Alex had finished a busy shift at the ER and was excited to start her long weekend. She jumped into her car and pushed the phone icon as she pulled out of the parking lot of County Hospital.
“Hey, it’s me. I’m on my way over and was calling to see if you needed me to pick up anything.”
“No, I think we have everything.”
“How’s my boy? Is he ready to see his auntie?”
“Yep. He’s already in his swim diaper and is just waiting for you to take him swimming.”
“Wonderful. I’ll be there soon.” Alex hung up and checked a quick text message she had received before turning off her phone. She swerved before she could cross into the lane next to hers and decided to pay attention.
The blue and red lights that flashed in her rearview mirror brought Alex’s breathing to a halt. She wasn’t doing anything wrong. Well, not really. She was driving only ten miles per hour over the speed limit. Surely, she wasn’t being pulled over for speeding. She flicked on her blinker, turned to look over her shoulder, and safely pulled to the shoulder of the road. The police car pulled in behind her, and the officer remained in his car. Damn! This day held such promise.
She was off work from the ER for the next few days and ready to have a good time. She had been on her way to her best friend Jordan’s house for a pool party and barbecue. She had hoped to meet a single woman at the party that she could maybe spend the next couple of days having fun with. Getting pulled over was not how she imagined this day would go.
The officer finally got out of his car and started to approach. Alex looked in her side mirror and watched him—wait a minute—her carefully draw near with her hand placed near the butt of her gun. Alex’s pulse sped up as she sized up the officer. She was a little taller than average with olive skin and short, dark hair. Alex couldn’t tell what her body looked like due to the vest under her uniform top and her duty belt, but she had a feeling it would be spectacular. The officer had a confidence to her gait, more like a swagger, as she arrived at the passenger side window. She had a stern look to her face and mirrored black Oakley sunglasses. Alex wondered if these sunglasses were standard issue for cops. She saw enough officers in the emergency room wearing the popular style.
The officer gestured for Alex to roll down the window. Alex looked at the officer’s name tag and gave her the most flirtatious smile she could. “Is there something I can help you with, Officer Greco?”
“May I have your license, registration, and proof of insurance, ma’am?”
Alex felt her eyebrows shoot up her forehead. Ma’am? “Officer, I’m sure—”
“It’s Sergeant, ma’am.”
“Okay, Sergeant,” Alex drew out, “I’m sure you have better things to do than waste your time on me. How about you let me get on my way and you can go back to protecting the streets?”
“I can’t do that, ma’am. Now, let me see your license, registration, and proof of insurance.”
Alex blew out a breath in frustration. “Fine.” She rummaged through her purse and removed her license and insurance card from her wallet, then leaned over and opened the glove box to get her registration. She reluctantly handed the items over to the sergeant.
“I pulled you over for speeding and failure to use a hands-free device, Ms. Taylor,” Sergeant Greco said after scanning the license. “The speed limit is forty miles per hour, and I clocked you doing fifty. It’s also against the law to talk on your cell phone while operating a vehicle if you’re not using a hands-free device. Wait here, please.”
Alex watched her retreat to her cruiser. If she hadn’t been so embarrassed or angry, Alex would have appreciated the toned ass that even the polyester uniform pants couldn’t hide. As time dragged on, Alex became more miffed. She could feel her blood begin to boil and took some deep breaths to calm herself down before Sergeant Greco returned. She checked the rearview mirror and saw the officer returning to Alex.
“Here you go, ma’am.” Sergeant Greco handed the items back to Alex, along with a speeding ticket. “Be safe, stay off your phone while you drive, and slow it down a little.”
“Sure thing, Sergeant,” Alex mumbled under her breath as the officer left. “Thanks a-fucking-lot.”
Alex put her blinker on and waited for a break in traffic to pull back onto the road, resisting the urge to peel out and spray dirt and rocks on the officer’s car. She thought of the handsome sergeant on the drive to Jordan’s. Under different circumstances, Alex could have imagined spending time and getting to know her better. Alex never had a “type” that she preferred. She had been with butch and femme women, and everything in between. She tended to gravitate toward a woman who could spark her interest. A woman with self-confidence. Sergeant Greco displayed that in spades.
There was definitely a commanding presence to the sergeant, not only in her demeanor, but her face as well. She had a strong, square jaw and Romanesque nose. Even though she never removed her sunglasses, Alex could imagine the intensity in her eyes. Oh, well. Alex hoped never to run into the commanding Sergeant Greco again.
Alex pulled into the driveway behind Jordan’s car and took a few more deep breaths. She was about to spend the day with three of the most important people in her life, and she wasn’t going to let that damn officer ruin the rest of her day.
