In Jack's Arms (Fighting Connollys)(9)

By: Roxie Rivera

"How much did you pay for this?"

"Two thousand."

She lifted her gaze. "Seriously?"

"Yeah. Why? You gonna tell me those ain't real diamonds or gold now?"

"The diamonds are real," she said, "but they're small. We're talking ten points and low quality." She dropped the loupe and took the grill to the gold testing spot along the counter behind her. With the ease and efficiency of a skilled appraiser, she scraped the metal and dripped nitric acid onto it. "The gold is real but it is 10 carat."

"What? No. No. No. That's 14 carat."

Abby sighed and carried the grill back to the customer. "It's not. It's exactly what I said it is, and the retail value is probably five or six hundred bucks. I'd offer you, like, two hundred if you want to sell and maybe three hundred to loan."

"This is bullshit! You're a thief! Trying to rip me off and take my gold!"

"I'm a thief?" Shaking her head, Abby dropped the grill onto the pile of jewelry. "You know what?

Take your stuff and get out of my store."

"I ain't going nowhere, lady. You're gonna give me what I want."

Abby chortled and rolled those gorgeous brown eyes. "Or what?"

"You don't wanna see what I got under here, bitch." That scrawny bastard reached toward the front of his pants, sliding his hand under his shirt.

Seeing red, Jack reacted on instinct. He bolted across the shop, snatched the back of the guy's jersey and jerked him upright. Gripping the little shit's wrist, he dragged it toward the center of his back. A loud thunk echoed amid gasps as a wicked looking knife dropped to the floor. Jack kicked it behind him and then

smashed the threatening prick's face down against the glass of the jewelry case.

"Man, get off me!"

Dropping his mouth close to the other man's ear, he hissed, "No one talks to Abby that way." He pushed the bastard's thumb back and drew a yowl of pain. "You're going to take your cheap ass chains and get the hell out of here."

The man slapped at the counter with his free hand and gathered up his goods. Still holding him by the

back of the shirt, Jack walked him out of the shop. The security guard closest to the door held it open for him. Jack jerked his head toward the knife on the ground. "Put that away some place safe and call the police."

Out in the night, he dragged the would-be attacker to the corner. Before he let go, he made sure to give

the man one final warning. "If I ever see you around here again, I'll rip that nasty grill out of your mouth and shove it up your ass. Understood?"

With a rough shove, he sent the skinny asshole stumbling forward. The kid straightened up and fixed

Jack with a menacing stare. "You done made a big mistake, man. Huge!"

A harsh laugh erupted from Jack's throat. "Kid, I lived through two tours in Iraq and another two in

Afghanistan. I've been shot. I've been blown up. I've survived a helicopter crash and a firefight. There ain't shit that you and your loser friends can do that scares me."

All bravado fled from the kid's face. Had he finally realized that he was dealing with a different breed of man? Jack meant every word he had said. He didn't make idle threats, not when it came to the safety of the people he cared for most. This prick was lucky he was getting away this easily after trying to hurt Abby.

My Abby. The possessive thought burned through him. It was one he could no longer deny. It was one he was determined to make a reality.

Hitching up his pants, the wannabe gangster pivoted on his heel. Jack watched him walk away until he

disappeared around a corner. Heading back into the shop, he discovered Abby in a heated discussion with

Dan while Mattie methodically cleaned the smudge created by that jerk's face on the glass case. Not liking the way Dan talked down to Abby, Jack forced his feet to remain frozen to the spot. Abby didn't need him

riding to her rescue all the time. She was perfectly capable of handling her employee.

"We'll discuss this tomorrow, Dan. It's been a long day, and we're all on edge."

"It's theft, Abby."

Back ramrod straight, Abby looked like a viper ready to strike. "Are you seriously going to stand there and say that?"

Jack quickly read the situation and realized it was about the watch now tucked into the pocket of his

jeans. He quickly ate up the floor with long strides and retrieved the watch. Holding it out, he said, "It wasn't theft. It was an honest mistake. I'm happy to pay for it."

"It's already been paid for," Abby informed him. "I covered the full retail price of the watch we would have assigned to it when it went onto the floor. The shop made plenty of money off this watch." Glancing at Dan, she added, "Which you would have known if you had let me speak to you in the morning."