Protecting What's His Page 25

A muscle flexed in his jaw as he set down his phone a bit too heavily on the counter. He supposed he couldn’t expect a courtesy call from Ginger when he’d neglected to do the same. Every time he’d picked up the phone to call her, he’d hung up, not knowing how to say what was on his mind. He had very little experience expressing his feelings to a woman, especially a woman like Ginger whose reactions he could never predict. No, what he wanted to say would need to be said face-to-face.

Derek hadn’t slept or eaten a decent meal since Saturday night and until just now, when he walked through the door, he hadn’t realized how much he’d needed Ginger to be here when he got home. Work had been hell now that Alvarez’s informant had finally come through with information about a meeting between the two feuding gangs that was set to take place tomorrow night. He’d worked around the clock to get his men in place, organizing the raid and casing the location of the meet so they would know the lay of the land going in.

Those bastards were going down tomorrow night.

For two days, when he wasn’t strategizing or running back and forth to police headquarters to brief the chief of police on their progress, he’d thought of Ginger nonstop. Every time he earned a quiet moment, she materialized in his mind looking like she had Sunday morning in his bed. Rosy and naked, snuggled into his pillows. The image was permanently seared into his brain and refused to fade. He didn’t want it to.

She’d been a virgin. He still couldn’t wrap his mind around it. Besides her age, an age when most woman had accumulated a decent number of partners, the way she moved, smiled, breathed—it oozed sensuality. He’d hated every man who’d made her that way, even though her outrageously sexy demeanor undeniably drew him in. He couldn’t fathom a woman like Ginger, who left men drooling in her wake, making it to twenty-three without having been with a man.

He’d been her first. The first man to enter her body and bring her to orgasm. He could still feel the way she’d tightened and shook around him so powerfully, as if she’d been waiting for him all that time, needing him fill her and satisfy her. God, he’d never forget the way she’d moved and twisted on him like she couldn’t get enough.

The things he’d said to her, done to her when she’d been inexperienced intruded on his conscience. If he’d known from the beginning that she was a virgin, would he have still spoken to her in that manner?

Yes, he realized. If that made him a bastard, so be it. Innocent or not, he found keeping himself in check around Ginger impossible, her positive reactions only encouraging him.

When he told her she’d ruined him, he meant it. He couldn’t go back to the time before he knew what she tasted like, felt like, sounded like as he moved inside her. He’d changed her irrevocably on Saturday night and she’d done the same to him.

If she was trying to send him a message by leaving behind his keys and moving out without a word, he didn’t like it. It made him anxious. An unfamiliar feeling for him. Something about the keys tossed so casually on the counter felt final. And their association was far from over.

Derek threw the entire bag of groceries in the refrigerator to deal with later and left the apartment. He strode down the hall to Ginger’s door and knocked briskly.

A minute later when no one answered, he went to knock again when a throat cleared down the hall to his right. He turned and saw Willa standing halfway up the staircase, looking down at him with her default what the f**k expression. “You knocked?”

He looked between her and the apartment door. “What are you doing upstairs?”

She inspected her nails. “We moved into an empty unit until they can fix ours.”

What the f**k? “Why?”

She shrugged in response.

Clearly, he would get nowhere with Willa this century. “Is your sister home?”


“Where the hell is she?”

“On a date.”

Derek’s chest constricted so unpleasantly he couldn’t breathe for a moment. Then he grew furious. A date? A f**king date? He’d find out where the hell she’d gone and with whom. Then he’d go there and kill the motherfucker.

He gripped the doorframe and contemplated ripping it off.

“Relax, man. She’s just working at the bar. But for a second there, I bet you probably wished you’d called her at least once since Sunday.”

The relief staggered him. If he thought he’d been possessive of Ginger before, it had just graduated to an entirely new level. A dangerous one. He needed to see her, but under the circumstances it would be wise to give himself some time to cool off. In his present state, he wouldn’t be able to have a rational conversation about why she’d moved out. He’d only make things worse.

He took a deep breath and forced himself to smile. “Nicely done, Willa.”

She gestured for him to follow her up the stairs. “I try.”

When Derek walked into the third-floor apartment, he encountered Ginger everywhere. Her cowboy boots leaning up against the wall, various furniture pieces she’d decorated, the damn statue. How had they gotten that thing up the flight of stairs? The smaller two-bedroom smelled like freshly dried paint and lacked the homey feel of their downstairs apartment. It felt temporary, with scattered furniture and boxes stacked everywhere. Did she really prefer this situation to his apartment? The thought bothered him a great deal.

He turned to Willa. “So she left because I didn’t call her?”


“Ginger is a grown-up,” he said with a frown. “She doesn’t need me holding her hand.”

She rounded on him, reminding him of her sister. “That’s right. She is a grown-up and has been for a very long time. She’s also a girl.”

What did that even mean? Derek tried to suppress a rising sense of panic and failed. “Wait. You said partially. Why else did she leave?”

Willa sank down in a kitchen chair with a heavy sigh. “It’s partly my fault. I let her think I’d heard you guys, um, doing your thing on Saturday night. I didn’t,” she added quickly. “I just wanted her to fess up. It was obvious that something happened. She was acting funny.”

He stared at her, unable to believe he was having this conversation with a seventeen-year-old. Then he remembered Ginger begging him at the door to be quiet so her sister wouldn’t hear them. He hadn’t recalled her vehement request until just now. “Why is it…such a huge issue for her?”

Willa looked uncomfortable, like she didn’t want to answer. She buried her face in her hands with a groan. “Oh, for f**k’s sake. It’s like I’m doomed to talk about this all day. Ginger and I were fine until you two ass**les came along.”

Derek bristled. “What are you talking about? There’s someone else? You said she was working, dammit.”

She waved off his question. “There’s no one else. I’m talking about my…this guy…never mind. You need to get yourself under control, man.”


Willa stood, pacing around the table toward the window. “Ginger would have an issue with me hearing you guys because of our mother. She used to turn tricks in our living room.”

His face paled. “Shit.”

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