She knocked on the front door and let herself in. She felt all of the stress fall away into thin air. Her godson Aiden’s blue-green eyes twinkled as he toddled his way to Alex and tried to say her name. He got the “A” part down, but that was it for now. The “lex” would come soon, she was sure. She scooped him up, nuzzled his neck, and inhaled the sweet scent of his baby shampoo and powder. The giggles that came from Aiden made Alex want to continue tickling him.
Aiden leaned back from Alex, put his little hands on her cheeks, and moved back in for a sloppy kiss. This was new for him, and Alex felt the tears sting her eyes. “Jordan, go pack Aiden’s clothes. I’m running away with him and never bringing him back.”
Jordan chuckled as she greeted Alex. “You can borrow him anytime you want, Al, but you have to promise to bring him back. You do not want Kirsten hunting you down.” Alex accepted Jordan’s kiss hello and turned her attention back to Aiden. Jordan had been Alex’s best friend since their first year in college. They’d seen and helped each other through really great times and really bad times. Alex was an only child, but Jordan was the sister she had always wished for.
Jordan’s avoidance of relationships ended when she met her now-wife a little over three years ago. Alex loved Kirsten as much as she did Jordan, and when they asked her to be Aiden’s godmother, it solidified her place in their family. She longed to find a woman who would complete her life as Jordan and Kirsten completed each other’s. Who knew? Maybe she would meet her today.
Sergeant Francesca Greco was relieved her shift was finally over. It had been a relatively quiet day—well, as quiet as it could be for a patrol supervisor on a Saturday day shift. As she drove back to the station, she recalled her last stop. She had only twenty minutes before she headed back to the station to clean up and meet some friends. She put her car into gear and started to pull up to the stop sign just ahead when a car sped past her going westbound. Frank went in pursuit of the bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle. By pacing the car, she estimated the driver was going about ten miles per hour over the speed limit. She observed the driver holding what appeared to be a phone up to her ear and was weaving slightly. There were enough cars on the road that this could be a potentially unsafe pursuit. She flipped on her lights as she gained ground on the speeding vehicle. When the driver signaled to pull over, Frank offered up a silent thank you to the police gods.
Frank radioed dispatch with the make, model, and license plate and waited for the information. The dispatcher came back. “Vehicle registered to Alexandra Taylor. No warrants.”
“Copy that.” Frank exited her vehicle and approached the passenger’s side. She was normally a very even-keeled woman, but she couldn’t help the quickening of her pulse whenever she approached a vehicular stop. In her ten-plus years of experience, domestic calls and vehicular stops were always unknown and could be very dangerous. As she approached the car that reminded her of the brightly shining sun, she had a feeling this would be a routine stop, but was cautious nonetheless. She tapped on the window and the driver lowered it. Frank noticed the gorgeous woman sitting behind the wheel with the thick chestnut brown hair, high cheekbones, the nose that curved up oh-so-slightly, and the full, luscious lips. If only they had met under different circumstances. She asked for the woman’s ID, insurance, and registration. No, this stop definitely wouldn’t be routine.
Frank had considered letting Alex off with just a warning when she was so apologetic, but then Alex had to go and ask Frank if she could just let her go. In her opinion, people who asked to get out of a ticket were only sorry they got caught and weren’t really looking to change their driving habits for the better. At least with a ticket, they might think about what they did and not look to do it again.
“Wait here, please.” Frank took the items back to her patrol car and called the dispatcher again with the license information. After the dispatcher notified her that the driver did not have any warrants, Frank began writing the ticket. She studied Alex’s picture on her license a little longer than necessary. Although the picture was small, Frank could see the warmth emanating from her chocolate brown eyes. She sighed and thought another time, another place. Frank completed the information on the ticket and made her way back to Alex’s car.
“Here you go, ma’am.” Frank handed Alex’s items and ticket to her. “Be safe, stay off your phone while you drive, and slow it down a little.” Frank got into her cruiser and waited for Alex to safely return to the road. She let out a deep breath, disappointed in the way they met. The chatter over the radio as she headed back to the station was white noise as she thought about Alex. She second-guessed her actions in giving her a ticket, and thought if she had let her go with a warning, maybe there would have been a slight chance to get to know her better if they met again. Frank knew she blew that chance when she saw in her eyes the, what? Anger? Disappointment? Whatever it was told Frank it was a done deal.
When she returned to the station, she dropped off her keys and headed to the locker room and the showers. Once she was dressed in tan cargo shorts and a black polo shirt, she spiked up her hair with a little gel and shook her head a few times to give it a bit of a wild look. Frank grabbed her backpack out of her locker, headed to her black Dodge Ram pickup, and drove to the party she had been invited to. She parked her truck on the tree-lined street and hiked half a block to the house. She noticed a bright yellow Beetle in the driveway and took a sharp intake of breath, then laughed at herself. Just a coincidence. There are a few hundred of those cars that same color driving the streets of Southern California. But like most cops said, she reminded herself, there were never coincidences.
