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CONTESTS & FUN

with USA TODAY Bestselling Author 

Julie Miller!

 

 February Book Giveaway!
Entry Deadline February 24th



 

Congratulations to Elaine Seymour of Canada! She won my January Book GiveAway Contest, and will receive a copy of one of my backlist titles for her Kindle. Like many of you, she knew that Charlotte wielded a sword against SWAT cop Trip when she thought she was being attacked.

This month, I’m giving away any available title from my backlist in print or digital format. Something suspenseful? Something sexy? Something with a paranormal twist? Winner’s choice (as long as title is available).

To enter, read the excerpt from PROTECTING THE PREGNANT WITNESS, the second of two S.W.A.T. cop stories in my February release, HARLEQUIN INTRIGUE CLASSICS. This is a special reissue of two reader favorites featuring 2 of my S.W.A.T. cop heroes—at a bargain price! To enter
read the excerpt, answer the question at the end of the excerpt and email me your answer, along with your contact information. My dog, Maggie, will put her nose to work and select a winner from among all the correct entries. Deadline to enter is February 24th.

 

 


 

 


 

 

   

Rules for Julie's Contests

  • One entry per person.
  • By entering, entrants grant permission for their name to be posted on the Julie Miller web site at www.juliemiller.org and in Julie's newsletter.
  • Winners will be chosen by random drawing from among all entries.
  • The odds of winning depend upon the number of participants.
  • Void where prohibited.


MEET JULIE!

April 2016

RT Book Lovers Convention--Las Vegas


 

Julie in New York City at the 2015 RWA National Conference

Julie Miller RITA Finalist

Julie Miller at 2015 RWA Literacy Signing

 

Intrigue Authors Julie Miller and Delores Fossen at Harlequin Party, NYC 2015

The awesome sign made by Julie's roommates at the RWA 2015 Conference in NYC. Yes, I'm a RITA finalist!

Julie at the RWA Literacy Booksigning

 

Julie with fellow USA TODAY Bestselling Author Delores Fossen at the Harlequin VIP Party.

Author Julie Miller at Broadway production of WICKED

Author Julie Miller RITA Finalist

Author Julie Miller ready for 2015 RWA RITA Awards

Julie at the Broadway production of WICKED

Yes, I'm a RITA finalist!

Julie ready to attend the RITA Awards Ceremony

 


 

APPEARANCES

Julie Miller at the PRW 20th Anniversary

 
Julie's local writing group, the Prairieland Romance Writers, celebrates 20 years of excellence in romance fiction at an anniversary Open House in Grand Island, NE
 
Prairieland Romance Writers celebrates 20 years of excellence in romance fiction!

 

Author Julie Miller

Authors Scott and Julie Miller

Kearney, NE Booksigning, The Sequel Bookshop
Julie Miller, and Scott & Julie Miller

 

 

Intrigue Classics by Julie Miller

PROTECTING THE PREGNANT WITNESS

Copyright © 2011, 2015 by Julie Miller

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

(Excerpt)

 

 

