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The very bane of my existence was here, who oddly was the same person who had a reoccurring starring role in all my fantasies, even the really dirty ones—especially them.

Reece Anders was here, and I didn’t know if I was going to punch him in the nuts or kiss him.

Chapter 2

The driver’s door opened smoothly, and my heart—my damn, traitorous bitch of a heart—skipped a beat as a long denim-clad leg appeared, along with flip-flops with a tan leather thong. Why did I have to have a thing for guys who were ballsy enough to wear flip-flops, because, oh dear, I really did think that was entirely sexy paired with faded jeans. Another leg appeared, and the door blocked the torso for a moment—only a second. The door closed, and I got an eyeful of a worn Metallica shirt that did very little to hide a well-defined, totally yummy-in-my-tummy six-pack. The shirt was practically mating with his stomach, clinging to each ripple. It was doing the same to his biceps, essentially taunting me.

That was it. The shirt was being a spiteful man-bitch.

I dragged my gaze up over broad shoulders—the kind of shoulders that could bear the brunt of the weight of the world, and had—to his face. He was rocking some sexy black sunglasses, looking damn good doing so.

God, Reece looked great in casual clothes, panties-on-fire hot when he was wearing his police uniform, and when he was naked, he could seriously induce a visual orgasm.

And I’d seen him naked. Well, sort of. Okay, totally saw his goods, and they were goodie-gumdrops kind of good.

Reece was classically handsome, the kind of guy with the bone structure that had my fingers itching to sketch—angular cheekbones, full lips, and an honest-to-God jawline that could cut cheesecakes all day long. And he was a cop, serving and protecting, and there was just something entirely badass hot about that.

Unfortunately, I also hated him, absolutely loathed him. Ah, well, most of the time. Sometimes. Pretty much whenever I gazed upon his perfection and started lusting after him. Yeah, that’s when I hated him.

My girlie parts were feeling that vibe right now, meaning in this moment, I disliked him. So as I tightened my hand on the tote bag I carried, I popped out a hip like I’d seen Katie, a . . . well, odd friend of mine, do when she was about to deliver a verbal smackdown.

“What are you doing here?” I demanded, and then promptly shivered—shivered in the hundred-degree temperature, because I hadn’t spoken to Reece in over eleven months. Well, not counting the words Fuck off, because I’d probably said that to him, oh, about four hundred times in the last eleven months, but whatever.

Dark brows shot up over the frame of the sunglasses. A moment passed and then he chuckled, as if what I said was the most amusing thing ever. “How about you actually say hi to me first?”

Curse words would’ve flown from my tongue like birds migrating south for winter if he hadn’t caught me off guard. I’d asked a totally valid question. From what I knew, Reece never, in the six years I’d been seeing Charlie, had visited the facility, but a smidgen of guilt bloomed and my momma raised me better than this. I forced out a “Hi.”

He pursed well-formed lips and said nothing.

My eyes narrowed from behind my sunglasses. “Hello . . . Officer Anders?”

A moment passed as he cocked his head to the side. “I’m not on duty, Roxy.”

Oh man, the way he said my name. Roxy. How he curled his tongue around the R. I had no idea how, but it made me all squishy in areas that so did not need the squishiness.

When he didn’t say anything else though, I was close to punching myself in the girlie areas, because he was seriously going to make me do this. “Hello . . .” I drew the word out. “Reece.”

Those lips curved up at the corners, a smile that said he was proud and he should be. Me saying his name at this point was a major accomplishment on his part, and if I had a reward cookie for him, I’d shove it right in his face. “Was that so hard?” he asked.

“Yes. It was hard,” I told him. “It blackened a part of my soul.”

A laugh erupted from him, which surprised the hell out of me. “Your soul is all rainbows and puppy dog tails, babe.”

I snorted. “My soul is deep and dark and full of other infinite meaningless things.”

“Meaningless things?” he repeated with another deep laugh as he reached up and scrubbed his fingers through his dark brown hair. It was cropped close on the sides, but a little longer on top than most cops had. “Well, if that’s the truth, it hasn’t always been that way.” The easy, somewhat—okay, totally— charming grin eased off his mouth and his lips formed a flat line. “Yeah, it wasn’t always like that.”

The next breath hitched in my throat. Reece and I . . . we’d known each other for a long time. When I’d been a freshman in high school, he’d been a junior, and even back then he’d been everything a girl could obsess over, and I’d crushed on him hard. Like, I had drawn hearts with his name in the center, my earliest and lamest doodles, across my notebook and treasured every time he’d smiled at me or looked in my direction. I’d been way too young and didn’t run in his circles, but he’d always been kind to me.

Probably had to do with the fact that he and his older brother, along with his parents, had moved into the house next door to my childhood home.

Anyway, he’d always been good to me and to Charlie, and when he’d left to join the Marines at eighteen, I’d been heartbroken, utterly devastated, because I’d convinced myself we’d get married and populate the world with lots of babies. Those years he was gone had been hard, and I’d never forget the day Mom had called me to tell me he was injured while at war. My heart had stopped and it took a long time for that suffocating ball of dread to lift, even after we were assured that he’d be okay. When he finally came home, I was old enough not to be considered jailbait and we’d actually become friends. Close, good friends. I’d been there for him during the worse moments of his life. Those terrible nights he’d drunk himself into a stupor or become so moody he was like a caged lion ready to bite the hand off anyone who approached him—anyone except me. But then one night with too much whiskey had ruined everything.

I’d spent years infatuated with him, always believing he was unobtainable, and no matter what had transpired between us that night, he would still never be mine.

Frustrated with where my thoughts had gone, I resisted the urge to chuck my tote at him. “Why in the world are we talking about my soul?”