Protecting What's His Page 21

The first Derek, the one who breathed sensuality, whose very words elicited a response from her body, that Derek she could accept. Warm, humble, apologetic Derek quite frankly terrified her.

Someone needed to redraw the battle lines, and it looked like it would be up to her.

She gazed up at him through her lashes. “Surely, Lieutenant, you keep a few women on reserve to bring to events like this, or maybe just the occasional late-night date. Why not call one of them? You and I want something from each other and it doesn’t include prime rib dinners and dancing.”

His eyes narrowed suspiciously and Ginger sensed he could see right through her. “You told me to try harder. I’m just following orders.”

“I didn’t think you were in any condition to pay attention that night.”

“I always pay attention where you’re concerned.”

The song ended and after a moment, Derek let his arms drop, shoving his hands into his pants pockets. People around them made their way to the bar or returned to their tables, but Derek and Ginger remained rooted in place.

“Since you appear to be the expert, what do we want from each other, Ginger?”

“I think you know.”

“Oh, I do. But I want to hear you say it.”

Painfully aware of the crowd milling around them, she stepped closer and reached up to adjust his bow tie, lowering her voice to a near-whisper. “I want to show you instead.”

Derek’s quick exhalation of breath stirred the hair on her head. His hand banded around her elbow, steering her off the dance floor. “We’re leaving. Now.”

Startled by his reaction, Ginger stopped him before they reached the table. “Wait. I need to use the ladies’ room. I’ll meet you at the coat check.”

He looked like he wanted to argue, so she turned and slipped through the crowd toward the restroom before he could grab her again. Thankfully she didn’t have to wait in line and the opulent bathroom was relatively empty, save the uniformed attendant handing out paper towels and breath mints.

Washing her hands and giving herself a quick glance in the mirror, Ginger turned to leave but stopped abruptly when a tall blonde entered the bathroom. She recognized the woman from their table, but hadn’t been introduced, nor were they given an opportunity to speak during dinner. Easily six inches taller than Ginger, she looked elegant in a pale gray cocktail dress, which highlighted the icy blue of her eyes.

“Well hello there,” the blonde slurred, leaning a little too close to her. Ginger smiled back indulgently, having spent the better part of her life associating with drunken people. It required walking a fine line between friendly and patronizing. She liked to think her technique had been perfected.

“Hi. I recognize you from my table. We didn’t get a chance to meet, though. I’m Ginger.” She held out her hand, but the woman simply looked at it and laughed hysterically.

“Oh, my God. Please say that accent isn’t real.”

“Real, I’m afraid.” Unlike your br**sts. “Guess you don’t hear many Tennessee accents in Chicago.”

“Nope.” She pretended to look thoughtful. “I guess it must be kind of a novelty for someone like Derek. Although I’m surprised he’d bring you to such an important event sounding like…I don’t know, a cowgirl or something.” Apparently, she found that awfully funny and sunk against the wall in a fit of laughter.

Ginger somehow kept the smile glued to her face. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“I’m Lisa.”

She stepped around the other woman, intent on exiting the bathroom. “Well, Lisa, it’s been lovely. But I can’t just spend all night in the bathroom.”

“I know exactly what you’ll be spending the night doing, cowgirl.”

Ginger sighed and pushed away from the door. “Listen up, sweetheart. For all your outrageous subtlety, it’s obvious you have a problem with me. Care to share?”

“It’s not so much a problem. More of an explanation.”

The obvious agenda on the blonde’s face sent a warning shiver up Ginger’s spine, but she ignored it. “Don’t let me stop you.”

Lisa smirked. “You see, I’m here with Kenny, Derek’s ex-partner. We’ve been together about two years, but before that it was me and Derek.”

Ginger schooled her features, not wanting to give Lisa the reaction she desired, but ice formed in the pit of her stomach. “Is that all?”

“Honey, you must be wondering why Derek brought you here. At first, I was a little confused, too. You’re hardly his type.” She swayed a little in her laughter then refocused squarely on Ginger. “I left Derek for Kenny. He’s never gotten over it. You’re simply here to piss me off.”

Ginger tilted her head sadly. “Looks like it worked.”

“Oh, f**k you, Bessie.” In her drunken state, the woman tilted to the left and nearly sprawled on her ass, but Ginger caught her arm at the last moment. Lashing out with a growl of rage, she pushed Ginger away. “I just wanted him to see what he’d be missing,” she spat, red-faced. “I didn’t think he’d leave for good.”

Time to go. Ginger beelined toward the door, but somehow Lisa moved quickly enough to stop her once more. “Have you f**ked him yet? I know you have. I saw the way he looked at you. Enjoy it while it lasts, cowgirl. You’ll never get it that good again.”

Chapter Thirteen

With the reluctant bathroom attendant’s help, Ginger finally managed to get past Lisa and out of the bathroom. She pushed through the swinging door and nearly ran into Derek waiting for her on the other side, holding her shawl. One look at his face and she knew he’d seen Lisa enter the bathroom behind her.

Ginger stormed past him, through the lively banquet hall and lobby, encountering a few curious looks as she passed. She found herself on the dark street outside the hotel before she took a single breath. Derek’s hand wrapped around her arm, stopping her before she could hail a cab.

“Slow down. What the hell happened in there?” She spun on Derek and his irritated expression vanished. “Talk to me,” he implored.

“I’ve just been accosted by your hammered ex-girlfriend in the bathroom.”

“Jesus.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “What did she say to you?”

Ginger ignored the question. “You know what I don’t understand, Derek? Why you weren’t just honest with me. We’re not dating. We barely like each other. You told me this date was a favor to you. If you’d explained your reasons for bringing me along, we could have put on a real good show for old Lisa. Hell, if you’d asked nicely, I might have let you feel me up on the dance floor.”

He stared at her for a minute, expression confused, then took her arm and led her down the sidewalk, away from the hotel. A valet attendant even jumped out of his way to let them pass. Nice.

“Let me go.”


Upon arriving, Derek had parked his SUV down an empty side street adjacent to the hotel, placing a police department placard in the windshield so it wouldn’t be towed. In the night’s darkness, the street now resembled more of an alley, steam rising in white curls from manhole covers and zero traffic passing by.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies