With a hard shove, he narrowed his eyes at me. “No, I wouldn’t do that. And what’s about to happen in that apartment”—he pointed toward the door—“will never make it that far. Even if it did, I would get out of undercover if I was getting serious with someone. You can’t do this for the rest of your life, Kash. And like I said, I’m not the one you need to be worried about. The way you were looking at Rachel last night . . . I’ve never seen you look at a girl like that, not even Megan. So stop freakin’ preaching to me and focus on yourself.”

Megan and I had dated all throughout high school, through the first couple years of college, and when I went through the academy. When Mason and I got moved to undercover, I told her as much as I could, but it wasn’t enough for her. She was engaged to some guy she’d met in one of her classes by the time we finished our first assignment. Mason knew I’d planned to marry her, and having Megan leave me put everything in perspective for me. I was happy for her now; she deserved someone who she could count on to be home for dinner, and I wasn’t that guy.

“Like I said, Rachel’s hot! Any guy with a working dick isn’t going to be able to stop looking at her. But whatever you’re thinking is happening for me with her, you’re wrong. She’s a grade-A bitch.”

Mason snorted. “Whatever, Kash. You weren’t just looking at her. You were studying her, like you were trying to figure her out. I know you better than anyone and I say if anyone here is in danger of losing focus, it’s you. Do me a favor, bro. Go get laid or something, lighten the hell up, and then we can focus on this case.” With that, he opened the door and practically charged across the hall.

The girls’ door opened, and like every other time I’d seen her, it felt like I’d gotten punched in the gut, all the air in my body leaving in one heavy rush. Rachel really was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. There was no doubting that. With long, dark hair; eyes so blue I’d found myself trying to see if she was wearing colored contacts—she wasn’t, by the way; and a soft smile that made me want to fall to my knees, it wasn’t hard to see why I couldn’t stop looking at her. And those legs. My eyes traveled down to her bare legs as she let Mason into their apartment and I subconsciously started sucking on my lip ring again. Dear God, those legs were freakin’ long and perfect . . . and headed right toward me.

My eyes snapped up and she looked back at her apartment door, which had just slammed shut, before meeting my gaze. “Morning, Kash.”

“Good morning.”

“Mason said you needed me for something in here.”

Oh hell no, he told her I needed to get laid? I was gonna kill him. I locked my jaw and spoke low. “I don’t need anything from you.” Especially pity sex.

Her blue eyes widened and she rocked back on her heels. “Wow, um, noted. Remind me never to come to you if something breaks or I need help moving heavy things. Have a nice day.” I swear I heard her mumble “asshole” when she turned and walked back to her door, then smacked right into it when she tried to open it and walk in at the same time. “What the— Oh hell no. Candice! Open the door!” She pounded her hand against the door. “Candice Marie Jenkins! I am in my pajamas and do not have my purse, cell phone, or keys. Open the damn door! I hear you two laughing!”

If I hadn’t been so pissed off at Mason for sending Rachel over here and for her agreeing to it, I’d have been laughing too.


“I swear, if you do not unlock this door and let me in, I will go Cali bitch on your asses!”

Okay, now I was laughing.

The door next to ours opened and a middle-aged man looked between Rachel and me. He had his cell in his hand like he couldn’t decide if he was going to call the cops or not.

“I will cut you!” Rachel swore and continued beating on the door; my neighbor looked at his phone and I groaned.

Pushing away from the wall, I took the few steps over to Rachel, grabbed around her waist, and pulled her back with me.

“Let me go, Kash. Candice! Open the door!”

“Calm down, you’re freaking the neighbors out.”

“I don’t care! I do not want to be locked out of my apartment so I’m forced to spend time with you! You’re rude, did you know that?”

I couldn’t help but laugh at her. “I’m rude? If you hate me so much, you should have never agreed to come ‘help’ me.” I nodded and gave a reassuring smile to the now-confused-looking neighbor before walking us into my apartment and releasing her.

“Excuse me for trying to be nice! That’s what people do, they help people, especially when they’re new to the— Holy crap, where’s all your stuff?” She looked around at our living room, which was mostly bare save for the two boxes Mason brought.


“Is this what Mason was talking about? He said I’d know it when I saw it.”

Wait. What? “What are you talking about?”

