Chapter 10

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Alice is better in the morning. I didn't hear enough after I passed out in bed to know if they stopped fighting, but when I slump into the kitchen the next morning – not as early as yesterday – I find Shane at the table and Alice in her tartan dressing gown cooking scrambled eggs. I figure it ended on good terms.

"Morning," I announce.

Alice's eyes widen and she nearly drops her spatula. "Good God," she gasps, "did you even change?"

I look down and find that I had only managed to throw my pyjama top on before bed and forgot to wear pants. Thank God it's a long shirt, but it definitely gives off the trashy-hooker-who-stays-the-night vibe.

"Must've been a wild night." Shane stares at the paper and sips his tea, looking smug. He's strange when it comes to tea; I never knew there were so many different flavours, much less a guy so obsessed with every one of them. Shane is the very definition of a hippy. He works at one of those plant produce companies as an assistant to some fancy scientist guy.

"Yeah, pretty wild party." Alice hides a chortle and shovels bacon and eggs on a plate.

When I glance at my appearance in the microwave, a groan escapes my mouth. I've left my make up on and now resemble something of a rabid panda. My hair – which I'd curled especially – has grown to the size of a lion's mane. I look like I fell asleep in a bush.

It wasn't a wild party at all. I'd just had such a mixture of very bad and very good things happen yesterday that my brain simply stopped functioning by the time I climbed the stairs last night. And now that I'm eating something and Alice is pouring me some strong coffee, my memories come flooding back to me in sharp, painful stabs.

The Southbend Bikers. The Mafia. Assassination.

Why does this have to happen to me? Why now and not earlier? Can't I be a normal teenager for once, minus the petty crimes and jail time? Last night I had my first taste in a while of being just a regular girl on a date at a party with a guy. Despite the ironic fact that he's a cop, how long has it been since I actually made an effort to get to know a guy and not expect him to pull a gun to my head or ask me for drugs?

Nick. A picture snaps in my mind of his handsome face reflecting the glittering waters of the pool at our feet, of his beautiful physique and high-pitched laugh I can't seem to forget. It was refreshing to just have a night for myself, a night where I could be an average girl taking her first step to falling in love.

Wait a second. My fork freezes halfway into my mouth and I lower it slowly. This isn't my life. I don't get things like this. Things like a night without street gangs and illegal dealings. I don't get to party like its 1999. And I definitely don't get guys. Normally I'm either too busy doing my job, what I'm good at, or I pick the wrong type. Bikies, druggies, troubled youth on a path much like mine. And if I ever date, I scare them away with my smart mouth and my uncanny knowledge of The Places You Never Want to Go With a Potential Love Interest. So what is different about this one?

Uh, for starters, he arrested you. Then he asked you to a party. I'd say he brought it all on himself. The voice in my head is really beginning to nark me. But it's right, after all. I didn't do anything to deserve this amazing guy, nor did I do anything to actually force him to spend time with me. It was all him.

Satisfied that I have come to the right conclusion and this is by no ways or means my fault, I shovel down my breakfast and scoot back upstairs to take a shower.

When I come out dressed in Alice's silk bath robe, my stomach does a somersault. Outside the window, everything is flashing blue and red. I know those lights like a fat kid knows his candy bars.

Police. In the driveway.

I stumble to the window and peer through the curtains at the front yard down below. To my utter astonishment, the bright white car blares its flashing lights threateningly at me through the window. Seconds later, I hear the doorbell ring.

Oh God. Please no. What have I done this time? My last visit to the slammer – literally yesterday – had only been for questioning. Now, what, there's a law against going to a party with a cop or taking a shower for more than five minutes? This cannot be happening.

Praying that the cold weather outside won't give my wet hair a chill and wondering if they'll at least let me get dressed before cuffing me, I storm down the stairs to see what I've been charged with this time.

"Oh, she's upstairs. I'll just ask her to ..." Shane trails off nervously and next thing I know he comes whizzing around the corner and knocks into me on the last step.

I grab his shoulders. "Who is it?" I hiss.

He has a crazy grin and chuckles nervously. "It's that guy, the one who dropped you off last night! He's a cop?"

My mouth falls open. So, he's decided to make a scene and arrive in his freaking police car? What an assh-

"Jess, hey." Nick appears behind Shane, who grabs the edge of his shirt and skits out of the room muttering about the oven. Police scare the shit out of Shane but he won't admit it to anyone. He says he admires my talent for acting cool around them.

I sigh. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to ..." His words freeze in his mouth as his eyes trail unashamedly from my legs all the way up my chest and meet my wide eyes. I have to hide a chuckle at the blush in his cheeks. "I'm not uh ... interrupting anything, am I?"

Even though I am mad at him for coming in his criminal carrier, the look on his face begs me to laugh. There it is again, the intimidated Nick I saw yesterday. I mean even though he is kind of scary and sexy-looking in his uniform, he still fumbles at the sight of a girl in a bathrobe, especially one who has just shaved her legs. Yep, that's me.

Then I remember I am in a skimpy, almost see-through robe and he is ... well, not. I wrap my arms around myself before I can reveal anything that might pop out and say "yoo-hoo!" At least not after only one date.

"Uh no, not really just ... just breakfast. Do you want some?"

He raises a hand in thanks and shakes his head. "I just ate. Actually, I was wondering if you'd like to come and grab a coffee with me. Judging from your ... er ... kitchen–" His trained cop eyes have seen the pile of dishes in the sink through the entryway of the house. "–You've already eaten."

A lump rises in my throat. Oh my God. He's asking me for coffee. Does this mean he's really into me? I must've made a damn good impression last night; I've never been on more than one date! I've never been on a date at all, let alone–

Hold on Jess, don't get ahead of yourself here. Try to remain calm and figure out why he seems to like you so much. That weird condescending voice in my mind warns me again and I look Nick up and down with a quick sweep of my eyes. Police uniform. Early in the morning. Asking me out for coffee. Seem strange to you?

I sigh. Nope. Maybe it's too hard for the voice to understand, but Nick might actually like me. Me, the teenage criminal with an attitude not to reason with. As difficult as that is to believe – especially for my standards – I don't want to let this go and ignore it because it 'seems strange'.

"If you let me get dressed first then sure," I reply after only a moment and I see his eyes light up. For a cop, I note he can be reasonably vulnerable around girls when he isn't on duty.

Nick's mouth spreads into a light grin and he nods. "Okay, well I'll ... go wait in the car?"

Nodding, I ascend the stairs again. "I won't be long."

Next thing I know, the front door is closing and I am charging into my bedroom.


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