She knocked on the front door but when it opened, her breath hitched when she saw Alex Taylor. Alex narrowed her eyes before slamming the door in Frank’s face. Frank stood there stunned, sure she should turn around and leave, but she couldn’t make her feet move. The door opened again, and she saw her friend Jordan standing in the doorway, looking as bewildered as Frank felt.
“What the hell was that all about?”
Frank shook her head. “Um, I think I should go, Jordan. Thanks for the invite.” She turned to leave when she felt a hand grab her.
“Not so fast there, Frank. Come in and have a beer so you can tell me why my best friend slammed the door in your face, then hurried past me while swearing under her breath.”
Frank barked out a laugh. Best friend. Just great. This day just keeps getting better and better. She felt herself being pulled by Jordan and was too shocked to resist. Jordan led her to the kitchen and introduced Frank to Kirsten, Jordan’s wife.
“Frank, this is my wife, Kirsten. Baby, this is my friend I told you about, Frank Greco.”
“I’m so happy to finally meet you, Frank. Jordan’s told me so much about you. I can’t believe you two used to play basketball against each other in college. How did you become reacquainted?”
Frank thanked Jordan for the beer and took a drink. “I hurt my knee during training, and the doc sent me to Jordan for PT. We recognized each other and laughed at fate bringing us back into each other’s lives.” She wanted to laugh again at fate. What were the chances of running into Alex again so soon? And her being Jordan’s best friend? A wave of disappointment slashed through Frank like a knife. Jordan must have noticed.
“Hey, baby, would you excuse us for a moment? I need to talk to Frank privately.”
“Sure, love. I’ll be out at the pool with our guests.” Kirsten turned to Frank and smiled. “I hope you brought your appetite and suit. I look forward to talking with you more.”
Frank and Jordan watched Kirsten’s retreating form, and Jordan turned back to Frank. “Okay, let’s have it.”
Frank took a deep breath. “I think your Alex hates me.”
Jordan looked concerned. “Why would she hate you?”
“I gave her a speeding ticket about two hours ago.”
Jordan broke out in laughter. “Was she speeding?”
“Yep. And talking on her cell phone while driving.”
Jordan laughed again. “Good. I’m glad you gave her a ticket. I’m always telling her to slow down, so now maybe she will. That phone call must have been to me to let me know she was on her way. I wonder why she wasn’t using her Bluetooth.”
“She said the battery died. I don’t know, Jordan. Maybe I should have given her a warning.”
“Uh-uh. You did exactly the right thing. Alex is a very safe driver with the exception of her speeding. You were doing your job.”
Frank finished her beer and was grateful for Jordan’s understanding, but didn’t feel like she should stay. She didn’t want to ruin the party for Jordan or Alex. “Thanks for the beer, but I’m going to take off. Please say good-bye to Kirsten for me.”
Jordan stopped her again. “Forget it, Greco. You’re staying. Alex might be a little pissed now.” Jordan laughed when Frank raised her eyebrow. “Okay, a lot pissed off, but she’ll get over it. She’s really great once you get to know her.”
Frank hesitated. “I don’t know…”
Jordan threw her arm around Frank’s shoulder and led her to the sliding glass door. “C’mon, it will be fine. There are plenty of other women here to talk to, and if you’re not enjoying yourself in another half hour, I won’t stop you if you want to leave. What do you say?”
Frank shrugged. “Sure, okay.”
Jordan squeezed her shoulder. “Great. I want you to meet our son.”
Alex relaxed on the chaise lounge with Aiden sitting in her lap. After seeing Sergeant Greco at the door looking all kinds of yummy in her black shirt, tan shorts, and spiked hair, Alex panicked and slammed the door in her face. She acted like a petulant child, and it embarrassed her that she behaved that way, but she just couldn’t help it. The fact that she wanted to grab her and kiss her breathless shocked her more. She took Aiden from Jordan’s arms as she stormed past her out to the backyard. She ignored the questioning look on Jordan’s face as she wrapped her arms around Aiden. She inhaled Aiden’s scent, and his giggles calmed her. She spotted Jordan and Frank as they headed her way.
“Alex Taylor, I believe you’ve met my friend, Frank Greco.” Jordan smirked as she took Aiden from her arms. “Frank, this is my best friend, Alex, and this handsome little man is my son, Aiden.”
Alex watched the exchange between Aiden and Frank and felt her anger start to dissolve. The transformation from tough cop to the woman who was cooing with Aiden surprised Alex. Frank held Aiden on her left hip and extended her hand to Alex.
