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I was two buttons away from finding out when the hotel room door popped open again.

“Sonofabitch,” Ramirez swore.

“Ohmigod, yes, that’s totally the spot!” Dana staggered in the door, giggling and flushed as Rico nibbled on her neck. “Oh!” She paused when she saw us. “Whoops. Looks like this room’s already occupied.”

I cleared my throat as Ramirez rolled off me, muttering something about strangling the blonde. “Uh, kind of. I mean, we were just…” I trailed off, blushing too hard to finish the thought.

“Uh huh, us too.” Dana giggled again as Rico pinched her behind.

“So I guess you two made up then?” I asked, even though the hickey forming just below Dana’s ear answered that question clearly enough.

Dana nodded. “Rico called me this morning after Officer Taylor released him from holding. Can you believe Slim Jim’s pressing charges? Anyway, Rico apologized for getting all jealous and I apologized for totally overreacting and now we’re going to…”

“Make up?” I supplied before she could venture into too-much-info territory.

“Uh huh,” Dana giggled. “Besides, I couldn’t stay mad at my little love guns,” Dana crooned, smooshing Rico’s cheeks until his lips puckered out.

“Awe,” he cooed back in baby talk, “I wuv you, my little bullet baby.”

Ugh. Urban Soldier endearments.

“Hey, what happened to your wrists?” Dana asked, looking down to where the sticky tape residue had mingled with lint from Ramirez’s jeans, leaving me looking like I had Smurf bracelets on.

“Long story,” I answered. I gave her a quickie version, highlighting the attempt on my life and the good fortune of a dog that liked leather purses.

“Ohmigod!” Dana yelled when I’d finished. “I knew that stun gun was a good idea!”

“Yeah, well, for once it zapped the right guy. Anyway, we’re meeting Marco for drinks to celebrate tonight. You in?”

“Totally!” Dana said. Then shot a glance at Rico. “If I’m not otherwise engaged.”

“Speaking of which…” Rico said, catching Dana’s eye.

“Right. Well, I guess we’ll leave you two alone,” Dana said as she and Rico staggered out the door in a lip-lock.

Ramirez slammed it shut behind them, then turned his dark eyes on me. “You have way too many friends.”

At the moment, I had to agree.

In one long step he crossed the distance between us and we were engaged in a lip-lock of our own. And this time urgency was definitely the name of the game. His hands were everywhere at once. Tugging at the hem of my skirt, sliding up my belly, fumbling with the clasp of my bra. And I was keeping pace. This time I had all five buttons undone before you could say “BVDs.” We were on a mission. Nothing was stopping us now…

Oy, I tell ya, that game was rigged. There’s no way that dealer coulda had a run like that unless he was-oh. Sorry, Mads.”

…nothing except Mrs. Rosenblatt.

I closed my eyes and thunked my head against the headboard, wondering what a girl had to do around here to get laid.


My eyes popped open. “Mom?”

Ramirez stood up, pulling his hand out of my shirt like it had been bitten by a snake. “Mom?” he squeaked out in a falsetto. Mobsters he could handle, but my mom, now that scared him.

“Uh, sorry to interrupt,” Mom said from the doorway. “It was time for Mrs. Rosenblatt’s blood pressure pills and she left them up here in the room. But had we known you had company…” Her eyes strayed to Ramirez’s undone fly.

“Shit.” Ramirez turned around and rebuttoned. Again.

“Yeah, you shoulda put a sock on the doorknob or somethin’,” Mrs. R. said as she crossed the room and dug into her suitcase. “Then we’d know you had some lovin’ going on in here.”

“Duly noted,” I muttered.

Mom cleared her throat, looking from my askew bra to Ramirez, standing awkwardly in the corner.

“Oh, Mom, this is Jack Ramirez.”

“Oh, so you’re that detective,” Mom cooed, grabbing his hand and pumping it up and down. “Maddie’s told me so much about you. And, between you and me, I’m relieved she’s dating again. It’s been too long. It’s not good for a girl to go that long. I know. Once Ralphie had to go away to this wig convention in Sarasota and I was all alone for the whole week, and well, I saw this commercial for this little thing they called a pocket rocket-”

“I got ’em!” Mrs. Rosenblatt said, raising a pill bottle above her head.

Ramirez and I did a simultaneous sigh of relief. Nothing like visions of your mother with a vibrator to kill the mood.

“Come on, Betty,” Mrs. Rosenblatt said. “We got a good hour of keno left before our flight leaves.”

“Okay. Nice to have met you,” Mom called as the door closed behind her.

I flopped back on the bed and stared at the ceiling.

Ramirez laid down beside me and let out a big sigh. “You do realize that I’m going to have to shoot the next person who walks through that door.”

I nodded. “I think you could probably claim self-defense at this point.”

He sighed again, wiping a hand across his face.

“So, I guess you’re not in the mood anymore, huh?” I asked.

“Honey, I’m male. I’m always in the mood. I’m just waiting for the next crazy to walk through the door before I go through the trouble of doing my fly up again.”

“Okay, here’s a thought,” I said, rolling over to face him. “What do you say we go away somewhere?”

“Go away?” He raised one eyebrow.

“Yeah,” I said, sitting up. “I know, it’s a bold move seeing as we’re not even really…I mean I’m not officially your…I mean it’s not like we’ve ever even…” I paused. I took a deep breath. Then I went for it. “I hear Palm Springs is lovely this time of year.”

“Oh yeah?” Ramirez propped himself up on his elbow.

I nodded. “Very romantic.”

“Oh, so you want romance, do you?” he said, grinning until that dimple dropped into his cheek again.

“I wouldn’t mind a little romance,” I answered coyly. “Besides, think of it, you and me alone. No work, no nosy friends,” I added with emphasis, pointing to the door. “Just the two of us. What do you think?”

“Sounds won-der-ful,” he said, drawing out the word.

I felt myself go giddy.

“There’s just one problem.”

I frowned. “What?”

Ramirez got up and crossed the room to Mrs. Rosenblatt’s open suitcase. He grabbed one of Mrs. R.’s purple and pink polka dotted socks and handed it to me.

“I don’t think I can wait that long,” he said. He leaned in close, his eyes doing that dark and dangerous thing, his voice going middle-of-the-night husky. “Lock the door.”

Gemma Halliday