I should have known Dad would be on board with that idea. He’s the reason I even started the notebooks in the first place. He’d told me the next time he saw Alex he was going to rip his dick off with his bare hands and then smack Alex across the face with the stump.
“Thanks, Dad. We still on for the Notre Dame game this weekend?” I ask as I grab my coffee and start walking backward to the door.
“You bet your sweet ass we are! Kickoff is at noon, so don’t be late,” my dad warns.
When you live in South Bend, Indiana, and a stone’s throw away from the University of Notre Dame, football is a way of life. Every Saturday in the fall is dedicated to watching our favorite team and pigging out on beer and junk food.
“Oh, and I hired a new guy for a few of our cases. He’s an ex-cop, so I’m giving him a shot at some bounty-hunter work. He’s going to meet you at McFadden’s house in thirty minutes so you can show him the ropes. Be nice to him,” Dad tells me with a raise of his eyebrow.
I work alone. I’ve always worked alone. The fact that I own a business with two other women hasn’t changed that. We each bring something different to the table and we each have our own separate jobs to do. Alone.
My father knows this and I’m sure he didn’t need another bounty hunter, but he hired one anyway to make sure I wouldn’t get into any trouble. For some reason, trouble always seems to find me no matter how hard I try to stay away from it.
“Dad, I don’t need any help on this case. I’m thirty-five years old and I’ve fought in Afghanistan, for fuck’s sake,” I complain as I shake my head at him.
“Humor me, Kennedy. I’m old. I’m going to die soon. I’d like to die knowing you’ll be safe.”
My dad has many skills. But his best one is his guilt trips. He is as healthy as a horse and the most stubborn human being on the face of the earth. He isn’t going to die anytime soon. He’ll outlive cockroaches and Twinkies.
I throw my hand in the air in an irritated wave and head back outside to my car. I swear to God if this guy doesn’t stay out of my way or screws anything up on this job, I will take my dad out back and beat his ass myself.
GD newbie bounty hunters.
I pull up to the address for Martin McFadden and even though I googled the area and I’m a little familiar with the neighborhood, I’m still a bit surprised that this is the house of the criminal I’m hunting. It’s not the typical residence of a person I’m tracking down. Those people lean more toward houses on wheels with Spider-Man bedsheets for curtains and one-room apartments that make crack houses look like the lap of luxury.
This house looks like a sweet, little old lady lives here, not a bail-jumping criminal. It’s a ranch with a gorgeous white wraparound porch and there are hanging baskets of flowers all along the railing. As I get out of my vehicle, I notice the lawn has been manicured right down to those crisscross patterns you see on baseball fields. I make my way up the front walk and when I see a decorative flag stuck in the ground by the porch steps that says “Welcome Friends!” I’m once again bolstered by the fact that bringing this guy in will be a piece of cake.
According to the file, he’s fifty years old, has never been married, and is kind of a hermit. I get to the top step and the loud rumble of a motorcycle has me whipping my head around and my hand automatically going for my gun. I didn’t see anything in the notes about McFadden owning a motorcycle, but you can never be too sure about these things.
I watch as a Heritage Softail Classic Harley pulls to a stop right in front of the house and feel my insides quiver. Even though this guy is wearing a helmet and I haven’t seen his face yet, I can already tell this isn’t my guy. McFadden is five foot five and a hundred twenty-five pounds soaking wet; this guy is wearing a tight, white T-shirt and the muscles in his biceps tighten as he clutches the handlebars and swings his leg over the seat of the bike.
With his back to me while he pockets the bike key, I have time to appreciate him. And by appreciate, I mean ogle. I’m staring at his ass and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Whoever this guy is, he has an amazing ass. I watch as he reaches up and slides his helmet off and I take note of the way his shirt stretches across the muscles of his back.
I need to get laid. I really, really need to get laid. I’m standing on the front porch of a bail jumper’s house panting like a dog.