Prologue
The Past
 
            It was a bone-deep instinct to shut down his emotions and simply survive that allowed Rafe Delgado to tune out the world and squeeze the trigger.
            Aaron was down.  The car had plowed right through him, tossing him into the air and speeding past as he landed with an ominous thud on the pavement of the busy Kansas City street.
            Bang.
            And then the world rushed in and the fear welled up as snapshot images and jarring noises etched themselves indelibly on his battered soul.  Shouts.  Curses.  Lights flashing.  Sirens wailing.  Radio static.  Screams.  The squealing, grating crunch of a car spinning on its blown-out tire and slamming into the bricks of a building down the block from the bank the driver and passengers had just robbed.
            “Aaron?”  No.  Hell no.  Rafe holstered his weapon and ran.  He put out one hand to stop a truck turning the corner in front of him and radioed in the call for an ambulance.  They’d been the first cops on the scene to answer the bank’s silent alarm.  Rafe’s partner--veteran cop, friend, mentor--had said they needed to stop the getaway car.  It was harder to catch a gang of thieves once they were on the run than to stop them before they escaped.  They’d stopped them, all right.  “Aaron!”
            This wasn’t happening.  It couldn’t be happening.  Rafe Delgado was finally making something of himself.  Learning to be a cop, learning to trust.  Learning from the best.  Sergeant Aaron Nichols was friend and father confessor as much as he was his partner.  The perps had ignored Aaron’s warning, had ignored his gun.  Rafe had stopped them, but not soon enough.
            Barely aware of the other uniformed cops swarming the neighborhood--stopping traffic, herding bystanders off the street, pulling the three dazed and injured criminals out of the car and handcuffing them on the sidewalk--Rafe ran to his fallen partner where he lay bent and broken in the middle of the intersection.  Ignoring the pool of blood staining his knees, he knelt down beside Aaron.
            “Aaron?”  Those deep blue eyes, set between lines of laughter and wisdom, struggled to focus.  Rafe scooped up his partner’s beefy hand and squeezed it, drawing Aaron’s attention.  “I got ya, Sarge.  Hang in there.  The ambulance is on its way.”
            Aaron’s scarred-up boxer’s paw tightened weakly around Rafe’s fingers.  A breathy hint of his Americanized brogue whispered.  “Did we get ‘em?”
            “I shot the tire and they spun out.  Save your energy.  Don’t talk.”  His hand was cold.  There was too much blood.  Rafe lifted his head and shouted wildly.  “Medic!  I need a medic!”
            The thick fingers convulsed around Rafe’s.  “This one’s bad, sonny.  No doctor can help me.”
            “That’s Irish bull.  You stop bleedin’.  You hear me?”
            Aaron’s pale, trembling lips curved in a familiar grin.  “Givin’ me orders.  Who outranks who?”
            “Just trying to keep you around, old man.”  He wanted to apply pressure to the wound bleeding so profusely at the back of his head.  But that meant rolling him over, and Rafe was certain from each shallow wheeze for breath that there were internal injuries and that moving him could make things worse.  Rafe’s eyes filled with tears and he swiped away the useless evidence of emotion to keep his partner’s face in focus.  “Jesus, Aaron, tell me what to do.”
            Aaron’s eyes grew distant.  He knew he was dying.  He knew.  “You’re a good cop.  I knew you would be.  I’m proud of you, son.”
            The faint trill of his native Irish accent was evident even with each gasp.  He’d brought his son to this country when his first wife had died.  His second wife had given him a daughter and divorced him.  He was the best KCPD had to offer.  He’d been through too much.  He didn’t deserve to die like this.
            Fluid gurgled in Aaron’s throat.  “Rafe?”
            “I’m right here.  What do you need?”
            He summoned his strength and squeezed Rafe’s hand one last time.  “You take care of my Josie.  Patrick, too.  This’ll be hard on them.  They need someone to depend on.”
            Rafe nodded.  “I’ll be the big brother they never had.  Until you get better.”
            “You’ll... need family, too.”
            “You’re my family.  Now shut up.  Save your strength.”
            “Got to say this... A father worries...”  Rafe wouldn’t know.  The man who’d sired him hadn’t worried about anything but his booze and keeping child services out of his hair.  Years of practice shut down the memories of pain and anger and betrayal that tried to rear their ugly head.  Aaron needed him.  His bloody fingers were scratching blindly across his belt.  “Where’s my badge?”
            “Here.”  Rafe plucked the scuffed up badge off the pavement and put it into his hand before pulling them both onto Aaron’s chest.  “Your badge is right with you, Sarge.  Feel it?”  The blue eyes drifted shut.  “Sarge!  Stay with me!”
            They opened again.  “Take care of my girl.  Such a good heart.  She has... crush... on you.”
            “I know.  With you watching over my shoulder, nothing will ever happen.”
            “No, I... damn.”  A shallow rale stuttered through his chest.
            “Aaron?”
            “Watch Patrick... he’ll fight ya.”
            “I can handle him.”
            His eyes opened and closed in lieu of a nod.  “I love them.  Tell ‘em that.”
            “I will.”
            “You’re... better man... you think.”
            The tears chafed beneath his eyelids.  “Quit talking like you’re--”
            “Promise me... protect them.”
            And then Aaron’s scrappy boxer’s fist went slack.  His eyes glazed over and he was gone.
            “I promise.”
 
