Shallow Page 12

Nick turned away from the threesome to walk around to the driver’s side, but Ace grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. He landed a punch on the left side of his face and Nick went down. I panicked, not knowing if he was hurt or not and opened the door.

Nick quickly sprang from the ground at Ace and his fist connected with his eye and then he stepped away from him with his fists up in defense like a boxer waiting for the next swing. While he bounced from side to side, one of Ace’s thugs drug me out of the car as I scratched and clawed at him viciously. My screams distracted Nick and he took another fist to the face as Ace took advantage.

In my state of panic, I managed to remember a self defense move I learned years ago and gave him an upward slam of my palm to his nose and he immediately released me but only for the other thug to grab me by the waist from behind.

“Ooh, Hawke. This one is a fighter.” He leaned around and spoke against my ear. “I bet she’s lots of fun in bed. I may have to try her out.”

“Let her go,” Nick demanded. “She has nothing to do with what’s between us.”

I bucked violently when I thought about him trying me out and slammed the back of my head against the thug’s nose several times until he released me. I turned to face him head on and saw he was wiping a profuse amount of blood from his face.

“My nose. The bitch broke my nose.”

Ace pointed in my direction. “When I’m done with your boyfriend, you’re next.”

Nick sprang from where he stood and took Ace to the ground. There were so many punches being thrown, I couldn’t tell who was winning. I was terrified for Nick and afraid Ace might pull a knife or gun at any moment so I did the only thing I knew to do. I sprayed him with my pepper spray.

Screams were all I could hear as he rubbed his face. “What the hell? What did you just spray me with?”

I began to back away as he blindly swung in my direction. I looked at Nick and saw his reddening eyes squeezed shut and I knew I had gotten him too.

“Shit, Nick. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to spray you.”

“A little blew back on me. It’s not so bad since you didn’t get me directly.” He reached up toward me. “Can you help me to the car?”

I reached for his hand and helped him stand as he strained to get up. I felt horrible. “I really am sorry.”

“Come on, let’s get out of here. Can you drive my car for me?”

I held his hand and led him to the passenger side. “Sure, it’s the least I can do since I just set your face on fire.”

He reached into his pocket and held the keys in front of me. I reached for them and unlocked the door before I opened it for him.

“This is all wrong, you know? I’m supposed to be opening all the doors and driving you around.”

“I’ll let it slide this time.”

I got into the driver’s seat and was surprised at how powerful I felt when I turned the key to start the roaring engine. “Where to?”

“My house, I guess. I need to wash the pepper spray off my face.”

I drove for a little while and pondered if it was a good idea to ask about those thugs but decided he would tell me that it was none of my business if he didn’t want me to know. “What did those guys want with you?”

“Ace wanted me to throw the race with Dane last night. He threatened me and thought I would cave but I’m a lot like a certain someone I know. I don’t do ultimatums.”

“If nothing else, that’s one thing we have in common.”

“I locked you in the car to protect you, but I wouldn’t have if I had known you were a total Chuck Norris badass. Are you ever gonna stop surprising me?”

“Probably not, but you could hold out hope along with my parents.”

I got a laugh out of him. That meant he wasn’t too pissed at me about the pepper spray, so that was good, right? I stopped at a red light and took the opportunity to search his face while his eyes were shut. Even with his eyes clammed closed he was seriously hot, ridiculously so.

I heard a horn blowing at me to go when the light turned green and I guess I gassed it a little too hard and squealed a tire. “Damn, girl. What are you trying to do?”

“Sorry. I’m not used to this many horses. This thing will get away from you in a hurry.”

“She’s not a thing. Her name is Ebony.”

Okay. I see where Ebony fit. “Your car’s name is Ebony?”

“Come on, don’t tell me you’ve never come across a person that named their vehicle?”

“Not a sane person.”

Our conversation about naming vehicles was cut short when I saw his street and I was glad because I was afraid he was about to encourage me to give my Lexus a name. “You said 2143 Forrest Drive?”

“Yep. That’s the one.”

The drive to Nick’s house from the fairgrounds wasn’t far and I was grateful. I knew his skin and eyes had to be burning like crazy and he was being kind by not complaining because he didn’t want me to feel worse than I already did.

