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Things We Hide From The Light by Lucy Score


Things We Hide From The Light

by Lucy Score

Published by Bloom Books

Book 2 in the Knockemout Series


Nash Morgan was always known as the good Morgan brother, with a smile and a wink for everyone.

But now, this chief of police is recovering from being shot and his Southern charm has been overshadowed by panic attacks and nightmares. He feels like a broody shell of the man he once was. Nash isn’t about to let anyone in his life know he’s struggling. But his new next-door neighbor, smart and sexy Lina, sees his shadows. As a rule, she’s not a fan of physical contact unless she initiates it, but for some reason Nash’s touch is different. He feels it too. The physical connection between them is incendiary, grounding him and making her wonder if exploring it is worth the risk.


Too bad Lina’s got secrets of her own, and if Nash finds out the real reason she’s in town, he’ll never forgive her. Besides, she doesn’t do relationships. Ever. A hot, short-term fling with a local cop? Absolutely. Sign her up. A relationship with a man who expects her to plant roots? No freaking way. Once she gets what she’s after, she has no intention of sticking around. But Knockemout has a way of getting under people’s skin. And once Nash decides to make Lina his, he’s not about to be dissuaded…even if it means facing the danger that nearly killed him.



Genre


Triggers

PTSD from gun violence, trauma from childhood illness, kidnapping, violence, death


 

After finishing Things We Never Got Over, I immediately dived into the next Knockemout book, Things We Hide From the Light.

My initial thoughts are that I didn't love it as much as Things We Never Got Over.

Not because of the writing, or anything to do with the book.

I think it's because I connected to it more than Things We Never Got Over.

Not because I have PTSD, or have had the same things happen to me that Nash and Lina did, but because I have suffered from anxiety since I was a child.

Anxiety is a bitch.

So reading about a character's experience with anxiety is a little harder for me. Mostly because Lucy Score depicts it so well, I could easily picture the exact feelings my body has when I have a panic attack - and the horrible nausea and exhaustion that can last days afterward.

It made me a little queasy.

So it took me a touch longer to get through Nash and Lina's book, because I had to take a couple of breaks.

I still very much loved this book though.

Not like Knox and Naomi's book.

It didn't have the tension that their book had.

But I really enjoyed the healing journey these two characters went through with one another.

I loved the opposites attract aspect of their relationship.

I especially loved all the teasing that Nash endured over having the perfect ass, and Lina telling Nash about everyone's obsession with it. Those small moments add some humor to an emotional story.

You know, along with all the brotherly moments I just can't get enough of.

The romance and steam are just perfect additions to an already great story.

It stands apart from the first book, and feels unique, while also boasting the things I loved from the first book. It continues the overall story arc that began in Things We Never Got Over from a different perspective, which I enjoyed.


While this book reminded me of my own personal struggles with anxiety and depression, it also delivered on the many things I look for in a quality novel. An interesting storyline, solid writing, likeable, richly developed characters, and romance that encompasses chemistry, banter, and attraction. So far, the Knockemout trilogy has blown me away. I can not wait to read Lucian and Sloane's book next. I have a feeling it will be absolute fire.



 



 


Mom: “Small towns are where busy professional women get seduced by a rough-around-the-edges local business owner. Ooh! Or a sheriff. Have you met the sheriff yet?”


Nash: “Fuck me,”

I muttered under my breath.

Lina: “Here?”

My eyes snapped open and focused in on hers. Those deep brown depths held hints of amusement and something else. Something dangerous.

Lina: “Just kidding, hotshot. Mostly.”


Lina: “Your gun is digging into me.”

Nash: “That’s not my gun,”

I said through clenched teeth.

Her mouth curved wickedly.

Lina: “I know.”

Nash: “Then stop moving.”


I locked my hands on Lina’s hips and got ready to pull.

Lina: “No, the nice man is just giving me a hug from behind. He’s not freaking you out with his scary vibes at all,”

Nash: “I don’t have scary vibes,”

Lina: “Nash, if your fingers dig in any harder, I’m gonna have bruises. And not the fun kind,”


A snazzy little Porsche SUV crossed the double line and pulled over behind my vehicle.

Stef: “Need any help there, Chief?”

Naomi’s best friend, Stefan Liao, smirked behind the wheel.

I looked down at Lina, who raised her eyebrow at me over her shoulder. It looked like I was mounting the woman on the side of the road.

Lina: “I think we’ve got it handled, Stef,”

she called back. Stef flashed a little salute and grinned wickedly.