 
Chapter One
 
November--Ten Years Later
 
            Rafael Delgado wore jeans, a badge and black leather well.
            As he uncrossed his long legs and pulled away from the black heavy duty pickup he’d been leaning against in the nearly deserted parking lot behind Kansas City’s Shamrock Bar, Josie Nichols got a glimpse of the gun he wore on his belt, too.  She smiled, unafraid, her pulse doing its customary flutter at the broad shoulders and fluid stride of the man who’d waited in the dark to walk her to her car nearly every night since she’d taken the job tending bar at her uncle’s tavern four years earlier.
            But then Rafe had been looking out for her almost ten years now, ever since he’d made a promise to her father--his first partner at KCPD--on the night Aaron Nichols had died.
            Josie locked the Shamrock’s back door and shook off the sadness that tightened her shoulders at the memory of her father’s senseless slaughter in the line of duty.  She could hear the assurance of booted footsteps crunching on the asphalt behind her.  The shadows wouldn’t be so scary tonight.  The loneliness she lived with wouldn’t prick so sharply.  Chivalry was not dead.  At least not in Rafe’s book.  She tucked the keys into her backpack and fixed a teasing smile on her face before turning to meet him.
            “You know, Uncle Robbie installed a security camera back here.  And the city put in an extra light.  You don’t have to wait and walk me to my car after closing every night.”  It was hard to miss the lack of an answering smile on his ruggedly sculpted features.  “Especially when you’ve put in a long day like this one.”
            “It’s no trouble.”  The flat response was a recitation of duty.  Her heart squeezed at the exhaustion she heard in his gravelly tone, and she simply fell into step beside him when he took her elbow and walked her toward the beat-up Ford compact parked beside his shiny, super-sized truck.  “You warm enough in this?”
            “I’m fine.”
            “I can buy you a new winter coat if you need one.”
            “No, you won’t.  And I don’t.”
            “Damn it, Jose--are you going to argue every little thing I say to you tonight?”
            “Whoa.”  Josie planted her feet, forcing him to halt.  What the heck?  She tipped her chin to try to decipher the sharp bite to his tone.  “What’s going on?”
            A white cloud of breath formed in the chilly November air at his chest-deep sigh.  “Sorry.  I’ve got too many things running through my mind to be civil, I guess.”
            “Rafe?”
            “Just walk.”
            She might have imagined the slight tremble she’d felt in his long fingers before they wound around the sleeve of her insulated jacket and resumed their pace across the parking lot.  But she wasn’t as concerned with the thinness of her thrift store jacket as she was with her friend’s cryptic remark.  Rafe looked tired.  It was that bone deep kind of weariness that seeped into the soul and indicated a man who had seen and endured more than he should.
            Although his stern face remained a mask just above her line of sight, Josie could see the signs.  She was the kind of woman who noticed subtle details and read others the way most folks read a book.  That talent came in handy working nights as a bartender, and she hoped to put those same skills to work once she completed her nursing degree next summer.  Her senses were even more finely tuned when she cared about that person.
            And Josie Nichols had cared about Rafe through a teenaged crush, the loss of her father--a man they’d both loved, and the bond of adult friendship.  In some ways, she was closer to Rafe Delgado than she was to any other person on the planet.  But he’d made it clear his heart was off limits to her, and so she’d buried those feelings of infatuation that had matured into something much more profound now that she was a twenty-five year old woman.
            Except for times like this--when the hour was late and the night separated them from the rest of the world.  When they were alone.  When Rafe was hurting and the self-avowed loner needed someone and she knew she could help.
