Busted (Promise Harbor Wedding)
Author:Sydney Somers

chapter Five

“Our perp is getting bolder. He didn’t even wait for it to get dark this time.”

Hayley crouched opposite one of the other detectives. Brian Gauthier was pushing fifty, had been divorced three times and was addicted to lemon-filled doughnuts, and lucky for her, she’d gotten to stare at the gel-like stain on his shirt from said addiction for the past ten minutes.

After Jackson drove away, she’d called her partner back, filling him in on the wedding disaster, then decided she should clean her neglected apartment. When that wasn’t enough to keep him mind of Jackson, she’d changed into her favorite pair of ripped jeans and an old T-shirt, planning to head back to her gramps’ to get more painting done. She hadn’t made it as far as her front door when the call came in about another robbery.

Offering to assist whoever was already on-site had seemed like the perfect distraction after the past twenty-four hours. Things couldn’t possibly get any more surreal.

“You and that hockey player gonna shack up?”

Apparently she was wrong.

Ignoring Gauthier’s question, she glanced from the shallow impression in the mud next to the basement window, and across the private backyard.

Being the last house on the cul-de-sac, the backyard was only visible to the neighbors on one side. The woods bordering the far side of the property left plenty of cover for the perpetrator to get into the yard virtually undetected.

The couple who owned the two-story brick home had been guests at Allie and Josh’s wedding—along with half the town, it seemed—and then had dinner with friends instead of attending the reception. Their arrival had startled the thief, and the couple heard him flee the house, leaving the back door open behind him.

“What alarm company do they use?”

“Big company out of Boston,” Gauthier answered. He moved to the basement window, careful not to disturb the footprint.

Retracing what she’d guessed might have been their guy’s path, she kept her eyes open for any other evidence that would give them the break they needed to nail his ass to the wall. Like every other scene, though, there wasn’t much to go on.

She returned to Gauthier’s side as he picked at the dried lemon on his shirt. Hayley had the strong suspicion he would have lifted his shirt to lick at the stain if she hadn’t been standing there.

“I’m going to check the basement.”

Gauthier didn’t look up from his shirt. “I’ll see if the neighbors saw anything.”

“Okay.” Hayley let herself in the back door, relieved the couple had gone to the neighbors so they wouldn’t be in the way. Hayley didn’t want to be in their house any more than they probably wanted her there, but that just came with the job.

Nothing looked to have been disturbed in the kitchen. Their thief hadn’t wasted precious time here. He’d probably assumed he’d have much better luck with the owners’ home office and upstairs bedrooms.

The owners had already turned on the basement light, making the likelihood of getting a viable print from the switch unlikely, assuming their guy had turned on any unnecessary light. She doubted it though. Would have drawn too much attention.

The space was empty except for a handful of boxes and an old exercise bike. The window used to gain entry into the house had been left unlocked. Since their perpetrator hadn’t needed to smash his way into any of the previous properties, she was betting the window had been unlocked to begin with. Not everyone paid attention to the warnings to keep their cars and houses locked.

“Any viable prints?”

Hayley jumped at the sound of Gauthier’s voice. “Jesus, Brian. How does a linebacker like you get down those stairs without making a peep?”

“Living with a ghost is making you twitchy, Stone.”

She rolled her eyes knowing full well where this was headed. Thanks to Matt and his tendency to exaggerate at work—which then became gospel to anyone drinking enough not to see right through his tall tales—half the people in Promise Harbor were convinced her nan’s spirit haunted Gramps’s house.

One stuck window and a few door slams did not a ghost make in Hayley’s opinion, but people had way too much fun joking about it for Hayley to convince them otherwise.

“You’d think you would be used to being taken by surprise,” Brian continued. “Matt says he can’t even sleep in the place anymore.”

“Matt also believes in Bigfoot and alien abductions.”

Brian waved her off. “He just says that stuff to entertain folks.”

Hayley didn’t disagree, but she knew full well he hadn’t entirely outgrown his childhood fascination with Sasquatch sightings and little green men.

“You think you’ll actually be able to sell that place with it being haunted?”

