Hard Justice(6)

By: Lori Foster


“Rowdy’s?”

“A bar that’s gotten popular with fighters.”

“Fighters who are your friends?” she asked with interest.

He eyed her warily. “Yeah.”

“I’d love to go there sometime.”

A hint? Was she another groupie hoping to hook up with a fighter? God knew they came from all age ranges, backgrounds and interests. “It’s a no-go for tonight.” Hopefully Ms. Fancy-pants wouldn’t insist. “I’d need to ensure first that things aren’t too chaotic before I take you there. The bar has some rambunctious parties.”

She sighed. “Yes, I suppose tonight we should stick closer to home.”

“As to that, I should have been told your plans in advance so I could scope out any place you wanted to go.”

Brows coming together, she said, “I’ve never heard that rule.”

She sounded a bit stiff, and Justice bit back his smile. “Yeah, well, now you know.”

The frown intensified. “Going forward, I’ll plan accordingly.”

“Good.” Rain made the windows opaque and insulated them from everything outside the car. He could practically hear his own heartbeat, could definitely hear her soft breathing. The sense of intimacy made him uneasy. “So what are we doing now?”

“I’ll settle for a more local bar. Anyway, it’s probably a good idea that we don’t travel too far, just in case.”

“In case what?”

“In case we don’t suit.” She gave him a quick, firm glance. “If all goes well tonight, well then, there’s a lot more I’d like to schedule.”

He’d already been told that when he took the assignment, but still he repeated, “More?”

She ducked her face and pressed her hands over her skirt, smoothing an imaginary crease. “More...like every night? Did no one tell you this could be a month-long detail?”

“Yeah, I knew it.” Why was she being so shy now? “I was told we’d be getting acquainted, but I thought most of that would be at your house with your mom and dad.”

She laughed. “Nooo.”

Yeah, it’d probably be impossible with those two hawks overhead. “So here’s how it usually works. You tell me where you want to go, I find the best route to get there, then scope out the place in advance to ensure I know the different exits, if it’s secure, stuff like that.”

She flapped a hand. “That’s not necessary. Honest. I mean, I suppose that makes sense for most people who need protection. But overall, my parents just wanted to ensure I could explore safely. There will be plenty of other people at the bar, right? Lots of people who visit daily?”

“Sure.” Long as he didn’t take her to a dive, it shouldn’t be a problem.

“Why don’t you pick one, and we’ll give it a shot?” She grinned. “What could go wrong?”

Justice didn’t bother answering. If the alarm bells going off in his head were any indication, he figured they’d both find out soon enough.

* * *

FALLON REJECTED JUSTICE’S first two choices. One was too swanky for the way she’d dressed, and the other looked more like a club. She wanted a regular, everyday bar with everyday people and, finally, on his third try, she agreed with his choice.

A multitude of fluorescent signs filled the big front window of The Broken Pony. People loitered outside, some openly making out, others smoking, groups talking. The parking lot across the street nearly overflowed.

Because it was still pouring, Fallon said, “Drop me off at the door, please.” The thought of walking in there alone made her breathless with nerves, but otherwise she’d be soaked, so—

“No can do,” Justice said. “I promised to stick like glue, remember?” He swung the SUV into the lot, drove up one row then down another until he found an empty space a good distance from the bar.

“I’ll get wet.”

He paused in the process of turning off the car, blew out a long breath, then said evenly, “I’ve got an umbrella.”

He reached around to the backseat, coming very close to her as he did so.

And oh, God, he smelled good. Not like aftershave, just like...man. Fallon tried to take a deep breath without being too obvious.

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