            Josie could guess at the pain shading his amber brown eyes.  She’d seen the tragic story played on the news over and over that evening.  She’d listened to the sketchy details he and his friends on KCPD’s SWAT Team 1 had shared when they’d come in to drink a beer after this afternoon’s deadly, heartbreaking standoff against one of Kansas City’s most violent gangs.  And then, before they’d had any real opportunity to decompress from the stress of the day, his SWAT team had been called away to the scene of a bomb threat to help calm a restless crowd who feared a serial killer had struck again.
            Rafe had every reason to be in a mood.  An innocent boy had died today.  And while Rafe and his team had saved dozens of lives, it was the one life he’d lost that stayed with him.  She’d heard the speech before.  The first time was the night ten years ago when Rafe, little more than a rookie patrol cop himself, had come to the house to tell Josie and her half-brother, Patrick, that their father had been mowed down in the street by a group of bank robbers in their getaway car.  He’d glossed over the fact that he and her father had stopped the armed thieves, protecting bystanders on the street and recovering hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen money.  Instead, he’d sat on the couch between her and Patrick, with barely a tear leaking from the corner of his red-rimmed eyes, even though she knew he felt as though he’d lost a father, too.
            Rafe was thirty-four years old now, but little had changed.  Saving lives was doing his job--losing a life was personal.  But that damn pride and noble code of honor he lived by kept him from grieving properly.  Kept him from dealing with the rage and frustration and guilt that must be eating him up inside.
            “Rafe, stop.”  She halted beside his truck.  She couldn’t keep her hands to herself when she saw the muscle twitching beneath the stony frown of his expression.  Reaching up, Josie cupped his jaw, soothing the tension she felt in him.  “That boy didn’t die because of you.”
            “No.  He died in spite of me.”  The sensitive skin of Josie’s palm prickled at the rasp of late-night beard stubble that abraded her skin as he snagged her wrist and pulled her hand away.  “His name was Calvin Chambers.  And I can’t get his blood off my fingers.”
            She twisted her grip to capture his hands between both of hers, angling them up toward the street lamp, turning them over.  “I don’t see any blood.”
            And then the floodgates of emotions opened.  He spun away, raking his fingers through his hair, leaving a mess of short, tobacco brown spikes in their wake.  He paced into the shadows beyond the circle of light illuminating them.  “It’s stuck in my head.  The blood was so warm and he was so cold.  He had bullet holes in his leg and chest.  I tried to stop the bleeding.  I had to pitch my gloves and uniform, there was so much of it.”
            “Oh, my God.  The news never said it was that bad.”  Josie squeezed her fingers around the strap of her backpack, seeking a little comfort herself.  “That poor child.”
            “He was so young.  Ten years old.  Ten freaking years old.”  Rafe stepped back into the light, startling her.  “What the hell was I doing--sittin’ there while Calvin bled out?”
            “Rafe.”  She’d seen him decked out in his SWAT gear--black uniform, flak vest, helmet, a hand gun, a rifle and gear she didn’t know the name for.  “Horrible people who didn’t give a damn about that little boy were shooting guns at cops.  You broke up a gang, a drug ring.  His killer was arrested.  You weren’t sitting there doing nothing.  You were looking out for that boy.”
            “All I could do was hold him.  I know what it feels like to be that young and that hurt.  Nothing makes sense.  All you know is fear and pain, and all you worry about is if it can possibly hurt any worse.”
            She watched his face contort as the grief welled up and he fought it back inside him.  The anger, the self-recriminations, rolled off him in waves.  Josie knew that not one whit of it was directed at her.  He needed to vent, and listening was another skill in her survivor’s repertoire.  Instinctively, she drifted closer, slipping her hand beneath his jacket to rest it over his thumping heart.  “I know you did everything you could to save him.”
            He covered her hand with his, squeezing almost too tightly as he held it against the stuttering expansion and contraction of his chest.  “I’m trained to take action, Josie.  I’m not supposed to sit still and tell a child lies like he’s going to see his mama soon and everything will be all right.”  He slid his warm hand along her jaw, tipping her face to trace the tears that spilled over her cheek with the pad of his thumb, as if touching the evidence of her compassion and sorrow was the only way to acknowledge the anguish he felt.  “I couldn’t get to a proper med kit.  I couldn’t get an ambulance to him.”
