I think an excerpt might be in order:
“Officer, how many times do I have to tell you he hit me first?” I leaned forward, speaking through the mesh that separated me from the cop in the front seat. The cuffs were cutting into my wrists and I was nauseated with worry.
The cop’s honey brown gaze settled on me in the rear view mirror. He had nice eyes, I’d noticed that earlier. They seemed kind which struck me as odd considering he was a cop. “Then why does he have a bloody nose and you don’t have a scratch on you, sir?”
I glanced out the window at the tattooed thug sitting on the sidewalk. The guy held a tissue dotted with red spots up to his swollen nose. “I’m a purple belt in Taekwondo. Besides, he wasn’t really much of a challenge.”
The cop gave a little laugh. “Is that because you’re such a tough guy?”
I scowled. “No. It’s because he was drunk off his ass.” No one would ever mistake me for a he-man that was for sure. I was more on the scrawny side.
“And you’re sober?”
Lifting my chin, I sighed. “I had one Kahlua and cream. If you know anything about booze you must know those aren’t very strong.” And if you’re the kind of cop my old man was, you’ll know lots about booze. “Also, I’ve always been able to metabolize my alcohol very efficiently.”
“Fascinating,” Officer Brown murmured, punching things into his onboard computer.
“I know you’re being sarcastic but I actually do find it interesting.”
He shook his head. “What are you, a science geek?”
“Software geek by day, but I’m a science geek in my free time. And because of that I happen to know why I can hold my liquor.”
He snorted. “Okay, I’ll bite. Why?”
Being the nerd I am I didn’t even hesitate to respond. “Alcohol metabolism is controlled by genetic factors. There are variations in in the enzymes that break down alcohol in the body. That’s why some people can drink a ton and not get as blitzed as someone who drinks one drink.”
“Genetics huh? So you’ve essentially been bred to be a lush?” Officer Brown’s cheek curved in a smile. “That is fascinating.”
“You’re mocking me again.”
“Maybe a little.”
“I’m not making it up. It’s science.”
“I’m Irish, Scottish, French and Italian. What would your science have to say about that genetic combination?”
“Odds are you have extremely efficient alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes.”
“That’s a mouthful.”
My chest tightened at the sight of the cop’s pretty, white smile. I wasn’t usually into macho guys, but there was something different about Officer Brown. “Try saying it three times fast.”
He grunted in response.
“Am I going to jail?” I figured I should just come right out and ask.
“I haven’t decided.”
I studied the smooth nape of the officer’s neck and the silky blond locks that poked out from under his hat. A strange little buzzing started up in my stomach as I met his gaze in the mirror again. “Is the other guy going to jail?” I asked softly.
“Oh, yeah. I’ve arrested him for brawling at least three times already this year.” He swiveled in his seat. “You don’t look like the kind who’s usually involved in something like this.”
The intensity of his gaze had my pulse speeding up. “Well, he deserved that fist in the face.”
Officer Brown studied me. “And you say he hit you first?”
“Yes. He punched my shoulder.” Even though my hands were cuffed in front of me, I managed to rub the spot where the jerk had slammed me.
“Let me see.”
“What?” I asked breathlessly.
Officer Brown rolled his eyes. “It’s on your shoulder, right? I’m not asking you to drop your pants.”
“I know, but still.” For some reason the idea of opening my shirt in front of him had my stomach tumbling. He was attractive and I felt insecure. I knew it wasn’t like he wanted to see me without my shirt, but I still felt embarrassed. I had an okay build for a nerdy type, but I was a little on the thin side right now. He’s looking for evidence, not trying to date you.
“Mr…” he glanced at my license that was balanced on his laptop. “O’Brien, I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable. If you’d rather I can just have someone check you at the station?”
“Shit. So you are arresting me?”
“Well you did punch him.” He chewed his lip and then opened his door. “Let me go talk to Sam. He never misses anything that goes on in his bar.”
I watched Officer Brown walk gracefully around the front of his squad car toward the other cop. As he stood talking I had a great view of him. Seeing as I had nothing else to do I went ahead and took in every inch of the guy. He was tall, broad shoulders and his uniform fit him perfectly. He looked exactly like you want a cop to look; powerful, clean cut and intelligent. That familiar tingle started up in my gut again. He turned to look when the bleeding thug pointed in my direction, and I looked away quickly.