This must be the guy my father hired. I can see his service pistol secured in the waistband of his jeans at his back. It’s a Beretta M9—the exact same gun I use. Maybe my father had the right idea hiring this guy. I don’t need the help, but at least he’ll be pretty to look at. And maybe if he’s lucky, I’ll throw him a bone. Or he can throw me his bone. My girly bits tingle just thinking about being anywhere near this guy and his bone.
“Come on, pretty boy. Turn around so I can see your face,” I whisper to myself as he secures his helmet to the back of the bike and finally turns to face me.
All thoughts of bones, humping, and great asses fly out the window and my mouth drops open in complete and utter shock.
This isn’t happening. This is SO not happening right now.
The corner of his mouth tips up in a panty-dropping grin, showcasing the dimple on his left cheek, and I want to stomp my feet and throw a temper tantrum right now because he knows I was staring at his ass. He knows I was standing here on this porch thinking about all of the dirty things I could do to him. He knows it and he’s enjoying every minute of it, the rat bastard.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I shout angrily as I stomp down the steps and meet him in the middle of the sidewalk.
“It’s nice to see you too, gorgeous. It’s been a while.”
Griffin Crawford. My ex-husband’s best friend and the guy I once had a massive crush on in high school. Even though I never did anything stupid like act on my attraction to him back in the day, he still knew. Somehow, he knew and he used it to piss me off on a regular basis. Griffin went to high school with me and Alex and he also followed us into the army. On my last tour in Afghanistan, it was Griffin whom I spent months with in the desert, fighting for our lives. It was Griffin whom I confided in that I thought something was off with Alex back home. It was Griffin who convinced me that Alex and I were just going through a rough patch, and that once I got back home, everything would be fine, and we’d work things out.
A few months after I kicked Alex’s sorry, cheating ass out of the house, I found out Griffin knew about the affair the entire time.
He knew and he had let me cry on his shoulder wondering what the hell was wrong. He let me pour my heart out to him day after day and he never said a word. Childish teasing aside, through the years, Griffin became one of my best friends too. You would think that would guarantee me a little bit of loyalty. But obviously, since I don’t have a penis, I wasn’t cool enough for the truth.
“Don’t call me gorgeous and don’t waltz in here like it’s no big deal,” I growl at him. “I don’t know what angle you’re playing at by getting my father to hire you, but you can just get your ass back on that bike. I am NOT working with you.”
Griffin takes a step closer to me and pushes his hands into the front pockets of his jeans.
“Are you referring to the ass you were staring at when I pulled up? I just want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly,” he says with that stupid, cocky grin.
“Oh, get over yourself! I have a job to do and I don’t need you fucking everything up. I prefer to work with honest, loyal people. Not backstabbing, lying assholes,” I fire at him.
I’m actually shocked to see the cockiness wiped right off his face, replaced by a look of regret and anger as he stares down at me.
“I never lied to you, Kennedy. I was in the dark about Alex just as much as you were. If you stopped avoiding me and ignoring all my calls and texts at any point over the last few months, I could have explained it to you,” he tells me, moving even closer until I have to crane my neck to see his face.
I’m pretty tall, but Griffin towers over me at six foot four. Alex and I are the exact same height. Maybe that’s why I always felt more safe and protected when I was in combat with Griffin. Or when I was anywhere in the same vicinity as him. Griffin always has a five-o’clock shadow and I’ve never seen him in anything other than a T-shirt, jeans, and shit-kicker boots. Where pretty boy Alex is a lover (of anything with a vagina), Griffin is a fighter and intimidates everyone he comes in contact with. Except for me.
If he didn’t have such a big attitude and so many muscles, I’d say he could pass for a surfer boy with his blue eyes and dark blond hair that he usually keeps military short, but it had grown out a bit on top since the last time I’d seen him.
“You tried to feed me that same bullshit six months ago, remember? I didn’t believe it then and I sure as hell don’t believe it now. Are you forgetting about the fact that I heard you? I heard you talking to him. I listened to you tell him not to say anything to me.”
