Rock Candy – Devon Monk

Late. I, Police Officer Jean Reed, was late. I threw my controller onto the chair next to the couch and jogged to the bathroom. The alarm on my cell shouted the Venture Bros. theme song from somewhere in the pile of discarded clothes at the side of my bed. I hadn’t done laundry in a week because I hated doing it, so my room was a bit of a mess. I had three minutes to shower (made it in two), one minute to get into my uniform and boots (nailed it), and half a second to kiss the very sexy man lounging on my couch. Hogan mumbled against my lips and slid a little sideways, crookeding up our mouths as he simultaneously tried to look past me at the screen where he was a tiny rock with a knight’s helmet and sword on a quest to fight a paper dragon. “Watch for the sand pit, boyfriend,” I said. “Got it.” “Don’t stay up too late.” We were still kissing, our words tumbling between our lips. “Got it.” “Don’t go in the scissor forest without me.” “Got it.

” “Watch the hammer hail!” We both broke the kiss. I was still leaning over him, my knee between his spread legs, one arm braced on the back of the couch. His pliant body went tense and alert beneath me. It was sexy as hell. We both stared at the screen while he totally shielded up and threw his sword into the clouds. Sunlight broke through and melted the storm of hammers. I exhaled. “Nice.” He paused the game. “Come here.

” His hands slid over my hips and he tugged at me, drawing me down. He had that warm hungry look in his clear-blue eyes, his dark features softened to a dusky purple from the glow of the game. “No. No way.” I pushed up, loving the slow friction of his palms resisting as I tried to get him to release me. “I am late. You need to go home and go to bed so you can wake up early and make me spicy maple bars, baker boy.” “Pumpkin glazed cinnamon buns, actually. They can wait.” It would be easy to stay, to wrap up in the mellow low tones of his words, to tease out of him the slight Jamaican accent he’d inherited from his mother.

But I was late. And super responsible. And…Hogan lifted up to press a kiss at my collarbone. What was I saying? Oh, yeah. I was a police officer. Badge, duty, and justice for all, etc., etc. “I think,” I said, as I finally pushed onto my feet, “that you better lock the door behind you and remember to put your cup in the sink this time.” Hogan shifted until he was fully sitting. Such a fine-looking man, tall with nice wide muscular shoulders, a long torso that tapered to narrow hips.

He had thighs that made me envy his jeans, and a butt I couldn’t keep my hands off. But more than his ample physical aspects that drew me to him, he also had this deep, quiet gentleness that had surprised me when we first started dating after meeting on a gaming forum. His steady eyes and heart never missed anything, but he didn’t feel the need to talk all the time. Didn’t feel the need to judge, to declare, to order. He was like tides, rolling in and out with an endless calm, with grace, with beauty. It was no wonder he ran a bakery like a boss in our little seaside town where gods vacationed and monsters worked and lived. Not only did he have an amazing talent of teasing out the best and most unexpected combinations in pastries, breads, cakes and cookies, he also had a way of teasing out the best in his customers. And in me. That was a startling thing I still hadn’t come to grips with. We were just dating.

This was a casual thing. Fun. Fleeting. And yet… And yet Hogan had come over after his early shift ended and before my late shift began for five months now. Five months was almost half a year. I’d never dated anyone for so long. I’d never wanted to until now. It scared the pants off of me. “Ah, now you’re doing it.” “Doing what?” I asked.

“Thinking too hard about us.” “Like there’s anything to think too hard about. Us.” I tried to make it sound flip, but it came off as a question. Darn it. “Go to work.” Calm, easy. His smile said other things. His eyes said other things. And when he stood and kissed me, his lips said oh so much more: Yes, there was an us.

Yes, we were still good. Yes, this thing was going to last another week, another month. Yes, this was good and he was here, a part of this strange little life I lived in this strange little town I helped take care of. Yes, all that, all me, was still enough for him. I wanted to hear that from him. Wanted to know that he knew we were something that would last. Wished we had a promise between us, a pledge. Because I worried. Hogan had traveled. He was smart and successful.

There was no place in the world where he couldn’t belong. Sometimes I wondered if he could really be satisfied living here. Happy being here. Not just with this little town, but with me. Experience told me the odds were not good on that. Most of my ex-boyfriends had left town the first chance they got. Had left me. But there was a part of me that hoped this would be enough for him. That he’d stay here, and live here for a very long time. He cupped my cheek with his palm and kissed me again on the forehead, a benediction, a habit, a good-bye ritual he’d done ever since I’d been hit by a car a month ago.

“Be safe.” “At my desk? Not a problem.” I patted his butt, because who could resist that? Certainly not I. “Hatter’s going to take the graveyard shift patrol. It’s all good.” “I know.” And that smile. That smile. It was secret, joyful, open, reckless. It was somehow all these things, all these Hogan things, all the parts of him I wanted to hold.

All the parts of him I wanted to keep. “That grin is so much trouble,” I said. He chuckled and gave a passing effort at innocent eyes. “I like your hair all orange and purple.” He drew his fingers through the long wet strands of it. “Flatterer. You better clean up the dishes and don’t forget to hit a save point before you switch over to river travel.” He didn’t need me to tell him any of that. But I hoped he heard the things I had tried to wedge in between my words. That I liked him.

A lot. That I wanted him to stay in my life. Maybe for a long time. I’m not a shy person. I never have any problem telling someone my opinion or giving them advice. I laugh things off, poke at the rules until they dent and bend, and generally act like life is not to be taken too seriously. Being the forever-baby sister of the town’s infamous Reed sister trio has its perks. We are police officers like our dad was. Delaney, my eldest sister is the bridge for god powers. She is the one and only way gods can step into town, put their powers in storage, and vacation like mortals.

My middle sister, Myra, is serious about her book studies. Most of those studies involve the wisdom and arcane knowledge in the ancient texts Dad left in her safekeeping, just as his dad left them to him. She has a knack for always being in the right place at the right time. And me? Well, I have the family gift of knowing when something really bad is going to happen. A month ago, that feeling was the only thing that gave me a split-second warning before a car had come barreling toward me. I could have died instead of just been banged up a little. So it’s a good talent to possess, but it isn’t as important as the things my sisters do and the gifts they possess. Also, my gift isn’t without cost. Not that I’ve ever told anyone that. “Jean.

” Hogan rubbed his hands down my arms. Long, strong fingers caught to weave between mine. “What’s wrong?” Nothing. That was the truth I wanted to believe. So I held onto it with both hands and all my heart. “I’m late because some sexy son-of-a-bun is holding my hands like he’s going to ask me to go steady.” I grinned at him and batted my eyes. He shook his head, but there was nothing but smile in him. Sunshine and warmth. Like a hearth fire.

Like home. Was I that for him too? Despite my bravado, I couldn’t work up the nerve to ask. “I’ll see you soon.” He gave my hand one more squeeze, then flopped back down on the couch. And just like that, the moment to ask him if he wanted the same thing I wanted: for our five months of dating to turn into something more, for us to agree that we needed each other for more than a week, a month, a year, had passed. I could hear the clang of the rock knight cutting his way through the cardboard cliffs before I’d even gotten halfway across my living room to the door.


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