When I glanced up again after a few minutes Officer Brown wasn’t anywhere in sight. I assumed he’d gone inside the bar. Glancing around his vehicle I noticed it was immaculate. Not even a speck of dirt on the carpet or the console up front. He was probably one of those regimented ex-military types that seemed drawn to police work. I noticed he had a couple of photographs tucked in his visor. The one in front was of a blond child and another tucked behind was of a good looking, dark haired man holding the same blond kid. The guy was laughing toward someone off camera, and I wondered if it was Officer Brown who was making him look so happy. It was hard to tell from just meeting Brown if he was into girls or guys, but the glint in the eye of the man in the picture had a flirtatious sparkle.
There was a sharp rap on the window and, startled, I turned to see who it was. The door opened and Officer Brown took my elbow and helped me out of the car. A Hispanic guy with a white streak running down the center of his jet black hair stood watching me with his hands in his pockets.
“Yeah, that’s the kid,” the older man announced, nodding like one of those bobbing head statues in the rear window of a car.
My stomach dipped and I looked to Officer Brown for clarification. The cop twisted his lips and just stared at me. It was late evening and the butter yellow sun was sinking behind the buildings. The breeze was chilly, and when a little shiver ran through my body Officer Brown broke his silence.
“Sam agrees with your version of events.”
“He does?” My voice went up an octave like he’d told me he was giving me a free puppy. I was a little embarrassed at how excited I’d sounded, so I cleared my throat and spoke in a deeper tone. “That’s awesome.”
“You seem surprised.” Officer Brown’s lips twitched.
“Yeah, you’re starting to make me think I got it wrong.” Sam grinned and I noticed he had a golden front tooth. “I heard the guy ragging on you. He’s an asshole to everyone but he especially hates—” Sam shrugged and looked like he didn’t want to continue.
I swallowed and shifted nervously. “Gingers?”
Sam snorted as he took in my auburn hair. “Yeah, that too.” He turned to Officer Brown. “He was calling the kid names like faggot, and fudge packer. You know, the usual shit his ignorant type comes up with.” Sam turned to me. “Sorry kid, I’m just trying to make a point. I don’t agree with those terms.”
My face felt like a red neon sign. “It’s okay. I get it.”
Officer Brown cleared his throat. “And then he hit you?” His brown eyes were dark in the dimming light.
I nodded. “When he got up in my face I told him to fuck off, then he punched my shoulder. I think he was aiming for my face, but he was so drunk he missed.”
“Yep. That’s how it happened.” Sam agreed.
“Okay.” Officer Brown called to the other cop who was babysitting the thug, “Go ahead and book him.” Then he turned to me. “Since you don’t have any priors I think you’re off the hook Mr. O’Brien.”
Relief washed through me and I slumped. “Oh, thank God.”
Sam chuckled and patted my shoulder. “You’re lucky you got Officer Brown on this call. Most of the other cops would have taken you both in and asked questions later.” He shook Brown’s hand and ambled off toward his bar.
Officer Brown leaned behind me and held my wrists. His warm fingers felt amazing in the cold evening air, and my flesh tingled at his touch. He wiggled the key in the lock and the cuffs sprang open. I rubbed my sore skin and met his curious gaze.
“This doesn’t look like your kind of place.” He gestured toward Sam’s Bar. “Do you live near here or something?”
“No.” I pointed toward Al’s Automotive Repair across the street. “My piece of crap car’s been giving me trouble and someone recommended that place. When they told me it was going to be over three hours I came over here.”
He frowned. “You came to a bar to wait for your car to get fixed?”
I flushed. “I had one drink. I didn’t think one weak ass beverage in three hours would be a problem.”
“Still. It seems like an odd choice.”
“It was that or sit in the waiting room the entire time. The guy behind the counter made me uncomfortable.”
“In what way?”
I shrugged. “He was staring a lot and asking personal questions.”
“Why didn’t you call a friend or family member to come give you a ride home?” Officer Brown had a line between his brows. It was obvious he couldn’t conceive of a world where there weren’t people waiting in the wings to help you when you needed them.
“I don’t have any family in the area, and most of my friends ride the bus.” In fact I was the one usually giving them a lift places.
He looked at his watch. “When will your car be ready?”
I gave a glum look toward the dark repair shop. “My guess is tomorrow. They’re closed now.”
Brown snapped his head toward Al’s Automotive. “What? I thought you were waiting for your car?”
“I was. I’d already waited the three hours at Sam’s and was about to walk over and see if my hunk of junk was finished when tattoo guy stopped me.” I waved my hands toward the bar and the cop cars. “They must have closed up shop while all the drama was taking place.”
Officer Brown crossed his arms in front of his broad chest and studied me in silence. A female voice kept making announcements from the little radio attached to his shoulder, but I guess it wasn’t for him because he ignored it.
“This isn’t a good neighborhood.” Officer Brown spoke softly.
