Protecting the Dream - Chapter 1
Saint Louis narcotics detective Jordan Delany sat quietly beside Tyler McGee, the only man who’d ever been able to bring her to a mind-bending orgasm with little more than a steamy look. And beginning today she had two whole weeks off to do nothing but sip margaritas and enjoy said man.
Less than two hours ago, she’d received a medal of commendation for a successful finish to her latest case. Another plus—her bank account had beefed up nicely while she’d been undercover.
As vacations went, she’d planned on this one being stellar.
But in true Jordan Delany form, two minutes before starting the vacation of a lifetime, a demon from her past strolled into her office and kicked her squarely in the teeth. Funny how one event in her childhood kept defining and re-defining her adult life.
An FBI bigwig had offered innocent congratulations for her commendation but then proceeded into a startling string of questions about a man named Jack Delany. Special Agent Bellows had remembered working with Special Agent Jack Delany. Jack had been Jordan’s father’s name, and her mind was still attempting to make sense of the strange coincidence. Jordan’s father had been a drug dealer, not a cop. Certainly not a Fed.
“Hey.” Ty’s voice reverberated through the cab of his truck and shook her back to the here and now. He reached for the radio and turned down the music. “Maybe we should just go home. Put vacation on hold. We can call Bahan, put our heads together, and figure out if the Jack Delany that Bellows mentioned could have possibly been your dad.”
Still in shock, she shook her head. “It’s just not possible, doesn’t make sense. I was there the day the cops talked to my uncle. I heard them talking about missing drugs and missing money. They said my dad made a horrible decision and it cost him his life. I heard it, Ty. I swear I did.”
He signaled, pulled the truck off the road and onto a gravel shoulder. He shifted into park and tugged her into his arms, then rubbed his hands up and down her back. “I believe you,” he whispered against her ear. “But you were only ten. You could have easily misunderstood.” He shifted back and cupped her face. “It’s a pretty big coincidence, don’t you think? Bellows working undercover with an FBI agent that had the same name as your dad? Bellows remembering Jack Delany’s family being murdered on a holiday weekend, just like your family? Come on, Jordan. I’m a huge skeptic, but even I can’t ignore that kind of information.”
Her throat tightened and burned. Stinging tears ran down her cheeks. “I’ve spent the better part of my life hating my dad because I thought he was a drug dealer. Jesus, God,” she sobbed. “Please don’t tell me I’m that stupid. What kind of dumbass cop makes a mistake like that about her own father?”
Ty tightened his grip and forced her gaze to his. “The kind that walked through hell as a child and was strong enough to come out on the other side. There’s a lot more to this than we know right now. You are not going to beat yourself up about this, not before we learn what really happened.”
She pulled Ty closer and buried her face in the crook of his neck. Most of her life had been spent avoiding any real connection with other people. But she couldn’t deny that being in his arms, having him understand like no one else ever would, might have been the only thing holding her together.
Finally, she nodded. “Okay, okay. You’re right. I’ll have to get answers one way or another.” She rested a hand on his chest. “But I don’t have to do it in the next two weeks. Bahan is my best FBI contact; he’ll know how to dig deeper into their system than I ever could. I’ll call him, see what he can come up with.” She took a shaky breath. “Beyond that, the rest will have to wait.”
Ty looked into her eyes with just a bit too much knowledge of all her dark corners. “It’s not a big deal if we push back our vacation and spend a few days—”
She pressed a finger to his lips. “It’s a very big deal to me. I’ve put my life on hold for twenty years second-guessing what I could have done differently to save my family. And you know what? No matter what I do, no matter what I figure out, it’s never going to bring them back.”
Ty nodded, but she had no trouble reading the expression on his face. They both knew that even if she didn’t reach out to Bahan right away, she’d be worrying the issue in her mind for the full fourteen days.
Ty worked as a deputy and senior investigator in the small town of Longdale, nearly two hours outside of Saint Louis. At first glance, he radiated the easygoing charm of a good ol’ boy from Small Town, Missouri. But in reality his skills and intuition were as lethal as those of any cop Jordan had ever worked with. He missed nothing, particularly when it came to her.
She brushed her lips against his and kissed him softly. “I want this time with you. I need this time with you, and I don’t want what happened today to affect one second of our vacation.”
Ty nodded. “Vacation it is, then.” He tucked her hair back behind her ear and leaned close. “Make no mistake, I will definitely be giving you everything you need while we’re gone.”
He whispered the words devilishly against her neck and then closed his teeth gently on her earlobe, a move he knew robbed her of the capacity for rational thought. They’d only been in a relationship for a few months, but in those months she’d felt more alive than in the previous twenty years put together.
His tongue, seriously gifted in so many ways, worked in tandem with his breath to reduce her to nothing more than a sex junkie.
To hell with it. Her rough exhale escaped with a soft moan, and she slid her hands into the dark brown waves of his hair. The style—just a tad too long and unruly—pushed acceptable limits for a uniformed cop, but she loved the way her fingers could get lost in it during a scorching round of sex. They’d never had sex in his truck. Now felt like a perfect time to risk a public indecency violation.
Sucking his bottom lip between her teeth, she dove head first into a kiss designed with the sole purpose of rocking his world. This was exactly what she needed. Mindless, uncontrolled lust. Shocked when he suddenly pulled away, she arched a brow at him.
