I lay there and my mind was filled with possible strategies of how to get out of my current predicament. I could go to Tack but that might send mixed messages and, anyway, I needed to sort myself out. I could report Hawk to Lawson but I might have difficulty explaining why, after Hawk broke in, I let him f**k me.

Hmm. Not good.


Hawk told me he’d come after me even if I stayed at Leo and Cam’s. Meredith and Dad were back home but Hawk had already proved he could infiltrate their house and would. Troy lived on the seventh floor in a secure condo building but I figured Hawk could beat a security system or scale walls.

Hmm. More not good.

Then, totally against my will, my mind slid to Simone Delgado dying because she loved her brother and was excited to be there when her niece or nephew entered the world.

I could see that.

I could also see Hawk’s grief swinging to anger because she let love veer her away from caution and she dragged their daughter into it, something as a mother she should never do. I could also see that would make him feel guilt, the extreme kind, loving her, his grief at her loss mixing with anger. An innocent decision, but he knew the danger and warned her against it, she didn’t listen and that happy, beautiful family in that photo he showed me was gone. Poof! He had the memory of their farewell and left to do his job not knowing it was the last memory they’d ever make.

And he was thousands of miles away. Simone and Sophie dead for days and he was thousands of miles away. Hawk, who controlled every nuance of his life, completely removed, powerless and thousands of miles away.

I tried not to think of this. I tried to force my mind back to ways to keep him out of my life, stop him from hurting me again, but all I could see in my head was that picture.

You weren’t movin’, Gwen, he had said.

Firebombs. Drive-bys. Kidnappings. He’d been through it all with me.

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And he saw Brock Lucas carry my immobile body out of my house and he decided he wasn’t going to go there again and, damn it all to hell, who could blame him?

“Shit,” I whispered into the room, tucked my hands under my cheek, curled my knees to my chest and felt the heat seep into my house.

Then I fell back to sleep.

My knees were gently pushed down and this woke me up.

My eyes opened as I felt Hawk’s h*ps fit into the curve of mine then they slid up to look at him sitting on the edge of my couch.

His hand came out and he shifted the hair off my shoulder then his hand curved warm against my neck.

“Not a big fan of bein’ the reason you’re curled into a protective ball, babe,” he murmured as a good morning.

He was fully dressed, his face unhappy.

I had no response. I was still sleepy and having trouble getting my guard up.

He held my eyes as I mentally struggled. Then suddenly he moved, I was plucked out of the couch, planted in his lap and his arms went around me.

“Hawk,” I whispered.

“You could have anything, babe, anything in the world, what would it be?” he asked.

I blinked. “What?”

“Anything you want, it’s yours. What would it be?”

“Um… I don’t –”

His arms gave me a squeeze. “Anything, Gwen.”

“Ginger out of trouble and safe,” I answered.

His eyes studied my face for awhile after I answered. Then he said, “Next up.”

“Next up?” I repeated, confused.

One of his arms left me so his hand could bunch the hair at the side of my neck. “Next up, Gwen, the next most important thing you could have if you could have anything.”

“Hawk, I don’t understand.”

“Anything, no matter what it is.”

“Hawk –”

“Answer me, Sweet Pea.”

“Hawk, I don’t –”

“Gwen, answer me.”

“Simone and Sophie alive and you with them and happy like you were in that photo,” I blurted and his face froze into that blank mask.

Staring at him, sleepy and confused, I suddenly understood that mask. It slotted into place when he was hiding something important from me.

“Which would mean, of course,” I kept blurting, “that you would never darken my door.”

The mask fell away instantly and he grinned, huge, his dimples popping out and dang, it killed me, but I had to admit I really missed those dimples. Then he twisted his torso and I was on my back in the couch, his upper half on top of me, my h*ps in his hips, my legs dangling over the back.

His fingers trailed my hairline and tucked my hair behind my ear as he went on. “What’s next?”

I felt my eyes get squinty. “Why are you asking me this?”

“What’s next, Gwen?”

“I’m still sleepy,” I dodged.

His face came closer and his thumb stroked my jaw when he whispered his demand, “Baby, what’s next?”


Okay, he wanted to play this game, whatever. I’d play.

“Meredith being my real mom not my stepmom.”

He nodded and his thumb swept my lower lip. “What’s next?”

“You want to clue me in, Hawk?” I requested.

“What’s next?”

Apparently, he didn’t.

“There isn’t anything next,” I declared.

“Bullshit, Sweet Pea, a woman who wants a pair of seven hundred dollar shoes, she’s gotta have a next.”

“A diamond bracelet from Tiffany’s,” I replied then went back on it. “No! Wait. Leo to get Cam an engagement ring then a diamond bracelet from Tiffany’s.”

His head dipped and his mouth touched mine before he moved back and murmured, “All right, baby, that’ll do for now.”

What’ll do? And for now?

No. No. I didn’t want to know.

Time to move on.

“Since you’re here and don’t appear to intend to leave anytime soon, I might as well ask you something,” I announced and got another grin. “Tack says that things have cooled with Ginger. Does your intel confirm that I’m safe?”

“Ginger’s gone to ground,” Hawk repeated Tack’s words. “Darla, Skeet and Fresh were facing kidnapping charges and luckily they all signed confessions so they won’t breathe free for awhile. This is good because it’s good. This is also good because their incarceration is an added deterrent to anyone who might think of f**kin’ with you. Lee entered the game which is further inducement for someone to avoid f**kin’ with you. But, no, you’re not safe.”

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