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Someone Like Her(7)

By:Sandra Owens

 Maria had once told him Mrs. Jankowski was the only reason her brother wasn’t in prison and she wasn’t a whore like Lovey Dovey. It was impossible to comprehend a woman like their biological mother. Jake himself couldn’t wish for a better mom, one who was everything a mother should be.

 “I’m guessing you found something that led you to this point?”

 Maria nodded. “I found her stud book.”

 Huh? “You’d better explain that.”

 “This is so embarrassing.” Her head fell back on the seat and she closed her eyes. “I found a book she’d kept the year I would have been conceived. Across the front . . . you know those little gold stick-on letters you can buy?”

 “Yeah, I know what you mean.”

 “On the front in gold it said Stud Book. She kept a record of the names of the men she’d been with, and she rated them with stars. Their looks, their proficiency in bed, and the . . . the size of their penis. Stars . . . they got stars with five being the best.”

 Good God Almighty. Jake tried to imagine his mom doing something like that and almost laughed at the absurdity of it. Just managing to smother his ill-advised humor, he tried to think of what to say. This was far from amusing to Maria. Was “I’m sorry” appropriate? Maybe, “interesting mother you had”?

 “I don’t know what to say.” That seemed safe enough.

 “Yeah, not Mommy of the Year material, was she?” Maria slipped her hand out of his and wrapped her arms around her waist.

 That was when he noticed the red stain on her sleeve. “Dammit, Maria.” He grabbed her hand again and pushed the sleeve of the T-shirt up her arm. Dried blood crusted the edges of a bandage just above her elbow.

 Brown, sad eyes peered hopelessly up at him. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

 He kissed her.


She kissed him back.

 Maria’s chilled hand slipped around the back of his neck, bringing Jake to his senses, and he pushed her away. What had made him forget she was off-limits? When he thought about it later—and he thought about it a lot—he couldn’t pinpoint the moment he forgot she was off-limits.

 Was it the blood? The sad eyes? The small voice? He was almost willing to chance ruining his friendship with Kincaid, but she was hurting, and he was taking advantage of her.

 He attempted to make a joke of his misstep. “Sorry. I was aiming for your arm but missed the mark. You know, kiss it and make it better.”

 “Whatever. It was just a stupid kiss. Nothing to get all weird about.”

 Her eyes shuttered, became blank. The boss could do that, too, Jake thought. Must be something they learned growing up in their house of horrors.

 “Wait here,” he said as he exited the car.

 At the back of the Challenger, he grabbed the first aid kit from the trunk. His lips tingled, and he put a finger on them. It had been wrong to kiss her, and even though he should regret it, he didn’t. Her warm, soft mouth had been everything—and more—that he’d imagined for years now.

 The trick would be not kissing her again. Because he desperately wanted to, especially now that he knew how incredibly good she tasted. Spicy and sweet—a little like a chili dog and a milk shake. He grinned as he closed the trunk.

 Once he got her Band-Aid changed, he tossed the kit onto the back seat. “So, you found your mother’s book. How did that get you to what happened last night?”

 “Will you hold my hand again?”

 Touching her was as dangerous as stepping his way through a minefield, but apparently he thrived on danger because he laced his fingers through hers. Oh yeah, he was in serious trouble.

 She blew out a weary-sounding breath. “As soon as I realized what the book was, I stuffed it away in a drawer. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. What if my father’s name was in there?”

 “Considering your mother’s . . . um, activities, I would think there could be a lot of possibilities,” he said, hoping she wouldn’t take offense.

 That earned him a little snort. “Now there’s an understatement if I’ve ever heard one. I hadn’t given much thought to who my father might be before. I mean, there were so many possibilities, why bother? But then I had this book that might have his name in it. It was like being a kid and dying to open a present under the Christmas tree, one you can’t stop shaking and poking at.” She gave a mirthless laugh. “Not that I know what that’s like either.”

 The woman was breaking his heart. “So you got the book back out?”