Stef: “Well, I’ll just be on my way to tell everyone I see how Chief Morgan starts his Saturday morning.”

Nash: “I’ll arrest you for being a pain in the ass,”

Stef: “Looks like you would know, Chief,”

With a wink and a wave, he drove off in the direction of town.


I didn’t know whether to pick up the woman or the dog and decided it was safer to go for the dog.

She shivered pathetically in my arms, even as her tattered tail tapped out a nervous beat against my gut. Lina climbed to her feet.

Lina: “Congratulations, Daddy. It’s a girl,”

She slid her phone out of its sleeve and snapped a picture of me.

Nash: “Stop,”

Lina: “Don’t worry. I cropped it at the waist so no one will see what kind of weaponry you’re packing,”

she teased, coming to stand before me and taking a selfie of the three of us.

I scowled for it and she laughed.


Lina: “What are you going to call her?”

I asked as Nash plucked the dog from the tub.

She licked his face with exuberance.

Nash: “Me?”

He maneuvered his head away from the pink tongue.

Nash: “Stop licking me.”

Lina: “Can’t blame her. You’ve got a lickable face.”


Cherry: “You know what no one tells you about standing in the middle of a pissing contest?”

Cherry said to me with a toss of her blond curls.

Lina: “What’s that?”

Cherry: “You’re the one who ends up smelling like pee.”


Stef: “So I was heading back to town early yesterday morning, and what did I see on the side of the road?”

Knox earmuffed Waylay with his hands.

Liza: “A bear?”

Stef: “Even better. I saw Knockemout’s chief of police on his knees in the grass in shall we say ‘thrusting position’ behind the curvy a-s-s of Miss Solavita.”

Nash looked like he was giving serious thought to running for the front door.

Knox: “What the f—erret?”

Knox snapped.

Knox: “Seriously, Stef? You say thrusting but you spell ass?”

Waylay: “Thrusting isn’t a swear word,”

Naomi: “Hey! Earmuff her harder,”

Naomi instructed Knox.


Nash: “Lou, how’s the golf game?”

On my right, Amanda kicked me under the table. Naomi choked on her dinner coffee. Lou pointed his fork at me from the foot of the table.

Lou: “Lemme tell you. There’s no way Hole Nine is a par three.”

Amanda: “And now we all have to suffer,”

Amanda whispered as her husband broke into a discourse on his trials and tribulations on the green.


Mrs. Tweedy: “Well, if it isn’t Studly Do-Right,”

she said in her southern twang. The ice in her glass clinked merrily.

2B. Right next door to my place. I hadn’t gotten the wrong place. Mrs. Tweedy was answering the wrong door.

Nash: “Lina here?”

Mrs. Tweedy: “Nope. I’m breaking and entering. Wanna cuff me?”

She held up her hands, wrists together, and wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.


Lina dropped her arms to her sides and let out a sound of aggravation.

Lina: “Now, how’s a girl supposed to hold a grudge against the whole broody, wounded hero routine?”

Nash: “I’m hopin’ she can’t,”


Stef: “Shit.”

He pushed away from the wall and faced me, looking ill.

Lina: “Shit what? Did they just add more wall balls? I hit myself in the face last round.”

Wall balls were a special kind of hell that involved squatting with a heavy exercise ball and then explosively launching out of the squat to throw the ball several feet above your head. They were worse than burpees. I hated them.

Stef shoved both hands through his hair, then with a grimace wiped his palms on his shorts.

Stef: “How do I look?”

Lina: “Like you were just dragged into the deep end of the pool by handsy mermen.”

Stef: “Damn it!”

Lina: “But in a totally handsome, Henry Golding kind of way,”

Stef: “Maybe I should take off my shirt?”

Lina: “What’s happening right now?”

I demanded, snatching the water bottle out of his hands and aiming for my mouth.

Stef: “Jeremiah just strutted his fine ass in here to do bicep curls.”

I didn’t stop sucking down water, but I did peer over Stef’s shoulder. The gorgeous barber wasn’t hard to spot, curling forty-fives in front of the mirror…next to Nash Morgan. I choked and nearly drowned.

Lina: “Shit!”

I yanked off my headband and soaked it with water before putting it back on. Stef elbowed me.

Stef: “Excuse me! You can’t have him. He’s mine. If I ever get up the nerve to actually ask him out.”

