Down the way, by the entrance to the jail, the door creaked and a sliver of moonlight crept through. He’d never expected things to go so fast. The way that officer, Ash, was talking, he’d be sitting in the can most of the night for the judge.
“All right,” Rex said to himself, under his breath. “Let’s get this over with. I’m ready for a ticket or some community service or—”
As he watched the person who walked in, he couldn’t believe, couldn’t imagine she was here to take him to the judge.
Suddenly, as he watched her adjust the blue bandana she used to hold her tan and black hair back, Rex for some reason forgot about all that stuff with him swearing loneliness and chastity to keep from getting hurt. Something about the way she moved, the way she walked… he couldn’t get enough.
She was wearing these thick, horn-rimmed black glasses that didn’t exactly fit her face, and as she started down the hallway, he thought maybe he saw each of her eyes glint a slightly different color.
Falling down the side of her head, cascading about three inches down the woman’s cheek past the bandana was a shock of white. Rex had to look twice to make sure it wasn’t something attached to the bandana, but no – it was part of her hair, a part that was either dyed white, or had turned that way on its own. He’d never seen anything like that before.
Then again, he’d never seen anyone like that before.
“You need anything?” she asked, coming up to the bars and putting her small hands on them. “Water? Food? Cooper told me you’re the good guy in this one.”
You, he thought. I want you, he wanted to say.
“I’m kinda hungry,” is what actually came out. “Jail food is… not really the best for bears.”
Three cells down, Davis Edgewood started whistling. She shot a nasty glare in his direction and shook her head. “Glad to see he’s back. It’s hardly a weekend without an Edgewood in here. But you, I’ve never seen before.”
The woman laughed. She had a guarded kind of air about her, but there was a certain care-free breathiness to her smile that made Rex’s chest tighten. He was standing straighter than he usually did, sticking his chest out some. He never did that.
“You’re staring at me,” she said.
“Sorry,” Rex replied, but didn’t stop staring. He couldn’t, not even if he wanted. Something about her was magnetic, even when she raised her left eyebrow.
“The judge,” she said, “he’s not going to be here for another couple of hours. The long days keep him in later. But, since there’re only two of you, I can probably make a run for something if you want. And… just so you know, I don’t usually do this.”
“Why are you offering now?” Rex asked. He dropped the dog tags he realized he was still clenching, and let them fall against his thickly muscled, lightly hair-covered chest.
“I dunno,” she said with a shrug.
The way she smiled and how it made a dimple on one of her lightly freckled cheeks made Rex grin too. It had been a long, long time since he bothered doing that around anyone except Leena.
“Well… thank you,” he said. “I’m not picky. Just some burgers.”
“Some?” she asked, showing him that smile again. “I’m guessing you don’t stop at one.”
“I am what I am,” Rex answered. “When I get out of here, I’ll pay you back. Get me… let’s call it ten. I don’t need much in the way of lettuce. Tomatoes are good though.”
Her hands curled tighter around the bars, and without realizing he was doing it, Rex put his on top of them.
“Onions?” she asked. “Cheese?”
You, he wanted to say. I’d forget all about the hamburgers if I could touch your face, if I could…
“No onions,” is what actually came. “Yes to the cheese. And mayo. If that’s on offer.”
For a long moment, she just stared back at him. He thought that he felt the same flicker behind her eyes that he had, but he also wasn’t sure he hadn’t just gone crazy in the last thirty-four seconds.
“Do I get to make an order, Lilah?” Davis Edgewood screamed from down the hall. “I want something too!”
“Lilah?” Rex asked.
“Just checking,” he said. His voice was a low growl. “I… thank you,” he said. “But why are you being so nice to me?”
She shrugged. “I made a promise that I was going to be nice to someone today,” Lilah said. “Kind of a karma thing, you know? Anyway, you’re just the lucky recipient. Cooper said you were here for a good reason. I always feel bad about good people who get caught up in shitty situations. Reminds me of… well, me, I guess.”
At that, Lilah shook her head. “I’m sorry,” she said with a laugh. “I’m never this open and out there.”
But her hands were still on the bars. She hadn’t made a single move to pull back or move them. A million things were going through Rex’s mind, not the least of which was that he had to pull back and do it right then. This wasn’t why he came back.
Looking for love is the last thing in the world Rex Lee needed to be doing. He’d had trouble before, and he knew it. When his mate died, he went on a tear he wasn’t exactly proud of going on, and that ended with him in a bigger mess than he ever imagined.
Finally she moved her hands.
It was a relief to have the heat from her hands gone. At least, it let Rex think about something else for a second except those entrancing eyes. Those eyes, he thought. When he looked again, he realized he was right. One of them was almost lavender and the other was brown.
“Ten burgers, no onions, cheese, no lettuce, but you want tomatoes. Right?”
Rex nodded. “I owe you,” he said, as his stomach growled. “Big.”
“I can tell,” Lilah said. “Give me fifteen or twenty. Might be thirty if Mac’s gotta cook all these patties.” She stuck her tongue out a little and it was so cute that Rex almost grabbed her again.
Luckily, he managed to restrain himself. He’d hate to be tried for “grabbing a person through jail bars” along with beating the ass out of Davis Edgewood.
“I… Lilah?” Rex asked. “There must be some reason you’re doing this for me. As far as you know I’m just a rowdy drunk.”
She shook her head. “Nah, the rowdy drunk is three cells down from you. Like I said, I promised someone I was going to be nice today. Kind of a self-help thing, you know? Anyway, I’ll be back way before the judge is in court. And I’m bringing a receipt, because I’m serious about you paying me for these burgers.”
Before he could answer, Lilah turned around, adjusted her bandana, and walked away.
That walk, he thought, almost ashamed at how he was watching her as she went. Why can’t I keep my head straight? What’s she doing to me?
Lilah and the desk guy – Cooper, apparently – exchanged a few words, and he buzzed her out the front door. Cooper scratched himself on the neck, and then, she was gone.
That was it. She was just gone. All those things he felt when he touched her hands, the confusion, the excitement, it was gone. Rex shook his head, and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Not now,” he said to himself. “Not now, not ever. I gotta keep my head straight. I can’t do this.”
A couple of minutes passed with him standing at the bars and looking toward the front door until he realized what he was doing. Rex sat back down on the bench, letting out a groan as he did.
In a way, he kind of hoped he’d get called to court before she came back. The burgers he could pay for. His heart? He wasn’t so sure he was ready to face that music.