I can feel myself starting to get choked up as I remember the day I walked into Griffin’s house a few hours after I’d seen Alex with the nanny. Alex had no idea I’d seen him. I was too stunned to do anything other than run back out of the house and drive around aimlessly. When I came back to my senses, I immediately went to Griffin’s house to get his advice. I walked into Griffin’s kitchen that day and overheard him talking to Alex on the phone. I stood there while Griffin advised my husband to continue to lie to me about the affair and never, ever tell me the truth. I thought my heart was broken when I found out Alex had been screwing around on me, but it was nothing compared to having one of your best friends deceive you.
“Kennedy, that’s not how—”
I cut him off and cross my arms angrily in front of me. “Oh, shut the hell up! I don’t want to listen to your excuses.”
“And you don’t want to listen to reason either. You shut me out for six months, but enough is enough. We are going to hash this out once and for all. I’m not going anywhere this time, Kennedy.”
Turning my back on him so I don’t have to see his face, I walk away and head back toward the front porch so I can case the house and see if McFadden has been back here since he skipped out on his court date.
“Go away, Griffin. I don’t need your help on this job and I sure as hell don’t need you in my life,” I shout over my shoulder.
No sooner have the words left my mouth than gunshots ring out from somewhere in the house. I don’t even have time to reach for my gun before I’m tackled from behind and pushed down into the grass. Griffin’s body completely covers mine and his arms shield my head as shots echo above us for a few more seconds. When silence finally descends on the neighborhood, I feel Griffin slowly push himself up off me just enough so I can roll over underneath him.
This was a bad decision. A really bad decision considering how pissed I am at him and how sex deprived I am right now. Our bodies are touching from feet to chest and I can feel every inch of his hard, muscled body on top of mine. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a man’s body pressing into me and I am not happy with how good it feels right now.
Griffin is hot. I’ve always thought he was hot, but he was my friend. Friend only, because even though I may have had a silly crush on him at one point, I was already dating Alex and obviously I had better morals than Alex did. And now, Griffin is no longer my friend because he lied to me.
Someone needs to get that message to my vagina because she isn’t having any of this “I’m pissed off at Griffin and want nothing to do with him” nonsense. Her engine is running and she’s screaming at me to shift into high gear.
I swallow thickly and look up into Griffin’s face. He’s scanning the yard and the house to find the threat and I can’t help but stare at his throat and chiseled jaw and wonder what his skin tastes like.
Jesus, what the hell is wrong with me? Am I that desperate that I would lie here in the grass after being shot at and fantasize about my ex—best friend? Thirty seconds with this man and I’ve already lost my freaking mind.
The sounds of a crash and squealing tires pull my attention away from the man above me and I crane my neck to see a red Honda Civic crashing through the closed garage door of McFadden’s house. The man behind the wheel, whom I assume is McFadden because of the tiny little Chihuahua sitting on his lap, screams at us as he floors it backward out of the driveway and into the street.
“YOU’LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!”
His threat is punctuated by a short, yippy bark from Tinkerdoodle before he throws the car out of reverse and takes off down the residential street.
“So, what was that you were saying about not needing help on this job?” Griffin asks, the cocky grin back on his face as he stares down at me and makes no move to get the hell off me.
Placing my palms flat on his muscled chest, I shove him roughly away until he rolls to the side. I scramble up from the ground, wiping grass and dirt off my jeans and out of my hair before stalking across the yard toward my car.
“So, I guess I’ll talk to you later and we can go over our strategy?” he yells with a chuckle as I get in my car and angrily slam the door closed without answering him.
I am never going to be able to get any work done with him around, trying to worm his way back into my life.
GD Griffin Crawford.
I walk through the door of Fool Me Once Investigations and avoid my friends’ stares at the condition I’ve returned to the office in as I sit down at my desk. I realize my hair is filled with grass and my clothes are dirty and askew, but I was kind of hoping they wouldn’t notice.