Protecting What's His Page 8


His eyes bored into her, making her feel naked where she stood. The way he sat, exuding quiet confidence, made him stand out amid the animated scene taking place around him.

A slow roll of heat eased its way through her. Goose bumps broke out along her arms. In the brief moment that she met his eyes, the music faded and they were back on the roof. Just her and him. Except this time, he kissed her.

Giving herself a mental shake, Ginger released his unwavering stare to move lower. She’d already seen him in a uniform and then jeans and a sweatshirt, but Ginger pegged this look as her definite favorite. A black T-shirt stretched across his chest, the right sleeve just high enough to show a tattoo peeking out underneath the material. Stubble darkened the lower half of his face, as if he hadn’t shaved since this morning.

He looked dangerous and sexy. And pissed.

She refused to let him rattle her. His parting words on the roof last night had echoed in her head at the strangest times today, making her itchy. Of all the men who’d attempted to pick her up in this lifetime, never had one made it beneath her skin. She didn’t like the feeling.


Ginger grabbed a tumbler from the clear glass shelf and poured two fingers of their best whiskey.

“Are you here to issue more warnings?” she asked, sliding the drink in front of him.

Keeping his gaze locked on her, Derek picked up the glass and drank a healthy mouthful. Ginger swayed a little watching his throat muscles work as he swallowed, then set the glass down. “No. I think I was abundantly clear the first time.”

His answer reminded her of a whip cracking. “Something bothering you, Derek?”

“How are you getting home tonight?”

She smirked at his nonresponse to her question. “I took the bus.”

“I’ll drive you.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I’ll take my chances with public transportation.”

He swirled the amber contents of his glass. “Can’t handle being alone with me?”

Damn. There he went again pushing her buttons. She claimed to be a smart girl, but he still knew just how to play her, didn’t he? Ginger always had a difficult time backing down from a challenge, especially when it was being issued by a man who wore a police uniform by day, but liked to talk dirty at night. She found his approach refreshing. He’d explained what he wanted, plain and simple.

A part of herself she hadn’t known existed until yesterday came alive. She wanted to be alone with him. To hear what he’d say next. To see exactly how he hoped to accomplish his goal of getting her into bed. A man hadn’t tempted her in a long time, and never this way. Never this strongly.

I want to be buried inside you so deep that I have to remind you of your own name.

Ginger shivered at the memory.

“I get off in an hour. If you don’t mind waiting…?”

A fire lit in his eyes. “I’ll wait.”

For the next hour, Ginger remained on Derek’s end of the bar serving the finally thinning crowd. Men continued to flirt with her and she didn’t allow Derek’s presence to prevent her from flirting back. She had a living to make, after all. Without looking at him, she knew he continued to watch her. His constant regard burned her up, made her feel feverish. Heaviness settled between her legs and she grew increasingly damp, making it difficult to concentrate on work.

In retaliation for the discomfort he was putting her through, Ginger began leaning a little too far across the bar to hear someone’s order or exposing a little more stomach than necessary to reach something on the higher shelves. The uniform worn by the bartenders at Sensation consisted of tiny black shorts and matching halter top. Even with Ginger’s penchant for dressing to distract, the outfit left very little to the imagination.

Still, he’d occupied her thoughts more than she felt comfortable admitting and he would suffer for it, she thought, bending at the waist to pick up a dropped napkin and giving him a nice look at her ass.

Finally, the hour ended and not a moment too soon. Ginger felt ready to expire under Derek’s hot scrutiny from the end of the bar. She collected her tips and waved good-bye to Amanda, then held up a finger to let Derek know she would be another minute. As soon as she had her purse, she met him at the entrance.

Wordlessly, he held the door for her leading to the parking lot and walked brusquely to a black SUV. He opened the passenger door, allowing her to slip inside, green eyes on her as she edged past. Derek’s leather and coffee scent lingered in the car’s interior, and as he rounded the back of the car, she inhaled, committing it to memory.

The ride between Sensation and their apartment building took ten minutes. For the first half of the ride, they both remained silent, but Ginger could almost feel the aggravation radiating from Derek.

“So, tell me. Is bartending the only type of employment you could find?”

Ginger bristled. “There aren’t exactly dozens of options where I can bring home the same kind of money. Besides, I’m good at it.”

He laughed bitterly. “Oh, believe me, I know how good you are. I just witnessed it firsthand.”

“I have Willa to think about. She’ll be in college next year and I aim to see her go wherever she wants.”

“On a bartender’s salary.”

His skepticism irked her, but she kept silent. Bringing up the stolen cash would be high on the list of stupid ideas. Ginger knew how expensive college would be and held no illusions that sending Willa would be easy. But she’d see it accomplished nonetheless.

“If you need me to get a job in some lame-ass real estate office just so you feel better about sleeping with me, you’re wasting your time, honey. And mine.”

His eyes didn’t leave the road, but his jaw flexed at her words. “I assume, based on your statement, that you’ve given some thought to what I proposed last night?”

Jesus, who talked like that? “I’m considering it.”

“Is there anything I can do to speed you along?”

“I don’t know…”

“Think harder.”

Turning her face toward the window, Ginger smiled. She’d finally succeeded in rattling him a little for a change. “You’re going to have to work for it a little, Derek.”

“I’m not exactly a champagne and soft music type of guy.”

“Then I guess it’s a good thing I like cheap red wine and country music.”

Derek pulled into a spot outside the building and Ginger hopped out, intending to bolt inside her apartment and savor the fact that she’d finally gotten in the last word. She made it up the stairs, down the quiet hallway, and to her apartment door before she felt him come up behind her. Suddenly, the keys were snatched from her hand. She spun around in time to see Derek drop them into his pocket.

Her mouth fell open at his audacity. “What are you doing?”

“You can have them back in a minute.”

Derek’s gravelly tone called several other things into focus. The slight flush of his cheekbones, his roughened breathing, the overwhelming nearness of his hard body. Her back arched against the door, an unconscious move that drew his gaze downward, to where her br**sts pressed snugly inside her halter top.

I want him to look at me.

The realization shook her and she swallowed as he took a step closer, her throat suddenly dry. “I thought I told you you needed to work for it.”

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