“It’s not haunted.” Hayley studied the panes of glass and window casing, then branched out to see if they’d missed anything else. “I thought you were going to talk to the neighbors.”

If Hayley had her way, she wouldn’t be selling the place at all. But with her gramps’s rising health costs and stubborn refusal to let anyone else help with the bills, they didn’t have any choice but to sell.

Letting go of the bar to pay his medical expenses wasn’t an option, so that left her gramps’s place. Surprisingly, her gramps was more okay with that than Hayley.

“Figured I’d wait for you. You being a celebrity and all these days.” He held up his hands when she glared at him. “Don’t cuff me.”

Knowing better than to let him bait her, she waved him back upstairs.

As expected the neighbors didn’t have any information they could use. Their suspect, judging by a few vague descriptions and the size of the print in the mud, was male and awfully slick.

Processing the scene wasn’t enough to work off the restless energy from the crazy day, and since she still hadn’t heard from Gavin, she decided to get in a little painting after all. She didn’t bother heading back to her apartment to change. Most of her stuff was at Gramps’s place. Had been for the past couple of weeks so she didn’t have to go back and forth all the time.

She parked her truck in the driveway, but by the time she left her bag by the front door, kicked off her shoes and walked through the dark house, the last couple of nights of too little sleep started catching up with her.

The breeze from the sewing room on the second floor drew her down the hall. The room hadn’t been touched since Nan died two years ago. Gramps had been firm on no changes being made to their home until both of them were gone, and then he’d gotten sick.

Like the den, she was saving this room for the end of the renovations.

She stepped over the plastic that was on the floor to protect the carpet from getting wet and pushed open the curtains. The window had been stuck since they found out her gramps had cancer, and no amount of banging or wiggling had been able to unstick it.

When neither she nor Matt had any luck putting it down, she’d had one of Gavin’s brothers over to take a look. He hadn’t fared any better, and neither had his contractor friend. Replacing the entire window, frame and all, had been their professional opinion, although no one could figure out why the window wasn’t closing to begin with. She’d finally ordered a new custom-made window last week, but it wouldn’t arrive for another couple of weeks.

Hayley dropped down on the old sofa by the door, her brain too tired to think about renovations or work or even Gavin.

That kiss, on the other hand, wasn’t too tiring to think about at all. Replaying the taste and feel of Jackson’s mouth managed to reanimate the butterflies back-flipping in her stomach.

It was really too bad she wouldn’t get to kiss him again, but she wasn’t interested in some casual fling before Jackson left town, which would probably be sooner rather than later with a coaching position in the works.

And kissing him earlier had likely cost her. She didn’t want to think about what would happen if that picture taken at the inn started circulating the Net. If she’d ticked off half the town arresting him, she couldn’t imagine what people would say behind her back with a picture like that going around.

Once upon a time she wouldn’t have cared what anyone thought, but all that had changed when she’d turned her life around.

Kissing him to help salvage his career was one thing—her reputation could take a minor hit, maybe—but that didn’t explain why she’d baited him at the last second about a long-ago kiss that was best left in the past.

Exhaling slowly, she let her eyes slide shut and sank a little deeper into the sofa.

She definitely had enough to deal with without throwing an undeniably sexy guy with a mouth hotter than sin into the mix.

Something brought Hayley awake with a jolt. Recognizing the sewing room instantly, she leaned back against the sofa and scrubbed her hands down her face. She needed a bed and at least eight hours of undisturbed sleep.

Sighing, she stood, making it only as far as the door when a sound outside stopped her.

With the light off she had no trouble seeing through the window, and with the full moon and the lake reflecting the silvery glow, she easily spotted the shadow disappearing into her gramps’s shed.

Son of a bitch.

On the off chance it was Matt looking for more hockey stuff for the bar—an unusual time for that—she didn’t call for backup. But she did grab her Taser from her bag by the front door, just in case, and slipped out into the night.

The dew-covered grass was wet and cool beneath her bare feet. She kept the shed in sight, but took an indirect approach.

Ten feet away from the shed, she paused. “Matt?”

A low oath came from inside, and she edged closer, keeping her back to the shed, then pivoting around just outside the doorway.

