching her seduce the crowd at Sensation. Instead, he’d lost control, had come too close to f**king things up, and the knowledge sat like a weight in his stomach. He never lost control. Deciding to indulge himself had always been a conscious decision on his part, never an undeniable need, demanding to be met.

Then again, Ginger was the first woman he’d come across who bred such strong feelings in him. Derek couldn’t even guarantee the next time they found themselves alone would be any different. His reaction to her didn’t appear to be something he could control.

But the more he thought about it, the more he suspected restraint wasn’t the way to go with Ginger. She’d liked the way he spoke to her—goddamn that excited him—and she’d responded to his loss of control with an equally potent explosion of passion and need of her own. Recalling the way she’d wrapped her agile body around his like ivy, digging those sexy cowboy boots into his ass, made Derek groan aloud in his silent apartment.

She’d tasted like melted caramel, as if she’d been sucking on hard candy. And damn if those hot little whimpering noises she’d made against his ear hadn’t kept him awake all night.

As the object of his frustration and her little sister passed his door on their way to their apartment, Derek sighed. You’re going to have to work for it a little, she’d said last night. So he would try, with her definition in mind. But he’d make her work for it as well. Giving away the upper hand was not something Derek did under any circumstance.

He grabbed his keys and left his apartment.

Willa shoved a plastic sack of carrots into the refrigerator’s vegetable drawer, kicking it shut with her heavy boot.

Ginger visibly cringed. “Did you misplace your opposable thumbs, Willa? Jeez.”

Her sister looked thoughtful. “I may have left them in the produce aisle. Can I borrow the car to go get them?”

Ginger snorted a laugh. “As long as you have your middle fingers, you’ll survive. And I don’t think you can refer to the contraption we’re driving as a car. Steel death trap, yes. Truck, maybe. Car, no.”

“The General has never failed us. He’s a classic.”

“A classic piece of shit,” Ginger quipped, sticking a box of frozen lasagna in the freezer. “So,” she began casually, “three days of school so far. How’s it going?”

“Fine. I, uh, have to go to this stupid basketball game on Friday night for a photography class project.”

Willa was opening up to her? Ginger strove for nonchalance. “You’re attending an actual sporting event? Careful you don’t burst into flames at the entrance.”

As usual, they both laughed on cue, but Ginger saw the shadow that clouded Willa’s expression. “I didn’t mean anything by that,” she said quickly. “It’s just, you know…you’re pretty outspoken about your hatred of organized rituals.”

“No, you’re right.” Her sister smiled. “I better call ahead to make sure they have a fire extinguisher handy.”

Something about her tone was still off. “Willa—”

A knock sounded at the door.

They both frowned. Willa made it to the door before Ginger could stop her, opening it a mere crack with the chain lock still in place. “State your business.”

A beat of silence. “Is there an adult at home?”

Ginger’s heart sped up at the sound of Derek’s deep timbre. What on earth could he be doing at their door? They may have practically had sex in the hallway last night, but that didn’t mean they had a cordial, “howdy neighbor” relationship.

She pasted a bored expression on her face, strode to the door, and unhooked the chain, opening the door to reveal him fully. Once again, he looked good enough to eat in a long-sleeved, gray thermal shirt and dark jeans. A silver badge was clipped to his belt.

“Can we help you, Lieutenant?”

His green eyes flickered lazily over her body, then back up to meet her eyes. “I think we know each other well enough by now to be on a first-name basis.”

She ignored Willa’s confused expression and sent Derek a sharp look. “If you insist, Derek. We are neighbors after all.”

“I do insist.”

“Well, then.”

“Are you guys trying to eye f**k each other to death? If so, can I please be excused?”


Derek let out a deep, booming laugh. Willa rolled her eyes at Ginger’s horrified expression.

She whipped her head back around to a still-laughing Derek. “Is there something you need? I’m just about to cook dinner and then I’m heading out to work.”

His laughter faded at the mention of her job, but instead of commenting he held up a plastic bag she hadn’t noticed. “Don’t bother cooking. I brought Chinese.” Then he breezed past them into the apartment, leaving them gaping at his broad back.

Willa recovered first with a very uncharacteristic squeal. “Chinese! Thank God.”

Ginger stared dumbfounded as Derek and Willa began unloading white and red cartons from the plastic bag and placing them on the dining table. “Wait a minute. I’d planned on cooking chicken potpies. You love my potpies. Don’t you?”

“Oh honey, you know I love everything you make.” The honey gave her sister away. She’d never been the endearment type. And when had she started liking Chinese food?

Ginger sniffed, then followed them into the kitchen. “You could have said something,” she muttered as she yanked plates out of the cabinet. “Here I am now looking like a big potpie-peddling jackass.”

As they spooned spicy honey shrimp and orange chicken onto their plates, Ginger watched Derek warily across the table. He caught her staring and raised a questioning eyebrow. The man was clearly up to something and as soon as she caught him alone for a minute, she’d make him spill it. Until then, if he wanted to pretend this heartwarming little scene passed as normal, she’d go right along with it. “So, Derek. Tell us more about being a police lieutenant. It sounds so dangerous!”

He narrowed his eyes at her caustic tone, but answered anyway. “I work in the homicide division. It can be dangerous, yes, but it’s mostly lots of dead bodies.”

Ginger choked on a bite of egg roll and took a long sip of water to recover. Fortunately, the mention of dead bodies appeared to pique Willa’s interest.

“Do any of them ever wake up and scare the shit out of you?”


“Do you have a catch phrase?”

Derek snorted. “No.”

Willa looked disappointed, but seemed to console herself with a cream-cheese-filled wanton.

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