"Party at my place tonight," Trish, the high school senior with gambling connections, announced as she intersected Judy in the hall between classes.
"Tonight?" Judy shifted her textbooks to her other arm. "You don't give a girl a lot of time to prepare."
"Who needs extra time? Just come as you are. In fact, you can ride home with me after school. I could use some help getting the place set up."
Undercover officers had strict orders to let their superiors know their whereabouts at all time. She mentally calculated the time it would take to contact Fuller. She figured she could do it under the guise of calling home.
"Well?" Trish questioned. "Are you in or are you out?"
"I'm in. I can call my folks when I get to your place."
"Come on, Judy. We're seniors now. They don't need to know everything."
"You don't know my parents. With the allowance they give me, they like to be aware."
The other girl's eyes sparked with interest. "Speaking of allowance, how are you doing on cash?"
"I do okay. I haven't spent it all." Judy pulled her wallet from her neon pink purse. "Are you short?"
"Nah." Trish waved the wallet away. "Just make sure you don't spend any between now and the party. You're gonna need it."
Judy bit back a knowing smile. This was the break she and Tom had been working toward. "No problem."
"The cutie is eyeing you again." She pointed with her index finger.
Glancing over her shoulder was a waste of effort. Judy knew before her eyes connected with the soulful brown orbs of her partner that he stood just a few feet behind her. She had felt the heat of his gaze sweep across her as she returned her wallet to her purse. Having him close was a requirement of the case. But, damn! Caught between longing and guilt, Judy's nerves were pulled taut as a drum.
She forced a bored expression onto her face and said, "Who?"
"Girl, don't even try it. Tom. Man, if Owen wasn't mine… But you're cool, so I'm gonna take care of you. Hold on." Trish stepped aside and called, "Tom! Come here."
"What are you doing?" Judy questioned in a whispered rush.
"You'll see." Trish's smile widened at Tom's approach. "Hey, there new boy. There's a party tonight at my place. Only a select few are invited. Be Judy's date and come with."
A thoughtful expression on his face, Tom slowly chewed his gum. "So, what you're saying is I'm invited but I have to be with Jude? Is that it?"
Trish nodded. "In a nutshell."
Nodding, he looked at Judy. A barely restrained forest fire seemed to burn in his eyes. Usually, he hid the agony of their attraction behind cool professionalism or good-natured teasing. Not so today. Judy clearly envisioned being swallowed by the flames. Flashes of their lone night of passion came to mind in torturous secession.
His eyes trailed her from head to toe. Tingles coursed through her. Her flesh burned as if he'd touched her, branding her with his heat. She swallowed hard and hugged her books close to her chest.
"Well?" Trish prompted.
Tom's eyes remained locked on Judy. He moistened his lips with a swipe of his pink tongue. "I can live with that condition. What time should I pick her up?"
"She's coming with me after school, but you're taking her home."
The final bell rang its last warning. A flurry of movement dispersed the students from the crowded hallway. Trish hurried off without another word, leaving Judy and Tom alone to head to their Chemistry class.
He dropped his arm around her shoulder. His grip tightened as she stiffened. "Don't," he said.
"This is not what Fuller intended us to do," she hissed under her breath.
"It's working for the case." He led the way to their table in the back. As the newest students, the teacher had assigned them as lab partners. Tom slid onto the stool beside her. "Besides, it's just a party. We see what's what, get info on what we need and we're out of there."
"You make it sound simple." After the disastrous double date which included Doug and Amy, the thought of spending time with Tom in a remotely romantic-like atmosphere made alarm sirens blast inside Judy's head. She sensed nothing but disaster in their future. Just now, the simple touch of his arm around her set her heart racing. How the hell was she supposed to react to playing his date? High school parties were notorious for make-out sessions. If she and Tom were forced to respond on some level…
"It is simple," he said softly as their teacher was taking roll. "We got through that date from hell. We can get through this."
She nodded, but her premonition refused to budge. Whatever happened that night would change things between them. She had no doubt about that.Back | Chapter 7 | 172