“ ’Kay.” I smiled at him and wiggled closer.
“I want you to meet my parents . . . today or tomorrow, it doesn’t matter, but soon. I know they’ll love you.”
My heart started racing and I nodded my head against his chest.
“Every day for the rest of our lives, I want you to spend the mornings in nothing but my shirt.” I laughed and he tightened his arms around me. “And we really need to talk about getting you on birth control. Because after last night and this morning, I don’t know how I could ever go back to using a condom with you.”
“But I am on birth control.”
He jerked his head back and tilted mine up to look at him, his brow furrowed. “Then why am I always wearing one?”
I shrugged. “Neither is one hundred percent effective, and since Candice was always with guys I made her use both so she wouldn’t have mini Candices running around. I guess my own argument just followed me.”
His scowl deepened. “Do you want to marry me?”
“Do you want to have kids with me?”
“Someday,” I whispered.
“Do you ever miss taking your pill?”
His gray eyes turned silver and the heat in them warmed my body. “Bed. Now. We’re never using condoms again.”
“Pancakes?” I argued miserably.
He turned off the skillet, put the batter in the fridge, and pointed in the direction of his bedroom. “We’ll make them later. Go.”
“Woman, I just found out that you’ve been on the Pill this whole time. Right now I’m struggling not to spank the hell out of you. Last time I’m going to tell you.” He leaned in close and ordered gruffly, “Bed, Rachel. Now.”
Goose bumps covered my skin and a pleasant shiver made its way through my body as I turned to leave the kitchen. I’d barely made it two steps when his hand came down across my butt, which was still covered in his shirt. “Whoa!” I yelled, and covered myself with my hands as I turned to face him. “Ow! That hurt, you jerk!” I went to smack him but he caught my hand and smiled as he kissed my palm.
“Don’t lie, Sour Patch, you enjoyed it.” When he lifted me up, I automatically wrapped my legs around his h*ps and let him walk me back to the bedroom. “And you’re gonna get another one for making me take you to the bed.”
I didn’t even try to argue. The way his heated eyes mixed with that arrogant smile I’d fallen in love with made for one delicious combination. And I decided right then that I liked this side of Kash.
Four months later . . .
“YOU GOOD?” I asked Mason as we headed back toward the elevators.
He shrugged and punched at the buttons on the wall. “There’s only so much you can do to get them to go in a different direction. He wanted to follow his brother.”
We’d gotten a call late last night from homicide detectives about a murder that looked gang related. It had ended up being a drive-by involving a newer gang that we’d come across recently, and one of the two victims was a thirteen-year-old Mason had been trying to get off the streets over the last few months named Lil Tay. And though Mason was acting like this was just another case, I knew this was harder for him than the rest.
Knowing there was nothing I could say, I clapped his shoulder and let him be alone with his thoughts. Grabbing my phone, I smiled when I finally saw Rachel’s text from last night.
Just so you know . . . cleaning up from a whipped cream war without you isn’t nearly as fun. See you when you get home. Love you.
We just finished up, be home soon babe. Love you too.
Rachel had moved to Tampa Bay the week after she showed up in my apartment and I’d never been happier. My parents loved her just as much as she loved them, and she fit in with my life well. Mason’s younger sister and Rachel were practically inseparable and his parents viewed her as an extension of their family, the same way they did me.
Candice was graduating at the end of this month and we were taking a two-week vacation to be there and spend time with the Jenkinses in California before Candice came back with us for a month. Rachel couldn’t wait to see her, and honestly, I think Mason was excited to have that particular hookup back.
Work was going well; Mase and I—as well as our parents—were happy we were out of the inner parts of narcotics. Living that way isn’t something that any cop would want; the reward of bringing down an entire drug ring was what had made it worthwhile. For us to go to the gang division was natural. We knew the ins and outs of different gangs, already knew a lot of the members, and were no longer undercover. It was perfect for us, and we were good at what we did. Most importantly, Rachel supported me one hundred percent.
A month after Rachel had moved here, I’d asked her to marry me again. This time, there was absolutely nothing between us and everything about it felt different . . . felt right. We talked about everything, there were never secrets kept unless there was a surprise involved, and there were never any lies. And even when my family and Mason’s asked for her side of the story about our time in Texas and when we broke up, Rachel never held it against me. She’d gotten everything out the night she came here and left it there. She wasn’t one to hold grudges, and I loved her for it. I would always hate myself for what happened, but whenever I started to bring it up, she would kiss me to shut me up and say we were moving forward.
We were getting married at the end of June, and Rachel and my mom had been busy planning the wedding since we set the date. I loved that she was enjoying this and that she was going to get the wedding she deserved, but I didn’t care about the details. I just wanted her to be mine, and in a month and a half, she would be.
