In Jack's Arms (Fighting Connollys)(3)

By: Roxie Rivera


something of a legend around this neighborhood. He had been an officer in the Marine Corps and had

completed two tours in Afghanistan and two in Iraq before his convoy rolled over an IED and he sustained

a head injury that forced him out of the job he had loved so much.

Four years ago, he had returned to Houston to take over the family gym. Granddad had given him a

series of small loans over that first year to help Jack make payroll and improvements. Since that first

morning he had walked into the shop to pawn that motorcycle he had loved so much, I hadn't been able to

shake my immediate and incredibly strong attraction to the dark-haired, green-eyed fighter. I had absolutely no business at all fantasizing about the smolderingly sexy former Marine who taught my weekly self-defense class, but I couldn't help myself.

Hiding my interest in Jack, I said simply, "He's a nice guy. They both are."

"They are," he agreed. "I think it's important for our players to see someone like Finn living a full, happy life. He doesn't let his missing leg stop him from going after life full-force, you know?"

"Absolutely." I couldn't help but smile as I remembered the Saturday morning practice session when Mattie had gotten his first look at Finn's prosthesis. "I almost died from embarrassment when Mattie asked Finn if he was a cyborg."

Eric laughed. "That sounds like Mattie all right. What did Finn say?"

"He told Mattie to keep his secret because the government didn't want everyone to know about their

super soldiers."

"I bet Mattie just ate that right up."

"He loved it. I don't think I've seen him laugh that hard in a long time." Ever since our granddad had finally succumbed to his congestive heart failure, Mattie had been withdrawn and temperamental. All that

changed when the baseball team had started practicing in early May. "He's happier lately and spending a lot of time at Connolly Fitness."

"I doubt Jack or Finn mind that at all."

"At first, I was worried he would overstay his welcome, but Jack assured me they all enjoy Mattie's

company."

"That's good. I know Mattie is in that odd phase where he's too old for school—and he loved high

school—and too young and independent for the residential programs around town."

My younger brother's Down Syndrome diagnosis had hampered his earliest years, when our mother was

more concerned about finding her next fix than getting him to occupational or physical therapy. After

moving in with Granddad, Mattie had finally gotten the help he had needed to thrive. "I'm thrilled he's making new friends and feeling out the real world in his own way. I don't worry nearly as much because I

trust that Jack and Finn will keep an eye on him."

"Hell, with two Marines as his bodyguards, he's the safest kid in town."

"Let's hope."

Eric's phone began to ring and he fished it out of his pocket. When he glanced at the screen, he frowned

but didn't answer before shoving it away. "I've got to run. I'll follow up with you in a day or two. When are you submitting your final report to the station?"

"Wednesday morning," I said, trailing him to the door. "I should have the inventory completed by tomorrow night." Even though I was certain he was overreaching on his gang tie suspicion, I asked,

"Would you like a copy?"

He shook his head. "I'll grab one from the detectives on this case. I'd like to come by and look at the security footage."

"There isn't any."

Eric looked taken aback. "How is that possible?"

"Dan forgot to switch on the security system when he closed down the store on Sunday evening. That's

how these thieves were able to get in and out unnoticed."

"I hope you're going to dock his pay for that."

"It was an honest mistake."

Eric didn't look convinced. "I'll follow up with you if I hear anything troubling on the street."

"I would appreciate that." I opened the door and leaned against it. "Thanks for checking on us, Eric."

"Happy to serve," he said with a grin. Two steps into the office area of the shop, he paused and turned back to me. "There was a warrant roundup this morning. You know what that means."

"Ugh." My shoulders dropped as I imagined the crowd that would be waiting at my door in the

morning. "It means I'm going to have a line of mamas and girlfriends trying to pawn everything they own in the morning to raise bail money."

He smirked teasingly. "Hey, that's your bread and butter, right?"

"Get out of here," I said and shooed him. "Or else I'll call the cops on you for criminal mischief."