Keeping their relationship a secret proved to only draw them closer. With Judy's desk right beside his, Hanson found himself easily distracted. Penhall saved his ass a few times when it came to Fuller. His partner played buffer without demands for an explanation. Friends like that were hard to come by. Guilt about not disclosing the facts to his partner nagged at Hanson.
Domestic responsibility nagged at him, too. Weeks of ignoring the basics finally took its toll. Upon entering his apartment, Tom changed into ripped jeans and a ratty t-shirt. Turning on background music, he grabbed his favorite cleaning supplies and got busy. A ringing telephone interrupted his flow. He lowered the volume on his stereo and answered the phone.
"GET UP AND GET MOVING!"
Tom removed the telephone receiver from his ear for a split second and then put it back. "Penhall?"
"Who else?" his friend and partner replied. "I've got big plans for us tonight. Put on your best duds and be ready when I get there."
"Big plans?" Tom released a harsh breath. Considering what's been on Doug's mind all week, he knew exactly what his friend had planned. Cruising bars for women. "That's okay, Doug. I have my own plans--"
"Yeah, you're probably planning your bowling strategy," Doug quipped. "When was the last time you've been out with something other than your bowling ball?" He didn't wait for an answer and rushed on. "There's a life waiting out there for you. For both of us! We gotta grab it now !"
"No, buts," Doug interrupted. "Besides, you've been holed up in your apartment ever since Fuller joined the force. You gotta let it go, man. Tonight is your night. I'm not taking no for an answer. I'll be there in an hour. Ladies, get ready. HERE WE COME!"
Tom's refusal coincided with the dial tone hum. Penhall had hung up on him. Tom ran a hand through his hair and returned the receiver to the telephone base. This was just perfect. The first night he and Judy didn't have plans together and he hoped to get caught up on a few things, like the laundry. Of course once that was done, he planned to call her.
When Penhall got this fired up, there was no stopping him. Tom sighed. He'd go with Doug and just hang out. Nothing more than that. Besides, he didn't need to pick up women. He already had a good one.
"Hi, there." A curvaceous blonde claimed the barstool beside Tom. A wide smile curved her frosted pink colored lips. "Can I buy you a drink?"
He looked at the beer he'd been nursing for the last half hour. He shook his head. "No thanks. This one is still good."
Her hand lightly grazed his thigh. "Honey, you don't know what you're missing." Then, she sauntered away.
Doug groaned in protest. "What are you DOING?"
Nearby patrons of the singles bar frowned in their direction. Tom gave Penhall a hard look. "Tone it down."
"You tone it down," his friend argued. "That's the third hot chick you've turned down. What's wrong with you? Are you practicing to be a monk or something?"
"No," he ground out. "I'm not interested."
"And why not, I ask, trying to understand your insanity." Doug grabbed his beer from the counter and leaned in close. "You may not realize this, but you're giving off some serious vibes. Babes are eyeing you near and far. You can have your pick of any of them."
Tom took a sip of the warming brewsky. It hadn't reached that totally disgusting phase, yet. But he was cutting it close.
"What's going on?" Doug asked, not for the first time that night. "How can you not be interested? Has the new regime shaken you up so badly that you don't have…needs?"
A muscle worked at Hanson's jaw. Needs? Hell, yeah, he had them! An image of Judy breathing heavily after a series of er--passionate embraces--crossed his mind. The way she got flustered and murmured his name… He put his mug to his lips and swallowed half the beer left there. The ale did nothing for his libido. He wondered what Judy was up to.
"Hanson?" Doug nudged him. Hard.
Tom directed the conversation to safer ground.
"I'm okay with Fuller." He turned away from the crowd to face the bar and its shelves loaded with booze. "He seems to be fair. You know he worked undercover for eleven years in New York."
"Who gives a damn about that? We're talking basic needs here!"
Tom's lips puckered with annoyance. "You're acting like any of them will do. It doesn't matter whose body it is just as long as it's a body. Come on, Doug. There's more to satisfying basic needs than that."
Penhall took one look at him and asked, "Who is she?"
The urge to confide grew strong. But his willpower overrode it. "No one. Just an ideal."
He arrived at her apartment a little after midnight. Unannounced and without invitation, he expected her to be asleep and not hear his knock.
A quick, crisp greeting surprised him. "Who is it?"
"Me," he said. "Tom."
The sound of chains being removed and locks being undone followed his response. Then, the door opened and there she stood. Looking wide-awake and amazingly hot in a little black dress. His leer quickly transformed into a frown.
"I know," she said as he entered. She closed and locked the door. "What am I doing dressed like this?"
He nodded, growing more irritated by the minute. The whole drive over, he debated whether or not to disturb her. Maybe she was asleep. Just like the rest of them, she needed rest. Succumbing to his selfish desire to spend time with her wasn't fair of him.
His gaze swept over her, missing nothing. Not the sexy black pumps or the hose that clung to her shapely legs. The top of the dress bared just enough flesh to pique any man's interest. He gritted his teeth. Just what the hell had she been up to?
He aimed for nonchalance as he strolled to her sofa and sat. "This had better be good."
"You dressed up like that for Ioki?" His voice rose several octaves. Nonchalance flew out the window. He was borderline pissed now. "What the hell is going on, Judy?"
Her mouth quirked. She placed her hands on her hips and looked down at him. "Not what you're thinking. My, oh my. I do believe I'm looking into the eyes of the green-eyed monster." She pressed a hand to her mouth in a futile attempt at suppressing a giggle. "Sorry."
"Sure, you're sorry." He caught her wrist and pulled her onto the sofa beside him. "I'm waiting."
"Well, you interrupted me!"
"I'm not interrupting now. Out with it! What were you doing with Harry in that tiny black dress?"
She crossed her legs and regarded him through lowered lashes. "So you like this dress?"
"Jude." Her name sounded like a warning.
She placed her hand on his arm and stroked. "He asked me to go out on a double date with him."
"And you accepted." He crossed the border and headed straight for anger.
"No, not at first," she said. "I didn't want to go, but he practically begged me. There's this girl he's been wanting to go out with, but she wouldn't unless her brother had a date, too. Don't ask. That's one weird family, I tell ya."
He nodded slowly. Some of her explanation made sense. "I take it you didn't enjoy yourself."
"Not at all." She lifted her other hand to the nape of his neck. Her fingertips combed through his hair. Her sigh caressed him. "There was something missing."
He turned toward her. His hand fell to her waist and lightly brushed her hip. Electrodes shot through him. He mumbled a single word. "What?"
Her response turned him away from anger and put him back on the road to desire. He cupped her head and drew her to him. Urgency drove him. His tongue traced the full softness of her lips. Exploration became a necessity. Her mouth parted and he dove inside, tasting, seeking, wanting. His emotions whirled and skidded. In the back of his mind, he realized this was becoming more than just a casual fling between friends.Back | Part 4 | 447