I didn’t want this life.
But sometimes you’re forced to make the best of the crappy hand you’ve been dealt. I wanted to teach my daughter that. No matter what happens you face your problems head-on.
Never cower. Never give up.
Then someone took her and I had to put my faith in a system that had failed me, and my hope in a man I didn’t know.
Serve. Honor. Protect, are the only things I’ve ever cared about until her case was dropped on my desk. As we searched for her missing daughter, the last woman I thought I’d fall in love with became my reason for living.
Then the world came crashing down around us.
One secret would change everything, but I had one more hand to be dealt. And if I played my cards right, maybe, just maybe we’d get our piece of heaven.
I stand back and watch Marissa do her thing. As soon as we got back to her place, she went straight into Lori’s room. She walked around, inspecting things, checking to see if anything was out of place. I can see how much she hopes for this search to be different, for things to be out of place. Her shoulders droop in disappointment when she realizes that everything is exactly as it was the last time she checked. Watching that hope in her eyes quickly fade back to sorrow guts me.
Looking up at me with tears brimming in her eyes, she quietly says, “She hasn’t come back yet.”
“I’m going to get her back to you.” It’s not like we haven’t been trying, it’s just been one dead end after another. One minute we think we have something, only for it to turn out to be nothing. She nods her head.
“I’m going to change and then we can go,” she says as she walks past me, leaving me in the room by myself.
I walk around, taking in all the little ‘booby traps’ that she set up. The scotch tape on the drawers, the picture frames with strings attached to them, all in the hopes that she’ll come home and realize that Lori had been there. I can’t even imagine what that constant level of worry and devastation would do to me. I never really thought that I would be the kind of man who cared so much about children, but Lilah changed that for me. She really is the perfect kid.
Walking the room once more, I notice that her clothes haven’t been washed. She doesn’t want to touch anything. I’m about to sit on the bed and see if maybe there is something here that we’ve missed when she walks into the room.
“I’m ready,” she tells me, and I take in her outfit. Gone is the skirt she wore to work, and in its place are tight blue jeans that mold to her body with a bulky sweater that gathers at her waist. The look is finished with a pair of black Chucks. Her hair is tied high on her head in a ponytail, and her makeup free face makes her look like she’s a teenager herself.
“Can I say something before we leave?” I ask her, waiting for her nod. “We get out there, the minute I feel something isn’t safe, I’m stepping in. I don’t want you to get all huffy and puffy. I need you to trust me, trust my instincts and my experience. I want to find something that leads us to Lori just as much as you do, but I’ll do it without compromising your safety.” The minute I say that, her head cocks to the side, and she crosses her arms over her chest. I don’t give her a chance to give me attitude before I continue. “You get me?”
“I can take care of myself.”
“I have no doubt that you can, Marissa, but now you have me to help with that. So just give me this, yeah?” The question hangs in the air for a couple of minutes before she finally gives in.
“Fine, I’ll give you this,” she says. “But you can’t scare these people off. If you go into cop mode with them, they won’t talk.”
I walk to her, grabbing her face in my hands. “We are going to get her back. I promise you.”
She nods her head as I lean down and kiss her lips. I was going for a soft kiss, but the minute she leans into me, my body takes over. One arm wraps around her waist as my mouth opens to tangle her tongue with mine. Our tongues dance together, both of us trying to get the upper hand over the other.
She pulls back from me and breathlessly says, “We should go.” She licks her lips before walking to her purse and pulling out two pictures along with her keys.
“Ready.” I follow her out the door, watching as she locks it.
We walk out of her building, and I guide her to my car with a hand on her lower back as I take in our surroundings, making sure that no one is watching us. I hate that she lives here, but I know that she isn’t going anywhere till Lori comes back. I don’t even have to ask her to know that if Lori never came back, she would stay there her whole life waiting, just in case. But I make a mental note to discuss it with her when I bring Lori back.
“Where to first?” I ask her while starting the car and merging into traffic.
“I usually start at the soup kitchen down on 5th Street. If there aren’t that many people there, I go to the homeless shelter down the street before doubling back to the soup kitchen. After that, I go to the alley behind the bodega on 7th Avenue—”
The second she says it, I lose my shit.