“Ms. Taylor.” Frank smiled at Alex. “It’s nice to see you in more pleasant circumstances.”
Alex could feel her mouth tug into a grin but tried to remain aloof. “Sergeant Greco.”
Alex noticed the amusement in Jordan’s eyes, having seen it many times in the years they’d been friends. She made a mental note to get revenge later. Jordan took Aiden from Frank and called out over her shoulder as she went to Kirsten’s side. “You ladies play nice.” Alex thought she heard Jordan snicker but couldn’t be sure.
Alex rolled her eyes as Frank looked anywhere but at her. It was when Frank looked down at her feet that Alex decided to lighten up. She indicated the empty chair next to her. “Would you like to sit down?”
Alex almost laughed at the look of relief that swept over Frank’s face. “I’d like that, but I’m going to grab a beer. Can I get you anything?”
“A beer would be great, thanks.”
Alex watched Frank saunter over to the cooler with her confident swagger back in place. Alex found this much more attractive than the tail-tucked-between-the-legs look Frank was just exhibiting. The warmth infusing her body was testimony to that, along with the sight of Frank’s ass as she bent over to retrieve two beers out of the ice chest.
Frank returned, and after twisting off the cap, handed the beer to Alex and took the vacant seat.
Alex took a drink that quenched the dryness of her mouth she’d been experiencing since Frank went to get their beers. “So, how do you know Jordan?”
“We played basketball against each other in college. We weren’t exactly friends, but we knew each other. A few months ago, I got hurt and Jordan was my PT. We got to talking and hit it off.”
Alex smiled. “That’s how she got together with Kirsten. She was Jordan’s patient, but after she was discharged, they became friends and eventually fell in love.”
Frank laughed and shook her head. “Well, I’m happy with us being just friends.” She took a pull from her beer. “What about you, Alex? Do you think we can be friends?”
Alex raised an eyebrow and eyed her suspiciously. “I don’t know, Sergeant. Are you allowed to be friends with a criminal?”
Frank leaned closer and lowered her voice. “I won’t tell people you’re a criminal if you don’t. It can be our little secret.”
Did she just flirt with her? Damn, she’s sexy when she loosens up. Alex crossed her finger over her heart. “I promise.”
Frank leaned back against the chair and assumed a relaxed pose. “What do you do for a living? Besides breaking the law, I mean?”
Alex couldn’t help but laugh. She was beginning to appreciate Frank’s sense of humor. “I’m a nurse in the ER at County Hospital.”
“Really? Why haven’t I seen you before? I’m there at least a couple of times a week tending to calls. I definitely would have noticed you.”
Yes, most definitely flirting. This could be fun. “I just transferred over from Fountain Hills Regional a few weeks ago. But I’ll be sure to warn my new colleagues to look out for you.”
Frank’s eyebrows shot up her forehead and made Alex laugh. “Warn them? About what?”
“Not to speed when you’re on duty,” Alex said with a sly grin. And to look out for the devastatingly good-looking Sergeant Greco.
Frank tipped her nonexistent hat. “Just trying to keep the streets safe, ma’am.”
Alex again raised her eyebrow suspiciously. “Uh-huh. How long have you been a police officer?”
Frank relaxed and leaned back against the chair. “A little more than ten years. I got my degree in criminal justice and entered the police academy shortly after I graduated college.”
Alex was ready to ask another question when Jordan came over. “Hey, ladies, food’s ready. Grab a plate and help yourselves.”
Frank stood and offered her hand to Alex. She looked at Frank and smiled. A gentlewoman too. She took her hand and contemplated keeping hold of it, but that idea was nixed when Frank let go. Instead, Frank placed her hand on the small of Alex’s back and gently guided her ahead.
They gathered in the kitchen where Jordan introduced Frank to some of her friends. A few of the women were from Jordan’s recreation league basketball team, and when they discovered Frank played against Jordan in college, they invited her to play on their team when league started back up. Alex’s pulse raced when she saw Frank’s face light up with excitement. Damn, Frank was attractive. If Frank decided to play, it would give Alex one more reason to attend more games.
They grabbed their food and headed back to the lounge chairs. They hardly spoke as they devoured their burgers and potato salad. When they finished eating, Alex held out her hand for Frank’s empty plate. “Do you want more food, or can I take this to the trash?”
“No, I’m stuffed, but I can throw it away.”
Alex grabbed the plate from Frank’s hand. “I got it. Do you want anything to drink?”
“Just some water. I need to be going soon.”
