Christa Wick

Curve Patrol

I exited the bathroom still wet from a long soak in the tub. With my terry robe wrapped tightly around me, I stalked toward the kitchen on the hunt for a giant mug of hot chocolate. A triple latte espresso would have been better, but it was nine at night and I'd had a long week working on a deadline cover illustration. I just wanted to put the finishing touches on the piece and call it a day.

Pretty pathetic for a twenty-six year old on a Saturday, but I am what I am.

My plan was obliterated the second I stepped into the living room. The red and blue flash of police lights bounced against my closed curtains as a heavy, authoritative knock landed on the front door. I hurried over, pressed my eye to the peephole and saw Noah Lodge, my brother's best friend and a city cop.

Noah at my front door was nothing new. He lived three houses down on the opposite side of the street. With my brother Mike in Afghanistan, Noah was in charge of keeping an over-protective eye on me. That didn't explain why he was on the other side of my door so late in the evening, in his city police uniform with his lights flashing in the drive.

He didn't patrol this neighborhood — the city didn't allow it. I ripped the door open, my head suddenly filled with the idea that Mike had listed Noah as his emergency contact so someone he trusted could gently break any bad news to me.

'What's wrong?' Tears were already filling my eyes. I didn't know what I'd do if I lost Mike. He was the only real family I had left.

Noah's hands came up, landed on my shoulders and gave a soft squeeze. 'Nothing to panic about.'

I didn't believe him. There was a slight tremor running through his voice and he gave my shoulders another squeeze that was harder than the first. 'Is it Mike?'

'God, no, baby girl.' He shook his head and rubbed at my arm. 'I'm sorry, I didn't think you-'

'No one's hurt?' Now that I knew Mike was okay, I was even more confused. Something looked very wrong with Noah. His pupils were larger than normal and his skin was flushed, like he was in fight mode or something.

He frowned. 'No one's hurt — yet.'

'Then why the hell are you standing at my front door with your lights flashing in my drive?' I tightened the robe around me, suddenly envisioning every last one of my neighbors peeking from behind their curtains. Most of them I didn't know — wouldn't even recognize them in the local grocery store. Only a few people — like Noah — had grown up on the block.

His cheeks, already flushed, grew a little pinker. 'Sorry, baby, give me a second.'

Noah trotted back to his patrol car. He leaned across the front seat to turn the lights off, giving me a clear shot of his magnificent ass in the process. I quickly looked away before I had my own reason for blushing. It didn't matter that I've known Noah since before I could walk, or that I'd seen him go through dozens upon dozens of girls in his twenty-eight years, he still made all my parts tingle whenever I was around him.

Cinching the robe tighter, I retreated further into my living room as he walked back to the house.

Noah stepped inside and shut the door. 'The Donovans reported seeing someone peeking in one of your windows.'

He pointed toward the east side of the house. The kitchen and my bedroom were on that side. The neighbors were relatively new, having moved in three, maybe four, months ago. I hadn't talked to them yet, didn't even know their names — first or last — but I nodded like I did. 'The new couple next door.'

'If by new you mean eight months.' He laughed and gave me an eye roll, my heart fluttering right along with the thick brown lashes that fringed his green-gray irises. 'You need to get out of the house more, baby.'

In danger of getting lost in the perfection of his face, I blinked and turned away. I forcibly reminded myself that Noah was not only my brother's best friend, but also a man who went through women like a drunk goes through a six pack of beer on a Friday night.

Fast and frequently two at a time.

Before I could reach the kitchen, I stopped and looked back. 'That still doesn't explain why you're here. This isn't your patrol area.'

Another blush heated his cheeks, but he answered with a casual lift of his shoulders. 'Don't worry, Pattycake, I cleared it with the patrol supervisor first.'

I stopped short of growling at him and pushed the swinging door to the kitchen open. Baby, baby girl, Pattycake. I was going to take his nightstick and beat him upside the head if he didn't stop using those names. He might be two years older than me, but that didn't make me less than an adult. And diminutive names like baby don't suit me. I have at least twenty pounds on him, even if not an ounce of it is the hard muscled heaven he walks around in.

He caught the door on its back swing and followed me in. Stepping over to the sink, he hip bumped me out of the way so he could check the lock on the window. 'Make me a coffee, baby.'

'I'm going to take that stick of yours-'

Laughing, he bumped me again. 'Please, Miss Harper, would you be so kind as to make me a cup of coffee while I check the rest of your windows?'

I pressed my lips together and stomped over to the espresso maker. I might as well make him one, and then make one for me. There was no way in hell I would fall asleep any time soon, not with Noah having twice rubbed against me. My nipples had hardened to steel pebbles, aching as they brushed against the inside of the robe. My labia slid together with every shift of my hips and thigh flex, the sensation like thick fingers stroking the swollen flesh of my clit.

I would have to pull one of my toys out as soon as he was gone and take care of myself or I wouldn't get a single brush stroke finished on the cover tonight.

Noah stepped behind me, put a hand on my shoulder and planted a brotherly kiss on my cheek. 'Don't pout, Pattycake. It curdles the milk.'

Growling, I reached for a dish towel to swat him with but he was gone, his chuckle echoing in my ears as the door swung shut behind him.

Damn it, Noah! Damn it, damn it, damn it.

I blew a frustrated puff of hot air just as the espresso machine started to steam and chug. I didn't need Noah in the house watching over me, not when I couldn't control my feelings for him. To him, I was his pseudo-baby sister and childhood friend. I, on the other hand, wanted to handcuff him to my bed and ride him until the sun came up.

Every damn night.

Yeah, I had it bad.

Finished making the espresso, I put the milk up, dried my hands and headed into the living room with the mugs. Noah wasn't there, so I headed down the hall, my heart freezing in my chest at the site of my studio door half open.

The room had changed since he'd last been inside. I'd hung a six-by-six mirror so I could sketch myself — nude as often as not.

My heart resumed, its pace accelerating to push blood out to the capillaries. A hot flush spread across my skin as I tried to remember whether I'd put my sketchbook up, or at least closed it. There was no chance Noah would ever see me naked in the flesh — not with the willow thin girls he chased after — and I didn't need yet another reason to feel awkward around him.

'I'm in here, baby girl.'

I jumped, hot milk foam splashing against my arm. He'd been standing in my bedroom, less than a foot from me, and I hadn't realized it — I'd been staring at the studio door so damn hard.

'Careful, baby, you'll burn yourself.' He took the mug from me, his other hand circling my wrist.

Raising my arm, he dipped his head to the milk spotting my skin. Feeling his lips and the whisper of his tongue, I took a ragged breath in.

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