Deep shadows separated her and the guy breaking into the shed. Shadows didn’t worry her, and neither did the fact that she was in the open and more easily visible.

No, what bothered her—and dumped a gallon of adrenaline into her system—was the ax clutched in the guy’s hand. He was roughly six feet tall and had close to a hundred pounds on her. She didn’t want to think about the force he could put behind the weapon in his hand.

“Drop it and turn around slowly.”

The shadow turned toward her all right, taking a half step in her direction, but the bastard didn’t let go of the ax.

And Hayley didn’t let go of the trigger on her Taser until the guy’s body went ramrod straight, the delivered electrical shock making it impossible for his brain to give the rest of his body any message beyond what the fuck?

But it was Hayley’s brain screaming it the loudest when she finally recognized the guy in the shed.


Five hundred pounds. Minimum. Two, maybe three guys on skates going twenty-five miles an hour and they’d just smashed him into the boards.

He shouldn’t be standing, probably shouldn’t even be conscious. And he damn well shouldn’t be yelling like his vocal chords belonged to a kid who’d just been nailed in the balls by a puck.

Jackson couldn’t move. Every part of him locked up, and fuck it hurt.

His voice cracked, the high-pitched sound scraped from his throat with a hot knife. And then he was going down. Nothing worked. Every muscle stalling when they should have worked to break his fall.

Pain flared through his body when he hit the wood floor instead of the unforgiving ice he’d expected. His head struck something softer and bulky, which thankfully silenced the boy-band scream.

What. The. Fuck.

He blinked. Once, twice, frowning at the dark rafters above his head. Where the hell was he? His heart kicked at his ribs, his lungs working hard to draw in more air.

Light flooded the space, and he recognized the blonde who crouched over him even before his eyes fully adjusted.

“Jackson?” Hayley ran her hands across his chest then slid her fingers up the side of his head and into his hair.

He might have enjoyed it if she hadn’t looked a little freaked out and if he didn’t have the inexplicable urge to punch something. A lot of somethings.

“Are you okay?”

He gave himself a second to mull that over, wanting to be sure he’d imagined the sensation of being slammed into the boards and pinned there. He clearly wasn’t anywhere near a rink, but the adrenaline-driven anger pulsing through his bloodstream disagreed.

“I’m on the floor. Why?” He lifted his head from the musty hockey bag under him.

Hayley ignored the question, continuing to look him over.

“I need you to stay here for a second, okay?”

Seeing as lifting his head churned his stomach harder than the biggest shake-’em-up fair ride he could imagine, he was perfectly okay with staying exactly where he was. “What happened?” Everything seemed to be working fine, except for the dizziness and the pain in his side.

Hayley didn’t answer him, but he heard her fiddling with something behind him and then she was gone.

He tipped his head back to search for her, but found himself alone. Her absence gave him the chance to remember he’d been in Coach’s shed looking for his old lucky hockey stick. How he’d ended up sprawled across the shed floor was still a mystery.

She returned a minute later carrying a first-aid kit.

Shit, was he bleeding?

He tried to move again, relieved the vertigo was fading, but he still couldn’t move much without wanting to puke.

“Jesus.” He pulled at the hem of his shirt that she held gathered in her hand. “What are you doing?” He bit back a curse as she poked him with something. “Hayley?”

Only when she finished wiping at his skin with an alcohol pad and applied a bandage did she rock back on her heels.

“Hayley,” he snapped, wanting an explanation.

She offered a hand to help him up. “I tased you.”

“You what?” He jerked back from her hand, surprised he could keep the contents of his stomach where they belonged.

She nodded to the weapon lying near the door. “I thought you were breaking in, and when I saw the ax in your hand…” she trailed off, then frowned at him. “Why didn’t you put it down?”

Jackson scrambled to his feet, grabbing the edge of the counter to steady himself against the wave of dizziness that frayed the edges of his vision. Head fuzzy or not, he still put as much distance between them as the small space allowed.

“I was putting it down.” He scanned the counter for the stupid ax, then abandoned the futile search when Hayley took a step toward him.