A wave of disappointment rushed through Alex as she went to throw away their plates. She thought she and Frank were getting along okay. She tried to brush away the regret and plastered on a smile she knew didn’t reach her eyes. She handed the bottle of water to Frank, and when their fingers touched, Alex felt like her insides caught fire. Frank must have felt it too judging by the look on her face. Just as quickly, the connection was broken when Frank took the bottle from Alex’s hand. Her voice sounded huskier when she said thanks. Yep, Frank must have felt it too.
Frank gulped the water down quickly and fiddled with the water bottle. Alex wondered what was going through Frank’s mind because her confidence was now replaced with a look of uncertainty.
“So, Alex, I was wondering if I could call you sometime and, um, maybe ask you to dinner.”
As attracted as she was to Frank, dating her didn’t seem like a very good idea right now. She wasn’t sure why exactly, but the warning bells going off in her head told her to politely decline. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
A frown was quickly replaced by a faint smile on Frank’s face. “Sure, okay.” Frank stood and offered her hand to Alex. “Good to meet you, Alex. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime. Take care.”
Alex watched Frank leave with her shoulders slumped, and she felt like a jerk. Would it have killed her to give Frank her number? They could have gone out for drinks and gotten to know each other a little more, but she couldn’t ignore those bells. They hadn’t steered her wrong yet. Alex was surprised that Frank and Jordan both turned to her at the same time. Frank offered a weak wave and an even weaker smile, hugged Jordan, then left the party. She was unsure of what Frank said to Jordan, but it couldn’t have been good judging by Jordan’s determined gait and her tight-lipped mouth.
“What did you say to her?”
“Calm down, Jordan. She asked me for my number and I told her that wouldn’t be a good idea.”
“Why? It looked like you two were getting along.”
“We were. We did. It’s nothing she said or did. I just didn’t think it was a good idea. She seems very nice, and I’m sure I’ll see her around the ER and at your basketball games if she decides to play. I don’t want any complications or awkwardness if things didn’t work out for us.”
Jordan laughed and shook her head. “You sound like I did a few years ago when I first met Kirsten.”
Alex took Jordan’s hand and held it. “I know, but just trust me on this. It’s better this way.”
“Okay, Al.” Jordan leaned over and kissed her.
“Where’s my big boy? I need some Aiden love.”
“Kirsten is just finishing feeding him. I was going to snag him away so she can finally eat.”
Alex stood and placed her hand on Jordan’s shoulder. “Let me. You mingle with your friends, and I’ll take care of the little monkey.”
“Deal. But if you try to leave with him, remember, I know where you live.”
Alex looked over her shoulder as she went to find Aiden. “Didn’t I tell you? I moved.” She could still hear Jordan’s laughter as she entered the house.
Kirsten was just taking Aiden out of his high chair when he spotted Alex and squealed with excitement. All thoughts of Frank fled from her mind as Aiden practically jumped from Kirsten’s arms into hers. “Why don’t you go eat and I’ll take Aiden off your hands.”
Kirsten kissed Alex on the cheek as her face flooded with relief. “Bless you. I’m starving for food and adult conversation. Not that I don’t adore this face,” Kirsten said as she nibbled Aiden’s cheek. His giggling made them both laugh.
“Go. I’ll take him into his room, and we’ll play with blocks. Come on, little man, let’s build something great.”
Frank couldn’t get out of there fast enough. She didn’t normally make the first move with a woman, but something about Alex compelled her to ask for her number. And she crashed and burned, which was exactly why she didn’t make herself vulnerable. She tried a little light flirting with Alex, and she seemed to flirt back. So why wouldn’t she give Frank her number? It wasn’t like she was some sort of psychopath. She was a police officer, for fuck’s sake. If she couldn’t be trusted, who could?
Alex was a beautiful woman, and once they started talking, seemed down to earth. Frank was just starting to get to know Jordan, but couldn’t imagine her being friends with a jerk. There must have been some reason Alex shot her down. There was no mention of a girlfriend. But that didn’t mean she didn’t have one. It depressed Frank to think she just wasn’t good enough or attractive enough for Alex. All of this was making her a little crazy.
She pulled into the driveway of her home, grabbed her backpack, and went inside. She could hear the scrambling of four paws clacking on the wood floors as her two-year-old Lab mix, Bella, came to greet her. The excitement Bella displayed at seeing her erased any negative thoughts from her mind. How could anyone be sad after being greeted like this?
Bella started to jump on Frank, but she ordered her down, and Bella sat as her tail continued to wag. Frank laughed and got down on the floor with her to give her pup lots of love.
