Protecting What's His Page 27

“Derek, no! Stop!”

The club had ground to a halt, everyone turning to see what the disturbance was about. Customers moved back and out of the way as Derek pulled Nacho off the bar and launched him onto the ground, then straddled his neck, clearly intending to continue the one-sided fight. Ginger knew she had to take action or Derek would seriously injure the other man.

Using the ice machine for leverage, she leaped on the bar and jumped down on the other side. She winced at the pain in her right leg, but pushed forward through the gaping club-goers to throw herself on Derek’s back. Ginger wrapped her arms around his chest, dug in her feet, and pulled to no avail. He still landed a punch squarely in Nacho’s face and reared back to hit him once more. She grabbed his arm and held on with all her might.

“Listen to me! You need to stop!” Out of the corner of her eye, Ginger saw the club’s two burly security guards pushing their way through the crowd. Thankfully, a different fight had just broken out between two girls and drew the guards’ attention away from Derek.

As pissed as she felt, it occurred to her that Derek, being a police lieutenant, would definitely not benefit from being involved in a bar fight. She needed to get him out of the club before the guards realized the real fight was on her side of the bar and tried to detain him. In his current irrational state, he might even fight back and the situation would only escalate.

She put her mouth against his ear and tried to reason with him. “Derek, please. I’m fine. You need to stop right now. You are going to kill him. I’m fine.”

His body shook with adrenaline. “He had his hands on you.”

“It’s my fault. I provoked him. But it’s over now.”

Derek turned his head and met her eyes. “Your fault?”

She flinched at his fury. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the security guards parting the sea of club-goers, nearly upon them. As an employee, she would have a better chance of getting Derek out of the bar without being held up by security.

And he had been defending her. Despite his extreme and unnecessary methods, a tiny part of her felt grateful that after years of inexcusable behavior from male customers, someone besides her had finally stepped in and put a stop to it. No accounting for subtlety.

“Get your shit.”

Ginger recoiled. She’d already made the choice to leave with him, but his high-handed tone infuriated her, made her want to change her mind. “You can’t just demand I leave in the middle of my shift!”

“I can shut this place down with one phone call. Give me a reason to do it. Please.”

Anger rapidly building inside of her, she shot to her feet. Nacho writhed on the floor in front of him, hands clutching his shattered nose. Beside her, Derek growled. He’d noticed the bleeding cut on her leg and looked ready to turn on Nacho once more.

The security guards reached Derek then, but he extricated his badge and barked something at them before they made the mistake of touching him. He turned to her, his eyes nearly black with fury. “Ginger. Get. Your. Shit.”

She turned toward the bar and signaled Amanda. Already having anticipated her request, the other woman tossed Ginger her purse, which she’d stashed in a cabinet beneath the register. Ginger mouthed a thank-you just as Derek put a hand on her back, then steered her, through their rapt audience, toward the door.

“Where is your coat?”

“In the back room,” she snapped. “You didn’t exactly give me enough time to go get it.”

He whipped off his jacket and settled it on her shoulders just as they exited the club into the cold Chicago evening. Smokers hung around in packs outside, oblivious to the scene that had just taken place inside the club. Ginger vaguely registered the bouncer at the door calling her name questioningly before Derek boosted her into the passenger seat of his SUV.

They didn’t speak on the ride home, the air thick and tense between them. Derek gripped the steering wheel tightly under knuckles smeared with blood, a muscle ticking dangerously in his jaw.

His obvious anger only fueled Ginger’s. The second they pulled up in front of the building, she jumped out of the car and slammed the door, stomping toward the building without looking back. She sensed Derek right behind her as she turned her key to unlock the front door to the building, but she refused to acknowledge him. When they reached the third floor, she flung off his jacket and threw it over her shoulder at him without breaking stride toward her temporary apartment.

She heard Derek’s dark laughter behind her. “We can have it out in your place or mine, Ginger. It doesn’t matter to me. But it happens tonight.”

“Fuck you.”


Ginger froze outside her door. If she ignored him and went inside, she would fume until the sun came up, imagining all the insults she could have thrown at him. A fight would be infinitely more satisfying.

She marched back down the stairs toward Derek’s place. No way would she wake Willa up with an argument between her and Derek. Furthermore, she didn’t want her sister knowing what had taken place tonight at Sensation. It would upset her.

He wants a fight? I’ll give him one to remember.

Derek unlocked the door and gestured for Ginger to precede him inside, which she did with a toss of her hair. After flipping on the overhead light, she flung her purse on his kitchen table and faced him. He was looking for something under his kitchen sink, which he eventually found. A first-aid kit.

Ginger scowled over his concerned gesture. She’d come here for a fight, dammit.

“All right, Derek. You proved tonight you had the biggest dick in the room. You’ve clubbed me over the head and brought me back to your cave. Where do you want me? We don’t even have to be quiet this time.” She hopped up on the kitchen table and lifted her shirt. “How about right here on the table? Or maybe the couch?”

Derek took two quick strides toward her and slammed the metal box down on the table. He pulled the hem of her shirt back down before it reached her br**sts. But not before she saw a familiar hunger tighten his features. “All right, you’ve made your point.”

“Really? I feel like I haven’t even started.” Her eyes flashed with heat. “What were you doing at Sensation tonight?”

“I came to see you.”


“You damn well shouldn’t have to ask me that.” Uncharacteristic regret flashed across his features. “Look, Ginger, I should have called you. Or at least said good-bye Sunday morning. The fact that I was practically handcuffed to my desk for two days is no excuse. I handled this badly.”

Her eyes widened in surprise. “Handled what badly, Derek? There is nothing here. We had sex. People do it all the time. I don’t need you to write me a poem.”

“It was your first time.” Anger infused his tone. “You deserved more than a quick f**k against my bathroom door.”

How dare he tell her what she deserved? He didn’t know what growing up with Valerie had been like. Watching her mother’s self-worth wither or thrive, depending on who occupied her bed. She’d made the decision at a young age never to give anyone the power to destroy her ability to reason. That included the man standing in front of her.

Ginger leaned forward, getting right in his face. “I decided when, where, and with whom my first time happened. No one made that decision for me. And I don’t regret it. I’m sorry if you do. Won’t let it happen again.”

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