The crammed shed closed in and he pushed past her, needing air, room to move—a fucking drink. Christ. Tased him? Was she out of her damn mind?

“Jackson,” she began.

He held up a hand before he bit her head off. Nervous energy crawled under his skin. His long, almost drunk-feeling strides ate up the grass before he pivoted back around to face her. “You actually tased me?”

“I told you to put the weapon down and you didn’t.”

He lifted one the ear buds dangling around his neck. “If I had heard you and knew I was seconds from getting a few hundred volts shot into me—”

“Thousands actually.”

He stared at her.

“Fifty thousand,” she clarified, looking like it was no big deal.


He spun away from her and scrubbed a hand down his face. First the arrest and now a tasing? Jesus.

“You’re mad.”

“Fifty thousand volts. Yeah, I’m a bit pissed.” And pissed was putting it lightly. Had he been slammed into the boards like he’d first thought, he would have retaliated and had his fist halfway down the asshole’s throat by now.

Instead he was staring at a five-foot-eight blonde in her bare feet, wearing ripped jean and a Superman T-shirt. He didn’t let the whole cute-girl-next-door image fool him for a second. Hayley Stone was as tough as they came.

And she apparently had it out for him.

“You’re mad?” she challenged, the sharp edge of frustration cutting into her voice.

Oh no. There was no fucking way she was going to turn this around on him.

“You’re mad?” she repeated, taking two threatening steps in his direction, and so help him for a second there he thought about backing up. “You roll into town and last what, five hours before you’re in the middle of a fight? I’m already on my captain’s shit list for taking so long to wrap up an ongoing robbery investigation and then I have to cuff the local hockey legend?”

“I didn’t start that fight,” he snapped.

She barely let him get that much out. “But you didn’t walk away from it either, did you? And it didn’t stop there. Right now that picture of us kissing is probably being splashed all over the Net with me as your latest flavor of the week, to help save your reputation no less. And to top it all off, you go sneaking around in the dark, leaving me no choice but to take action against an armed perpetrator, who coincidentally turns out to be the only person who could possibly get me fired, and you’re mad?”

Jackson’s head was spinning, and it had nothing to do with the aftereffects of the tasing. He didn’t have time to wrap his head around half of what she’d said before she stormed past him.

Like hell she was walking away at this point.

“Hayley!” Despite the occasional step that felt out of balance with the lingering dizziness, he went after her.

She managed to keep a few steps ahead of him the whole way back to the house, the boards on the front porch creaking under their combined weight. She flung open the screen door and the decades-old frame screeched in protest. Half surprised it hadn’t been ripped off altogether, he let the door bang softly behind him.

Hayley moved through the house, not stopping until she reached the kitchen. The surrounding chaos slowed his pursuit, leaving him gaping at the missing cupboard doors, pieces of wood, tools, drop sheets and paint cans littering most available space.

It was an interior designer’s nightmare.

Drawers opened and closed, and he stared at Hayley digging through one after another. He might as well have not been in the room from the way she brushed past him to search the drawers behind him.

She spun back around, retracing her steps. This time she removed the drawers and reached up inside, feeling around. At her third opening, she murmured, “Knew it,” withdrawing a small package.

The trembling in her hands was apparent when she pulled a cigarette from the pack and tried using the small lighter tucked inside the package to light it. It took three misfires and a violent shaking—that should have sent the lighter flying across the room—to make it finally give up a flame she could use.

Tossing the lighter on the counter, she inhaled sharply—and coughed harder than a middle school teen sneaking her first cigarette. “Shit,” she choked out, then took another painful-to-watch drag.

“What are you doing?” One of them needed to know, and it sure as hell wasn’t him. He was still reeling from the fact that she’d zapped him with fifty thousand volts.

She half-coughed, half-laughed. “Not sure.” Her exhale was more of a sputtering wheeze, and she frowned at the cigarette. “I haven’t had one since I was sixteen. Forgot how much I hated his brand.”

So they were Coach’s cigarettes, not hers.

“What the hell were you thinking?”

As angry as he was, it was damn hard to take her question seriously when she stood there glaring at him with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth like it tasted about as good as three-day-old boxers. “Before or after you brought Annie Oakley into the new century outside in the shed?”