“Are you fucking telling me that you’ve been down to pier warehouse next to the alley near the bodega? By yourself? AT NIGHT?” The thought of her down there at night by herself sends chills down my spine. Homeless men, women, and junkies gather there, many of them getting drunk or high. It’s fucking dangerous down there, even for me, and I’m a fucking cop with a weapon and experience. I get that she’s worried and feels like she has to do something, anything, to help bring her daughter home, but I am furious that she is so reckless with her safety. I need to take a few calming breaths so I don’t lash out at her.
“What if one of them saw her? What if she was there? I have to do what I have to do. If you have an issue with this, maybe you should just drop me off so I can get what I need to do done.” She continues, “You think this is the first time I’ve done this? I’ve been on these streets every day since she left. I don’t have enough energy left in me to argue with you right now. So are you driving me or not?”
I don’t answer her. I’m still deep breathing. Instead, I start making a list in my head. Change the lock on her front door, follow up on Lori’s Facebook page, and investigate all of her friends, turn her ass pink before fucking her raw. My mind lingers on that last item on my to-do list. Thoughts of her lying across my lap, her ass in the air, pink from my hand, and her drenched pussy ready and waiting for me has my cock springing to life and throbbing in my pants.
“Okay, Mick, just spit it out. What’s on your mind right now?” she asks as she turns her body in her seat toward me.
“Honestly?” I ask her, not sure she really wants to know. She glares at me, her eyes practically shooting daggers at me. “I was thinking a couple of things. First, I need to change the lock on your door. It can be picked open easily with a spoon, that’s how weak it is. Then I was thinking about digging deeper into Lori’s Facebook friends. Finally, I was thinking about how pink I’m going to turn your ass if you ever go back down there without me again.” I pin her with my own glare before I turn my eyes back to the road.
“Turn my ass pink?”
“Turn your ass pink. With you laid across my lap, I’ll use my hand to turn that perfect little ass a pretty shade of pink.” I stop at a red light and assess her. A second more and I would have missed the pink of her cheeks, the hitch of her breath, the way she pressed her legs together tight. “Right before I fuck you,” I say, and even I can hear the huskiness in my voice.
“I haven’t had sex since Lori’s dad left,” she says without meeting my eyes. My mouth hangs open as she continues, “Which was a long, long time ago.”
I don’t say anything because I hear a honk behind me. Looking up, I see that the light has changed to green.
“Just so you know, if you thought that I slept around, I don’t.” The last part is whispered softly as she turns in her seat again to stare out the window.
I pull over into an empty parking lot, reach over to unbuckle her seat belt, and pull her into my lap. “Look at me, Marissa, and hear what I’m saying. I was a dick when I first met you.”
She places her hands on my chest, her thumbs stroking it gently.
“I can’t take that back, but what I can promise is that I will always treat you with respect. I will treat you like a queen, my queen, because that is what you deserve. You deserve that and so much more.” I kiss her on the tip of her nose. “Let me in, Marissa,” I ask her quietly, holding my breath as my heart pounds so loudly, I’m certain she can hear it. “Let me in, baby, so I can do all of that for you and more.”
“Lori is my life. The reason I never dated was because I didn’t want her to see a revolving door of men. I wanted her to know that love is special and something worth waiting for. Something that should be cherished if you’ve been lucky enough to find it. But mostly I wanted her to know that she came first, always. She’s my baby even though she’s almost an adult. So I can only tell you that I will try, but I can’t make you promises till she comes home. Till I hold her in my arms again. I can’t let you into my heart because it’s shattered. It’s in pieces and the longer I’m without her, the harder it will be to put the pieces back together. Because you, Mick, you deserve my whole heart, and I can’t give that to you yet.”
“Let me be there for you, Marissa. Let me hold your hand, let me hold you, let me guard the pieces of your heart till she comes back. I’ll take them, one piece at a time, until I have the whole thing.”
She doesn’t say anything else to me, just rests her cheek on my chest and nods. She pulls back and kisses me on the nose. “Can we please go and see what we can find out about my girl?” She climbs back into her seat and buckles her seat belt. “Chop chop! Let’s go, Moro!”
I let out a laugh, feeling lighter than I have in a long fucking time. I buckle my seat belt and put my car into drive, heading straight to the first stop on her list, hoping and praying that tonight is the night we get a lead.
When her nose isn’t buried in a book, or her fingers flying across a keyboard writing, she’s in the kitchen creating gourmet meals. You can find her, in four inch heels no less, in the car chauffeuring kids, or possibly with her husband scheduling his business trips. It’s a good thing her characters do what she says, because even her Labrador doesn’t listen to her…