Once I helped her out of the tub and wrung out my soaked shorts as much as possible, I grabbed my shoes and headed for my apartment.

Rachel had stayed with Mase and me all day yesterday. Once Candice was home from cheer camp, she came over and questioned our wardrobe for a moment but dropped it soon after. Mason took her to pick up food for everyone and I’d hoped to question Rachel some more, but she was finally giving real smiles and I couldn’t stomach upsetting her again at that point. After tossing and turning for hours last night, I’d come to the conclusion that I was going to make sure she was never alone, and I was going to find out exactly what had gone down between her and Professor Sickfuck.

Walking back over to the girls’ apartment, I let myself in and was met with a pissed-off Rachel. My favorite kind. I smiled lazily at her and looked at the timer on the microwave I’d set before waking the monster.

“Why are there cinnamon rolls baking in my oven?”

“Because you have a sweet tooth and I figured you’d be pissed at me for waking you up. It was the least I could do.”

She raised a brow and crossed her arms. “And how did you get in here this morning?”

I picked the lock like I always do. “Candice left it unlocked for me.”

“Whatever,” Rachel mumbled on a sigh, and went to flop down on one of the couches. “So are you ever going to tell me why you woke me up so early?”

“After breakfast.” I went to pull the cinnamon rolls out of the oven and grabbed the icing packets. “Hey, Rach, why aren’t you working this summer?”

Her head snapped up. “Because I didn’t feel like getting a job. Why does it matter to you?”

“I was just wondering.” I shrugged. “Are your parents paying for your share of the apartment as well?”



Her voice cut off so suddenly that I looked back over at her, to see that her face had completely drained of color. Dropping the icing, I quickly started toward her, but she shook her head fiercely and sniffed as she leveled another glare at me.

“You aren’t exactly in a position to give me crap for living off my parents seeing as you dropped twenty grand of your daddy’s money on furnishing your apartment.”

I had to take a few deep breaths before I could say anything to her. I knew she was just throwing up her shield again, but God, she knew how to piss me off. Leaning close to her on the couch, I matched her stare and held it. “I’ll find out why you have this shield too. But for now . . . drop the attitude, Sour Patch, or I will take you over my knee and spank your ass so hard you won’t be able to sit for a week.”

Her blue eyes went wide before blinking a few times. When she finally looked away I noticed the blush that had crept up her cheeks, and damn if my pants didn’t shrink a size at her reaction to my threat.

Mrs. Adams and her fake cats. Mrs. Adams . . .

Turning back toward the kitchen, I kept my focus on the cinnamon rolls and off spanking Rachel. “It was a simple question, Rach. I wasn’t getting on you for living off them. You’re in college. That’s normal. I just wanted to know if you didn’t get a job for a reason, and if you were needing money, the bar I work at is looking for waitresses. After yesterday, I’m guessing that even if you had planned on getting a job this summer, what happened to you with that guy pushed those plans aside. And I think a job would be good for you. It would give you something to do, rather than having too much time to be alone and think about it.” I risked a glance at her, only to see her staring out the window and chewing on her bottom lip. “It’s up to you, but like I said, this would be good for you. It would help you start moving on.”

“I have moved on,” she whispered.

“If you’re still having nightmares, you haven’t.”

I walked a plate of cinnamon rolls over to the couch and sat next to her, putting the plate between us. She ate, but she never looked back at me; she just continued to stare off at nothing. I didn’t say anything else until we were done.

“Have you told anyone other than me about what happened?” When she shook her head, I continued. “Not even your parents or the police?”

So slowly, she turned to look at me, eyes narrowed into slits. Her mouth popped open to deliver whatever pissed-off answer she had waiting, but I cut her off.

“No more shields, Sour Patch.”

“I hate when you call me that,” she said through gritted teeth.

“Well, I hate when you act like a bitch as a defense mechanism.”

She stared at me in shock for a full minute before smiling shyly at me and looking away again. “Old habit.” She shrugged.

Grabbing her chin, I forced her to look at me again. “I’m serious, Rachel. When you’re with me, no more shields.”