            She turned to press a kiss into his palm.  “Your captain said there was a lot of gunfire.  You were pinned down.”
            “Captain Cutler wasn’t in that alley with me.  I was lucky to pull Calvin out of that back yard at all.”  He stroked his thumb across her cheek again, wiping away another tear.  “And damn it--” Rafe’s voice shook, “--he kept trying to thank me for protecting him.  He was scared to death, yet he was foolish enough or brave enough to try to make me feel better.”  He stroked his fingers across her temple, tucking a long strand of hair behind her ear and smoothing it back into the ponytail at her nape.  “He died in an alley.  In a stranger’s arms.  Walking home from school.  That’s not right for any child.”
            Over the years she’d known Rafe, he’d occasionally hinted at the horrors of his own childhood.  Something about today’s tragic events must be resonating deep inside him, waking feelings he normally barricaded behind an internal layer of armor.  “No.  It’s not.”
            He stroked his thumb across her bottom lip and paused, as if he’d felt the same electric shock she had.  “Somebody else should gone after him.  Somebody else could have saved him.”
            “Rafe...”  His need was waking something vital and primal and feminine deep inside her.  “He couldn’t have been in better hands.”
            “Damn protocol.  Damn rules.  I should have blasted my way out of that alley--”
            “Others might have gotten hurt.”
            “--and gotten him to the hospital.”
            “Stop it, Rafe.”  Josie let her backpack slide off her shoulder and plop at her feet.  She moved a step closer, framing his face between her hands.  “Just stop.”
            He pulled his fingers through her long, dark ponytail, then flipped it behind her back.  He smoothed his hands across her shoulders, touched his finger to the rip she’d mended in the sleeve of her jacket.  She wondered at the tiny frissons of heat that followed his every touch.  Josie no longer felt the nip of November dampness in the air.  She no longer heard the whispers of traffic on the street at the front side of the bar, no longer knew the hour of night or the fatigue in her own body as Rafe leaned in and touched his forehead to hers.  “When your dad taught me about being a cop, he didn’t teach me how to... how to lose a child.  I feel so damn helpless.”
            “You’re tough, Rafe, but nobody’s that tough.”  She gave him a little shake, worried at the raw loss shading his eyes.  “Dad would be proud of the man you’ve become.  He’d be proud of the cop you are.”
            His hands finally settled at her waist, his fingers biting into the flare of her hips as he pulled her close enough for their jeans to rustle together and new pressure points beneath her skin to awaken at the needy contact.  “Your dad would have saved him.”
            Josie wound her arms around Rafe’s neck, sliding her fingers beneath the soft collar of his leather jacket to find the smooth warmth of his skin to anchor herself to.  “This isn’t Dad all over again.  You were the best chance Calvin Chambers had.  If anyone could have saved him, it was you.  At least he had someone strong and caring with him at the end.  He wasn’t alone.”  Tears burned in her throat and reduced her voice to a whisper.  “How wonderful that you made him smile.”
            “If someone’s going to die, I’m the go-to guy to have around, huh?”
            “No, damn it, Rafe.”  Words weren’t working.  He couldn’t hear her.  He wouldn’t hear.  Rafe Delgado needed to feel the truth.  “I’m so sorry you’re hurting like this.  Don’t keep it in.  It’s okay to hurt.”
            She followed her instincts, doing the most natural, right thing she could think of, and kissed him.  How many times, since she was fifteen years old, had she wanted to press her lips against Rafe’s?  How many lonely nights had she dreamed about turning their friendship into something more?  But she’d always held back, settling for a peck on the cheek, treasuring a hug.  But his emotions were too far off the chart tonight to settle for anything less than complete honesty between them.