Lina: “I’m not ‘shitting’ about Jeremiah, dummy. I’m shitting about Nash ‘Dat Ass’ Morgan,”


Mrs. Tweedy: “You two gonna run your mouths all day or you gonna finish this set? Don’t make me add more wall balls!”

Stef: “And now everyone’s looking at us,”

Stef muttered. Everyone including Jeremiah and Nash. I squared my shoulders.

Lina: “We have to do this.”

Stef: “And we have to do it sexy.”

Lina: “You might as well take your shirt off then,”

Stef: “Same goes. Maybe they’ll be so hypnotized by my pecs and your tits they won’t notice when we go into cardiac arrest.”

Lina: “Let’s try to avoid that part,”

Stef: “I can’t promise anything.”

Vernon: “Let’s go, kids!”

Mrs. Tweedy: “Last set, best set,”

Stef gritted his teeth.

Stef: “Come on. Let’s strip and sexy walk.”


Lina: “Nash?”

He stopped and turned. Glancing around at our not-so-subtle audience, I closed the distance between us with the sexiest limp I could muster.

Lina: “Exactly how much of me do you want?”

Those blue eyes changed to icy fire.

Nash: “The gentlemanly answer would be as much as you’re willing to give.”

Lina: “And you’re a gentleman?”

Nash: “I used to be.”

Then he lifted his chin.

Nash: “Drink more water and don’t forget to stretch or you’ll regret it tomorrow.”

It was a good thing my face was already on fire from exertion. He flashed me a wink and the ghost of a grin before heading for the locker room.


Nash: “Can we not talk about this or any other hypothetical crimes with a U.S. marshal twenty feet away? You two can’t be playing goddamn Scooby-Doo in the middle of a federal investigation.”

Lucian: “I’m offended,”

Knox: “You be offended. I’ll be pissed the fuck off,”


Nash: “Hear me out,”

he said, tightening his hold on my hand.

Nash: “I’m too tired to make a move on you.”

Lina: “I’ve heard that one before,”

Nash: “Fair. How about this? Whenever you’re close, everything is better. The closer you are, the easier I breathe, the less I feel like life is just a never-ending pour of lemon juice into an open wound that won’t heal. You take away the dark, the cold. And you remind me what it’s like to want to be here.”

Lina: “Damn it, Nash! How am I supposed to be responsible and say no to that?”


Lina: "You're like a little kid showing off the terrible finger painting you did at school expecting me to be impressed. If I hang it on the refrigerator, will you go away?”


She blew out an aggrieved sigh.

Lina: “It’s annoying how cute you are.”

Nash: “Annoying enough that you’re gonna let me sleep with you tonight?”

She squeezed my shoulders and brought her forehead to mine.

Lina: “I’m really trying to make better decisions, but you are not making that easy.”

I gave in to temptation and kissed her nose.

Lina: “Ugh. You’re impossible!”


Lina: “If memory serves, you and your brother barely spoke for years because he gave you money.”

Nash: “Now that’s a dirty lie,”

I said, picking up my wine.

Nash: “We barely spoke for years because he forced money on me, told me what to do with it, then didn’t like what I chose to do instead.”

Lina: “Well, in that case, Team Nash,”

Nash: “Figured I’d get you there.”


Lina: “So you’re out there doing your job for all the future Lucians,”

I shrugged, feeling a little embarrassed.

Nash: “And the free uniform. Rumor has it the pants make my butt look good.”

Lina grinned and I felt that warm campfire-like glow in my chest.

Lina: “Oh, Studly Do-Right, that rumor has been substantiated. It is official fact.”

Nash: “Studly Do-Right?”

Lina: “Something around town you don’t already know?”

I closed my eyes.

Nash: “Tell me that’s not my nickname.”

She fluttered those long lashes at me.

Lina: “But, Nash, I know how important honesty is to you.”

Nash: “Christ.”


Lina: “Are we…friends then?”

His chest was warm beneath my touch. He was quiet for a long beat.

Nash: “Feels like more than that,”

Lina: “But what kind of more?”

Let’s see how you like annoying, uncomfortable questions, Mister.

Nash: “The kind of more that if I were in better shape, you’d be naked and there sure as hell wouldn’t be a pillow between us.”

Lina: “Oh.”

Nash: “Oh? That’s all you’ve got to say?”

Lina: “For now.”


Lucian: “I warned you,”

Lina: “Yeah? And I warned you back.”

I tossed him a middle finger over my shoulder.


