A year of keeping secrets had taken its toll on Tom Hanson. Falling in love with Judy Hoffs changed his life for the better. Yet, being unable to share the great news with their closest friends weighed like a ton of bricks on his shoulder. Every time she walked into the chapel and their eyes connected, he wanted to shout that he loved her and she loved him, too. In a perfect world, he could have. Loving her was the best thing to ever happen to him—that and becoming a cop. Unfortunately, Tom doubted the Captain would agree that working in the same program or on the same cases would be a wise thing.
Soft fingertips teased the hairs on the back of his neck. Closing his eyes as he enjoyed the sensation of Judy’s touch, he blurted the first thing that came to mind. “I want to share you with the world.”
“Excuse me?” The impromptu massage came to an abrupt halt. Her fingers pinched his shoulders before leaving his flesh altogether. “What’s that supposed to mean? I’m not into anything kinky.”
“Ha!” He turned and quickly maneuvered her onto his lap. Laughter danced in her rich chocolate eyes and a smile graced her beautiful face. “You know what I mean.”
“You’d better clarify so that I’m sure.”
“Last week, we had a great Christmas, but it didn’t happen until after we’d spent the day with our families separately. I know we promised to keep our relationship a secret, but I’m not sure if I can do this anymore. I want the world to know how important you are to me. I want everyone to know that you’re the greatest woman in the world.”
She rubbed his chest in that slow, lazy way that drove him crazy. Then, she tilted her head to the side and blushed. “I love that you want that.”
“Our career as we know it would end. Are we ready to take that risk?”
“What risk?” He shrugged. “This has been the best year of my life—”
“Keeping our secret has been torture,” she said, “and you know it. You and Doug share everything, but you can’t tell him this. I know it’s eating you alive. Don’t try to deny it.”
The whistle on her teakettle blew. He lifted her from his lap and headed to the kitchen. He removed the pot and poured two mugs full of the herbal blend. Judy loved tea. She claimed it soothed her and alleviated stress. Sometimes, a hot bubble bath for two accomplished the same thing. They needed to resolve this issue before they enjoyed watery escapades.
“Thanks,” she said after he handed her a mug. “I have a feeling I’m gonna need this.”
“We need a compromise.”
Her eyes widened in surprise. “Isn’t that what we’ve been doing for the last year?”
“Yeah,” he said, frowning, “but it’s not enough anymore. This is not a fling, Judy.”
“Of course, it’s not!” She set the mug down hard on the end table. “I didn’t enjoy spending most of Christmas day without you. When my parents asked if there was anyone special in my life, I wanted to tell them everything. I hate lying to them.”
“I never asked you to lie.”
Her eyes narrowed. She cocked her head to the side. “Does your mom know about me?”
That stopped him dead in his tracks. The look on Judy’s face spoke volumes. “I want her to know, but she knows Doug. She might let something slip without realizing it. I’d give anything to tell her the truth. She already likes you. I know she’d love you as much as I do.”
“Just last week, Fuller tried to fix me up with his nephew—”
“He did what?”
“You didn’t tell me.” Anger and jealousy created a rapid thudding in his chest. He set the tea aside and stormed into her kitchen for a bottle of beer. When he returned, he took a long swallow and fixed her with a hard stare. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I knew you’d freak out.” She reclaimed her tea and sipped. “You’re not the only one who wants to tell the world. Fuller didn’t understand why I said no, but he didn’t force the issue. He has mentioned that I’m too bright and too full of life to let the job occupy so much of my time.”
“Fuller’s too damn nosy.”
She laughed. “He likes to play dad. He doesn’t mean any harm.”
“He’s never set me up on a blind date.” Tom swallowed more beer.
“And he’d better not try it.”
He caught the steely glint in her eyes and smiled. Soon, the smile turned into laughter. Within seconds, she joined in.
He put another log in her fireplace and lowered himself to the floor. The flames flickered. The smell of burning wood created a romantic mood. He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling.
“If that beer spills on my carpet, you’re in big trouble.”
Chuckling, he extended the bottle toward her. “Here. Take it. Then come here.”
She put the bottle on the coffee table and then straddled his lap. His lower body throbbed in instant attention. Her hands rubbed his chest again. He moaned.
Buttons popped as she pulled his shirt open. He caught her wrists before he lost all coherent thought or ability.
“We have to figure this out.”
“Let’s make a New Year’s resolution,” she suggested.
“If we’re still going strong six months from now, we’ll tell everyone.”
“Six months? How about three?”
“Tom! You’re not supposed to go lower.”
“The rules are changing, Officer Hoffs. You’d better get with the program.” To prove his point, he slid his hands beneath the hem of her shirt and began to stroke her soft, quivering flesh.
