In Jack's Arms (Fighting Connollys)(8)

By: Roxie Rivera

chalked it up to news of the robbery. By tomorrow night, the place would be teeming with customers. With

the current economy and the expenses of a typical summer, people wouldn't stay away long.

When they stepped inside, the chimes sounded nice and loud to alert the floor staff. With the practiced

eyes of a Marine, he scanned the shop and instantly detected Abby, the two security guards, her two brokers and Dan, the night manager. The two employees and Dan were helping customers in different areas of the

store. One security guard hovered just to his left, watching the door, while another was at the rear of the shop, keeping an eye on the customers and transactions. Nothing about them pinged his internal radar so he moved on to the only person who interested him.

Abby stood at the jewelry counter in her usual outfit of jeans and a bright green polo shirt embroidered

with the company logo. Gold and silver chevrons dangled from her ears and glinted every time she moved.

She had taken out the braids she had been wearing the last time he had seen her and now had curls spilling around her shoulders.

What he wouldn't give to be able to wake up every morning and nuzzle in close to those dark waves!

She would fit perfectly in his arms, her lithe ballerina-like body molded against his heat and strength.

Throbbing need uncurled in his stomach at the idea of seeing her smiling face in the early morning

sunshine. He doubted there could be anything more beautiful than that.

Tearing his gaze away from the object of his desire, Jack examined the younger guy, probably close to

Mattie's age, who had his pants hanging down below his ass and his boxers in full view. Jack zeroed in on

the colors of the basketball jersey the guy wore. The little gangster wannabe had one leg bent with his full weight resting on his toes. The easily visible sole of his white sneaker had three hand-drawn numbers

marking it.

1-8-7. It was the police code for a homicide and the name of the upstart gang that was trying to make a name for themselves in the area. The youngest, newest members were only allowed to show their affiliation

by marking the bottoms of their shoes and wearing the gang's colors. Later, they would earn the rights to

tattoos and bolder markings.

Eyes narrowed, Jack carefully watched the interaction. The moment he had heard about the robbery, he

had suspected the 1-8-7 crew might be behind it. His second thought? The same Albanian outfit that had

caused his family such a headache in early June. Jack would never forgive that bastard Besian for forcing

Kelly to fight as his champion in the underground bare-knuckle tournament. Kelly could have been killed

by the Russian giant who fought for Russian mob boss Nikolai Kalasnikov—and for what?


The same thing the guy hassling Abby wanted.

"Look, lady, I'm telling you this is real gold."

"I didn't say it wasn't. I said that all I can do with this is scrap it."

"Scrap? Are you crazy?"

"No, I'm a businesswoman. Do you honestly think I have a line of customers coming into my shop

asking for a gold chain that says PIMP?" She gave the necklace a jiggle. "If I buy this, it goes into the scrap heap to be melted."

"Baby, you cold."

Jack's fingers curled at his sides. He didn't want anyone calling her baby but him. Holding himself back,

he waited to see how she would react. One thing Abby had always made clear was her ability to handle

even the toughest situations herself.

Abby cast an annoyed glare at the man. "I'm not your baby. Cut the crap and tell me what you want for all this." She gestured to the pile of jewelry on the counter. "And don't tell me three grand again because that number is a dream."

"Give me fifteen hundred."

She shook her head and poked through the rings and chains. "I'll give you eight."

"Eight! That's robbery."

Abby's lips pursed. "Sir, you came in here to ask me to buy your jewelry. I didn't ask you to come into my shop and cause a ruckus. All right? Now," she blew out a breath and sorted through the jewelry. "I'll give you two for this one, fifty for both of these, two for this one and three for this ring. That's it. Take it or leave it."

"Well I need more than that!"

"If you want to pawn instead of sell, I can go to twelve."

He considered her offer and then reached up to his mouth. He pried free his gold grill and held it out to

her. "What about this?"

Abby stared at the slimy jewelry thrust toward her face. "Are you for real? You want me to price your grill?"

"It's gold."

She stared at the item for a few seconds before sliding to the left and crouching down to retrieve a roll

of paper towels. After ripping a handful free, she reached out for the grill and wiped it clean. Holding it with another towel, she lifted her jeweler's loupe from the chain around her neck and examined the item.