Claiming Christmas

Page 7

This man has got me so off-balance, I don’t know my ample ass from my elbow.
“So, how long were you with this ex and did he have a visual impairment?” Connor asks with a frown.
“A year, and no.”
“A personality impairment, then,” Connor states.
My mouth turns up in a reluctant smile. “That, and a wayward penis.”
Connor almost chokes on his coffee. “Wayward penis?”
“Yeah. It kept finding its way inside the local barmaid,” I say wryly.
“The barmaid that Danny fired for stealing?” Connor asks, referring to Drayton’s father, owner of The Hideaway.
I nod. “The same.”
“Sounds to me like you had a lucky escape,” he observes.
“I realize that, with hindsight. But he did a lot of damage to my self-esteem. I’ve always been self-conscious about my size, and he knew which buttons to press, telling me how lucky I was to have a man like him who could overlook my extra rolls and my weight. He even told me once that he used to imagine I was someone else when he was having sex with me.”
“Fucking asshole!” Connor growls, his blue eyes darkening with anger. “Men who stoop to that level are bullies trying to compensate for their own...shortcomings,” he says meaningfully.
“If you’re suggesting he had a small cock, you’d be right,” I say bluntly. “I feel like such a fucking idiot now, allowing someone to treat me that way. I know I’m big, but my size doesn’t define who I am.”
“Jess, you’re fucking gorgeous. I haven’t been able to take my eyes off you since the day I walked through that door and saw you sitting at your desk, sucking on the end of your pen. It’s a new feeling, being jealous of a goddamned pen.”
My eyes widen. For once, I’m speechless, shocked by Connor’s admission. “I—"
“I told myself I was too old for you, too fucked-up by what happened in Houston. But the truth is, when I close my eyes and picture my perfect woman, I picture you, Jess.”
I don’t know what to say. He just said I was his perfect woman. I’ve never been anyone’s perfect anything. Part of me wants to throw myself into his arms and beg him to make love to me, while another part wants to ease the pain I can see in his eyes.
“Will you tell me what happened?” I ask softly.
Connor is silent for so long, I’m about to apologize for pressing him to share. But then he starts talking.
“I was just about to go off duty when the call came in. A hit and run involving a young woman. Paramedics were on their way, but I was only a few blocks away, so I hit the blues. I was first on the scene, and...” he stops abruptly, and his throat works as he swallows hard.
Without thinking, I move close, wrapping my arms around him. He holds himself rigid for a few seconds before his arms come around me, and he hugs me back. I rest my head in the crook of his neck, silently offering him my strength as he fights to gain control of his emotions.
“The woman was in her mid-twenties. The driver had hit her on a crosswalk and tossed her body a hundred yards down the street. She was six months pregnant.”
“Oh, shit,” I whisper, closing my eyes on a wave of emotion.
“There was nothing I could do. I just held her in my arms while she died. The paramedics tried to resuscitate her, but she was gone and her baby with her.”
Connor stops again, his chest heaving as he sucks in a breath. I squeeze him a little tighter as if I can hold him together while he relives the horror of that day.
“Did they get the guy?” I ask when Connor remains silent.
He nods. “Yeah, they got him. He was three times over the limit. I testified in court, but all he got was a hefty fine and a suspended sentence.”
I pull back to look at him in shock. “What? But…he took a life! Two lives,” I say, swallowing hard as I think about that poor woman and her baby. Was she married? What about the baby’s father? What the hell must he be going through? “How can anyone get away with that?” I ask, trying to wrap my head around it and failing.
“He’s the son of a senator. That should tell you everything you need to know,” Connor says bitterly. “Money, power, and reputation matter more than two innocent lives. I joined the force to do good, not watch criminals go free because daddy made it all go away. That’s not justice. That’s fucking perverted!”
“So you asked to be transferred here?”