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Protect & Serve(4)

By:Nikki Wild

“Maybe…” I replied.

That ‘Maybe’ turned into a definitely. Once or twice a month there would be a call into the station, and I’d be taking the drive out to the mansion like Nathaniel’s own personal police officer. Usually it was something innocuous. A theft on the property that Mr. Hale needed to report… A dispute with a neighbor that needed resolution… And of course, there was the possibly a little fun on the side.

But that was then, and this is now. The girl he’d deflowered on his big beautiful desk had grown up, and Nathaniel Hale stayed exactly the same. He didn’t understand what it was like to have the responsibilities I was saddled with. Everything was just given to him, and I started to realize that I was just another of his little toys. What we had… It wasn’t even exclusive. When I broke things off he didn’t have an argument for me. There was no declaration of love or boom box held aloft at my shitty apartment window.

For whatever it was worth, I’d have been happy to never see him again.

I closed my eyes and felt a hot trickle of summer sweat roll down the back of my neck. I wasn’t that girl anymore. I didn’t need some rich and dominant asshole to validate me. I am a detective now, and I should be dealing with real police work. How had this man-child become my responsibility?

All I could do was knock again, louder this time.

I knew the answer, of course. Nathan had unwittingly engaged in some business dealings with the Irish mob and was our only chance at cutting off the head of the snake, Peter Wallace. Wallace was a ruthless son of a bitch, even as far as the mob went. He had no problem trafficking young women and girls to all corners of the globe, and we had reason to believe he’d even moved a few shipments through our very own bay. When the Coast Guard tried to intercept one of the containers, they pushed it overboard and straight into the Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t airtight. Sank like a stone, and took all those poor girls with it.

That was where Nathan Hale came in. His testimony would put Wallace behind bars for good this time. There was just one problem: Nathan Hale wasn’t so keen on testifying against a known killer. Especially not one with a history of beating the system, one dead witness at a time.

How do you convince a self-important yuppie that there’s a bigger picture to think about? How do you make a man like that care about something other than himself?

I opened my eyes and pressed hard on the doorbell. Self-preservation—that was my angle. That was the way I’d convince Nathan to put himself on the line in order to save dozens, if not hundreds of people. Rich men felt very strongly about their belongings. If I could convince him that everything he held dear, including his own life, was at stake, surely he’d come around.

But as I jammed my thumb into the button a second time, I wondered if I was just fooling myself. After all, it wouldn’t be the first case I’d wasted my time on, and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time I thought I could change Nathaniel Hale.

You can lead a horse to water…

I was just about to drift into that dark place where all my failures lived when I heard the sound of steel bolts unlatching from the other side of the massive double doors. I took a deep breath, composing myself before Nathan Hale opened the door, inflicting another one of his cocky grins on me.

“Officer Williams,” he said, his eyes scanning every curve of my body. He leaned on the doorframe. “Fancy seeing you here again.”

I stared at him for a long moment, chewing on what I would say next. His gilt hair glistened in the blinding sunlight streaming through the old trees riddled with Spanish moss. It was that time of year when the heat became unbearable around here, when even ducking into the shade meant enduring matted hair and clingy, sweat-stained clothes. I had only been out of my car a few minutes, yet my skin was already prickling with the late summer swelter.

But the longer I looked at him, the more I wondered if it was really the sun making me hot. Objectively, the guy was gorgeous.

His shoulders were broad and his chest was vast, hard, and unyielding beneath his surprisingly low-key t-shirt. It was loose near his stomach, the fabric pooling above his belt and jeans, but I was sure the parts of his body hidden beneath it were just as taut as the rest of him. Clearly, he’d been working out quite a bit since the last time I’d torn his clothes off…

Nathan Hale would have been quite the catch if not for his selfishness.

Then again, that kind of thing seemed standard for rich boys with too much time on their hands. He’d never known a day of hard work in his life—I was pretty sure the title of CEO at his father’s old company was just for show—which meant that he had no empathy for anyone who had to do their jobs to keep food on the table. He was a spoiled brat, and all the good looks and money in the world couldn’t make up for that. Standing here now, I wondered what I ever saw in him…