Frank didn’t know she was in the market for a dog when she went with her best friend, Katie, and Katie’s girlfriend to a pet adoption event almost two years ago. She tagged along as they went to look for a cat to add to their growing family of animals. She was wandering aimlessly through the adoption area when she spotted Bella. She was just twelve weeks old, lying in her bed, seeming to take everything in that was going on around her. While some of the other dogs were barking and jumping, there was her Bella, the calm amongst the chaos. Frank filled out the application, survived a home visit, and became the proud owner of the sweetest pup she’d ever known. It had taken a few days to acclimate to her new home, but in no time at all, Frank and Bella became an instant family.
“Come on, girl, let’s get you fed.” Bella followed Frank into the kitchen, her tail wagging wildly, as Frank prepared her meal. She sometimes thought Bella loved mealtime more than going to the beach or park. She drank a glass of water while Bella practically inhaled her dinner.
Later that evening, as she and Bella took their nightly stroll through the neighborhood, thoughts of Alex came back to her. Pulling her over earlier in the day wasn’t the most ideal way to meet. Maybe she was still pissed about that, but she had to realize Frank was just doing her job. She was sure they would run into each other occasionally with Alex now working at County.
Frank had to admit she had a good time at Jordan and Kirsten’s despite how things ended with Alex. She was excited and nervous at the prospect of playing basketball on Jordan’s team. She hadn’t played on an organized team in a number of years, but she would occasionally take her ball to the nearest park and shoot around. Sometimes she would get involved in a pickup game or two, but that was pretty much it. She worked out regularly and ran a few miles a day, but she wasn’t exactly in playing shape. She’d have to start playing more pickup games before practice started next month.
“All right, Bella. Time for bed. Grab your frog.” Frank laughed as Bella wandered around the house looking for her bedtime buddy. She reappeared with the green stuffed animal in her mouth and followed Frank into her bedroom. As Frank got ready for bed, Bella fluffed up her bed, moved around in a few circles before finally getting settled. When Frank came back into the bedroom, she smiled at the cuteness factor of Bella sound asleep with her paw thrown over the frog. “Good night, sweet pup.”
Alex finished putting in a patient’s IV and made a note in the chart. “Okay, Mrs. Bennett, try to get some rest. Someone will be along shortly to transfer you upstairs.” She closed the curtain behind her and stopped in her tracks at the vision in front of her. Frank stood at the nurses’ station with her forearms on the counter, leaning close as she spoke quietly to Jenny, one of the nurses she worked with. Alex quietly observed Frank. She had an almost predatory aura about her, and Alex felt her pulse speed up. She understood her visceral reaction was just physiological, but it still unnerved her. Her heart rate was just returning to normal when Frank turned her way and smiled. So much for that.
“Well, hello, Nurse Taylor.” The predatory gleam in her eyes remained as she looked Alex over from head to toe, making Alex shiver in response.
Alex felt like she had been undressed by Frank’s gaze, and instead of feeling insulted, as she would if someone else had pulled that shit, she was turned on, her body tingling and warming everywhere Frank’s gaze lingered. She had to quickly take back control before she totally lost it. She openly admired Frank as she sauntered over, leaned one arm on the counter, and faced Frank. She quirked her eyebrow and smirked. “Hello, Sergeant. How have you been?”
Jenny looked from Frank to Alex and back to Frank. “Do you two know each other?”
“We met a couple of weeks ago…at a friend’s party,” Alex said as she kept her eyes on Frank and grinned wryly.
Frank gazed back at Alex as if they were the only two people in the room. “Yep. We met at a party.”
With the harsh lights in the ER, Alex noticed Frank’s eyes to be a light hazel, almost amber color. She had never seen eyes that color, and they were hypnotizing. Out of self-preservation, she had to find something to do, something to get her away from Frank. The ER gods were looking down on her when two paramedics rushed through the doors with an older gentleman being resuscitated on the gurney.
As they called out his vitals and presentation, Alex pointed and yelled out, “Take him to three!” She quickly followed and forgot about Frank and her sexiness. One of the things she loved most about this job was when a patient came in with a life-threatening emergency, every thought fled her mind except what the patient needed. It was almost a Zen-like state she got in where treatment became a well-choreographed dance. Every person in the room had a job to do, and if someone wasn’t on their game, it could make the difference between life and death. Alex promised herself if death was the outcome, it wouldn’t be because she wasn’t focused.
Once they got the patient stabilized and knew he would live to see another day, Alex peeled off her gloves and gown and put them in the bin. She returned to the nurses’ station and noticed Frank was now gone. She felt a strange sense of loss but quickly shrugged it off. She logged on to the computer and completed her notes. She was just finishing up when Jenny sat next to her and logged on. Jenny turned in her chair and seemed to study Alex. She smiled and turned back to the computer but could feel Jenny continuing to stare.
She faced Jenny with a questioning look. “Anything I can help you with?”
Jenny squinted at Alex. “Are you and Frank seeing each other?”