Unimpressed, she held the cigarette for another inhale. It wasn’t much better than her previous attempts. Jackson had tried smoking exactly twice in his life, but he was pretty sure he wouldn’t look half as disastrous as she did trying to suck the nicotine into her lungs.

Hell, the kitten could have done a better job.

He grabbed the cigarette from her lips and stabbed it out in the sink. “Coach would be pissed if he knew you were smoking in the house.”

Hayley stared at him, her eyes watery from the smoke, and burst out laughing.

Laughing was probably the last thing on earth he should have felt like doing, but in the face of those flushed cheeks, her hair sticking up everywhere and that pitiful attempt to calm herself down after tasing him—tasing him, for fuck’s sake—how could he not laugh?

He’d enjoyed himself more in the last twenty-four hours than he had in weeks, probably months. And the craziest part was that she’d done that with arresting him, making him climb a tree and then shocking the crap out of him—okay, maybe not the latter so much—along with a few less painful moments in between.

Kissing her hadn’t hurt a damn bit either.

He didn’t have a clue what it all meant, but the longer he stood there watching her clutch her stomach and wipe at the corners of her eyes, the harder it was to hang on to his anger. Maybe if she hadn’t looked so cute with cigarette ash on her Superman T-shirt, or if she hadn’t sounded downright adorable laughing her ass off, he would have gotten the hell out of there.

Watching her uncoiled the tension holding his spine in a vise grip, and when she slid to the floor and propped her back against the fridge, her laughter slowly fading to the occasional giggle, he sat down next to her.

“Don’t tell him I had one of his cigarettes, okay? Sick or not, Gramps would kick my butt from here to the Canadian border.”

“Our little secret.” He thought back to what she’d said outside and the worry that she’d be fired whether or not her actions were justified. “The tasing is our little secret too.”

Eyes closed, she let her head thunk back against the fridge. “I should have saved myself a lot of hassle and locked you up when I had the chance. Maybe you would have come to your senses.”

“I can think of other ways to bring me to my senses.” If her hands weren’t still trembling just a bit he might not have joked with her.

“Do not get cute with me,” she growled.

He grinned. “You think I’m cute?”

She blew out a breath. “I think you’re a whole lot of trouble.”

“You used to like trouble.”

With a laugh, she leaned forward. “I used to like joyriding, skinny dipping and deep fried ice cream too, but I’ve learned—”

“Together?” he cut in.

“What?” She shook her head. “No—”

“They should go together.” They sure as hell fit together pretty damn nicely in his head all of a sudden. That kiss had given him a taste for her, and Hayley had a body he could spend hours eating off of. A body he could spend hours with period.

She arched a brow. “Do you have ADD?”

He tried to follow, wondering if the trace amount of nicotine she might have taken in between coughing fits had gone right to her head. “No.”

“Then how the hell do you go from being furious I tased you to joking around and talking about skinny dipping and ice cream?”

The hell if he knew. He felt more off-balance with her than the first time he’d tried skating, but the feeling was becoming a little addictive.

A wayward lock of her hair distracted him, and he drew the thick blonde strands back, tucking them behind her ear.

“You shouldn’t have been in the shed.” She didn’t make it sound like an accusation this time.

“Didn’t mean to be such an inconvenience.”

Her lips parted, her gaze falling to the hands she clenched in her lap. “If I had hurt you or if you’d banged that thick skull of yours…” The words were swallowed by another cough.

“I’m fine.” And he was. Better than he’d been in a good long while overall. Maybe fifty thousand volts weren’t exactly the highlight of his day, but sitting this close to Hayley, her skin warming his side, worry reflected in those pretty eyes of hers, he was more than fine.

“There are laws against trespassing, you know.”

“I didn’t think Coach would mind.” He gave the room another once-over. “Though I’m pretty sure he’d mind what you’re doing to his house. Do all the rooms look like you set off a renovation grenade?”

“Stop changing the subject.” She ran her hands through her hair. “When you didn’t drop the ax, I thought you were the same guy who’s committed multiple break-ins around town.”