The doors to the elevator opened and we stepped in. Just as they were closing, someone started yelling my name from down the hall and Mason caught the door just in time.
“Ryan! Gates!” Sergeant Ramirez ran toward us and as soon as he was in the elevator, he started pounding on the Close Doors button.
I suppressed a groan. I was exhausted and wanted to get home to my fiancée.
“We already have three units at the scene, and I’ll be following you there.”
Ramirez was a K-9 unit; why did they want his dog, Crush, there? And what scene? “Wha—”
“I know you’re anxious to get there, but you know we’re doing everything we can for this.” The elevator was already moving but Ramirez kept stabbing at the ground-level button. “How are you holding up? You look really calm, are you in shock? Maybe you should let Gates drive.”
That seemed to snap Mason out of his thoughts. His head jerked up and his eyes widened. “Why would I need to drive?”
“And why would I be in shock?” My heart started racing as Ramirez started hitting the Open Doors button.
Ramirez gave both of us an awkward sympathetic look before ushering us out to the underground parking lot. “You weren’t informed?”
“Of what?” I was supposed to be the one in shock. So it had something to do with me. My parents, my— Oh God . . . “What happened?!”
“I’m sorry, I thought someone already told you, you were supposed to be informed already. I didn’t understand why I saw you two walking down the hall. I figured you would have already been there.” He mumbled to himself as he kept walking toward the lot. “Look, I’m sorry I’m the one who has to tell you this.” He stopped walking abruptly and turned to look at me. His expression was one I had seen so many times and had even had to use myself. My stomach dropped and it felt like time slowed as I waited for him to tell me one of fifty scenarios that were flashing through my mind. “A call came into dispatch about an hour ago. It was your fiancée, Ryan. The only thing that came from her end of the call was her saying her name, that someone had broken in—”
I didn’t wait to hear the rest. I took off running for my truck and had just gotten to the driver’s door when Mason slammed me into the side and ripped the keys from my hand. After barking at me to get in the passenger seat, he fired up the engine and peeled out of the lot.
“This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening, Mase, tell me this isn’t f**king happening!”
“Damn it!” I roared, and punched at the dashboard. “I don’t even know if she’s okay, Mason! What was Ramirez saying, did he say if she’s okay?! Is she—oh God. Rach, baby, please be alive,” I whispered, and slumped into my seat, raking my hands over my face.
I heard Mason on the phone calling into dispatch and asking questions about what happened, but I couldn’t focus on his exact words or the muffled response coming from the dispatcher. I just kept praying over and over again that she was okay. I could deal with our place being broken into. I could replace our things. But I couldn’t replace Rachel. Ramirez came up next to us running code three and pulled in front of us so we could follow him safely with his lights and sirens going.
Mason nudged my arm and I snapped my head to the left to look at him. “Sorry, you weren’t responding.” He looked quickly back and forth between me and Ramirez’s Tahoe in front of us, his face solemn. “They don’t know if she’s alive.” I sucked in air quickly, and Mason continued, loud enough so I would listen. “But there’s no blood. So just focus on that, Kash.”
“W-what?! No . . . what do you mean?”
He took a deep breath and gripped the steering wheel. “From what units at the scene—uh, your place—are saying, whoever broke in . . . they, uh, they took Rachel.”
Mason was saying something else, but I couldn’t hear anything past the blood rushing through my ears. This had to be a nightmare. There was no way something like this was happening to us again. I grabbed my phone and called her number, praying that all this was a misunderstanding and they had the wrong girl, the wrong address. It rang until her voice mail picked up. I quickly hung up and called again with the same result.
By the time her voice mail came on the second time, we were pulling up to our house and I didn’t wait for Mason to stop; I threw open the door and sprinted past the neighbors standing around in our cul-de-sac and ducked under the crime-scene tape before rushing into the house. The front door was hanging like it had been kicked in, and my first thought was, No one heard that happening and came to help her? It had been barely eight in the morning when Mason and I had started to head home; someone had to have been awake, or at least woken up when all this happened.
Officers were trying to talk to me, but all I could see was that other than the front door being kicked in, the front of our house looked completely normal. Save for the dozens of officers and detectives who were walking in and out of it. Someone tapped my shoulder but I walked quickly to the hallway, barely paying attention to the other officers taking pictures of our bedroom, which looked like a hurricane had just gone through it. I turned into the bathroom and went to the large closet. We had a faux wall set up that was really just flimsy material. But with all the clothes around it, it looked legit, and I’d put it up for times just like this. Rachel had joked that I was going overboard, and at the time I’d agreed I probably was. But now, I hoped like hell she’d used it and that I would find her behind it. Alive.