            “Shh.”  She kissed him again, lightly brushing her lips across his, testing the will of this coiled panther of a man, cooing sounds of desire and comfort in her throat.
            Josie’s lips parted as shock made him go still.  His fingers aligned her hips with his.  The heat of his body surrounded hers.  Had she just broken some unspoken rule?  Or did he understand she was giving him permission to kiss her back?  Josie waited.  Wanted.  Dreamed.
            Then, as if some understanding had snapped into place inside his head, Rafe inhaled a groaning breath and took over.  He drove one thigh between hers and backed Josie against the truck.  He slipped his tongue between her lips and deepened the kiss.  She tasted the tang of beer on his tongue and the salty notes of tears from her own mouth.
            With an impatient, throaty sigh, he unzipped her jacket and slipped his hand inside to squeeze her breast.  The tender skin ignited beneath his touch and lit an ember deep in her core.  Josie held on to his strong shoulders, her toes leaving the pavement as his knee wedged tighter, sparking flames that licked through her blood until they met up with his hands and mouth and consumed her in heat.
            Rafe’s breathy gasps matched her own.  She was vaguely aware of one hand reaching beside her to open the truck door, while she was blatantly, eagerly aware of the other hand tugging at the buttons of her blouse until it could find its way inside to torment the aching nub of her breast through the lace of her bra.
            The loneliness of Josie’s solitary life--no mother, no father--a poor excuse for a brother--too much work and too much stress--evaporated beneath the greedy assault of Rafe’s hands and mouth on her skin.  He needed her.  He needed her.  The connection between them was irrefutable and intense.
            As her top veed open to the night air, and the chilly dampness bathed her in goose bumps, Rafe left her.  “No.  Don’t stop.”
            But Rafe wasn’t leaving, he was looking for a little more privacy.  He tossed her bag inside and before Josie could follow his lead, he lifted her onto the seat, shutting the door behind him and following her across to the passenger side.  With little heed for long legs and cramped quarters and layers of clothing, Rafe maneuvered her onto his lap.  He tugged off his belt and placed his gun safely in the glove compartment as Josie’s fingers tested the contrasts between his short, silky hair and the rougher texture of his stubbled jaw.  And then she had his full attention again.  Rafe slid his arms beneath her jacket and blouse and pulled her hard against him, his hands roaming at will against her skin, his mouth claiming hers.  The urgency of every touch, every kiss, conveyed the depth of emotion that Rafe had been unable to speak.
            Josie cracked open a little more of her battered heart and answered.  This wasn’t about slow seduction.  It wasn’t about finesse.  It was about needing and caring, giving and taking.
            “I don’t ever want to have a child look at me that way again,” Rafe rasped against her lips.  “I don’t want to hurt like this.  I don’t want to feel...”
            “Shh.  It’s okay.  Let it go.”
            With Josie’s knees splayed on either side of Rafe’s thighs, and the hard bulge of his zipper pulsing against the seam of her jeans, he left no doubt about what he was asking of her.  “We never...  I shouldn’t...”
            His face was buried against her neck, and he was shaking so hard with the effort to restrain himself that her body vibrated right along with his.  But she could also feel the heat and moisture of the tears he blinked against her skin.  She pulled away just far enough to hold his face and turn his golden-brown eyes to the dim moonlight.  The tears she saw pooling there made the decision for her.  Her heart couldn’t say no.
            “You know I’ve wanted this.  Wanted to be more than friends.”  Josie reached down to unzip her jeans, to assure him of his welcome and her own desire.
            He studied her face, looking as surprised as she by the unexpected passion and soul-deep empathy burning between them.
            “It’s okay, Rafe.”  She leaned in and kissed him.  “We’re okay.”
            And then Rafe began to move with the urgent efficiency with which he defused bombs and took down bad guys.  It was all fast and furious--a physical expression of every powerful emotion surging between them.  Zippers crunched.  His billfold came out.  Clothes were pushed aside.