Lucian: “You’re a loose end. A direct threat to him. You can’t hide in the blanks in your memory forever. I need you to be operating at one hundred percent. Because if he does get to you again, if he does manage to take you out…that leaves me with only Knox as a friend.”

Nash: “Hilarious.”

Knox: “Fuck you,”


Lina: “But you can’t just fall for someone over the course of a few days, can you?”

Naomi: “Of course you can,”

Naomi: “But there are layers to it. You can fall head over heels for someone on the surface. You can find them attractive and exciting or, in Knox’s case, infuriating. And it can stop there. But the deeper you dig, the more pieces you see of that person, the further you can fall. That can happen fast too.”

I thought about our late-night confessions, the strange, fragile intimacy we’d built between us by trusting the other with things no one else knew. I wondered if it would shatter if I told him the full truth. Or was there an invisible strength in that kind of honesty?

Naomi: “Or if you’re like me and Knox, it can take a chisel and a hammer before you get past the ‘You’re hot. Let’s have sex’ layer,”

Lina: “I like that layer,”

Naomi: “What’s not to like about that layer?”

Lina: “Can the deeper layers even compare to that?”

I was only half joking. She hit me with her full wattage grin.

Naomi: “Oh, honey. It just keeps getting better. The more you know and love and respect your partner, the more vulnerable you are together, the better everything gets. And I do mean everything.”


Lina: “I think I need to tell your dad the truth,”

The dog cocked her head and made an uncomfortable amount of eye contact.

Lina: “Have any advice for me?”

Her pink tongue darted out and snagged the whipped cream on her snout. If Lucian hadn’t managed to convince Nash that I was a scheming, manipulative femme fatale over breakfast, maybe I could tell him why I was there and that I was kinda, sorta into him over lunch.

Lina: “You know, even if he’s initially mad at me, I still have you. Maybe I can hold you hostage and ransom you for his forgiveness.”


Tina: “So you’re saying not only did this dickweasel leave me high and dry to get blamed for the whole damn thing, he also cut me out of some windfall?”

Lina: “Pretty much.”

Tina: “That son of a bitch!”

Irving: “No yelling, Tina,”

the guard outside the door called.

Tina: “I’ll yell if I wanna fucking yell, Irving!”


Tina: “You know, I didn’t even know he was gonna try to take out that Morgan guy. I woulda talked him out of it,”

Tina said, lighting a cigarette.

Lina: “Why?”

Tina: “Well, for one thing, them cop pants looked mighty fine on that man’s ass.”

Tina Witt might have been a horrible human being, but she was not wrong on that particular point.


Tina: "Given how much I avoid cops in general, you know the guy’s gotta be hot if I don’t run in the opposite direction at the grocery store even with chipped turkey I ain’t paid for stuffed in my bra. Bet he’s got a huge dick too,”

she said wistfully. Great. Now I was thinking about Nash and his incredible morning erections and how I might never get to experience one again.

Lina: “Back to Duncan,”

I said desperately. Tina waved a dismissive hand.

Tina: “Oh, he just had a medium-sized one. Didn’t really know how to use it. He was kind of a poker instead of a thruster, if you know what I mean.”

I did not. My face must have said as much because Tina stood and began a lewd thrusting demonstration with the cigarette dangling from her mouth.


Nash: “I’m already pissed off at two assholes who dragged me out of bed this morning. I were you? I wouldn’t be in a hurry to add your name to that list.”

Nolan: “Look, shithead. I’m not happy about this assignment either. You think I like camping out in Deliverance banjo territory watching your ungrateful back for some threat that probably doesn’t even exist?”

Nash: “Gee, I’m sorry you’re bored, Graham. Do you want a coloring book and some crayons? I’ll pick some up when I go get you a thank-you card and fucking balloons.”

Nolan shook his head.

Nolan: “Christ, you’re a dick. If I hadn’t seen you dealing with those kids yesterday and making that fuckhead cop piss his pants, I’d think the condition was permanent.”


Nash: “Dad, we don’t have to get into this. I understand why things happened the way they did.”

Dad: “I just wish I woulda kept trying to look to the light instead of sinking into the dark. A man can learn to live in that dark, but it’s no life.”


I paused at Nolan’s desk.

Nash: “Feel like takin’ a ride?”

Nolan: “Depends. You gonna take me out to the woods and leave me for the banjos?”

Nash: “Probably not today.


Nash: “You’re not as dumb as that mustache makes you look,”

Nolan: “My wife—ex-wife—was really into Top Gun,”

he said, running his finger and thumb over the ’stache.