“Is that your apology?”

Her earlier vulnerability retreated. “I was doing my job.”

“I think you were better at breaking the law, Hayls. Kidding,” he threw in before she reached for another weapon. “And you can’t blame me for not keeping up with the local news coverage when I haven’t been home in a long time.”

“Well, now you know.”

“Good. Any other criminal activity I should be aware of? Anyone streaking at the football games? Toilet papering the mayor’s place? Stealing the high school mascot’s costume for nefarious purposes?”

Surprise flashed across her face, and was then buried beneath a frown so quickly he might have imagined it. A cop frown if ever he saw one, and with his reputation for fighting both on and off the ice, he’d earned the same frown from a police officer a time or two. The look of surprise before that was definitely new.

Hayley pushed herself to her feet. “We have to sell the house. Medical bills are piling up and Gramps’s insurance coverage isn’t so great.”

“Now who’s changing the subject?” Because it was easier not to talk about the fact that Coach was dying, Jackson redirected the conversation back to the intriguing part. “Let me guess, you once stole the high school mascot suit.”

She ignored the comment. “The guy I had lined up to refinish the cupboard doors and woodwork in here backed out on me last week, and the other local carpentry place is already booked for the next month and a half with other jobs.”

“Your rebellious days aren’t exactly a secret,” he continued, remembering when the mascot’s costume had been tie-dyed and glued to the hood of their principal’s new Beamer.

The guy had been a genuine dick, and it had been hilarious to watch him rip the bear suit off with half the afterschool crowd looking on. No one had been caught in the act, but more than a few people had whispered about Hayley being behind it. He also had a vague memory of their mascot being linked to the disappearance of the stall doors in the girls’ bathroom.

Jackson stood and leaned against the fridge. “You weren’t the first person to use that bear suit inappropriately. I made out with Bernice Cabot one night after a pep rally while she was still wearing it.” The result of a stupid dare to kiss Brace-Face Bernice.

Hayley studied her toes. “It’s a wonder that newsflash didn’t make it into the high school newspaper.”

“Tell me about it.” Not even Matt or Josh had believed he’d gone through with it since Bernice hadn’t blabbed to a single person.

Now that he thought about it, it was a wonder Bernice hadn’t mentioned it when she’d run over to say hi to him at Stone’s last night. The former-school-mascot-turned-real-estate-agent hadn’t stopped talking until Allie had coaxed her back to the girls’ corner.

That kiss should have been worth at least a mention given the rest of the high school stories she’d launched into that night. Christ, she’d yammered on about everything from getting her braces off to his old hockey records and the ten-year reunion he’d skipped a couple years back.

Something tugged at his memory, something to do with the stupid braces…

Maybe it was just nerves left over from the failed cigarette attempt that made Hayley almost squirm in place when he looked her way. Or maybe it was something else…something…

No fucking way.

“It was you.”

“Me?” Her neutral expression didn’t slip even a little.

“Yes, you. You in the bear suit that night.”

That’s why he couldn’t remember kissing Hayley. It had been dark inside the janitor’s closet when he’d led Bernice—or so he’d thought—inside after they’d left the gym. He’d tugged that ridiculous bear head off and kissed her before he could think about it, wanting the whole damn thing over with.

“You kissed me back.”

She shrugged. “I didn’t want you giving me away.”

“No, you kissed me back.”

“Should I have given you a demonstration of proper mop use instead?”

“You held on to me.” He grinned, knowing he’d just recalled a very important detail. Almost as important as the fact he hadn’t been kissing a girl with braces at all—and how in the hell had he let himself forget that detail?

It probably had something to do with the embarrassment of getting a hard-on kissing Bernice, or so he’d thought at the time.

But it hadn’t been Bernice at all, and the second his tongue had slid into Hayley’s mouth, she’d made the most perfect sound and wound her bulky bear arms around his neck.

One quick kiss had lasted nearly five full minutes, ending when he’d tripped over a broom trying to figure out how to get her out of that bear suit. They’d both been breathing heavy until he realized how turned on he was. Then he’d plunked that bear head back in place and gotten the hell out of there.

