I forced my feet to stop when I was a foot away from him.

When I stopped, he said softly, “You look pretty.”


He told me I looked pretty.


“Thanks,” I whispered.

“Goin’ out with Hawk?”

I pressed my lips together. Then I nodded.

He smiled.

Then he straightened and moved into me so the foot that separated us became more like six inches.

Or less.

Then his hand came up and he rested it on my waist and before I could say anything or move, he started talking.

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“I don’t want to offend you when I say this but after last night, I need to say it.”


I’d tipped my head to look up in his soulful eyes and they seemed more soulful than ever.

“What?” I asked before I could get lost in his soulful eyes.

He hesitated then stated, “Your sister, Ginger, she’s not too smart.”

Oh. Well, I’d expected something else. I didn’t know what but, seeing as his hand was on my waist and he was in my space, it wasn’t Ginger.

“I kind of know that,” I replied.

“You probably know this too and if you didn’t before the last coupla nights, then you do now, but she doesn’t think about who she’s draggin’ into this.”

“Yes, the last couple of nights I’ve learned that.”

He nodded. Then he said, “So, the favor I’m askin’, if you see her again, I want you to call me.”

My body got tight but it was only automatically, nevertheless, he felt it and he got closer, his hand gripping my waist, his other hand lifting to do the same on the other side.

“I can’t say what’s gonna happen to her. If she plays it smart, if we can cut a deal, if we can protect her. There are no promises here, Gwendolyn. What I can say is, whatever happens, she’s safer with us than she is on the street and you are definitely safer if she’s with us and not on the street.”

I could see this.

He kept going. “And, for you, we get her in custody, I’ll do what I can for her.”

Oh. Wow.

“Thanks,” I whispered.

His fingers dug in, giving me a squeeze as his mouth gave me a smile.

“Just want to be clear, I don’t want you to try to detain her. But if you see her, she shows, she gets in contact with you, you won’t be helpin’ her out, even if she tells you you are, by keepin’ it from us. Just call me, tell me what she said, where you saw her and if you know where she intends to go.”

“You want me to inform on my sister,” I surmised.

“Yeah,” he replied, no hesitation, no bullshit.

“Okay,” I agreed, no hesitation either.

He smiled again.

Then his fingers gave me another squeeze and he asked, “How’re you handlin’ this?”

God, he was nice.

“Well, there are life lessons I’d prefer to learn, say, how to make the perfect soufflé, not that I can keep my head in a crisis that involves fiery destruction but I’m doing okay.”

His brows went up. “You want to learn to make the perfect soufflé?”

“Um…” I was uncertain where to put my hands. There wasn’t enough space and I was carrying my clutch and wrap. But when his fingers gripped me again and pulled me an inch closer I had no choice but to lift them and rest them on his chest. Hmm. That was better. “Not really,” I went on. “More like, I’d like to learn to make chocolate chip cookie dough in thirty seconds or less.”

He smiled yet again.

“But I wouldn’t be adverse to learning to make the perfect soufflé,” I continued, “if it was chocolate.”

His smile deepened.


Then his smile faded and his face got soft as did his voice. “Lotsa shit happenin’, Gwendolyn, scary shit. You sure you’re okay?”

Totally nice.

“Yeah,” I whispered then, do not ask me why, I went on to share, “but I’m a little worried about Meredith. She’s using the fire as an excuse to buy a new couch and have a few days of rest and relaxation but I can tell she’s upset; she’s just not talking about it. And I don’t want to bring it up if she doesn’t want to talk about it but, Ginger, she’s Meredith’s daughter and I think –”

“She loves you,” he cut me off.


“I could see it last night, the night before, she cares about you. Ginger is her daughter and her daughter is bringing you trouble, your Dad too. She feels responsible for that and she doesn’t know what to do with it.”

He was probably right.

Lawson continued. “You need to talk to her about it. Assure her you don’t hold her responsible. Take that load off her because she’s gonna be focusing on other shit too, like the trouble Ginger has made for herself. She doesn’t need to worry about how you feel about the trouble Ginger is bringing on you.”

“You’re right,” I said quietly.

He lifted a hand and tucked hair behind my ear while his soulful, dark brown eyes watched then he rested his hand curled around my neck, his warm palm at my throat.

This was nice too. Too nice.

His eyes came back to mine. “Yeah, I’m right.”

“We’re not like this, Meredith, Dad and me,” I assured him quickly, not certain why I was doing it, just feeling the need to do it. “Ginger is…” I shook my head, “she’s different than the rest of us. I don’t know why, she just always has been. She’s –”

“I know, Gwendolyn,” he said gently in a way that made me know he knew.

I nodded, feeling relief and his fingers gave my neck a squeeze.

Right then the backdoor opened; Lawson and my heads turned and Hawk was there.

He was wearing much what he was wearing the first time I laid eyes on him. The tailored shirt was midnight blue this time but no less fantastic. Jeans. Boots. Great belt. Black leather jacket that was an awesome style and hung great on his broad shoulders. And a Nordstrom’s bag dangling from his hand. No, a Nordstrom’s shoe bag dangling from his hand.

My body stiffened and Lawson’s hands gripped me tighter.

Hawk closed the door behind him but didn’t tear his eyes from Lawson and me.

Then he put his hands on his hips, the bag banging against his thigh.

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