Nash: “The things we do for women.”

Nolan: “Speaking of—”

Nash: “You mention Lina’s name and I will leave you for the banjos,”

Nolan: “Noted. What about her friend? The blond librarian?”

Nash: “Sloane?”

Nolan: “She single?”

I thought about Lucian this morning at breakfast. A slow, vengeful smile spread over my face.

Nash: “You should ask her out.”


Stef: Why can’t she play an evening sport? These early-morning Saturdays are messing with my Friday night social life.

Naomi: What social life? You still haven’t asked Jer out yet. *chicken emoji *

Stef: Nobody likes a bridezilla, Witty.


Naomi: It’s official. Lina’s avoiding us.

Stef: Let’s kidnap her and find out why. Wait. Too soon for kidnapping jokes?


Naomi: “Apparently Sloane and Lucian grew up next door to each other. Sloane bought her house from her parents when they moved, and Lucian kept his mom’s place,”

Sloane: “God knows why,”

Lina: “Maybe he’s here to have sex with you. Like some kind of dark sexy fairy granting dirty wishes,”

I teased. I noticed Knox didn’t bother greeting Lucian when he joined him. Looked like the pissed-off-ness was contagious.

Sloane: “I’d rather go to the gynecologist and the dentist on the same day,”


Naomi: “You have a date?”

Naomi shouted the question loud enough that all the men turned and stared at us.

Lucian looked like he was about to set the world on fire with his dark smolder.

Sloane: “Thanks, mega mouth. Yes. I have a date.”

Lina: “A date or a hookup?”

I asked at normal volume.

Lucian’s hand closed into a fist, crushing his to-go cup and exploding coffee everywhere. I grinned as he settled that dark and dangerous gaze on me.

Oops, I mouthed smugly.


Amanda sidled over.

Amanda: “I smell drama. What’s happening?”

Sloane: “Everyone is mad at everyone else. Will someone please explain what crawled up y’all’s butts so I can choose a side? Spoiler alert: Team Not Lucian.”


Knox: “I’m pissed because these two idiots didn’t listen to the sense I was talkin’.”

I took three healthy gulps of my Bloody Mary and began to plot my escape.

Stef: “What sense?”

Stef asked, pulling up a chair and setting it as close to the action as possible.

Knox: “Seriously? Come on!”

Knox gestured back and forth between me and Nash.

Amanda: “You’re gonna have to be more communicative than that, dear,”

Knox: “For fuck’s sake. They can’t get together.”

He pointed at Nash.

Knox: “This idiot practically has ‘put a fuckin’ ring on it’ tattooed on his fucking ass.”

Then he jerked his chin in my direction.

Knox: “And that pain in the ass has ‘love ’em and leave ’em’ tattooed on hers.”

Naomi leaned in and whispered,

Naomi: “Is he being literal or metaphorical?”

Lina: “Metaphorical. But I do have a sun tattooed on my shoulder blade.”

Nash’s eyes narrowed on me.


Stef: “Hold on. We’re not done yet. We haven’t gotten to why Suit Daddy, I mean Lucian, is involved in such immature, emotional shenanigans,”

Lina: “Come on in, Lucian. The water’s warm,”

Naomi: “Well, now you have to,”

Naomi said encouragingly.


A barrage of questions was immediately volleyed at the man.

“You seriously just slept? What’s up with that?”

“Does this have somethin’ to do with you bein’ depressed?”

“You’re depressed? Why didn’t you say something?”

“Was it naked sleeping or were there pajamas?”

Waylay: “Excuse me, people!”

Everyone turned to find Waylay standing on the sidelines, hands on hips. Her team was lined up behind her, trying and mostly failing to stifle giggles.

Waylay: “We’re tryin’ to play a game out here but you guys are distracting everyone!”

We all managed to mumble a chorus of apologies.

Waylay: “If I have to come over here again, you’re all in trouble,”

Waylay said, making eye contact with each of us.

Sloane: “Jeez, when did she get scary?”

Sloane whispered when Waylay and the rest of the team returned to the field.

Knox & Naomi: “I blame you,”

Knox and Naomi said at the same time. They grinned at each other.


Nolan: “Okay. I’m inserting myself in here with great reluctance,”

Nolan said, jogging up.

Nash: “Butt out, Graham,”

Nash snapped. Nolan took off his sunglasses.

Nolan: “My job is to protect you, dumbass. And you are one point five seconds away from having your face punched in by a very angry woman.”