“Okay, then. Just close your eyes and sit back and relax for a while.” He reached behind the seat and pulled out a silky scarf. “I want the rest of the trip to be a surprise.”
For the first time since they’d left her precinct, she had the presence of mind to look out the windows of the truck and orient herself. They were well outside the city on a curvy two-lane highway and heading away from the airport.
“Where exactly are you taking me?” She glanced at the scrap of material in his hands. “I’m not terribly encouraged if you need to blindfold me to get me there.”
She let irritation battle back the heated memory of the last time he’d tied the silky scarf around her eyes. “You have a serious blindfold fetish, you know that, right?”
Her words fell upon deaf ears. The last sight she had before he knotted the soft material behind her head was his mischievous gray eyes and the predatory grin that meant trouble. Heat flared inside her as she remembered what he’d done to her the last time he’d used the blindfold.
He slipped her sunglasses back on over the scarf and tapped her nose with a finger. “There, that’s better. We wouldn’t want anyone to think you’re being kidnapped, now would we? Although that’d be a fantasy well worth exploring.”
She felt the truck shift into gear and begin to move.
“With your sight gone, your other senses are heightened, keeping you wondering what’s coming next,” he teased. “I think I proved that the other night.”
She sucked in a sharp breath at the memory. Oh boy, had he!
He chuckled—actually had the nerve to chuckle—at her reaction.
Even with her eyes covered, she knew the cocky grin that would be spread all over his face. Not to be outdone, she stretched her arm across the seat and settled her hand between his legs, rubbing and massaging him lightly. It took approximately two seconds before he responded.
She grinned when she heard his deep exhale. Satisfied that she’d gotten a hint of payback, she said, “Well, I don’t think we have nearly enough room to repeat that maneuver in your truck, but I’m willing to give it a try.”
“Keep it up, woman, and I’ll probably kill us both. Sex is not the reason you’re blindfolded.”
The blindfold was purely for Ty’s own self-preservation. If Jordan could see, it’d take her no time at all to draw her weapon and aim it at his head when he pulled in front of the broken-down old ranch house in lieu of a tropical beach. He took a deep breath to slow his thundering heart rate.
Today Ty planned to convince Jordan to move in with him.
Her hints about wanting a beach and some water to play in hadn’t exactly been subtle. And a beach would have been awfully easy to deliver. But he’d come up with the bright idea to take her to the middle of nowhere and show her a house with no heat and weedy overgrown pastures. He peeked over at her.
What the fuck was I thinking? She’s going to rip my head off!
Jordan exhaled a giant impatient sigh and crossed her arms. “We’re not heading to the airport, are we?”
“Not exactly.” He swallowed hard. Shit, her instincts were sharp enough to split hairs. What made him think a blindfold would fool her?
“The train station?” she asked.
“Nope.” He sighed, debating whether to keep driving toward the lackluster property or turn around. A couple of weeks ago, the plan had seemed like a romantic gesture, a step toward commitment without scaring her off with a marriage proposal. Now his strategy felt foolish.
She sighed again. Heavily. “Hopping on a bus?”
“What the hell, cowboy? I happen to know there are no tropical beaches in Missouri.”
Nerves had eaten away most of his composure. “Could you maybe just be quiet for, like, five more minutes?”
He turned on the gravel road that led to the gated entrance of the old Henderson estate, a onetime horse ranch. His heart was thundering so hard he could feel the wall of his chest vibrate. The woman he loved had been handed double doses of intelligence, bravery, and compassion, but she’d missed the patience line altogether.
He put the truck in park. “I’m hopping out for just a second.”
She reached up to pull the scarf from her eyes. Ty stopped her.
“Listen, I promise to have you at a beach by tomorrow night if that’s what you want. I have one surprise that I need you to see first. If you trust me, please keep your eyes covered for another minute or two.”
He brushed a kiss against her lips, and thankfully she nodded.
Ty hopped out of the truck and opened the old, rusted gate, then got back in with Jordan. He took his time passing through the narrow opening between the posts, then pulled to a stop in front of the house and killed the engine. He tugged Jordan out of the cab and turned her so that she faced the house head on.
“Take it all in before you react,” he said. “Use a little imagination—see what it could be, not what it is. And promise me you’ll let me explain what I want to do before you decide if you like it or not.” He squeezed her hands. “It needs some TLC, but—”
“God damn it, McGee. You’re scaring the crap out of me.” She pulled the sunglasses and scarf away from her face and blinked to adjust her sight in the late afternoon light. Her gaze traveled all over the huge old house. Top to bottom. Left to right. She sucked in a sharp breath, and her mouth fell open.
The place had been empty for years and was in need of a pretty serious overhaul, but the land surrounding it was amazing. He could so clearly visualize how it had looked when he was a kid. But Jordan didn’t have those memories, so he tried to see it as it was today and through her eyes.
Its weathered wood had flaked bare, leaving only the smallest traces of white paint. Green shutters hung from most of the windows. Some were crooked. An enormous covered porch wrapped around the front and sides. That was what Jordan was focused on. He wasn’t about to tell her that the porch was mostly rotten and couldn’t be saved.
“Oh, Ty.” She gasped. “It’s beautiful.” Then she turned a stunned gaze on him. “But why are we here?”