Alex wondered why Jenny would ask that. Did she feel the electricity that Alex felt hum between her and Frank? Alex thought she played it cool, but maybe not cool enough. She hadn’t been at the hospital long enough to know anyone well and felt unsure of what to say. Maybe she should keep it simple since hospitals were known to be hotbeds for rumors. “No.”
The look of relief that washed over Jenny’s face might have made Alex laugh if it hadn’t made her jealous instead. Jenny was a cute young woman. She also had an exuberant personality, like she was always up for a good time. If they didn’t work together, Alex might have considered hooking up, but the obvious interest Jenny showed in Frank almost made her feel like she didn’t even want to get involved on any level. Alex wasn’t normally a jealous woman, and she didn’t like this new personality trait.
“I’m so glad to hear that. She’s so hot and sexy and can really fill out her uniform. Do you think she likes me? Maybe she’ll ask me out.”
Alex had a flashback to junior high and wondered how old this girl was. If Jenny said Frank was dreamy, she might have to smack her. She mentally rolled her eyes. “I don’t know, Jenny. Like I said, we just met the one time a couple of weeks ago, so I hardly know her.”
“Well, I see her in here occasionally, but today was the first time she talked to me.”
Alex thought she might throw up a little at the wistful look on Jenny’s face. Thankfully, it was the end of her shift. She smacked her hand on Jenny’s knee, maybe a little too hard, as a look of surprise flashed over Jenny’s face. “You know what? You should totally ask her out.” Alex stood. “I’ll see you later.”
Alex raced to the locker room, grabbed her keys and purse, and slammed her locker shut. The fact that young Jenny got to her had her frustrated beyond belief. Why should she care if Jenny and Frank got together? She didn’t have any hold over Frank. Hell, she barely knew her. Alex exhaled a deep breath and hit the call button on her phone as she exited the ER. “Hey, it’s me. Is Aiden up for some company?” Alex listened, then burst out laughing. “Well, it’s the little monkey I really want to see, but I guess you can hang out with us. I’ll be there soon.” As Alex unlocked her car, she already felt her day brighten.
Frank often found herself thinking of Alex, and it pissed her off. Why couldn’t she keep a woman who obviously wanted nothing to do with her out of her head? They hadn’t seen each other since their run-in at the ER a couple of weeks ago, and it should have been a case of “out of sight, out of mind,” but Frank kept thinking of Alex, wondering what she was doing and who she was doing it with. While on duty, Frank was focused on the job and her safety, but at home, all bets were off. The nurse in the ER? Jamie? No, Jenny. She showed interest. Maybe she should ask her out. No, that wouldn’t do. Jenny was hot and sexy, but Frank hadn’t felt any of the attraction with her that she felt with Alex. And she certainly wasn’t desperate enough to try to force something that clearly wasn’t there.
A call came over the radio asking for backup during a vehicle search. Frank called in her location and headed to the call. She pulled up behind the cruiser and flipped on her lights before exiting her car. Officer Jake Robbins, former college football linebacker, towered over a disheveled-looking man sitting on the curb.
“What do we have, Robbins?”
“Hey, Sarge. I pulled this guy over for an illegal lane change and he appeared suspicious. I thought I smelled something and asked him to exit the vehicle. After searching him, I found a pipe and some crystal meth. Do you want to search the vehicle or keep an eye on him?”
Frank looked over to the suspect, who was rocking back and forth and looking more than a little jittery. “You go ahead, Robbins. I’ll keep an eye on him.”
After a few minutes, Frank noticed the suspect getting more agitated. He kept looking from the car to Frank. She was on full alert now, and her pulse increased after his eyes widened when Robbins called out he found something. In a split second, the guy got on his feet and bolted.
Shit! “Robbins!” Frank took off in a sprint after the suspect. Despite the fact he was handcuffed, the guy was fast, and Frank had a tough time catching up. She heard Robbins right behind her as she dove at the suspect and tackled him to the hard pavement. Robbins’s football instincts must have kicked in because she felt the six-foot-three, two-hundred-and-thirty-pound man of solid muscle land on top of her, pinning her against the suspect. She felt and heard a pop in her ribs, and her breath rushed out of her lungs. “Get off me,” Frank said breathlessly.
Robbins got up and pulled Frank off the suspect before putting his knee into his back, preventing him from going anywhere. “You stupid motherfucker! You thought you could get away from us?” Robbins was breathing hard and his chest heaving from the chase and probably adrenaline. Frank would give anything to be able to take in a deep breath, but the excruciating pain made it impossible. She fought hard to catch her breath, but she just couldn’t.
“Robbins, call for backup and an ambulance.” Her shallow gasps seemed to get his attention.