More drinks appeared in front of Naomi and Sloane. Joel slid a bowl of nuts my way.

Joel: “Those are fresh out of the bag. No one fingered them up yet,”

Lina: “Thank you for the unfingered nuts,”


Lina: “No,”

I said when he opened his mouth.

Spider: “You didn’t even know what I was going to say,”

Lina: “No we don’t want a date, a ride, or for you to tell us your penis’s nickname,”

Sloane raised her hand.

Sloane: “Actually, I’d like to know the penis nickname.”

The biker puffed out his chest and hiked up his pants.

Spider: “It’s Long John Silver…cause it’s pierced. Now, who wants a personal introduction?”

Lina: “Happy now?”

Sloane: “I’m both happy and disgusted.”


Sloane: “I’m glad you remembered, because that’s a very smart point and you’re very pretty,”

Naomi: “Thank you. I think you make smart pretty too!”

Sloane: “Aww! Group hug!”

Lina: “You guys are abusing your hug privileges,”

I complained as they both fell on me again.

Naomi: “We can’t help it. We’re really proud of you,”

Joel: “Want me to spray them down?”

Joel offered, holding up the soda hose. I sighed.

Lina: “Let them have their moment.”


Naomi pounced on him.

Naomi: “I’m. So. Proud. Of. You,”

she said, slapping him in the chest on each word. He rubbed his pectorals.

Stef: “Ow.”

Sloane: “Text us every thirty seconds. Better yet, livestream your date!”

Sloane said, bouncing on her toes.

Naomi: “Oooh! Yes! We’ll comment and let you know if we think it’s going well,”

Naomi chimed in.

Stef: “You sure you can handle the tipsy twins?”

Lina: “No. But—”

Stef: “I’m pretending you said yes,”

he said, backing away with a wicked grin.


Sloane pouted.

Sloane: “Don’t you even want to know how we distracted him?”

Naomi: “I threw a bag of dog poop I found on the sidewalk at him.”

Naomi preened. That explained the smell. I was definitely going to need to have my car detailed.

Sloane: “And I yelled and flashed him my boobs,”

Sloane announced proudly.


Lina: “I have to make a call. Stay here and keep an eye on Melvin. Do not get in the car. Do not wander away. Do not befriend any homicidal maniacs roaming the streets.”

Sloane: “She’s just mad because she didn’t get any pie,”

Sloane whispered to Naomi as I dialed.


Melvin: “Excuse me? I know you two are in the middle of a fight, but I really have to pee.”

Nash: “Shut up, Melvin!”


Nash: “This is for Murtaugh,”

I said handing the first slip over.

Nash: “And this is for you.”

She took the second slip of paper and then gave me the heated death stare.

Lina: “A speeding ticket? You’re joking.”

Nash: “Pulled you over going fourteen over the limit,”

I reminded her. She was so mad she sputtered.

Lina: “You…you…”

Nash: “You’ve got two weeks to pay it or contest it. Though, if you’re thinkin’ about fightin’ it, I wouldn’t. Seein’ as how I was the one who pulled you over and I’d have no qualms about taking a day off to sit in traffic court.”

She took a deep breath and, when that didn’t seem to calm her down, sucked in another one. Fury radiating off her, she pointed at me and shook her head before backing through the door.


Knox: “If anyone should be kickin’ anyone’s ass, it’s me kickin’ your ass for messin’ with her head. She’s my friend.”

Nash: “And I’m your fuckin’ brother,”

Knox: “Then what are we doin’ fightin’?”

Nash: “How the fuck should I know?”

The mad was still in me. The helplessness. The need to touch her when I knew I didn’t have the right anymore.

Naomi: “Knoxy?”

Naomi sang drunkenly from somewhere inside the house.

Waylay: “He’s outside fightin’ with Uncle Nash in the yard. They broke the porch,”

Knox: “Great. Now you’re gettin’ me in trouble,”


Nash: “Heard Naomi threw dog shit at the guy Lina was chasin’ and then Sloane distracted him by flashin’ him her tits,”

Knox snorted next to me.

Knox: “Jesus. No more girls’ nights out. From now on, the three of them go out together, it’s with a goddamn escort.”

Nash: “Agreed.”


Mrs. Tweedy: “He’s also got that whole broody thing going right now. Like the man’s got storm clouds in his head and he’s just lookin’ for a little sunshine.”

Lina: “Yeah, well, he can go find his vitamin D someplace else.”

And so would I. Ha. Solid inner monologue dick joke.


