"Thank you so much for coming."
My smiled stretched my lips to the point of pain.
"We'll get together later this week. I'll call you."
Officer Lyn Philips chewed on his lower lip for a moment
before sending me a quivering smile. "You sure you don't want some help cleaning
this up? I don't mind staying."
"No, that's okay.
By the time I shut the door behind the last of the people
I had invited to Sal's surprise birthday part, I was ready to scream. The smile
instantly fell from my lips when I turned to survey the room behind me.
I had decorated until there wasn't a spot that didn't have
a balloon or a candle or a streamer. Something bright and shiny and birthday
like. The dining room table had been set up as a type of round buffet. I had
cooked everything myself under the supervision of the master chef my mother had
She didn't cook, but she could plan a social event with
the best of them.
She knew the best chefs.
Some of the food had been nibbled on, but most of it still
sat on the table. I had tried to send it home with people. What was I going to
do with it?
Everyone had declined.
The beautiful three layer birthday cake sat prominently at
the head of the table.
Except Sal wasn't here.
Tears swam in my eyes as I started for the kitchen. I was
going to need a shit load of containers to put away all of the leftovers. We'd
be eating hors d'oeuvre for days.
Up side? I wouldn't have to cook.
There was entire birthday cake left. The idea of eating
all that sugar—no matter how much the chocolate ganache and butter cream cake
tasted—made my stomach roll. That was a lot of sugar.
I rubbed my stomach, my lip curling back in disgust.
I wasn't sure if it was the thought of all that sugar or
that I had no one to share it with that had my stomach so upset, but I was on
the edge of saying to hell with it and just going to bed. And I would have if I
didn't know there was no one else here to clean up the mess except me.
The partiers had all been sent home and the birthday boy
had never come home.
This seemed to be a reoccurring theme with Sal, one that I
fully intended to break the man of, even if I had to use a baseball bat.
He had missed our anniversary, not once, but twice.
Granted, his reasons were pretty good, but still. I had planned special nights
each time, and each time, he had either shown up late or not at all. Now, he had
missed his surprise birthday party.
I wasn't sure there was an excuse for that.
My anger at Sal hadn't even begun to cover how embarrassed
I had been when I had to call it a night and send all of our friends home. It
had been all I could do to keep the smile on my face as I said goodnight to
everyone. I had no idea how I was going to face them again.
I had so many reasons for being angry at Sal, and as much
as I wanted to stay angry with him, I knew I wouldn't. The sexy man's smile
along was enough to make me forget everything except him.
I finished putting the food away and then wiped down the
table and put the party supplies away. Maybe I could use them sometime in the
future. Maybe not. At this point, I didn't know if I would ever plan another
It hadn't worked out so well for me in the past.
Taking the streamers down was easy enough. I just had to
grab one end and yank. The balloons were a little harder. There were a lot of
My anger still rooted in my gut, I grabbed a safety pin
out of my office desk, bent one side back, and then walked around popping
balloon after balloon. By the time I made my way around the great room and over
toward the dining room, it looked as if there had been a balloon massacre. Multi
colored balloon pieces were everywhere.
I giggled, some of my anger fading.
I reached out and poked three more balloons as fast as I
Pop. Pop. Pop.
That was actually quite satisfying.
I began to smile as I danced around the living room,
popping any balloon I can across. One by one, they all fell prey to my safety
pin kung fu!
Pop. Pop. Pop.
The front doors crashed open.
I screamed and spun around, automatically reaching out to
slam my hand down on the panic button built into every room. The alarm would
silently sound downstairs in security, alerting them to a problem. If a call
wasn't made, the police would be alerted, and because my uncle was the police
commissioner, they'd come with sirens blaring, all hands ready.
"Sal!" I shouted when I saw my man standing in the broken
doorway, his gun drawn. "What the fuck?"
I quickly looked my lover over, making sure he was
uninjured. He looked okay, but one could never be too sure. More than once, that
had not been the case.
I shuddered at renewed memories before turning my
attention to the rest of the penthouse I shared with Lany. "Where are they?"
I didn't see anyone except Lany.
"Where are who?" Lany asked, the frown on his face not
"I heard gunfire."
Lany's eyes rolled.
I jumped when he reached over and poked something at a
balloon hanging off the wall.
Lany's eyes narrowed at me.
Pop. Pop. Pop.
He was pissed.
I lowered my gun, taking one more look around before I
placed it back in my hip holster. "You were popping balloons?"
Lany just stared at me.
I shrugged, embarrassment flooding my cheeks.
It had sounded like gunfire.
"What's with the balloons, Lany?"
It looked like a balloon massacre.
"Nothing." Lany turned and went back to popping balloons.
Pop. Pop. Pop.
Oh yeah, he was pissed.
I wasn't sure what was going on, but it was obvious I had
done something wrong. Lany could barely look at me. I was almost afraid to hear
what he would say if he tried to talk to me.
Still, I couldn't have my
baby mad at me. Lany and I didn't work that way. He was my world and I was his.
We only worked when we were a team.
"Caro, amore mio."
I was not above using
underhanded means to get my Lany to smile at me. The man had a distinct weakness
for Italian love words.
Lany turned and glared.
I was the commanding
officer of one of the most elite SWAT units in the city. I faced armed criminals
and psychic people on a daily basis. I put my life in harm's way so that others
could live free.
Lany in a snit scared me
I grabbed Lany and drew
him into my arms.
Lany fit perfectly against
me as he always did. His head tucked into my chest. His slim body pressed to
mine. His arms looped around of much of me as he could reach. When I cupped a
hand around his pert little bottom, Lany's legs lifted and wrapped around my
"Baby, what's wrong?"
"You didn't come home,"
Lany mumbled against my chest. "Again."
"You knew I was going to
Lany's head snapped up.
"No, I didn't."
"Lany, I told you last
week I had to work late tonight. I had to take my six month qualification tests
on the shooting range."
Lany blinked up at me for
several silent moments before swallowing hard. "That was tonight?"
Lany's eyes went wide.
My eyes narrowed. "Lany,
what kind of mess have you gotten into this time?"