“Mason said you needed me for something in here. I asked him what that something was, and he said as soon as I walked into the apartment I’d see what you needed help with.”

Fuck. Me. “Oh shit, Rachel. Um . . .”

“When is all your furniture coming?” She began walking around the place and her eyes got bigger with each empty room she came across. “Did you guys sleep in here last night?”

“Uh, yeah. Good news? Floor is actually pretty comfortable. So there’s that.”

“Bad news?”

“We don’t have anything coming, we need to go buy new stuff.” I took a deep breath and blew it out quickly. “And I’m starting to think that’s what Mason was sending you over here for.”

She’d been slowly nodding her head at the beginning, but then she stopped and tilted it to the side. “Starting to? What did you think we were talking about earlier?”

“Uh—so would you like to go furniture shopping with me?” I scratched the back of my neck nervously and she narrowed her beautiful eyes at me.

“No! I would not like to go furniture shopping with you, Kash. Did you already forget just telling me that you didn’t need anything from me?”

“I—that was a misunderstanding. I thought you . . . that Mason . . . it doesn’t matter. Like I said, misunderstanding. If you don’t want to come with me, that’s fine. You can hang out here, but obviously, you’d just be sitting on the floor.”

“What misunderstanding? What did you think was happening?”

I groaned and grabbed the keys out of my pocket. “Forget it, Rachel.”

“No, I deserve to know why you were so rude when I was offering to help you!”

I flung my arm out to the side and practically growled at her, “I thought he sent you over here to fuck me, and I thought you agreed to it!”

Instead of laughing at me, like I’d have expected any normal person to do, her stubborn expression fell, and all color drained from her face. Her mouth fell open and she quickly shut it, licking her lips as she forcibly swallowed. “I d-don’t want . . . I don’t want to have sex with you,” she whispered, and backed up until she hit the wall.

“Okay, Rachel, that’s fine.” I spoke like I was talking to a scared victim. What was going on with her? “That’s good to know, I don’t want to have sex with you either, that’s why I was an asshole earlier.”

That was a lie. I’d even freakin’ dreamed about this girl last night and woken with a painful hard-on I had to take care of in the shower, all the while Rachel flashing through my mind. And I’d lied to Mason earlier. Rachel wasn’t a bitch, though she’d definitely shown her bitchy side at our first meeting and before we got to the restaurant last night. But it didn’t take more than a handful of minutes watching her to realize it was her shield. It was her way of protecting herself. What she was hiding, I had no idea, and apparently it’d been obvious I was trying to figure it out last night. But there was something, and for some reason, I wanted to find out what it was and be whatever shield she needed.

And that was dangerous.

I’d been serious when I was talking to Mason about keeping focused, but he’d seen through my bullshit. I’d needed to say it to someone so I could try to get it through my head too. Anything with Rachel would be a bad idea. It wasn’t that I couldn’t have meaningless hookups; Mason and I had faced that a couple times with different groups we’d had to get into. To say we were paranoid about making sure we were still clean after being with those girls was an understatement. But from the moment Rachel had practically fallen out of her car yesterday afternoon, there was no doubting there was something different about her. There’s no such thing as meaningless when you find a girl like Rachel.

Rachel squeezed her eyes shut and took two deep breaths in and out before opening them again. But she wouldn’t look at me.


“What?” she snapped.

Shield. “Are you feeling okay, do you need something to eat or drink? I don’t have anything here but I can go get something.”

“I’m fine.” She took one more deep breath and forced her eyes to my face. “Tell me why you thought that’s why Mason would have me come over here.”

“It’s just something we were talking about.”

“You were talking about having sex with me?!”

“No! Jesus, no. We just—” I groaned and shifted my weight. “He was going over there to be with Candice and told me I needed to get laid. That’s all. Then you showed up saying what you said . . . and I just thought . . . It doesn’t matter.”

“Okay. Look, can we get out of your apartment? I’ll go help you pick out furniture or whatever. I just don’t feel comfortable being in here with you right now.” Her chest started rising and falling quickly and I just stood there staring at her.

I was scaring her? She was scared of me! That was fucking awesome. I couldn’t think about anything but getting to know her in every damn way possible, and I was freaking scaring her. Perfect. “Yeah, let’s go.”

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