Max: “Here you go, Marshal. It’s a Red Death,”

Max said, dropping a rocks glass filled with a murky red beverage.

Nolan: “Actually, can I get a—”

I kicked him under the table and shook my head as Max’s eyes narrowed threateningly.

Max: “I beg your pardon?”

Nolan: “I mean, this looks great. Thank you very much. Here’s twenty dollars for your trouble,”

Nolan said, quickly shoving a bill at her. Max nodded regally and snatched up the cash.

Max: “That’s what I thought you meant.”

Nolan took a sip and immediately winced.

Nolan: “Jesus, God. It tastes like a hangover.”

Lina: “How do you feel about trying period cramps on for size?”


Nolan: "Hey, do you guys think I should lose the ’stache?”

Knox: “Yes. It makes me want to punch you in the face.”


Lina: “How are you feeling? Not that I care,”

Nash: “Better. Solid. I kicked Knox’s ass at Career Day,”

Lina: “Literally or metaphorically? Because with you two, it could go either way.”

Nash: “Bit of both."


But I wasn’t finished.

Nash: “And I’m definitely havin’ issues with seeing you ride up to a goddamn motorcycle club on the back of a goddamn known criminal’s bike.”

Lina: “Look at the bright side, hotshot. Remember how you hated the numbness? Look at the colorful range of emotions you’re experiencing right now.”

I started to rub my thumb between my eyebrows, then stopped.

Nash: “Think I wanna go back to numb.”


Naomi appeared next to us, a bag of popcorn in hand.

Naomi: “I think you can let her go now, Viking,”

Knox: “Daisy, I know you think that. But this ain’t my first rodeo with Bar Fight Lina. I let her go and she’s gonna start breakin’ faces.”

Lina: “Oh come on! One time,” I spat, renewing my struggles.


Knox: “Calm the fuck down, Lina,”

Naomi: “Honey, you do know that doesn’t work on women, right?”

Naomi said, scooping up a handful of popcorn.


Knox: “Here we go,”

He lifted me off my feet and handed me to Harvey, the gigantic biker with arms the size of my head.

Knox: “Hold this.”

Harvey: “Sure thing, Knox. How’s it going, Lina?”

Harvey asked as he wrapped those tattooed pythons around me.


Naomi: “Uh-oh,” Naomi whispered.

Sloane: “Uh-oh what? I can’t see shit!”

Lina: “Lucian is coming toward us,”

Lucian: “And he looks mad,”

Sloane snorted.

Sloane: “Please. He always looks that way. It’s a permanent case of PMS.”

Lina: “Uh, no. I have to agree with Naomi. He looks like he wants to murder someone and that someone might be—”

Lucian: “I told you to stay put,”

Lucian snapped at Sloane.

Sloane: “And I told you to kiss my ass. I guess neither one of us does what we’re told,”

she said, enjoying her vantage point over him.

Naomi: “Oh boy,”

Naomi whispered, tilting her bag of popcorn in my direction. I took a handful.


Naomi crunched loudly next to me.

Lucian: “If you don’t want me to get involved, stop making it impossible,”

Sloane: “Read my lips, Lucian. I don’t need you anywhere near my life. So you can stop pretending you care. We both know the truth.”

Lina: “Damn,”

I whispered, helping myself to more of Naomi’s popcorn.

Lina: “Did his eyes just change color and get more dangerous?”

Naomi: “Oh, definitely."

Lina: "He looks like he wants to take a bite out of her,”

The fact that neither one of them was writhing on the ground electrocuted by the sparks they fired off at each other was a miracle.

Naomi: “I know, right? I can’t believe they haven’t torn each other’s clothes off and hate banged yet.”

Lina: “When they do, I bet it’ll shift the earth’s axis and send us spinning off into space,”


Lina: “I live alone and I like it. I hate sharing the remote. I like not having to consult with someone else before ordering dinner. I don’t want to have to move the seat of my car every time I drive. The idea of passing my decisions through an ‘us’ filter leaves me feeling vaguely nauseated. I love my parents but their constant need to check up on me drives me insane, and that problem could become yours if this goes anywhere. I like to splurge on clothes and bags and shoes, and I’m unwilling to justify that. I get up early and I work a lot. I don’t want to have to change that to accommodate someone else.”

Nash waited a beat.

