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By: Lois Greiman
One





In the prophetic analogy of the bug and the windshield, sometimes you are the unfortunate insect, but hot damn, sometimes you get to be the glass.

—Chrissy McMullen PhD at her most optimistic



* * *



“You shouldn’t do that.” Lieutenant Jack Rivera looked titillatingly handsome and atypically relaxed as he watched me from across the table. His left arm was draped over the back of the leather booth.

It was Thursday night, nearly the end of the work week, and the evening classes I was taking in forensic psychology wouldn’t begin again until April. It was practically a holiday.

The Oakenshield, where we were dining, was a lovely establishment with acres of polished wood and centuries of old-world charm. I had consumed enough butter-drenched lobster to keep me from wanting to inhale the restaurant’s snappy tablecloth, but not so much that I felt like an overfed tuna. I’d even left a morsel of light-as-air popover unmolested. Such was my auspicious degree of classy self-control. But perhaps the popover’s survival was due primarily to the fact that we had moved on to after-dinner drinks. An old-fashioned Golden Cadillac for each of us. Despite being a low-class cocktail waitress turned sophisticated therapist, or perhaps because of that propitious factoid, I can get behind any beverage that involves more cream than alcohol. Especially since it was the first treat I’d allowed myself in twenty-eight sugar-deprived days. They’d been the longest days of my life, but willpower had prevailed, while my mood, sometimes a bit volatile when my diet is short on glucose, was currently as mellow as my drink.

Ignoring his own high-caloric beverage without breaking a sweat, Rivera watched me in silence. Known by many of the law-abiding denizens of Los Angeles (and by even more of the less lawful ones) as a hard-ass officer with the LAPD, he was wearing a charcoal Brooks Brothers suit coat over a crisp white button-down shirt. Sans tie with a mocha-lite valley of delectable chest visible, he, like the popover, looked good enough to eat.

“What?” I asked, alluding to his earlier question.

“If that’s your best innocent act, you’re never going to make it in the entertainment field, McMullen.”

I amped up the innocence, adding a couple watts of who, me?

He chuckled with deep appreciation. “You know exactly what I’m talking about.”

I gave him the coy suggestion of a smile. “This?” I asked, then licked a droplet of cream from the rim of my cocktail glass.

Rivera’s full lips quirked. He has the mouth of a fallen angel and eyes like Lucifer himself, while the rest of him looks like something chiseled by a crafty deity with something to prove. “Yeah,” he said, “that.”

I licked again, then glanced at him through my well-enhanced lashes and asked, “How come?”

Shifting close, Rivera rested his elbows on the table between us. “Because irresolute vest guy over there”—he nodded toward a corpulent patron in a beleaguered waistcoat with straining buttons—“is starting to drool and I don’t want to have to book him for lewd and lascivious. Or break out the defibrillator.”

I grinned, rested my nearly naked back against the cushion and gave the dark lieutenant my full, sultry attention. I looked sexy and I knew it. I’d borrowed this little concoction that some might call a dress from Brainy Laney Butterfield. She’s better known to her adoring fans by her stage name, Patricia Ruocco, or as Hippolyta the indomitable Amazon Queen, who vanquishes everything from scantily clad hotties to griffons on her weirdly popular TV drama.

Tri-weekly runs along the relatively tranquil streets of Sunland, capped by a bout with a nasty, but let’s be honest, fortuitous stomach bug, had made it just possible for me to shimmy into the slinky size six. I was shod in three-inch, secondhand-but-still-classy Manolo Blahniks, and for once even my hair had decided against making me look like a twit. It remained tidily piled atop my head, like twisted threads of various precious metals. Life looked good. I looked better.

“‘Irresolute’?” I asked and raised a recently groomed eyebrow.

“I happen to know that big words . . . with the addition of top-shelf Italian liqueurs . . . ” He nodded toward my drink. “Make you hopelessly susceptible to my charms.”

“And how about you, Lieutenant?” I asked. “How’s your self-control?”

He let his gaze dip toward my carefully displayed décolletage. “Where you’re concerned?”

I resisted squirming. Squirming is decidedly unclassy. “That’s what I had in mind.”

“I thought I answered that question a couple hours ago.”

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