            “I need you, Jose.  I need you.  I need...” Molding hands and desperate kisses made her blood drum through her veins.  The heat rising inside her was almost unbearable.  She could only hold on to his sturdy shoulders as he slid inside her, moving and rocking until they were both mindless with this physical, sensual outpouring of emotion.
            “I love you, Rafe,” she whispered as he crushed her in his arms and plunged inside her one last time, groaning with the release that she freely and willingly gave him.
                                                #                      #                      #
            He should be feeling better than this.
            Rafe drew his fingers through the condensation forming on the side window of his truck and brushed the cool moisture across his feverish cheek.  Oh, his body was well and truly satisfied--too spent and content to want one more thing.  And those hated emotions that had raged through his system had dissipated under Josie’s patient insistence and undeserved generosity.
            She was snuggled up against his side in the truck now, her rumpled clothes refastened, her breathing slow and even.  When he felt her stirring, he leaned over and pressed a kiss to the crown of her sable-dark hair.  When she tilted her chin and smiled at him, he knew what he was feeling.
            Guilt.
            He’d taken slaps across the face and a belt across his backside that didn’t hurt as bad as this.  He’d betrayed a friend tonight.  Two of them.  On the day Aaron had died, he’d made him a promise.  Visiting his son in jail and boinking his daughter weren’t exactly how he’d intended to honor Aaron’s memory.
            Some damn fine protector he turned out to be.
            Josie’s soft smile turned into a quizzical frown.  “What are you thinking about?”
            “Your dad.”  He shifted a little space between them, so that his thigh was no longer touching the tempting warmth of hers.  “This wasn’t my finest moment.  I took advantage of that big heart of yours.  I needed...”  His deep sigh of remorse echoed in the truck.  “I just needed.”
            “You needed to connect with someone who cared.  Someone who would listen and let you feel what you needed to.”  She zipped her jacket and folded her arms across her middle.  Was she cold?  Rafe slid over to the steering wheel and pulled out his keys to start the truck and turn on the heater.
            “Yeah, well I should have stopped at talking.”
            “Not your strong suit,” she teased.  “You’ve always been a more physical being.”
            “I told Aaron I would always take care of you.  Tonight, I just used you.”
            “That’s insulting.”
            “Josie.”
            “Hey, I’m not a naive girl anymore.  You’re not my first, Rafe, so I knew what I was doing.  It’s not like you forced me.”
            “Damn close.”
            He found her crystal blue eyes across the cab, saw them blanch wide and then darken.  She turned in her seat, turning the argument back on him.  “You would have stopped if I’d asked.  But I didn’t want you to stop.  Sometimes a relationship works that way.  One partner needs more than the other at a given time.  It’s a mutual give and take.”
            “We don’t have a relationship like that.”
            “Would that be such a bad thing?”
            Oh, yeah.  He was not relationship material.  Definitely not with his former partner’s daughter.  After tonight, he might not even be friend material.  “My emotions were out of control.  That was a mistake.”
            She sat up ramrod straight, her Irish temper coloring her cheeks.  “Making love was a mistake?  Or feeling something was a mistake?”
            Making love?  She thought that wham-bam-thank you, ma’am, was how it was supposed to be between a man and a woman?  Just what kind of jerks had she been dating, who hadn’t shown her how good it could be if a man took his time and...  Ah, hell.  Put on the brakes.  Don’t go there.
            He squeezed his hands around the steering wheel.  “I’m sorry, Jose.  I made a promise to your dad to take care of you.  I’m sorry.”
            “Stop apologizing.  I always figured it would be intense with you.  That’s kind of exciting.  And you know I... care about you.”