I parked in the drive of a small cream brick house with black shutters and I guessed we were in the right place because there was a squad car parked on the street in front of the house. I turned to look at Nick and he sat motionless with his eyes closed tightly.

“We’re here.” I turned off the engine and went around to the passenger’s side. I put my hand out and took his in mine. “Here, let me help you. Which door are we using?”

“Might as well use the front door ‘cause my old man is gonna be stretched out on the couch watching television. There won’t be any sneaking past him.”

“I’m sorry, Nick. This is all my fault.”

He stopped before we in the door and grabbed my face even though he couldn’t look into my eyes. “Stop it. This could never be your fault. You didn’t have any control over Ace jumping me and you were scared I was about to get the shit kicked out of me. But for the record, I totally had him.”

He couldn’t see the smirk on my face. “Yeah, I know.”

“Damn skippy,” he said as he turned to enter the front door. Just as he predicted, his dad was stretched out on the couch watching Saturday Night Live in his boxers, which I guess was better than whitey tighties. Awesome. Could this get any more awkward?

He didn’t make a move at first because he thought Nick was alone but then he saw me and shot up to grab a pillow to cover his lap. “Damn, Son, could you give me a little notice if you’re bringing a girl home? I’m in my skivvies here.”

“Sorry, Dad. I didn’t think about it.”

I dropped my eyes to the floor and turned around as his dad got off the couch. “Give me a second.”

“Sorry. I guess he’s been a bachelor for too many years.”

“No, it’s okay. This is his house and it’s his right to watch television in his skivvies if he wants.”

We were both laughing when he came back in wearing a T-shirt and some flannel pants. He offered his hand and Nick introduced us. “This is my dad, Dutch.”

Dutch Hawke. What a great cop name. “Dad, this is Payton.”

He looked at me for a minute before he said anything. “It’s nice to meet you, Payton.” He smiled and I saw who Nick got his dimples from. “Forgive me if I seem a little shocked. Nick has never brought a girl home before.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

He turned to smirk at Nick and the smile left his face. “What the hell happened to you?”

“I got jumped.”

“By what?”

He probably wasn’t going to think too much of me after I told him I was the one to blame for his son’s face looking the way it did. “It’s my fault he looks like that. I sprayed the guy that jumped him with pepper spray but some blew back into Nick’s face. It was a complete accident.”

“I’d hate to see the other guy.”

I’m betting he looked like hell. Serves him right. “He wasn’t too happy with me.”

“Come to the kitchen. That’s gonna need some milk.”


“Yeah, it will cool the burn and then we’ll need to wash it with dishwashing detergent. It will get better on its own in about 30 minutes but this will speed the process. It usually takes a few hours for it to wear off completely, but maybe it won’t be that long since you didn’t get it directly to the face.”

I watched Dutch irrigate Nick’s face with milk and he must have seen the puzzled look on my face. “I know about pepper spray treatment because we occasionally use it in the line of duty. Sometimes we get a little of the blow back like Nick did tonight.”

“Oh.” That’s all I could say as I thought about the dangerous situations Nick would be in after he became a cop and pepper spray would be the least of his worries when it came to dangerous criminals. Thinking about it made my stomach feel like it was in knots and I didn’t like it.

I needed to hear him tell me he was better so I could feel better. “Is the burning going away?”

“Yeah, it’s not near as bad as it was at first.”

Dutch mixed up a detergent and water paste and washed Nick’s face with it several times before he moved to the couch to lie down. “It should get better soon but you’ll have to wait for your eyes to get better on their own because detergent won’t feel much better than the pepper. You should probably just go to bed and sleep it off.”

“But I’ve gotta drive Payton back.”

“No, your eyes are too swollen for you to drive. I’ll take her home. Just give me a minute to grab my shoes.”

Dutch went down the hall toward the back of the house and I sat next to Nick on the couch after he scooted over and patted the cushion.

He looked at me through his inflamed eyes and smiled. “I had a great time tonight.”

“Yeah, right,” I laughed. “You’re such a liar.”

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