“You’re not playing fair.”
“All is fair in love and war.”
“I don’t want to fight with you.” Her voice caught as he unsnapped her bra.
“I can’t believe I agreed to this,” Judy whispered under her breath. She snagged a flute of champagne as Blowfish sauntered by with a tray.
The happy-go-lucky mascot of Jump Street pulled the New Year’s Eve party together at the last minute, cajoling and blackmailing the officers into attending. By unspoken agreement, Tom and Judy arrived separately. They agreed to spend a few hours at the party and then duck out for a quiet New Year’s celebration for two. As the clock ticked closer to midnight, she doubted if their best laid plans would become reality.
“You look amazing,” Tom said, appearing at her side as if by magic. “I love red on you and those tiny straps are driving me crazy.”
Desire rippled through her like a wildfire. He had that amazing ability to arouse her with a look or with a few words. She didn’t dare turn her head to read his eyes. The tone of his voice already told her enough. Knowing that the alcohol would only increase the effect his presence had on her, she placed the flute glass on a nearby desk. Rod Stewart’s “Infatuation” blared from the speakers and she tapped her foot to the beat.
She dared a glance in his direction. The smoldering heat in his dark brown eyes melted her from head to toe. Stone-washed jeans molded to his thighs like white on rice. His dark blue shirt brought out the olive in his complexion. Bangs flopped into his eyes. With great restraint, she resisted the urge to push the hair off his forehead. God, he was absolutely beautiful.
He extended his hand. “Come on. One dance won’t hurt. After that, we can go back to our separate corners.”
“Is that where we were?” She floated onto the space designated for dancing. Penhall and his date were already bumping and roboting all over the place. Judy tugged Tom away from that action. Jody Watley’s latest single followed and they moved to the rhythm with ease.
“I used to hate dancing,” he said. “It’s funny how a person can change in a year.”
He shook his head. “You’ve always been a great dancer.”
“Don’t fall prey to stereotypes, Hanson.”
“I know,” she said, chuckling. “I was kidding.”
“I don’t kid like that. When I first joined Jump Street, I was a rigid, uptight kid. The first time I saw you; a million thoughts went through my head.”
She tilted her head to the side. “Do I really want to hear this?”
“I thought you were hot. I still think it,” he said, continuing as if she hadn’t spoken. “Then, I wondered if we’d be friends. We went shopping and I didn’t have to wonder anymore.”
“Our friendship has made all the difference.”
“Yeah, it has.”
After the song ended, they circled around and spoke with friends. Every few minutes or so, their paths crossed. After awhile, they stopped fighting it and stayed together. If anyone found their togetherness odd, no one mentioned it. The easy acceptance made Judy’s anxiety vanish. She laughed and enjoyed herself as if she didn’t have a huge secret hovering over her head.
“Hey, Jude!” Ioki pulled her into a quick hug. “You look great.”
“You’re very late. Where have you been?”
“My date sprained her ankle so I played doctor for a little while.”
“And then you left her?” Judy asked.
“Just to see how the party was going,” he said, defending himself. “Hey, she practically shoved me out the door. She wants to meet everyone. Maybe we can all get together for pizza after her ankle heals.”
“That sounds like fun.”
“Where’s Penhall?” he asked. “I saw the Captain lurking in the shadow. Did he bring a date?”
“Yeah, she works at the mayor’s office. You didn’t see her?”
Harry shook his head. “Where’s your date?”
“I decided to just hang out.”
“Yo, Hanson,” he said when Tom returned with a plate loaded with chips and dip. “Can you believe Judy came alone? That’s crazy.”
“Very,” Tom agreed. “Any guy would be lucky to have her on his arm.”
“Okay, you two cut it out before it goes to my head.”
“If you say so.” Harry smiled. “I’m gonna look for Blowfish and Penhall. Then, I’m leaving. Have a happy New Year!”
“Happy New Year, Harry!” they said in unison.
“He’s right,” Tom said after Ioki left. “It doesn’t make sense for you to be here without a guy hanging on your arm. I want them to know that I’m that guy!”
“I want them to know it, too,” she softly admitted.
He released a loud sigh. “Finally, we’re on the same page.”
“I don’t know how to tell them.”
“I think we could show them better than we could tell them,” he said, giving her a slow smile.
“Happy New Year!”
Amid loud whistles and streamers blowing around them, Tom pulled Judy into his arms like he had done many times before. Her eyes widened in surprise. Then understanding dawned in her eyes and she nodded. That was all the encouragement he needed.
His mouth covered hers in slow, deliberate kiss. It was the kiss of love and he didn’t give a damn who saw it. For with that kiss, Tom Hanson made a resolution to love Judy Hoffs with everything he had and promised to be.