            And he cared about her.  But he couldn’t keep trouble away or screen those jerks or even make sure she got safely to her car when she worked too late if his senses were blurred by his emotions and his focus was distracted by long legs and lush lips and that gorgeous fall of dark hair.  He could hardly do right by her if he was the trouble.  “Look, I already failed Patrick.  I couldn’t keep him off drugs and out of jail.  I don’t want to mess up what we have.”
            “Rafe, what about what I want?”
            He opened his door and stepped out into the night.  The bracing night air filled his lungs and cleared his head of her lingering scent.  “You’ve got class in the morning and you need to get home.  I need to get back to the Precinct garage and get the SWAT van cleaned up and refitted for our next call.”
            She grabbed her backpack and climbed out her side of the truck.  “You have to do that tonight?”
            Oh, yeah.  He needed to get his hands busy doing something besides itching to reach for Josie again.  He needed to busy his mind with a task where he didn’t have to second-guess his every move.  “I’m a jerk, okay?”
            “Please stop.  It hurts me to hear you talk like this.”
            “I never wanted to hurt you.  I don’t want things to change between us.  I want you to be able to trust me.  I need you to trust me.  Nothing like that will ever happen again.  I promise.”  After she unlocked her car, he opened the door for her and waited while she slid behind the wheel.  Man, he wished she’d let him pick out something more reliable than this rattletrap for her.  At least she let him change the oil and keep the motor tuned up and running as well as a beater car like this one could.  “Go on, I’ll wait to make sure your car starts.  I’ll see you next time you work at the Shamrock.”
            She turned the key.  Once the engine growled to life, he started to leave.  But Josie put out her arm to keep him from shutting the door.  “Just for the record?  You weren’t a jerk for making love to me.  Now you’re being a jerk.”
            Of that he had no doubt.
            He jumped back as she slammed the door, knowing he deserved worse.  Once inside his truck, he followed her out of the parking lot but turned in the opposite direction toward his condo.  He’d better be keeping a lot more than a few miles of physical distance between them.  What the hell was he thinking?  That was the problem--he hadn’t been thinking.
            Josie’s skin was cool and pale in the frosty moonlight.  Her touch was so gentle, so certain.  He’d gotten more drunk on her lips than the beer she’d served him earlier that night.  And her body--her tall, lithe, sweet body with those long legs snugged around him...
            “Son of a bitch.”  He was breaking out in a sweat that had nothing to do with the heater in his truck.
            Josephine Erin Nichols was his friend.  His unofficial ward.  His penance for letting his friend and mentor die ten years ago.
            She was pretty and kind and sexy and funny, and strictly off-limits.  And yet, for several mindless minutes tonight, she’d been everything he needed.  Exactly what he needed.
            He’d been a rutting bull who’d taken advantage of her friendship and compassionate nature.  Hell, he’d barely gotten a condom on and hadn’t even asked if she was on the pill.  In his saner days before this one he hadn’t wanted to know if his sweet, hardworking buddy was sleeping with anyone.  She was either working one of several part-time jobs, studying or going to school, so he knew she didn’t have much time to date.  He hadn’t even had the presence of mind to make sure that she’d found the completion he had.
            He was a jerk.  A lonesome, selfish, let-friends-and-children-die-on-his-watch jerk.  He’d been on his own since high-school for a reason.  And it wasn’t just because he’d severed all ties with his worthless parents, he’d become obsessed with his job and the sweetheart he’d been engaged to had left him.  He was alone because he couldn’t make a relationship with a woman work.
            But he could find solace in her beautiful, willing body.
            Rafe picked up speed and merged into the late night traffic that was mostly big rigs at this time of night on Interstate 435, and waited for the lightning bolt of her late father’s spirit, or his own troubled conscience, to strike him dead.
 
Question: What is the name of the bar where Josie works?
 

 

 

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