“Holy shit, Sarge! Are you okay? What’s wrong? Just hold still and I’ll get on the radio.” He called in as Frank had requested and seemed to be torn between whether to keep the suspect pinned down or attend to Frank.
“Stay with him, Robbins. I’m okay. Just got the breath knocked out of me. You must have been one hell of a linebacker if you tackled like that.”
The teasing had the desired effect, and Robbins gave her a brief smile. He returned his focus to the suspect, where it remained until backup arrived in less than two minutes. A few minutes later, the ambulance arrived and the paramedics attended to Frank. After getting her vitals, they hooked her up to oxygen, loaded her in the back, and headed to County ER. Frank winced as she felt the needle penetrate a vein in her hand when the paramedic hooked up her IV.
Frank tried to relax by shutting her eyes. She knew her breathing would worsen if she began to panic, but the inability to take deep, calming breaths scared her. The sound of the sirens and the paramedic talking to the ER did nothing to help settle Frank. She tried to block out the noise and was grateful when they pulled into the ambulance bay and the whining of the siren finally ceased. A new flurry of noise started when the paramedics unloaded the gurney and raced her through the sliding doors. It seemed all at once, medical personnel went to work as the lead paramedic updated them on Frank’s status. A familiar face came into her view, and she was relieved and excited.
Alex smiled gently and brushed her fingers through Frank’s hair. “Don’t you think this is a little extreme as an excuse to see me, Sarge?”
Frank lifted the oxygen mask away from her mouth. “I had to do something to get you to notice me.”
Alex readjusted the mask back over Frank’s mouth. “Keep the mask on and try to relax. We’ll take great care of you.” Alex leaned down and spoke into Frank’s ear. “By the way, I already noticed you.”
For the first time since the accident, Frank started to relax. She closed her eyes as the nurses and doctor went to work on her. She remained alert enough to hear and understand what was going on. She felt the icy cold stethoscope move over her bare chest. She wasn’t sure when she was stripped of her uniform top or vest, but figured it must have happened in the ambulance. She groggily wondered where her clothes and equipment were. Who had her service weapon? Her duty belt? She had to trust the other sergeant on duty was in possession of them and keeping them safe.
“Lungs are clear and equal bilaterally.”
“Let’s get a portable chest x-ray.”
Frank opened her eyes to seek out the comfort she needed. She saw Alex looking down on her with caring eyes.
“It doesn’t sound like you punctured a lung, so that’s really good news. We’re going to x-ray your chest and make sure nothing else is wrong. You’re doing great, Sarge. Just hang in there, and we’ll get you some pain meds right after the x-rays.”
Frank nodded and closed her eyes again. She felt at peace knowing Alex was looking out for her. A while later, the doctor came and talked to her. Once the pain meds had been administered through her IV, Frank relaxed as the pain lessened. She was relieved to discover her only injury was a cracked rib, which time would heal. He gave her a prescription for pain and anti-inflammatory medications, instructed her in breathing exercises to prevent further complications such as pneumonia, and told her she would be off work for a week, but then could only be on desk duty until the rib was healed. The doctor left the exam room as Alex strode back in.
Frank smiled as Alex approached. It made her feel better to know that Alex was helping take care of her. Maybe they could be friends after all. Frank didn’t think she was imagining the look of concern on Alex’s face when she was brought into the ER. Alex must care a little, right? Frank’s cautious nature prevented her from reading too much into it. She reminded herself that Alex was a nurse and it was her job to take care of the sick or injured. On the other hand, Alex’s gentle touches and concerned eyes seemed more personal.
“Well, Frank, looks like you got lucky with just one broken rib. I talked to the brick wall that took you down.” Alex laughed at Frank when she scrunched up her nose. “Officer Robbins is outside waiting for you. He told me what happened, how you became sandwiched between him and the suspect.”
Now that the pain meds were in full effect, Frank found it a little easier to breathe and talk. “Yeah, Robbins is a former linebacker, and it showed today. Makes me glad I took up basketball.”
Alex removed the IV needle and covered the puncture wound with a Band-Aid. Frank blushed as Alex helped her back into her uniform shirt. She hated that Alex saw her so helpless, but there wasn’t really anything she could do about it. She avoided looking at Alex as she buttoned her shirt. Alex handed her a bag that contained her vest and duty belt and accompanied her to the waiting room.
“Officer Robbins went to get his car, and he’s already been instructed to take you straight home.” Alex pinned her with a mock glare. “Don’t even think about going back to work.”
Frank saluted. “Roger that, ma’am.”
Alex placed her hand on Frank’s arm and her face softened. “You try to stay out of trouble, Frank.”
Frank felt empty and the ache in her chest returned as she watched Alex tend to her next patient.