“You liked kissing me,” he insisted, half annoyed he hadn’t figured it out back then.

“You’re full of yourself.”

He took a step toward her, smiling when she scrambled back a step. “Really? Then how come I’m making you nervous?”

“Cautious, not nervous. And you would be, too, if you had tased six-feet-plus of glory seeker with fists tougher than titanium.”

He scoffed. “Glory seeker?”

“All those fights on the ice were about something.”

“I liked to think of it as doing my job. Sound familiar?”

Hayley frowned, and it only made him want to get closer to her. The kind of closer that would have her flush against him, his hands on her hips, fingers skimming beneath that Superman T-shirt.

He took the first steps to make it happen, crowding her against the counter.

“How’s Josh holding up?”

“I’m sure he and Devon are fine.”

Her eyes, which had been half-shuttered, flew open. “Him and Devon?”

“They went to Greenbush Island to look for Gavin and Allie.” He set his hands on her hips, gaze locked on the sexy curve above her collarbone.

“Together? You don’t find that odd?”

He nodded. “Almost as odd as the bride running off with her ex.”

“Point taken. Gavin wouldn’t have taken Allie to Greenbush Island. He’d want to make her forget Josh, not take her to the one place they were headed after they were married.”

Jackson didn’t let the sensitive subject sway him from touching her. Not this time. He ran his hand down her arm, his thumb brushing the inside of her wrist. Her breath hitched, and some of the tension left her shoulders.

Better, but not quite good enough. He followed the lines of her palm, tracing the soft skin until she closed her hand around his, lacing their fingers together.

“I’m not some—”

“Flavor of the week?” he guessed. “I know.”

The slow smile that curved her lips was nothing short of gorgeous. “Stop reading my mind.”

“I’ll make a mental note.” He hooked a finger through the belt loop on her jeans and tugged until she bumped against him.

“Not sure I can trust that with the number of concussions you’ve had.”

“Probably not as damaging as fifty thousand volts.”

She cocked her head, her eyes full of trouble. “Are you still whining about that?”

He nipped her bottom lip, her answering moan sending a rush of heat straight to his groin. “I don’t whine.” His lips found a sweet spot below her ear.

“That wasn’t what it sounded like in the shed. I didn’t know you could hit those kinds of high notes, actually.”

He sighed, but continued to explore the curve of her neck, right down to where it met her shoulder. “Are you trying to kill the mood here?”

Her eyes drifted shut. “Just trying not to make any more mistakes tonight.”

“So you admit that tasing me was a mistake?”

“Maybe I’m talking about our kiss.”

“Which one?” When she remained silent, he smiled into her skin, the scent of her filling his head.

“Jackson,” she murmured, turning her face toward his. Her mouth skimmed the edge of his jaw, moving way too slow.

He sank his hand into the hair at her nape, guiding her so much closer. Close enough to feel her breath whisper across his lips. Close enough to—


Jackson spun around, one arm blocking Hayley in as he scanned the area.

Amused, she glanced at the arm he was using to shield her, then motioned toward the hallway. “Just a door. It slams all the time.”

Some of the tension left his body. “Is there a window open or something?”

“Upstairs, but it does that anyway.” At his raised eyebrow, she shrugged. “Didn’t know the place was haunted, huh?”

“Maybe I should check it out anyway.”

“You?” She crossed her arms, waiting.

Right. She was the cop.

Hayley rolled her eyes. “How about we check it out?”

It wasn’t the first time she had given him the impression she was just humoring him, but not until they were down the hall and at the front door did he realize she was trying to get rid of him.

“It’s late.” She gripped the door handle.

“You know, I think I could use a ride.”

“I’ll call you a taxi.”

“Aren’t you a little bit worried I might pass out in a ditch on the way?”

She nudged him across the threshold. “You can call me when you get home so I know not to send out search and rescue.”

“I don’t have your number,” he pointed out.

“Then I’ll call you. Good night.” She closed the door on him.

He stared at the wood, trying to puzzle out how he’d gone from being half an inch from her mouth to nearly eating the peeling paint off the front door.



“Go home unless you want me to tase you again.”