Nash: “Okay then. The only TV I watch is the occasional football game. The remote can be yours the rest of the time. I don’t mind cooking, but if you tell me you want takeout burgers, I’ll get you takeout burgers. I promise to always move your seat back to the original position after I drive. I wouldn’t mind having some nosy parents worry about me for a change. I like the way you dress just fine so I’ve got no problems with your shopping habits. Long as you let me spoil you once in a while. As for the schedule thing, I think you’re just reachin’ because, Angel, I’m a cop. Enough said. And when it comes to making decisions together, I need a say in your personal safety. I expect you to want a say in mine. Any decisions that affect us together, we make together.”


Grave gave me a closer look.

Grave: “Why’s your face look like you got laid? Is that a hickey on your neck?”

Nash: “Shut up and eat your éclair.”


Nash: “Knew what?”

I asked, giving the sage-green paint a stir. The dent in the wall was going to need more than a coat of paint, but until I patched the drywall, paint would at least make it less noticeable.

Sloane: “You, Chief Morgan, scuffed my wall with table sex!”

I shot her an irritated look.

Nash: “Jesus, Sloane. Keep your voice down. This is a library.”


Nash: “You know what I remember from back in the day?”

Sloane: “What?”

Nash: “I remember you and Lucy sharing these long, meaningful looks in the hall between classes. I remember him ripping the helmet off Jonah Bluth and putting him on his ass during football practice because Jonah said something about your body that I as an adult man with great respect for women won’t repeat.”

Sloane: “It was about my boobs, wasn’t it? The price you pay for developing early.”


Lina: “You shaved,”

I ran my hand over my jaw and grinned.

Nash: “Thought it would make for a smoother ride.”

Her eyes sparkled wickedly and a pink tinge warmed her cheeks.

Lina: “I don’t mind it rough,”

Nash: “I’ve got the scratches to prove it, Angel,”

Lina: “Why don’t we skip this whole date thing and go straight to testing out that baby-smooth face of yours?”

My dick reacted like a puppet with its master at the strings.

Nash: “Nice try, baby. But you’re getting the full first date experience.”

Lina: “Ugh, fine, but I’d like to point out that society says I’m not supposed to sleep with you on the first date,”

Nash: “Since when do you follow the rules?”

Lina: “Only when it suits me.”


Lina: “Just hear me out,”

But I was interrupted by a loud knock. Piper went scrambling for Nash.

Knox: “It’s nine o’clock on a school night,”

Knox complained as I let him in.

Lina: “I’ll take Words by the Domesticated Knox Morgan for two hundred, Alex,”


He cupped my face in his hand.

Nash: “You and I are in this together. When our decisions affect each other, we make them together. Understand?”

I nodded my head vigorously.

Nash: “Good,”

he said, pulling me away from the door. He gave my ass a stinging slap.

Nash: “Consider that a low five.”

Lina: “Ouch!”


Nolan strolled inside and Knox closed the door behind him. The marshal stopped and eyed the gathering, the whiteboard, and Mrs. Tweedy mixing up a pitcher of old-fashioneds.

Nolan: “I’m gonna hate this, aren’t I?”

Knox: “Not as much as I already do,”


Naomi: “Lina saved you a week of sleeping on the couch, which is exactly what you’d deserve if you’d gotten away with keeping me in the dark on this one. So you should be thanking her,”

Knox looked at me and used his middle finger to rub at the corner of his eye.

Knox: “Thanks, Leens,”

Lina: “You’re so welcome,”

I said sweetly, lifting my glass with middle finger extended.


Sloane paused in the open doorway.

Sloane: “Still up for being my date to the wedding Saturday?”

she called to Nolan, who was lounging against the kitchen island.

Nolan: “Wouldn’t miss it for the world, cupcake.”

Sloane: “Pick me up at—”

Lucian slammed the door, cutting Sloane off midsentence.


Nash: “Graham’s taking over your place until this is over. It’ll help to have him closer than the motel.”

Nolan: “Not gonna lie. I’m lookin’ forward to a real bed and not having to stomp on half a dozen roaches before my shower,”

Lina: “Uh, you get the couch, my friend,”

Nash: “No. He gets your place. You’re staying with me.”

Lina: “You expect me to move in with you?”

My voice went up an octave. I instantly began to sweat.

Nolan: “On that note, I’ll go get my shit. Be back here in however long it takes to scare the rats out of my suitcase,”

Nolan announced and ran for the door.


I drew the line at pooping while he was home. To be safe, I’d temporarily cut back on fiber.


I grinned.

Nash: “What?”

Lina: “I kind of like it when you’re surly. It’s cute,”