“You don’t understand—”

“I do,” I told her. “You hide your pain behind them. This is how you think you’re protecting yourself. I’m sure it works with some people, but all you’re doing is pushing them away. If you’re hurting, tell me. I’m here for you, and your bullshit isn’t going to work on me because I’m not going to let you push me away. Got it?”


“Again, you didn’t tell your parents or the police?”

She looked past my head, her mouth open, before shutting it again. And after long moments she finally shifted her eyes back to mine. “No one else knows.”

Releasing her chin, I leaned into the couch but kept my voice firm. “I need you to tell me exactly what happened.”

“No, no—”

“Rach, I know it’ll be hard. But you need to tell someone. And right now, I’m the only one who knows.” She was still shaking her head back and forth. “This is the first step in your moving on. You need to face it. Completely.”

We sat there in silence for a handful of minutes before she softly told me everything that had happened with her and this guy she still refused to put a name to. My years undercover had helped me keep a straight face during the worst situations you can imagine. But listening to this girl tell me what had happened to her . . . my hands weren’t able to relax from their fists the entire time and my body was vibrating with the need to have this guy get up close and personal with my duty weapon. Despite Rachel’s insistence that she hadn’t been raped, that’s exactly what had happened. He hadn’t been able to finish what he started—thank Christ for that and Candice—but that didn’t change what he had done to her. I wanted to kill the son of a bitch.

After she was done telling me her story and had calmed down again, I pulled her into my arms and laid back against the couch. She stiffened at first but soon relaxed.

“I can’t imagine how hard that was for you, Rach. But I’m proud of you.” I kissed the top of her head and continued to whisper, “Not right now maybe, but soon you’ll feel better that you’ve told someone. No one should have to go through that, and definitely not alone. I won’t make you decide anything right now, but I really want you to consider applying at the bar, okay?”

“I will.” She spoke softly against my chest.

“And I want you to think about telling your parents what you just told me.”

Her body tensed beneath my arms again, and when she lifted her head, her eyes were full of tears. “I can’t.” Her words had barely any sound behind them. But I’d understood.

“Just think about it.”

An odd pained look crossed her face and she grimaced. “ ’Kay.”

“I gotta run some errands with Mase this morning, so I need to get going. If you want to apply for the job, Rod is one of the owners as well as the manager at the bar, and he’ll be there sometime before noon. He’s the guy you’ll want to talk to, all right?” When she simply nodded, I sat us back up and pressed my lips to her forehead. “You’re brave, Rach. I’m proud of you. And I’ll make sure nothing like that ever happens to you again.” Before she could respond, I pushed up off the couch and left her apartment.

When I got home, Mason was standing there waiting for me.

“About damn time. I know Rachel put you in the friend zone so I know you weren’t getting any. What took you so long? Painting each other’s nails and gossiping? We’re gonna be late and I really don’t feel like hearing any crap from Detective Ryder today. That guy scares the shit out of me.”

Once I had my wallet, phone, and keys, I turned and faced him. “I’ll make sure to let him know, I’m sure that will make his day.” Lowering my voice once we were outside, I glanced over at the girls’ door and whispered, “Rachel was telling me about what happened.”

Mason stopped walking and turned toward their door. “Ah, shit . . . Rach.”

“Yeah.” Pushing him toward the parking lot, I kept talking. “Sorry, I didn’t feel like rushing that.”

“She okay?”

He and I both knew that was a dumb question; of course she wasn’t. But he was just as worried about her as I was. He loved her too, just in a completely different way.

“She will be. She got it all out for the first time, so eventually. I gave her some things to think about while we were gone today. Hopefully she’ll take them into consideration.” Cranking the engine, I pulled out of the parking lot and switched gears. “Read me the e-mail from Ryder again. I want to know what new things they have on Camden and what we have.”

“They’re thinking he may be getting close to another murder, but at least he’s getting sloppier. The two times he slipped up with using his card last week, it was double what he normally spends. And I checked the receipts—I doubt he’s eating two meals by himself.”

“And those were at the restaurant you work at?”

“Yeah, both nights I wasn’t working though. I reviewed all the cameras we have set up in there and checked them against everyone who came in. The only people who didn’t match up with cards paid in cash. I don’t know how he’s doing this.”

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