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“My meddling sister.”

“Your . . .” She stared at him. “Are you telling me that they set me up?”

“They?”

“Molly and Elle and Willa,” she said. “And Eddie and the damn fountain!”

This was the second time he’d looked alarmed at the mention of the fountain. “Come on,” she said. “Stop kidding me about being afraid of that thing.”

“Who’s kidding?” he asked, sounding genuine. “And you should be afraid too. You know the stories. Finn and Pru. Willa and Keane. Max and Rory. Spence and Colbie. Archer and Elle.” He shook his head. “And Archer is the badass of all the badasses. If he didn’t stand a chance, no one stands a chance. No one, Kylie.”

Now that she knew he was serious, some of his concern began to seep into her. Okay, all of his concern. “It was only a penny. A penny! You can’t even buy anything for a penny these days, so—”

“Are you telling me you really made a wish for true love with me?”

“No!” She bit her lower lip. “Not exactly, anyway.”

“Then what exactly?”

“It was a fantasy, okay? Sheesh!” She tossed up her hands. “And I didn’t even mean to!”

“Kylie, what did you wish for?”

She blew out a breath. “Sex. With you. You happy now?”

His eyes softened with good humor and heat as he smiled. A Big Bad Wolf smile. “Very.”

“Don’t let it go to your head,” she warned without thinking. “Wait. I mean—”

Too late. He laughed his rare, full-on laugh, the one that never failed to make her smile.

“Oh, forget it,” she said on a sigh and opened the O’Riley’s bag. “Since this whole lunch thing was a complete sham, you’re going to share.”

They ate in easy companionship while Joe kept one eye on the building he was watching for work. After a few minutes, a bunch of kids poured out of a school a block down.

“Were you a good student?” she asked, wanting to know more about him.

He snorted. “No.”

“What was your favorite class?”

“Recess.”

“Did you go to college?” she asked.

He slid her a look. “We playing twenty questions?”

“I’m trying to get to know you.”

His mouth quirked. “You know me.”

She rolled her eyes. “I know your body.”

“And you like it,” he said, smug.

Actually, she loved his body, every single, hard, toned, perfect inch. And he knew it, too. But fine, if he wanted to go there, she’d go there. “How about an easier question. Like, what’s your favorite sexual position?”

He cut those eyes to her, an intimate smile playing on his lips now, and she poked his arm. “Come on, surely you know this one. I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”

He leaned in and dropped his voice to a pitch that sent tingles down her spine. “I already know yours.”

She felt her face heat and broke the eye contact first. Scrambling, she tried to think of a new question, one that would knock that predatory expression off his face before she did something stupid—like jump his bones.

“I was an okay student,” he said, surprising her into looking at him again as he answered her earlier question. “It wasn’t that the work was hard. I got A’s on the tests, but I didn’t do the homework, which brought my grades down.” He paused. “And recess wasn’t really my favorite class. It was science.”

“Yeah?” she asked. “Why?”

“Because I had a crush on my hot-as-hell teacher. Mrs. Jones.” He smiled in fond memory and she actually felt a little jealous, which made him laugh and tug at a strand of her hair.

“We going to check out the last apprentice on our list tonight?” she asked, desperate for a subject change.

“Yes,” he said. “I’ll call you.”

She nodded and reached for a sleepy Vinnie, her fingers grazing Joe’s thighs as she did. He met and held her gaze while she scooped the dog, doing her best not to look like she enjoyed it. “See ya,” she said. She’d meant to say it breezily but it came out embarrassingly breathless.

She’d walked all the way back to work before she realized she still had no idea what would happen once they found her penguin, if they even did.

Would they take this thing wherever it led them?

Or would they go back to ignoring each other?

And which did she want? Okay, so she knew what she wanted. But given how she knew he felt about relationships, hell if she’d ask for it.

Chapter 22

#StupidIsAsStupidDoes

The rest of the day turned out to be interminably long for Joe. After his surprise lunch with Kylie, he’d had to put out fire after fire at work. He’d begun his day at five a.m. that morning and he didn’t head out until seven that night. He figured he’d grab some food and Kylie, and then they’d check out the last apprentice.

But Archer showed up in his doorway, dressed to go.

Dressed meaning armed to the teeth.

And Joe knew he was not done with work.

“Need you,” Archer said.

Which was how Joe found himself also armed to the teeth and heading out with the guys. The client they were serving was a big commercial property contractor who’d hired Hunt Investigations because expensive pieces of equipment kept going missing from a renovation project in a financial district building. A week ago, anticipating the next heist, Joe and Lucas had hidden a transmitter on each of the remaining expensive pieces of equipment at high risk of being stolen.

Sure enough, tonight the transmitter had alerted them to a piece of equipment on the move when it shouldn’t have been. They raced to the job site, where it all went down surprisingly fast but dirty. They found the equipment foreman himself stealing the small backhoe loader by literally driving it off the job site. They hauled him out of the machine, but at the last moment he must’ve realized this was the end for him. He objected by pulling a knife from nowhere and nearly gutting Joe. When that didn’t stop the takedown, the dickwad then produced a grenade.

A fucking grenade.

Joe and Lucas both dove for it. Lucas shoved him out of the way and opened the trash chute. Joe was able to grab the grenade and throw it in. The explosion was contained—well, mostly. Neither Lucas nor Joe got fully clear and took unintended twin twenty-five-foot flights through a sheet of drywall, landing hard on a stack of demo wood.

All of which had to be explained to more than one responding agency, and that ate up another few hours.

After, Joe sat shirtless on the table in the staff room of their office with Archer checking him over to get a better look at the knife wound in his side. “This needs stitches.” His tone was harsh and he wasn’t particularly gentle when he wiped at the cut with an alcohol pad.

“Just stick a Band-Aid on it,” Joe said.

Archer spent a minute cleaning off the blood before speaking. “It wouldn’t have been the end of the world to go to a hospital.”

Yeah, it would have. Joe had spent far too many hours in a hospital. His job was dangerous so there’d been his own visits here and there, but that wasn’t what had gotten him. It’d actually been all the time he’d been in waiting rooms. In his earlier years it’d been watching his mom waste away, then later hoping his dad would come out of his various surgeries okay. Then more recently waiting on Molly and her surgeries. If he never set foot in another hospital again it would be too soon. “Just stitch me up like you did last time.”

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