Protecting What's His Page 38

Her sister tried valiantly to play down the transformation she’d undergone in the last hour, but Ginger noticed the flush of pleasure on her cheeks as she surveyed her appearance.

They stood in Ginger’s bedroom early Saturday evening getting Willa dressed for prom. Something Ginger never would have believed a month ago. She’d found the heather gray cocktail dress Willa now wore at a vintage shop in Noble Square after hunting for half a day. Sensing Willa would balk at anything too colorful, she’d didn’t mind congratulating herself on picking the simple, strapless dress that fit Willa’s small frame to perfection.

Willa gave Ginger full creative control, and after removing the heavy black eyeliner, Ginger had applied a tasteful amount of makeup, playing up her sister’s natural glow, and pulled her hair away from her face in a classic twist. If Ginger hadn’t shared a room with Willa for seventeen years, she would barely recognize her except for the nose ring.

“What time is Evan coming to pick you up?”

“Seven-thirty. We’re going to dinner with some of his friends before the dance.”

Ginger nodded, trying to appear as confident as Willa. This is where they differed. Ginger thrived in social situations where she didn’t have to interact with one single person. She could jump from conversation to conversation and move on when the subject got too heavy or personal. Willa, on the other hand, didn’t generally play well with others. Not that Ginger didn’t have faith in her sister, especially this new, school-activity-participating Willa. But she knew she’d worry until Willa walked through the door later.

Ginger produced a black sequined clutch that she’d kept hidden in her closet and handed it to Willa. As she’d predicted, it looked fabulous with the dress and matching black heels.

Their eyes met in the mirror. “Please make sure you take your cell phone, Willa. There is some money in the purse if you need it. For dinner. For a cab. Anything.”

Willa laughed at Ginger’s fierce expression, then sobered. “Ginger, I’m going to be fine. It just seems like a big deal because I never go out.”

“Okay, just a few more things and I’ll be finished.” She took a deep breath. “No drugs. No getting into a car with someone who has been drinking. Don’t have sex on the first date, but if you do, there’s a condom in the purse. Please, please don’t need to use it. But I won’t ask if you did.”

“Oh, my God.”

“Shut up. You look beautiful. Have a great time.”

Willa’s face broke into a dazzling smile. “Thanks for the dress, the makeup. Everything.”

Ginger held back her tears. “You’re welcome.”

Her sister looked like she wanted to say something else but hesitated.

“Spit it out, Wip.”

“Am I being a jackass, trusting Evan like this?”

Ginger thought for a moment, taking the question seriously. It might have been posed in typical Willa fashion, but vulnerability lingered behind it. “No, you’re not being a jackass. Is it a risk? Yes. But I don’t think you’d place your trust easily, Willa. Now you just have to have faith in your own judgment. Coming to Chicago was a risk, but we took it. Maybe it’s time we take a few more.”

Willa nodded, absorbing her words. “Kind of like you with the lieutenant?”

At the mention of Derek, Ginger felt her insides melt. He’d been working around the clock since the raid, busy with paperwork and interrogations of the arrested men. She’d woken alone in Derek’s bed in the early evening after their morning together. Disoriented at having slept through most of the day, she’d stretched her tender muscles and risen to return to her own apartment, trying her best not to panic over his having left a second time without saying good-bye.

On the counter in Derek’s kitchen, she’d found a white sack of chocolate doughnuts and a carton of orange juice, sitting on top of a giant stack of magazines. Smiling cautiously, she’d ripped off the note attached to the bag with her name written on it.

Make me something. I want a reminder of you in my apartment at all times.

Of course he couldn’t just buy her flowers. That wouldn’t have been his style. Knowing the perfect piece to use, she’d retrieved it from her apartment and spent the rest of the evening in Derek’s place, munching on doughnuts and working on his project. And okay, maybe she’d snooped a little in the name of inspiration. He didn’t keep photographs around the apartment, which made her wonder about his family. In the kitchen cabinet, she’d found a shoebox full of Cubs baseball cards ruthlessly sorted by date, and an envelope tucked inside containing ticket stubs dating back to the eighties.

Her little discoveries, including his collection of old Western movies, made Ginger grow more and more curious about him and how he’d grown up. Had she been so focused on hiding her past from him, she’d overlooked the fact that he hid one, too?

Although his schedule hadn’t permitted time for any more meaningful conversations, he called and texted her throughout his workday, clearly making a concerted effort to assuage her fears.

The content of those text and phone exchanges often made her blush.

Yesterday, her phone beeped while in the produce aisle of the supermarket. Checking the screen, she’d dropped a cantaloupe upon viewing the text message from Derek.

Craving you, Ginger.

She could have texted him back that she’d thought of him constantly since their morning in bed. Or how needing him had become a constant physical ache. But she wanted to say those things to him in person, so she’d replied:

Oooh. I have two, ripe melons in my hands. Wanna see?


She’d snapped a picture of the cantaloupes, sent it, and continued her shopping, chuckling to herself all the way through the frozen foods section.

That night, long after falling asleep, she’d woken to his hands stroking over her body. Up her legs, over her hips, circling her br**sts, then down to caress between her thighs. Ginger always slept on her side and his naked body spooned her, back to front.

“Wake up, you little c**k tease,” he’d growled against her neck. Then he’d pushed into her from behind, taking her as she moaned into the pillow.

Ginger pulled herself out of the reveries and refocused on Willa. “Yes, like me and the lieutenant.”

Her sister snorted. “Ginger, don’t ever play poker for money.”

Ten minutes later, a knock sounded at the door. Ginger made a shooing gesture to Willa, who stood in the kitchen. “Go in the other room. You have to make an entrance.” Willa rolled her eyes but did as she was told. Ginger checked through the peephole to make sure Evan stood on the other side, then pulled open the door.

“Hey, Ginger.”

“Evan.” She stepped aside to let him in, hiding her smile over how handsome he looked in his black dress pants and button-down shirt. Her sister knew how to pick ’em. “Are you driving tonight?”

“No. My friends and I chipped in on a limo. I hope that’s okay.”

“As long as you don’t use it as an excuse to drink. I don’t care what you do on your own time, but I want my sister brought home safe, Mr. Carmichael.”

Evan ran a nervous hand through his hair, messing it up further. “I’m not going to lie to you—some of my friends will probably drink tonight. But you have my word that I won’t touch a drop. I want Willa safe, too.”

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