Both wore the thick regulation leather belt that held an array of equipment: holster and handgun, pepper spray, flashlight, handcuff case, baton, radio and extra magazines.
He unbuckled, then said hopefully, “We could just take off our pants.”
In answer, she reached for his zipper. He groaned as her fingers grazed him as she slowly worked it down.
A cautious voice in her head tried to say, Wait! Nell refused to listen. Hugh was a good guy. They felt so close right now. She wanted to be closer yet. Her body was intensely alive, and she needed that to form a shield against the grisly images of death she couldn’t will away.
This was the right thing to do.
His mouth sought hers again even as he eased her trousers off. Through half-closed eyelids she saw the two of them tangled, her legs long and pale, Hugh with his pants half-down, his dark hair tousled, his every breath a rasp.
It seemed the most natural thing in the world when he parted her legs and entered her. She banged a knee against the door; he made another rough sound and readjusted their positions so that she half sat and he knelt between her legs. She looked down at where they met and realized that he was deep inside her, part of her. The past twenty-four hours were erased in the glorious flood of sensations as Hugh moved slowly, leaving her bereft, then filling her. She gripped his shoulders and rode him as he thrust harder, more desperately. Tension built and spiraled until Nell pleaded with him in a high, needy voice.
“Let go, sweetheart.” He gripped her hips and drove into her. “Let go.”
She went still in wonder as pure pleasure poured from her belly through every vein in her body. “Oh-h,” she breathed.
“Yes!” With guttural triumph in his voice, he thrust hard and fast one last time, jerked and groaned, then collapsed on top of her.
Nell wiped inexplicable tears on his bare shoulder. “Thank you,” she whispered, and didn’t know if he heard her.
HUGH AWAKENED to an aching body and head. His mouth was dirt dry and it took him a moment to work it closed. He opened his eyes, squinted against the brilliance, and, stabbed by pain, squeezed them shut again.
Damn, his neck hurt. It was bent at a weird angle, his head wedged into a corner. Where the hell had he fallen asleep? Or had he been unconscious?
An explosion. Maybe there’d been an explosion and a ceiling had fallen on him. That would explain the weight holding him down and the headache he felt waiting to erupt the second he moved the tiniest bit. He wasn’t on the bomb squad, not being suicidal by nature, but if some crazy had set one…
In a sickening wave, he remembered what the crazy had done. He lurched, his head fractured into a million atoms of pain, and somebody else gasped and shoved an elbow into his gut.
He swore and opened his eyes. A wild woman was staring up at him. Her eyes were big and brown and bloodshot, her face was puffy, her lips as dry as his mouth, and her dishwater blond hair was a snarled mess.
“Oh, my God!” she said in stricken tones.
His head clunked back against the car door and he shut his eyes.
Nell Granstrom. Naked. Lying on top of him. They hadn’t…Had they? God help him, images wormed their way through the shattering pain behind his eyes. He saw her uniformed ass sticking up between the seats, his hands on it. Him falling on her. Slow hungry kisses. Him on his knees like a horny teenager at a drive-in movie, squeezing her buttocks, slamming into her. And the single best orgasm of his entire life. He did remember that.
She was apparently frozen in the same frantic effort to remember. Or maybe horror held her paralyzed. He didn’t know. Just that all of a sudden she was scrambling to get off him, and to hell with which body parts she damaged on her way.
“I’ve got to get dressed,” she said in a high frenzied voice. “Where’s my bra? Oh, God. Where’s my bra?”
A faint memory of tossing it tickled at him. “Try behind the seat.” His voice sounded thick. Tongues needed to be lubricated to do their job.
She rose above him, and something stirred in him as he took in her long slender body and high, pale breasts. Unfortunately, she saw him looking, and she recoiled as if he were a monster.
“What are you…Oh!” Hands shaking, she put on the bra, tugged on a shirt, realized it was his and threw it in his face.
By the time he wrestled free, she was buttoning up her own, hiding the nest of dark blond curls at the juncture of her thighs.
“Get dressed!” she hissed. “You look…you look like hell!”
He reached out and fingered a mat in her hair. “Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?”
She swatted away his hand. He caught one more forbidden glimpse as she arched to pull on her trousers and panties in one go. “Oh,” she groaned. “I’m going to be sick.”
That galvanized him. “Not in here, you’re not.”
She got open the door of the Explorer and half fell out into the alley. As he slowly, painfully pulled on his own clothes, he heard her retching. His stomach lurched in sympathy, and he gritted his teeth against a wave of nausea.
Wiping her mouth, she reappeared in the open door. The captain wouldn’t have recognized his cool, disciplined officer in this unkempt woman with a half-buttoned, wrinkled shirt, tangled hair and red-rimmed eyes. “I’m going to find my car.” She swallowed. “If—if I left anything…”
“Get in,” he said. He climbed between the seats to get behind the wheel.
She was still standing there staring.
“Get in,” he repeated, wincing at the sight of himself in the rearview mirror. “You don’t want anybody to see you. I’ll pull up right next to your car.”
Pride made her neck long, but after a reluctant moment, she did climb in and close the door.
Hugh found the keys wedged in the crack between the center console and the seat. His head was going to fall off. He knew it was. But he’d rescue her from possible humiliation first, like the gentleman he preferred to think he was.
Turning to look over his shoulder was undiluted agony, but he managed to back up, get turned around and cruise slowly into the tavern parking lot proper. “What do you drive?”
“It’s right there.” She indicated a cherry-red Subaru wagon.
He got up close, his Explorer blocking any sight of her from the tavern or the sidewalk. Not that there was any traffic at…
“Oh, hell,” he growled.
She half rose to look over the seat at his dashboard clock. “Aren’t we supposed to be back on duty at three?”
“That’s my memory.”
The word that came out of her mouth was fitting, if not a nice one for a lady to say.
“Go home and shower,” he said. “You’ll feel better.”
She cast him a look of disbelief.
“Or not,” he conceded.
Nell Granstrom opened the door again, climbed out, then stopped. “This never happened.”
He had to turn his head to look at her. “What?”
“It never happened. Last night.” Her eyes met his square, but red washed her cheeks. “This morning. You and me. I—I don’t usually drink.”
He wasn’t much of a drinker, either, or his head wouldn’t be detonating this morning.
“Do I have your word?” she asked fiercely. “You’ll never tell a soul? You’ll never refer to it again? You’ll forget it ever happened?”