Other than that, he looked fine. Standing, breathing, prowling, fine.

Except, vaguely in the recesses of my mind, it struck me he looked kind of pissed.


I didn’t care.

I shot out of my protective ball and up on my feet on the bed. I took one step, jumped over Shirleen’s body, my foot hit the edge of the bed and I launched myself through the air at my man.

He caught me with a grunt and went back on a foot.

My arms and legs went around him and I started raining kisses on every bit of skin my mouth could find.

“Babe,” he called, one of his arms curled under my ass, the other one around my back.

I ignored him and kept kissing his neck, his jaw, his throat, his cheek…

“Sweet Pea,” he called, his arm at my back becoming a hand sliding up and into my hair.

I continued to ignore him and my mouth touched his.

His head jerked back and his hand twisted gently in my hair.

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“Gwen, baby, I’m okay,” he whispered and my eyes moved to his.

I stared down at him, drinking him in, feeling his power, his heat, all that was him wrapped in my limbs. Then I felt my face dissolve and I shoved it in his neck right before my breath hitched loudly and my body bucked with tears.

His head turned and his hand in my hair tightened. “Baby,” he whispered in my ear.

My head jerked up and I wailed, “I can’t believe you took a shower before you came to see me!”

“Gwen –”

“Next time I get a scary picture text where you’re bleeding from your ear and hanging from something, new rule!” I shrieked. “You come see me immediately after you’re rescued!”

“It wasn’t exactly a rescue effort,” Luke Stark put in and my head snapped to see him standing two feet from Hawk and my side. “More like a clean up one,” he finished.

“What?” I asked.

“Glad I work for Lee,” Vance Crowe muttered and my head snapped to the other side to see him standing two feet from us there. “Lee doesn’t like mess. Fuckin’ hell.” Vance leaned forward to look at Luke. “Did you see Jorge? He walked into that shit and didn’t even blink.”

“Forgot that smell,” Luke muttered and shook his head. “Fear.” Then his lip curled.

Oh boy.

I looked at Hawk. “What’d you do?”

Hawk looked at me. “Not a big fan of bein’ tasered, hung on a hook and men takin’ fists to me, babe.”

This was not an answer.

“What’d you do?” I repeated.

“Yeah, what’d you do?” Shirleen asked from behind me and she sounded more than a little curious, actually, she sounded excited.

“Thought we agreed ignorance is bliss,” Hawk said to me.

“What,” I started. “Did,” I went on. “You do?” I finished and he grinned at me, the dimples popped out and seeing them again after thinking I’d never see them again, my heart skipped a beat.

“Commando Lesson One,” Hawk answered. “You got a hostage you know is trained, you incapacitate him. They should have drugged me. They didn’t. They tied my ankles but left me hanging. Tyin’ ankles doesn’t do shit. The power, babe, is in my thighs. I get a head between my thighs, the neck is vulnerable –”

“Okay,” I said swiftly, “I’m done with Commando Lessons. That was the first and last.”

Hawk’s dimples came back. Then he set me on my feet. Then the dimples disappeared.


“All right, Sweet Pea, Commando Woman Lesson One, you get a text like you got, you call it into base and you do it immediately.”

I was right except uh-oh didn’t quite cover it.

“Hawk –”

“You do not go visit your local, friendly motorcycle club to recruit assistance.”

“Ha –”

“You do not drag your dispatch cosmo girlfriend into your man’s shit firstly, because it might get her ass fired but especially because it might get her ass hurt.”

“Cabe –”

“You do not set your banker friend on a data search that’ll get his ass hauled to the local FBI offices for an interrogation that will be really, f**kin’ uncomfortable.”


“Ca –”

“You do not,” he leaned into me, his serious face turning hard, “ever, offer yourself up for exchange.”

“Baby –”

“And you do not go on the lam with your protective custody witness sister.”

“I –”

“Confirm you get me, babe.”

“But –”

He leaned in so he was an inch from my face. “Confirm…you… get… me.”

I stared at him.

Then my day surged through my brain which sent acid through my system and I lost my mind.

“I will do,” I planted my hands on my h*ps and stared in his black eyes, “what I have to do first, to make sure you’re safe and second, to make sure I get to make more memories with you so, okay, I’ll call base but then I will do whatever the f**k I have to do to make that happen so, no, Hawk, I do not get you!”

“Gwen –”

“I’ve been panicked all day!” I shouted, throwing up my hands and taking a step back from him. “You didn’t give me Commando Woman Lesson One this morning. No, you kissed me good-bye and said you’d see me tonight and I went about my business of the day to make sure you’d see me tonight!”

“Gwen –”

“You were bleeding from your ear!” I shrieked.

He reached out with both hands, caught me and hauled me into his body, whispering, “Baby.”

My hands clenched in his tee as his arms slid around me. “It was you or my sister. Do you know what that kind of decision does to your head?”

“All right, Sweet Pea, I get it,” he said gently.

“Yes, Cabe,” I stared him in the eyes, “of anyone, you do. You know what I was facing today. You know.” I watched his eyes close, my hands released his shirt, slid up to wrap around the sides of his neck, his eyes opened and he showed me he not only got it, he really, really got it. So my voice was quiet when I went on. “I can get why you’re angry, honey, but cut me some slack. I was doing the best I could do so you didn’t become a picture on my f**king refrigerator.”

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