I sighed. “Yeah. I’m aware.”
“How are you getting home?” He seemed genuinely concerned.
“There’s a bus stop across the street.”
He frowned. “You missed the last bus an hour ago.” He gnawed the side of his pretty lower lip.
“Shit.” I ran a hand over my hair wondering what the hell I was going to do now. My bank account was pretty sad at the moment and the estimate for the car had basically wiped out anything I had in there anyway. Taxis weren’t cheap, but I figured I really had no choice. I would have to use what little room I had left on my credit card. It was either take a cab home, or sleep in the juniper bushes out front of Al’s Automotive. “I’ll call a taxi.”
“Where do you live?”
I wasn’t sure why he wanted to know that, but I answered anyway. “To the west, more toward Glendale.”
“So maybe forty-five minutes away?” He looked like he was calculating something in his head.
“Yeah.” I pulled my cell from my pocket glancing at the littered streets, and the graffiti sprayed on the walls. “Home isn’t exactly Beverly Hills but it definitely beats this place.”
“That’s an expensive cab ride. It could run you over a hundred bucks.”
I rubbed my face and gave a dry laugh. “Yeah, I know. But I sure as hell ain’t walking.”
He exhaled and gestured toward his squad car. “I’ll take you home.”
I grimaced, surprise radiating through me. “What? No, you don’t have to do that. I’ll be fine.” God, had I been giving off pathetic vibes or something? “I’m twenty-six years old, and more than capable of getting home.”
He frowned. “I know that.”
“Well, it’s a nice gesture and all, but I’d rather call a cab.” I didn’t know him at all and I couldn’t understand why he was offering to help me. Did he want something in return?
His mouth turned down at the corners in disapproval. “You’d rather call a cab? You’d rather pay over a hundred dollars just to get home instead of riding with me?” He pretended to sniff his underarm. “Is there something you’d like to tell me?”
My cheeks warmed and I avoided his confused gaze. “You’re a cop, not a taxi driver. You must have way more important things to do than cart my ass around town.”
“This was the last call of my shift. I’m not wasting taxpayer’s money if that’s what’s worrying you.” He shrugged. “The station’s five minutes from here. I can drop off my patrol car and run you home easily.”
I looked at the time on my phone to distract myself from his amiable gaze. The idea of paying over a hundred bucks just to get home did make me sick to my stomach. But I couldn’t figure out what his angle was and it made me wary. I mean, everybody has an angle.
“You’re not the first person I’ve given a ride to.” He laughed. “I don’t make a habit of it. But every now and then I run across someone like you. You seem like a nice guy who’s just having a rough day. I don’t see anything wrong with helping someone out. That’s why I became a cop after all.”
I didn’t share with him my opinion of most cops. He didn’t need to know I believed the majority of men who joined the force were power hungry bullies. Arrogant assholes like my dad. Officer Brown did seem different from the typical cop, but it was hard not to feel he must have ulterior motives for helping me. I’d grown up on stories of how my dad would use people who owed him. I wasn’t sure what to make of Officer Brown.
“You seem a little too good to be true. What’s in it for you?”
“I don’t understand.”
“What do you get out of giving me a ride?” I had to admit he looked surprised at my questions but that didn’t really mean anything in the long run. He could just be a good actor.
“I’m being completely serious. Why would you go out of your way like this for a total stranger?” I flushed under his irritated stare, and I began to feel stupid for being so suspicious.
He opened his mouth as if to speak and then shook his head and moved gracefully around the car to the driver’s side. “Have a good evening, Mr. O’Brien. I hope you get home safely.”
It was clear he was about to drive off and my stomach churned at the idea of being left here alone suddenly. It was almost dark and I glanced around at the homeless guy lying near the wall, and the empty beer bottles and cigarette butts on the sidewalk. “Wait.”
He hesitated and stared at me across the top of his vehicle.
“Sorry. I don’t mean to be insulting. I’m just trying to understand your reason for being so nice to me,” I managed to say, glancing around anxiously at the shabby buildings. “Please don’t leave me here.”
His hard expression softened slightly. “I’m not looking for money or a blowjob, or whatever it is that you’ve dreamed up in that head of yours.”
“Okay.” I looked away embarrassed. I believed him. If I really thought about it he didn’t need to drive an hour out of his way to get something. If he was a crooked cop there would be tons of guys he could hit up for a favor locally.
“The offer still stands but you’ll need to get your ass in the seat fast before I change my mind.” He climbed in his car as he spoke.
I slipped into the back of his unit watching him nervously through the screen that separated the two areas. He started the engine without speaking to me, and I slumped against the seat feeling humbled and relieved to be on my way home.