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Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Heap of Trouble by Ashley Ladd

Raina Everett paced. She didn’t care that the desk sergeant glared as if he wanted to lock her up. Her taxes paid his salary and she had rights damn it!

She checked her watch and sighed. Then she marched up to the man. “Is Lieutenant Ross Lowe available yet?”

Scowling, the man insinuated his finger between his neck and collar. “He’ll be out soon.”

Soon?!? Her older brother had been missing two weeks and this moron told her “soon”? This department said the town Dave lived in wasn’t in their jurisdiction, that she had to go to Tampa to file the missing person’s report in person.

By the time Ross sauntered out her blood boiled. She rose and fisted her hands on her hips. Then she took a deep breath and tried to blind herself to the man’s raw sexuality more evident today than ever, damn him.

“Raina. Is everything okay?” Ross’s dark gaze swept over her as if he was guessing why she darkened his door.

The husky timbre of his voice sent chills racing down her spine, but she ordered her nerves to behave. Aware of an audience, she lowered her voice. “Can we speak in private?”

Ross’s eyes narrowed but he politely escorted her to his desk. He waved her into a chair. “How can I help?”

She splayed her hands on the table and looked Ross square in his eyes. “No one’s seen or heard from Dave in two weeks. The bozos in your department refuse to cooperate. I can’t take time off work to go to Tampa. Please help me.”

A long silence spun out as Ross stared at her. Then he tapped his pencil on his desk. “Dave’s made a career of disappearing for long periods. Is he using again?”

Raina recoiled from the sharp sting of his verbal slap. Seething she jumped up. “Damn you!” She stormed out of the office.

What had possessed her to think Ross would help or even commiserate? Ross accusing her of enabling Dave was the reason they’d broken up. Maybe if she’d let Dave stay with her the last time he’d asked, he’d be safe.

Footsteps rifled behind her and before she could duck into the elevator, Ross grabbed her arm and gritted out, “You’re not going to do anything stupid, are you?”

Daring him to continue, she hiked up her chin and yanked away her arm. “What do you care as long as it’s not in your jurisdiction?”

Ross swore. “I’ve never stopped caring about you. I can’t stand to see that brother of yours suck you into his messes.”

Hysterical laughter exploded from her lips. She had gotten herself into a heap of trouble without Dave’s help. “You have a funny way of showing it.”

Yet her gut knotted and she shivered. She’d been stupid to come.

Ross captured her hand, dragged her to a private room and closed the door. He muttered under his breath and pulled her into his arms.

Surprised when his lips descended on hers she melted into his kiss. Starved, she plundered his lips.

The kiss deepened until she was lost. He pulled back but instead of releasing her he rested his forehead on hers and searched her eyes. “I could get fired for this but I’ll see what I can find.”

Relief and gratitude flooded her. Her knees suddenly weak she clasped her hands behind his neck and drew on his strength. “Thank you.”

Ross dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose then laced his fingers through hers and led her back to his desk. He plied her with coffee while his fingers danced over his keyboard and he spoke to several people over the phone.

She caught enough of the conversations to hear he’d broken into Dave’s phone records and was calling everyone on the list as well as his official contacts in Tampa. Several times he paused to squeeze her hand and lift it to his lips.

Bewitched, she longed to wipe out the past and start over but she couldn’t ignore her tumultuous thoughts. As much as she yearned to bury herself in him it wasn’t fair.

“Found him. He’s fine.” Ross curled his arms around her and nuzzled her neck. “He lost his phone skiing, but he’s okay. I blistered his ears for scaring you like this.”

Relieved, she slumped. Tears of happiness overtook her and she turned in his arms and sobbed on his shoulder.

Ross stroked her hair and nibbled her ear. “You heard me right? Dave’s okay.”

She gulped and nodded. “Yeah. Thanks. I apologize for those awful things I said. Forgive me?”

He frowned and regarded her questioningly. “But?”

“But what?” Unable to meet his gaze she veiled her eyes.

“This is it? What if I want us to try again? I love you.”

Happy but scared she trembled. “I love you, too. But I’m no good for you. My brother…”

Ross raked his fingers through his hair. “I don’t give a damn. I want to marry you, not him.”

She cracked a smile but it was short lived. “I can’t suck you into my problems: foreclosure, bankruptcy…”

Ross drew her into his arms gain. “Is that all? There’s no one else?”

“Is that all?” She choked on the words. “My problems could ruin you, too, especially if you marry me.”

Ross gave her a stern glare but it also brimmed over with love. “Then I’ll help pay off the debts. Money means nothing if we’re not together.”

She blinked rapidly. “Are you sure? Shouldn’t you think this over?”

He got down on bended knee and claimed her hand. “Positive. Move in with me. Marry me. Make me the happiest man in the world.”

Her heart somersaulted. Overwhelmed with love, she nodded and lowered herself into his arms and his kisses forever. “Yes.”

About the author: I'm a published romance author of 40+ romance novels. My most recently released book is "Sorry Charlie" in the Friction anthology, an M/M romance published by Total-E-Bound at I'm originally from Cincinnati but now live in sunny South Florida. My next release, an erotic M/F romance, will be on October 5, 2009 at and is entitled "Recipe for Disaster".

I love to read and write about comedy romance, time-travel, and as a big Trekkie, Air Force vet, and cat lover, you'll often find military heroes and heroines, space, and even talking cats in my novels.

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